Loss and grief and rejection pulverize a heart

Truth and love are both basic virtues for christians. The Bible tells us God is love, and Jesus is the truth (1 John 4:8, John 14:6).

But sometimes truth and love seem to get in each other’s way. Or maybe it is what we think is the truth and what we think is loving.

But when that happens, too often, someone gets hurt.

A body or a machine?

Jen Hatmaker is an American christian woman – wife, mother, author, speaker, and one of the co-founders of the wonderful Legacy Collective (a “new kind of giving community” that supports various charities and causes).

But on Good Friday she posted a disturbing and heart-broken reflection, My Saddest Good Friday in Memory: When Treasured Things are Dead.

In it she reflects on a feeling of “broken hearts, unmet expectations, mob mentality turned brutal …. the punitive result of being on the wrong side of religion” that have led to a sense of numbness.

Jen feels chewed up and spat out by what she calls “the Christian machine”“the systems and alliances and coded language and brand protection that poison the simple, beautiful body of Christ.” She feels rejected, outside the body of all believers she actually is part of: “my numb, angry heart gives way and I sob without end”.

She doesn’t say much about the events that left her feeling this way. Clearly a major issue has been the election of Donald Trump with key support from evangelical christians, but which she vehemently opposed.

But around the same time, Jen also went public with her support for christian same sex marriage, a statement which cost her book sales and credibility with conservative christians.

The response to this was apparently strong. I checked out a few critical discussions of her stand, but I won’t link them here because that will take away from the main issue. She responded with gentle pleas for a loving approach to herself and to the LGBTI community, and some responses were indeed loving.

Probably both stands have brought her grief.

Speaking the truth in love?

I am not very much interested in christian celebrities, and while I have taken an interest in the Legacy Collective for some time, I wasn’t aware that one member of its Board was a well-known writer and speaker. And I am not interested in discussing Jen’s views on Donald Trump or same sex marriage – I only have a very general idea of them anyway.

But I am concerned for Jen Hatmaker as a person and sister who is suffering, and I am concerned at how we christians address each other when we profoundly disagree.

People bleed

When we disagree, we are not just arguing against ideas, but we are addressing real flesh and blood people who hurt. It is not our role to hurt people. If I do that, I feel bad about it afterwards.

Brothers and sisters?

The christian we speak rudely to is a brother or sister. One day we will share eternity with them. The trouble is, I think sometimes christians are tempted to believe that if someone disagrees with them, they are not one of the elect.

The Bible says ….

It is disturbing to me that sometimes the most critical and hurtful christians are the ones who most strongly believe in the importance and authority of the Bible, yet they ignore so many clear teachings.

Jesus warns us to be very careful about judging others (Matthew 7:1-5) and Paul spells this out in detail in Romans 14, especially v4 & 13: “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall…. let us stop passing judgment on one another

Everyone is entitled to express their understanding, and there are times when our understanding may carry some authority – e.g. a parent, or a pastor or a close friend. But God is the judge.

So if we feel the urge, or even the need, to correct another, let us strive to do it Biblically ….

“speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15)

“with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15)

“Let your conversation be always full of grace” (Colossians 4:5)

Love, gentleness, respect, grace

Love, gentleness, respect and grace should not leave a person numb and distraught as Jen Hatmaker ended up feeling. If she was wrong, she should still feel that the christian community loves her even while wishing to correct her. Anger, hatred, harshness are unlikely to help her see truth. Conviction should come from the Holy Spirit.

But of course, it may be that it is not she who is wrong, but her critics. We may feel certain of our understandings, but only God knows the truth. Humility is a christian virtue also. How many christians certainties of bygone ages have been later overturned as the Holy Spirit led God’s people into deeper truths?

The world is watching

Jesus said the world would know we are his followers by our love for each other (John 13:35). Does our behaviour recommend Jesus to the world?

Cyclists and christians

In my last post, I commented on how impressed I have been with how the cycling community responded to grief and loss with love and acceptance, even for those who made different choices on matters that were highly charged. The issues were not as serious and important, I guess, than the ones christians disagree over, but it would be an indictment if that community behaved better than the christian community.

“Let us not become weary in doing good” (Galatians 6:9)

Photo: “I went to the water as the tsunami crested …. I cannot even look at [this photo] without sobbing” – taken from Jen Hatmaker’s blog.

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14 thoughts on “Loss and grief and rejection pulverize a heart

  1. westofthebluemountains says:

    I read the piece by Jen Hatmaker and I really have to say that I can’t work out what she was on about in detail, but if she is complaining about “mob mentallity” in the Christian Church then I have to agree that this is the case and is probably the main reason for the decline of the Christian religion in recent times.

    Organised religion gives the few the power over the many and reinforces my belief that religion is a personal activity which cannot and should not be guided by others. Individuals must be allowed to reach the mental and psychological maturity to form their own conclusions on the Scriptures instead of having these formations being moulded by the prejudices of others.

    So my advice to Jen Hatmaker and others like her who feel wounded by organised religion is to leave it. Don’t give up their Faith if it means something to them, but refuse to be dictated to by “The Machine”. That advice could apply to a lot of other areas besides religion too.

    Happy Easter to you and all your readers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. unkleE says:

    Hi, yes her piece focuses on how she’s feeling, not on what caused it, but I think that’s good – avoids being critical in return.

    I at least half agree with you about organised religion. Anything organised has pluses and minuses. Think government – we need to band together to protect ourselves and to develop health, education, transport infrastructure, etc. But governments always become corrupt or self serving if they have power for too long. So we need to always balance the good and the bad.

    I think it is the same in religion. I tend to the “small religion” ideas that you suggest, but there are personal and societal advantages in banding together too. I think where we differ is in how true we think christian belief is. If it is just a personal choice, as I presume you think, then your conclusion is fine, but if it is really true, as I think, then my choices are a little more constrained – I must obey Jesus/God when I believe they tell me how to behave, and meeting up with other believers is part of that.

    But I also agree with you that we have choices about which believers to be in cooperation with, and I think she may re-think that for herself. She is apparently quite big on the christian speaker circuit, and perhaps she may withdraw from that a little. But then again, since the “progressive” element of christianity is growing in the US, she may just switch to that group. I guess we’ll see.

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  3. westofthebluemountains says:

    Something may be both true and a personal belief, I don’t see any contradiction there, but certainly I don’t deny that there is a good motive to share your beliefs with those of like minds.

    It’s usually true though that the bigger the group, the greater the diversity of views within that group, so “truth” may become blurred. It then becomes a matter of restricting “your” group to the one that most represents your views unless you feel the need to bring the others around to your point of view. This is where the trouble starts as even Jesus himself found out.

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  4. unkleE says:

    “Something may be both true and a personal belief, I don’t see any contradiction there”
    Yes, I agree. I was contrasting two different views of christianity. One in which it is no more than a personal choice, just as we might choose a sport to play or favourite food, and the other in which it is objectively true (like gravity or opposition to torture). I was presuming you felt more like the first, whereas I am definitely the second.

    “but certainly I don’t deny that there is a good motive to share your beliefs with those of like minds”
    Yes, that’s true, but I don’t think it is just the wish to be with like-minded people (I often prefer the company of people very different to me), but rather that it is necessary or helpful to be like-minded to accomplish a specific goal.

    “It’s usually true though that the bigger the group, the greater the diversity of views within that group, so “truth” may become blurred. It then becomes a matter of restricting “your” group to the one that most represents your views unless you feel the need to bring the others around to your point of view.”
    Yes, a very interesting question for any group with a common interest or goal (political party, club, etc). It is shades of grey. As a christian, I don’t think I can exactly define what a christian believer is or isn’t. I can say Pope Francis or my wife are in and Osama bin Laden was not, but when I get to people like Donald Trump or Tony Abbott it is much more difficult, and I am not the one to judge (though I have my opinions!). I think if the group has a goal it wants to achieve (rather than an ideology to maintain), then it can welcome in anyone who can work to that goal, even if their “doctrine” isn’t totally “orthodox”. But it’s tricky.

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  5. westofthebluemountains says:

    I think if the group has a goal it wants to achieve (rather than an ideology to maintain), then it can welcome in anyone who can work to that goal, even if their “doctrine” isn’t totally “orthodox”.

    I’ll give a big thumbs up to that idea, it is one of the most wise statements I have heard for a while !

    All politicians and church leaders should take note. 🙂

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  6. unkleE says:

    Thanks. It is a growing idea in progressive christianity, to form alliances with secular groups with similar goals (not all goals similar, just on a particular issue, e.g. asylum seekers) and welcome into the group people with some similar goals. Time and events will determine if they stay or go.

    I have heard it described in terms of different types of groups. A bounded set is one with clear boundaries showing who’s in and who’s not. e.g. a small paddock farm and a conventional church or political party or football team.

    A centred set is one without boundaries that centres around a central idea or fact – like a huge NT cattle station that couldn’t ever build fences right round, but the cattle stay on the property because their lives are centred around the water tank. A church can be like that, with the centre being particular causes and actions (like feeding the poor or supporting refugees), and ultimately being Jesus and his teachings. People who agree on, say, refugees but not on Jesus, can join in where they wish. Ultimately they may come to share belief in Jesus, and stay, or they may stay on the edge working on the one issue, or they may leave.

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  7. westofthebluemountains says:

    Sounds good, I suppose that the way is also clear for Christians to join secular groups when they have a common goal without necessarily espousing their religion.

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  8. unkleE says:

    Yes, I think that is also true, which obviously happens in workplaces, sporting clubs and political parties, but also groups like ACF, Climate Council, etc.

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  9. Jonathan R de Assis says:

    Hi, I am sorry to disagree somehow. I don´t think it´s a case of grief as it was about the dead cyclist. Certainly, she has her sorrow, was unfair treated by some fellows with different opinions.
    But she employs a sort of language that makes things far from clear “wrong side of Religion” is as bad as “right/wrong side of History”. “Christian Machine” for me is just labeling and “mob mentality”.
    As for book sales, for instance, as a public person, she knows that stating some views will lead up to good or bad economic consequences. I hope she gets better soon, nevertheless I think we should read some of her vague words carefully.

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  10. unkleE says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    I’m sorry you disagree too! 🙂 I think we should read her words carefully if we were trying to mediate in a dispute. But I just see a hurting christian sister who feels other christians have treated her unlovingly. And I think we should try to be more loving when we criticise.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. westofthebluemountains says:

    Yes, I agree. I was contrasting two different views of christianity. One in which it is no more than a personal choice, just as we might choose a sport to play or favourite food, and the other in which it is objectively true (like gravity or opposition to torture). I was presuming you felt more like the first, whereas I am definitely the second.

    I guess belief in God remains a personal choice for me because I have not yet seen enough evidence that proves he is an objective truth.

    Apparently you have seen such evidence that convinces you personally that God exists and is manifested in Jesus, but until others see that evidence God remains a choice of belief for them (although I’m not sure you can trivialise this choice to the level of food or sport because sport is not a belief system (although having seen a few Collingwood supporters that statement could be argued)).

    The evidence I rely on is the existence of physical laws that govern our Universe. I really can’t see how they could have arisen except by design, but that is a more scientific view of God that says nothing about the spirituality that you believe in which is derived from the Bible.

    The historicity of the Bible is still under question so I can’t say that there is enough evidence to convince me that it is objectively true. I don’t see how you can claim a truth of the Bible equivalent to gravity when it can’t be tested, but perhaps the untestability is in itself the test ; ie it’s a question of faith.

    Anyway, it’s a bit off topic to the main point so I’ll leave it there.

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  12. unkleE says:

    Hi, may be off-topic, but interesting. I was interested to hear your thoughts.

    I agree with most of what you say. We have to have a good reason (= evidence) to commit ourselves to some life-encompassing religious belief, so if you don’t think the evidence is there, you have to hold back – although I think sometimes people miss some of the evidence because of their assumptions on what is and isn’t evidence (not saying you’re doing that, just generalising). And I agree with you that the evidence for some sort of God is one thing, the evidence for christianity is something else again.

    I don’t agree with those christians who say God has made it “untestable” so it’s a matter of faith. I think it’s unprovable for that reason, but not untestable. And I don’t think the truth of the Bible is as certain as the truth of gravity, for I don’t think the Bible stands as one monolithic book with one monolithic truth. Rather, I think we can see progression in the Bible, from myth and primitive belief to historical truth. And even the NT I don’t think is as certain as gravity, though I think much more believable than any alternative view – based not on faith alone, but on historical evidence for the basics, and then faith for the rest.

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  13. westofthebluemountains says:

    although I think sometimes people miss some of the evidence because of their assumptions on what is and isn’t evidence

    Could you give some examples ? I may have to rethink my own assumptions. 🙂

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  14. unkleE says:

    Three examples come to mind.

    1. Some sceptics demand “scientific proof”, ignoring the fact that they don’t ask for or get this level of proof for almost anything in life, and even some science doesn’t live up to the level they ask for.

    2. Hypotheses can be assessed by how much of the facts they explain – the one that explains more has more chance of being correct. Yet when asked for how the universe began if it wasn’t God, some sceptics say they don’t know, but won’t accept that this means the God hypothesis explains more than their naturalistic hypothesis and must at that point be more probable.

    3. One strong evidence for God is healing miracles. The evidence isn’t always strong, but there are so many cases. Some sceptics refuse to accept the evidence saying it isn’t strong enough, and ignore the reality that even a low probability of an individual healing, when accumulated over many, many events, can result in a high overall probability for God.

    So, I think, in each of these cases, an inappropriate methodology leads to rejecting evidence that might be highly relevant.

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