CMCW 28. First They Came For Ann Voskamp

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First they came for Ann Voskamp and we shook our heads and wondered “Have they lost their minds?”

Then they came for Rachel Held Evans and we hung our heads and questioned, “Who fed this group of angry, entitled beasts?”

Finally, they came for Jen Hatmaker – and we looked at her life, her love, her brave extension of grace and declared, “Well now they have gone and done it.”

First, They Came for Ann Voskamp – the Farmer’s Wife

I remember when they (the pitchforker-wielding faithful of sincerely held Biblical beliefs) came for Ann Voskamp. One of the first success stories to come out of the early days of Christian blogging, Ann’s faithful writing led to a loyal following and subsequent publishing deals.

As one of her faithful readers I spent hours rocking babies late in the night, pouring over her words, spinning my own stories in the dark, and linking up to her 1000 Gifts Community.

Weekly she would host a link up for us to share our 1000 gifts’ progress. So, I added my numbers, words, and photographs gathered from kitchen sink bubbles, backyard mud puddles, homeless Sunday sunrises, and long walks on the path. I called it “Chasing Gratitude.”

She was one of the teachers who met me there on the path post church breakup. Ann taught me to see with my newly healed eyes. She helped as I learned HOW to heal myself. Here I was an Evangelical reject finding hope again through her gratitude and discovering pieces of my own eucharisteo.

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Enter the Gatekeepers

But the great Christian gatekeepers came. They came sifting through her first book, attempting to find anything even close to “unbiblical” to hold over her life and work. They found what they were seeking. Confirmation bias is a real thing. They wrote their posts and some unapologetically mocked her in the comments. They reviewed her experiences with stern warnings to their like-minded readers. Ann is dangerous. We who have known her words for a long time tried to stand in the gap and rebuke their anger and snark with truth.

“You aren’t right about her.”

But they wouldn’t hear of it – She was a danger to them and to their sincerely-held beliefs. She was a danger to the gospel message.

Even when Ann stepped in across the discord, entered those difficult comment sections, engaged the negative review givers to share her truth about her holy experience and how God had met her along the way the Gatekeepers ignored her honesty and attempted to nitpick her dry anyways.

Her God experiences were not valid to them. No Gold Star for Ann.

It did not matter what she said to them to clarify or defend – they were right about her.

This moment shaped those broken pieces of me. As I watched the cannibalism of the faithful against one of their own– against a woman of deep love, deep hope, deep faith, and deep joy – my own story took shape and my faith diverged.

There was no way I would ever fit among them and I did not even want to try.

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They Came for the Progressive

I remember when they came for Rachel Held Evans – and they have never relented. To this day they call her horrific names, ridicule her beliefs, and mock her voice. Every counter-move against her work is an attempt to silence her voice.

She pushes back against the mighty, giving voice to the broken and hurting. And we applaud her determination and efforts.

But they speak snark-filled filth over her life anyways. They offer harmful commentary while she speaks hope into and from the fringe places. Those Gatekeepers huddle tighter and closer to the center while she spreads the good news of great joy wider across the field. She offers commentary on politics, and the church, abortion, women, and LGBTQ friends while the “Faithful” pass out warning labels meant to silence her prophetic voice. But yes, let’s vote for Trump.

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Then They Came for the Texan

And now they come for Jen Hatmaker – removing her books from Christian bookstore shelves and devout leaders issuing warning statements about Jen’s shifting beliefs. Known Christian Sensationalists (I am not going to link to the main offender – but if you know M.W. – you know of whom I speak) write filth over her act of love to stand beside LGBTQ families. LGBTQ people known much persecution by the world, their own families and yes most especially the church. To have another voice brave enough to affirm their right to love, be loved, and supported by faith communities is a brave, but needed movement forward.

Merritt: You mention faithfulness and God. Do you think an LGBT relationship can be holy?

Hatmaker: I do. And my views here are tender. This is a very nuanced conversation, and it’s hard to nail down in one sitting. I’ve seen too much pain and rejection at the intersection of the gay community and the church. Every believer that witnesses that much overwhelming sorrow should be tender enough to do some hard work here.

More of Jonathan Merritt’s interview “The politics of Jen Hatmaker: Trump, Black Lives Matter, gay marriage and more”

She affirms them and the masses cry foul, throw up their hands in disgust, and shove her off the stage in rebuke.

“We were right about you all along,” they declare.

“SEE I told you. I was right about her.” “We had every reason to believe you were leaning too far outside the box,” the pitchfork wielding Faithful lament.

And we who have watched the “faithful” do what they do for a very long time– are not surprised. We have been watching them cycle in toxicity, spreading fear, and dealing in shame our whole lives. We recognize the patterns and we have had enough. We refuse to buy into your fearmongering any longer.

Not on our watch and not this time!

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The Attack on Female Writers, Speakers, and Teachers

During this US presidential cycle we have watched how the voices of some women are quickly and thoroughly silenced. I myself have a reoccurring dream. In it I am mute and struggling to give sound to my words while being rebuked by a white, church man. He comes silencing my efforts, mocking my life, and gaslighting my experiences….

This happens in real life and in my dreams.

We know this to be true. Female writers, speakers, leaders, and teachers are always and often being mansplained by men and even their pitbull women who “know better” and “more.”

“Faithful men and women” believe they have the right and “authority” to speak right into our homes, work, and lives. The “Faithful” offer rebuke and gaslighting tactics meant to shame, condemn, and confuse us.

They remove books with the words they find inappropriate off their shelves and boycott our companies or work. They silence our love with firm push-back – one minute we are safe and a big money maker, a Christian celebrity success, the next moment our work which hasn’t changed is shoved off shelves and into the clearance bin.

I am calling it now: God forbid Chip and Joanna Gaines every come out in favor of an issue the Christian establishment doesn’t like.

All because we do not 100% align with what they believe to be true of God, people, the Bible, or the world.

We know this as women because we live it.

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This is a pattern of spiritual abuse, sexism, and bullying.

We are not surprised when a Christian conglomerate led by “the faithful” continually decides to silence the nonconforming WOMEN WRITERS who rise up among us.

Lifeway’s pattern of aggression against the nonconforming… is harmful and wrong. And I am calling for REAL consequences.

*Disclaimer – Lifeway has not banned Ann Voskamp, but I think that is probably because they didn’t understand what she was saying in chapter 11 of “One Thousand Gifts” (Affiliate Link)

SPEAK UP. VOICE SUPPORT. STOP SHOPPING. REFUSE TO ALLOW THE FEARMONGERING TO CONTINUE. MAKE SURE WE ARE HEARD.

Be a voice of reason and hope and love – in a world swirling wicked and mean.

Many of these faith few will vote for an unapologetic sexual predator, but fail to defend the female’s right to experience God on her own terms and to love all the people God commands her to love.

We don’t have the rights to our own bodies – let alone our own faith expressions.

Women are not invited to gather at most church’s leadership tables. Why should we be surprised they also want to monitor our reading habits too?

We refuse to play along anymore. Enough.

What will it be for you?

I hope when they come for me it is because I have been living an abundant life of love from the overflow. May it be because I have talked about God and nature too much or because I use too many feminine divine pronouns. Or perhaps they come for me because I have been ABLE. Being dismissed for being able is a good thing. Because there is something to be said for being ABLE.

May they condemn us for our continued love of the fringe places and fringe people and fringe ideas.

Still Here,

♥J

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Book Recommendations (AFFILIATE LINKS FOLLOW – help keep this blog alive and feed my children ♥)

Finally this is part 28 from a series on Shifting Faith – Confronting My Church Wounds.

You can find the rest of the series below:

  1. Introduction
  2. Coming Undone
  3. Pit of Despair
  4. Healing Takes Time
  5. The Act of Seeing
  6. Mean Church Girls
  7. You are NOT Good Enough
  8. A Year of Silence
  9. Evangelicals and the “Gay Agenda”
  10. I Felt Duped
  11. Critical, Sexist Church Men
  12. Anniversary of Tears
  13. Conservative Christian Women Support Trump
  14. Generational Consequences of Violence Against Women
  15. Four Ways Faith Shifts Affect Children
  16. I am behind on a few of these.
  17. Can An Unhealthy Church Raise Healthy Children? – Sexual Abuse in the Church
  18. The Words We Allow
  19. Three Essentials Healthy Families Offer Children
  20. Failure is an Option
  21. There are a few posts missing… because LIFE. Check back or sign up below so you don’t miss them.
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