Many women in Christian ministry take the alternate path. They choose to remain non-political, often out of a legitimate desire not to alienate the people they’re trying to reach. At times, even the aesthetics of their world can seem designed to telegraph non-threatening vibes: lots of swirly fonts, recipe trading, and talk about diets unfaithfully kept. Hatmaker’s new book, Of Mess and Moxie, is both of that world and not. It is distinctly non-political, full of references to wine drinking and gym misadventures. Yet it speaks, subtly, to the conflicted feelings women may have about the different aspects of their identity. Hatmaker’s readers, like her, face stark choices about when and how to speak up about politics, particularly those injustices committed by and within their communities.
I spoke with Hatmaker about her book and the stakes of being political for the women in her world. Our conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
Emma Green: This has been kind of an insane year for you.
Jen Hatmaker: That feels right.
Green: You’ve gotten into a lot of fights—although maybe that’s not the right word—particularly around the LGBT stuff. What has that been like?
Hatmaker: This entire year has just been one for the record books. Everything last year just felt like it was DEFCON 1 at all times. It was sort of the dovetail of my statements toward the LGBTQ community and their inclusion in every manner of church, right alongside the election and the insane rhetoric surrounding the campaign.
In both cases, for me, I just could not sit silently by in order to protect my own brand. I just couldn’t do it. And I was advised to do it.
Green: Who advised you to do it?
Hatmaker: Everybody. They would say, “Jen, if you speak into the LGBTQ inclusion in the church conversation and/or the election, then this is career suicide.” I come out of an evangelical space, and there’s a party line, more or less, that runs alongside of that. On both cases, I went against the grain.
It was bananas. It really was. And I wouldn’t change a thing. At the end of the day, I’m not here to build a career. I am here to lead with integrity. I felt like a fractured human being to have these convictions inside of me that I was too afraid to say out loud because it might damage my bottom line. But ultimately that tension became too heavy and I couldn’t hold it anymore.
Green: I’d describe you as part of a certain genre of Christian writers: women who go on tour, have a personal name brand, have their own books, and who primarily reach out to other women. You know the profile of women that I’m talking about, right?
Green: These women, in my experience, have been really reticent to be political. I’ve always been curious why that is. Is it that they’re scared, or they truly aren’t political, or they’re nervous about alienating people?