Review: For the Love, Part 2

Watch your life and doctrine closely.

For the Love: Part 1

Gentle Reader,

This is the part that I didn’t want to write. Allow me to repeat myself: The toughest position I ever held during my time on a college newspaper was that of a reviewer. It is difficult for me to put into practice the instruction of my professor – observe and dissect – knowing how intensely artists labor over their work. They practically bleed onto the page or the canvas. Nevertheless, it is important to strive to be as even-handed and objective as possible. That is my goal in this piece.

Nevertheless I am well aware that what I’m about to publish is going to generate some heat.

QUESTIONS

I wish that I had saved it so that I could give you a specific date, but sometime between Tuesday, July 7, and Friday, July 10, I received an email from Hatmaker (along with other members of her “Email Friends” list). She wrote to tell us about the free goodies we could get with pre-ordering a copy of For the Love. (As part of the launch team, I expected this and wasn’t offended. The point, after all, is to generate buzz and sell books). In the first paragraph of this email (again, I wish I had saved it so I could quote directly) she mentioned being influenced in her spirituality by the fiction work of Sue Monk Kidd.

Update, 8/27/15: A friend had this email and forwarded it to me. It was sent out on July 10, and the line that I referenced above reads, “…I want to know if Sue Monk Kidd read the tweets I sent about how much her storylines affected me spiritually.”

At first, I wasn’t even going to pursue this. I didn’t want to pursue this. I wanted to write a short-and-sweet, stellar review. So I deleted the email.

But I only know of one Sue Monk Kidd:

To embrace Goddess is simply to discover the Divine in yourself as powerfully and vividly feminine. (Dance of the Dissident Daughter, p. 141)

… something inside me was calling on the Goddess of the Dark, even though I didn’t know her name. (The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, p. 93)

I remember a feeling rising up from a place about two inches below my navel. … It was the purest inner knowing I had experienced, and it was shouting in me no, no, no! The ultimate authority of my life is not the Bible; it is not confined between the covers of a book. It is not something written by men and frozen in time. It is not from a source outside myself. My ultimate authority is the divine voice in my own soul. Period. … That day sitting in church, I believed the voice in my belly. … The voice in my belly was the voice of the wise old woman. It was my female soul talking. And it had challenged the assumption that the Baptist Church would get me where I needed to go. (Dance of the Dissident Daughter, p. 76-78)

I knew right then and there that the patriarchal church was no longer working for me. The exclusive image of God as heavenly Father wasn’t working, either. I needed a Power of Being that was also feminine. (Dance of the Dissident Daughter, p. 80)

There’s a bulb of truth buried in the human soul that’s “only God” … the soul is more than something to win or save. It’s the seat and repository of the inner Divine, the God-image, the truest part of us. (When the Heart Waits, p. 47, 48)

When we encounter another person … we should walk as if we were upon holy ground. We should respond as if God dwells there. (God’s Joyful Surprise, p. 233)

I ran my finger around the rim of the circle on the page and prayed my first prayer to a Divine Feminine presence. I said, “Mothergod, I have nothing to hold me. No place to be, inside or out. I need to find a container of support, a space where my journey can unfold. (Dance of the Dissent Daughter, p. 94)

Divine Feminine love came, wiping out all my puny ideas about love in one driving sweep. Today I remember that event for the radiant mystery it was, how I felt myself embraced by Goddess, how I felt myself in touch with the deepest thing I am. It was the moment when, as playwright and poet Ntozake Shange put it, “I found god in myself/ and I loved her/ I loved her fiercely.” (Dance of the Dissident Daughter, p. 136)

I came to know myself as an embodiment of Goddess. (Dance of the Dissident Daughter, p. 163)

When I woke, my thought was that I was finally being reunited with the snake in myself – that lost and defiled symbol of feminine instinct. (Dance of the Dissident Daughter, p. 107)

Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows that I am an egalitarian. I believe in the full equality of men and women. Yet I also believe in the accuracy and inerrancy of Scripture. God chose to reveal Himself in masculine terms. This doesn’t mean that He is masculine; God is transcendent. He is in a category all by Himself and cannot be classified as man or woman. Nevertheless, He chose to relate to us as Father, Son and Spirit. Christian faith simply does not support worshiping the “feminine divine” or the “goddess.” This does not demean women or relegate them to a “second class” space. Men have done that, not God.

I have no idea what Hatmaker means by saying that she’s been influenced by Kidd. I attempted to reach out to her via Facebook and through her website’s contact page, asking for clarification. I have yet to receive an answer. At this point I am not making any hard-and-fast judgments. She could simply mean that something in one of Kidd’s novels touched her. I am unwilling to come to a solid conclusion until I have more information.

Still, this leaves me in an awkward position, especially since my endorsement appears in the book.

Reading through For the Love a second time, with this in mind, I noticed something: Quotes from authors Annie Dillard, Anna Quindlen and Brene Brown are sprinkled throughout. The framework, the worldview, from within which these authors write shows strong threads of panentheism, pop-psychology self-help and a mish-mash of New Age-y, maybe Christian terms that I can make heads nor tails of. I have no problem recognizing the fact that they may well have good and positive things to say, but, as with Kidd, the spiritual content of their works is concerning.

Do not interpret this as an attack on Jen Hatmaker. I don’t know her personally and I don’t wish her any ill. I’m not making a call on whether or not she’s saved, so please don’t go there. I will happily update this post if I receive clarification regarding the statement about Kidd. I can easily accept that she used the quotes from the other authors for very good reasons. As of now, I am left holding a mixed bag. If this were strictly a work of humor, I would have no problem giving it five stars. Due to the muddied nature of the spiritual currents, I cannot give this book the wholehearted recommendation that I initially hoped.

FINAL THOUGHTS

So, where does that leave us? I won’t slap For the Love out of your hands if I see you reading it, but I won’t tell you to rush out and snag a copy, either. I think you can read this book and enjoy it for its message of freedom for women and its humor, but I do encourage you to keep this background information in the forefront of your mind. Be aware of what you are taking in and examine it closely. Ask the Holy Spirit to grant you guidance and sensitivity in this and all reading selections.

Do so for your sanity. Do it for your integrity.

Do it for His love.

This, above all, is the lesson I have learned in being on the launch team.

My journey to faith. (15)

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10 thoughts on “Review: For the Love, Part 2

  1. You did a great job in showing us the ‘behind the scenes’ of a thoughtful reviewer. I’m impressed; if I had to do this, my evaluation would be much shallower!

    Two thoughts on Part 1 – centering on the ‘church’ issues.

    First, a lot of pastors are becoming the faith’s worst enemies by cherrypicking Scripture to grow a following. The church is a good thing, yes, but there are people within its walls who would cheerfully dynamite the place for their own ends, be they temporal or an assumption of something in the realm of the Divine.

    And that brings me to #2…people leaving the faith. I can speak from personal experience…I’ve been told to expect my miracle, to know that God only means good for me, to hear about the temporal blessings given to others…

    I’m dying. It hurts. It’s ugly. And if I listened to those pastors, and believed that they represented the Almighty, I’d be out the door.

    The issue, I think, is that the message of Christianity is bound up in its history. Feeding a congregation on the concept of a Santa God who brings blessings to the Good reflects nothing of the reality of the lives of Christians through the centuries.

    And it reflects nothing of God’s reality. He IS here, with me, helping me to stay upright as I type, at this very moment close to 2300 on the worst day yet of this illness. My faith doesn’t come from His granting my prayers; it comes from knowing that He would not even grant the prayer of His Son, because there were more important issues at stake.

    My thought is that a lot of people see this dichotomy; they want the Real Thing, and they’re getting a diet of Pablum. They want, but don’t know that they want, the power of the Cross, foreshadowed by Abraham and Issac and consummated in the gore of Golgotha.

    They want something to live for, because they are worth dying for, and there’s no room to pry those realities apart with feel-good theology.

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    1. As always, Andrew, you have great insight.

      The Church absolutely has problems. Specifically, the Western Church has problems. Though no segment of the Body will ever be perfect this side of eternity, we’re just messed up around here. We decided, somewhere along the way, that faith and the “American dream” are joined together. We’ve set ourselves up to run like a business. People get hurt.

      What bothers me about essays such as the one contained within this book is that they’re trendy. All sorts of people write about how the Church sucks – and they stop with that. They don’t provide any real solutions. That, to me, only contributes to the problem. Our issues will never be resolved if all we do is point them out.

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  2. This was WONDERFUL, and I thank you greatly for having the courage to continue on with your honest, heartfelt review. I truly believe the Holy Spirit guided you to reveal parts of this book that, on the surface, seem like Christian theology and right with God, but underneath the surface are the ideologies of those who are decidedly against the very fabric and foundation of God and His spirituality.

    I, like you, do not know this author personally, and as such will not pass judgment on the validity of her own faith. But, again like you, I find it very disturbing that she weaves the quotations and ideologies of these other women throughout her work, and that she seems proud of the fact that Kidd was one of her inspirations.

    It’s not a “take this from that, and that from this, and it’s 100% truth” system. You either believe in the holy sanctity of the Bible, or you don’t believe that it is enough.

    This, to me, screams volumes about some of the Pauline churches we encounter in the New Testament. Paul speaks of churches who have those who are “enlightened” and seek and preach that Jesus is all well and good, but you have to also complete X, Y, and Z to get into heaven because they think that Jesus is not enough.

    What I take away from your analysis is that this author believes in Christ, professes herself a believer, but subtly suggests, through her use of quoting these women with anti-God New Age spiritual beliefs, someone who (either consciously or subconsciously) believes that Christ isn’t enough- that further steps are required in the faith to become closer to God.

    The fact that she subtly weaves the ideologies of these ladies into her work, masked by the concepts of truth, is precisely how Satan works. He mixes truth, distorts it to his purposes, and passes his “new version” off as truth. And sometimes, he does it so subtly that we, as Christians, don’t always catch onto it, and mistake it for the genuine truth of the Gospel.

    Perhaps her admission that Kidd was her inspiration was a roundabout way for the Holy Spirit to reach out to you and discover the lies hidden within her text, and allowing you to be the platform that exposes this book for what it very well may be- a work intended to disguise the words of the enemy amongst nuggets of truth intended to lead Christians toward the “goddess” route, rather than towards Christ.

    You have an excellent resource and position her to expose this book for what it truly is, and reveal it to as many people as possible, given that you are on the launch team. You spoke of surprise at being selected- perhaps God wanted you there for this very reason 🙂

    Good luck my friend! I will pray for this situation and that the Holy Spirit will guide you to where He wants you to be regarding this book. If it simply consists of you speaking to the author via the Holy Spirit to point out the issues in her work, or it consists of you actively de-promoting the book through the outlets they are trying to pursue in order to distribute it, I pray that God will give you the direction and wisdom you need to ensure that the TRUTH is revealed to those whom might otherwise fall for the traps in this book.

    God bless you! And good luck 🙂

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  3. Marie, I applaud you for your courage in writing both the good and the concerning about For the Love. I applied to be part of the launch team and was not accepted; and though that stung for a second, I realized I didn’t know enough about Hatmaker and her message to be disappointed. Your review only reaffirmed for me that it’s a good thing I wasn’t selected; I would have struggled with the same issues you raise. But you present them so much more delicately and gracefully than I probably would have.

    While I’m not familiar with Kidd, from the quotes you provided, I can see why the association would be concerning. I’d love to hear in what way Hatmaker was influenced by her. Other than the people you mentioned her quoting in the book, was there questionable content (regarding feminine divinity and pantheism) in the book? Or were the quotes themselves concerning in any way?

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    1. There was nothing in the book itself (that I can recall) that actively promotes goddess worship or a panentheistic viewpoint. The authors quoted within the book, however, leave me scratching my head. I can’t really get down to the bones of what it is they believe or think; there’s such a mish-mash going on.

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  4. I stand up and applaud you for being bold enough to say what you liked and what concerned you about the book instead of offering slavish enthusiasm. I am one of #the4500 who did not make the launch team although I now have the book and have been reading through it slowly. I am always concerned when people want to “worship” a person and not the Only One who deserves our worship. It’s all too easy for us as humans to see someone whose message we like and agree with, then turn them into an object of worship themselves. I think that Jen Hatmaker herself would tell you that she does not want to be seen that way, but I worry that some people elevate her to that level. I’ve read Ms. Kidd’s fiction books but never the books you referenced, and now I’ll make sure I never do. 🙂 I can tell you that God has used secular writers or speakers to influence me through something they said or wrote, but I don’t think I would name them as a spiritual influence for this very reason: I don’t want someone to think I believe ALL of what that person believes. I’d be interested to hear what Jen (because that’s what I call her in my head) has to say about it, if she does eventually respond.

    There are tons and tons of books out that purport to tell us about what the Bible says and what the Christian lifestyle should look like. And as much as I like to read, I have to remind myself NOT to take those words as gospel. There is only ONE gospel, and it’s the Bible. I worry about people picking up books by Christian authors and thinking it counts as reading the Bible. Someone once told me: God has spoken. The rest is just commentary. If you spend all your time reading the commentary, you’re not going to be able to decipher the truth from the falsehood. You need to know the real thing backward and forward first so you can discern the good from the bad.

    Like you, I think I would enjoy it more if she just stuck to humor. She is so scary good at that.

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    1. “I can tell you that God has used secular writers or speakers to influence me through something they said or wrote, but I don’t think I would name them as a spiritual influence for this very reason: I don’t want someone to think I believe ALL of what that person believes.”

      I’m 100% with you here. I don’t at all think that secular authors have to be avoided at all costs. I do think, however, that we have to be very careful in picking through what they have to say. The process of sorting the good from the bad is so important.

      “You need to know the real thing backward and forward first so you can discern the good from the bad.”

      Amen!

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