Jen Hatmaker

Is Beth Moore really taking on the 'evangelical political machine,' whatever that is?

Is Beth Moore really taking on the 'evangelical political machine,' whatever that is?

I arrived in Houston in 1986 as a freshly minted religion reporter for the Houston Chronicle. This was about the same time as Bible teacher Beth Moore was becoming known as a master teacher of women. This was an era, in lots of evangelical churches, when women weren’t supposed to be teaching men in any way, shape or form.

She wasn’t famous at that point, although I vaguely remember hearing about her. She got her start leading aerobics classes at First Baptist Church in Houston, one of several megachurches in the city. By the time I arrived she was segueing into teaching Bible studies for women and the rest is history.

Well, almost. For 30-some years, she’s been a best-selling Christian author who hasn’t said much that’s controversial — until Donald Trump started running for president. According to a new profile on her in The Atlantic, 2016 was the year when everything changed.

These days, the profile says, Moore is taking on “the evangelical political machine” — singular. But is she really? Is there one group of evangelicals active in American politics, or is the reality more complex than that?

When Beth Moore arrived in Houston in the 1980s, she found few models for young women who wanted to teach scripture. Many conservative Christian denominations believed that women should not hold authority over men, whether in church or at home; many denominations still believe this. In some congregations, women could not speak from the lectern on a Sunday or even read the Bible in front of men. But Moore was resolute: God, she felt, had called her to serve. So she went where many women in Texas were going in the ’80s: aerobics class. Moore kicked her way into ministry, choreographing routines to contemporary Christian music for the women of Houston’s First Baptist Church. …

Her Bible studies were what made her famous.

A publishing career followed, further magnifying Moore’s influence. She was the first woman to have a Bible study published by LifeWay, the Christian retail giant, and has since reached 22 million women, the most among its female authors. Today, her Bible studies are ubiquitous, guiding readers through scriptural passages with group-discussion questions and fill-in-the-blank workbooks. “It would be hard to find a church anywhere where at least some segment of the congregation has not been through at least one Beth Moore study,” Russell Moore, the head of the political arm of the Southern Baptist Convention (and no relation to Beth) told me.

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Friday Five: Trump's Christmas, Hatmaker's critics, Dallas monks, remote Catholic places and more

Friday Five: Trump's Christmas, Hatmaker's critics, Dallas monks, remote Catholic places and more

It's Friday again.

At least I think it's Friday. I've been on vacation all week celebrating Christmas, and I've mostly lost track of what day it is.

"Nobody knows what day of the week it is," John Mayer tweeted earlier this week. "Any attempt to answer is mere bluster and bravado. It’s just dark and not 2018 yet."

But I just checked the calendar and confirmed — just to make sure — that it's time for another Friday Five.

Here goes:

1. Religion story of the week: I'll admit that I haven't paid a lot of attention to the news this week — religion related or otherwise. Please refer to my earlier note about vacation (albeit not at GetReligion, which naps but never sleeps).

However, here's a well-done story I did catch (and highlighted in a post) from PBS: "How the 'war on Christmas' became a political rallying cry."

2. Most popular GetReligion post: Julia Duin has our most-read post of the week: "Evangelical rebel Jen Hatmaker deserved more from Politico than a puff piece."


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Evangelical rebel Jen Hatmaker deserved more from Politico than a puff piece

Evangelical rebel Jen Hatmaker deserved more from Politico than a puff piece

Up until recently, I'd never heard of Jen Hatmaker, an evangelical wunderkind who is a one-woman columnist, book-writing machine, conference speaker and all-around mom of five kids and pastor's wife. This has been a winning combo in terms of book deals and speaking engagements for some time. 

Maybe it's because she inhabited a corner of Christianity that most of my single, childless or married-to-a-guy-who-isn't-into-God-at-all female friends could never enter. This is not a criticism of Hatmaker, as none of us were into Beth Moore, either. These Christian superstar women inhabited a universe that us lesser beings couldn't hope to aspire to.

Plus, I wasn't writing about women like her. I was more after cutting-edge Christianity that sent people to India or led then to share all their possessions in a Christian community or do chain-themselves-to-the-clinic-doors activism against abortion clinics. 

Hatmaker is an ordinary person who got where she is by monetizing her life experiences into an evangelical Christian paradigm. Her more recent foray into politics -- linked to her shift on issues linked to sexuality and marriage -- got discovered by secular media, most recently by Politico, which published the following profile:

Last fall, Jen Hatmaker, a popular evangelical author and speaker, started getting death threats. Readers mailed back her books to her home address, but not before some burned the pages or tore them into shreds. LifeWay Christian Stores, the behemoth retailer of the Southern Baptist Convention, pulled her titles off the shelves. Hatmaker was devastated. Up until that point, she had been a wildly influential and welcome presence in the evangelical world, a Christian author whose writings made the New York Times best-seller list and whose home renovation got its own HGTV series. But then 2016 happened, and, well, of course everything changed.

Then it tells how she came out against Donald Trump some time in 2016. This might have been a minority opinion, but she was hardly alone in it and she was not the only person taking heat for it (or even the only woman in that niche).

A lot of evangelicals were unhappy with Trump, whom they saw as crazy, but who was up against Hillary Clinton, who they saw as evil. The fact that 81 percent of evangelical Christians said they voted for Trump doesn’t mean that all of them liked doing so.

So what was the key factor in the Hatmaker story?

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Religion News Service spotlights a trend on evangelical women that few, if any media get

Religion News Service spotlights a trend on evangelical women that few, if any media get

Is anyone paying attention to a growing corps of evangelical female Christian bloggers out there?

Earlier this week, Religion News Service profiled four such bloggers with a headline saying they had spawned a “crisis of authority.” While I don’t believe they’ve begun any such thing, these women -- and the underlying frustrations causing them to write what they do -- deserve a closer look.

The piece begins with a vignette about blogger Sarah Bessey (pictured in this piece), who’s been plying her wares on the Internet for some 12 years.

In many places, blogging seems to have become all about personal branding. At the same time, Bessey’s blog has brought her speaking engagements and inspired two books -- “Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women” and “Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith” -- with a third in the works. Bessey now has nearly 43,000 followers on Twitter and about 38,000 on Facebook.
“The internet gave women like me -- women who are outside of the usual power and leadership narratives and structures -- a voice and a community,” Bessey told RNS by email. “We began to write and we began to find each other, we began to learn and be challenged, we began to realize we weren’t as alone as we thought we were. Blogging gave us a way past the gatekeepers of evangelicalism.”
For many Christian women, including racial minorities, and others whose voices traditionally have not been heard by or represented in institutional churches, the internet has created new platforms to teach, preach and connect.
That includes countless personal blogs and social media accounts like Bessey’s. It also includes online ministries that have grown to include offline events like Propel Women, (in)courage, The Influence Network and IF:Gathering, and Bible study communities like She Reads Truth, which started as a hashtag by several online strangers to share what they were reading in the Bible and has grown to a website, app, book and specialty Bible that counted 500,000 active users last fall.

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This just in! New York Times probes old, old, old divisions among American evangelicals

This just in! New York Times probes old, old, old divisions among American evangelicals

If I remember correctly, I wrote my first major feature story on growing divisions among American evangelicals in about 1986, while at The Rocky Mountain News (RIP). It focused on the work of Evangelicals for Social Action, a group that was relevant in Denver because of the work of the late (great) Denver Seminary leader Vernon Grounds (my next-door-neighbor, in terms of office space, while I taught there in the early '90s).

The group's most famous leader is Ron Sider, author of the highly influential book "Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger" -- first released in (note the year) 1978.

The basic idea in the Rocky feature was that there was a growing number of evangelicals who simply did not fit under the already aging Religious Right label. In fact, many -- like Grounds and Sider -- never were part of that movement in the first place.

Folks in this "JustLife" crowd (with a few exceptions) were orthodox on essential doctrinal and moral issues, especially abortion and the defense of traditional marriage, but they were fiercely committed to economic justice, racial equality and peacemaking. They were already struggling to find political candidates -- Democrats or Republicans -- they could support in national campaigns. There were quiet arguments about whether it was right to support third-party candidates or to boycott some elections.

Does any of this sound familiar?

You got it! This is now breaking news in The New York Times, months after that wall-to-wall national media "Evangelicals Love Trump!" thing that helped create momentum for the Donald Trump brand in the GOP primaries. The headline at the Gray Lady proclaims: "Donald Trump Reveals Evangelical Rifts That Could Shape Politics for Years."

Let me stress that this is a good Times story, even if it is very, very, very old news.

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