For the Love… a Critical Review

unnamedJen Hatmaker, whose previous book was a spiritual adventure for me, recently published For the Love to rave reviews and a place on the New York Times Bestseller List.  Her new book is a fun stream-of-consciousness roller coaster ride through the rants and raves of a Jesus-loving, preacher’s wife and mother-of-5, sprinkled with a little minor celebrity glitz. It is, therefore, not what I  expected, and it does not deliver on the promises made in advance publicity, the book’s own introduction or even its pithy subtitle: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards.  Because of the misconceptions people might have about it, I am posting this fairly critical review.

Although For the Love occasionally makes a great point of practical theology (“If you can make a pot of chili and use a cell phone, then you can create community,” or, “Anytime the rich and poor combine, we should listen to whoever has the least power.”), it is not what I expected because the title suckered me. I thought it was going to be a straight-up education about grace applied to ourselves primarily and others secondarily, something we all sorely need, whether we are coming from the get-your-life-in-line end of the spectrum or the let-it-all-hang-out end. But it’s not. After the wonderful introduction, grace is never directly addressed again, and there are whole chapters which don’t even use the word. There IS a chapter on fashion, multiple chapters addressing pet peeves, Jen’s life in Facebook posts and several intricate recipes. Yes, there are a couple of serious chapters about missions (ala When Helping Hurts) and church leaders, but there is approximately one Bible reference (ok, I found three more in the second-to-last, confusing chapter encouraging women to lead more) and for a book touting grace, I felt kind of ragged on a few times.

I could be the author’s mother (if I’d had a couple rough teen years), and I’ve earned the right to say that sometimes this good-hearted lady knows not of what she speaks. By her own admission she hasn’t been through a lot of hardships. She has a loving pastor-husband, five great kids who are still at home, and she and her friends cheer on one another’s published books, released CD’s, TV shows and popular podcasts. If someone is going to tell me how to raise kids, have a great marriage or dispense grace on the mission field, I’d like to hear it from someone who has suffered a bit. Talk to me again when there’s only one of you working on your marriage, when your grown child has embraced atheism, when you’ve had a significant part of your body disfigured, or when your best friend or your dreams have died a slow death. Until then, please adhere to truth in advertising by subtitling your book: Funny Blogs about Being a Middle-aged Christian Mom.

Please buy this book (seriously, do) if you want to read some light yet inspiring Christian humor. Just don’t be fooled by the title like I was. And, Jen, when you decide to write the book you promised in the introduction, I’ll stand in line for it.

Related Material:

Why Christians Aren’t Seriously Studying God’s Word by Sam Storms

Going Deeper – CT

And to prove I’m not against Christian humor, here’s a funny video about Shallow Small Groups