Like many, I discovered the infamous YouTube channels GirlDefined and EmmaMaeJenkins not by logging onto their pages, but by watching videos of people mocking them. I say “infamous” because there is little support to be found for either of these channels. GirlDefined, a ministry run by two married sisters in their thirties, has taken the biggest hit, and they recently deleted the majority of their videos after receiving endless backlash. Emma Mae Jenkins is a freshman in college and fierce follower of Jesus known for her never ending smiles and what some people perceive to be, “creepy” happiness. For a while, I followed the band wagon of watching these girls’ videos just to point out every flaw in their thoughts and feel better about myself. But my views are changing on these ladies, and I’m honestly ashamed to have been part of their “hater club.” This is why.
I’ve at least always said that both of these channels have good intentions. I believe it’s clear that Girl Defined and Jenkins are trying to help people, and they truly believe their content can do that. That’s the same reason that I blog, so I support these pursuits. GirlDefined is known for their videos on modesty, dating and purity culture. Most of their expressed theology I disagree with and have combated on this blog before. But a few weeks ago, I noticed an apology video made by these girls where they addressed some important truths they had overlooked on their channel in the past. Their humility in publicly acknowledging their mistakes intrigued me to inspect their channel more closely, and I discovered that they had deleted the majority of their videos, and the recent uploads on their channel mostly concentrated on beauty and makeup.
Emma Mae Jenkins remains popular on Instagram and YouTube as she focuses on encouraging her followers rather than touching on controversial issues, and yet many people still flock to her platforms to tell her that she is “creepy” or “fake” or “insane.” While I admit that I have found her happiness a bit forced at times, when I realized that she is dedicating her presence to inciting joy and encouragement, I was appalled at myself for thinking that I’m better than her.
So what’s the big problem with more progressive or liberal Christians gearing up to shout down everything they find to be wrong with channels like these? It’s hypocritical.
In an effort to discover what’s really true, really best and really right, myself, Christians in similar stages and deconstructionists are re-examining what we know and are challenging unfounded traditions of the faith. I’ve written before about how we are often alienated for questioning the norms or are simply labelled as ones who are “falling away.” It’s a frustrating space to be in, and many of us know it personally. But what is the difference of alienating more “progressive” Christians in their quest for truth and writing off the platforms and movements of well-meaning leaders like GirlDefined and Emma Mae Jenkins? There isn’t one.
These women, shown by their humility in acknowledging their mistakes and in dedicating their presence to helping people, are attempting to do the right thing for themselves and others. While I agree that many of the ideas behind GirlDefined’s now deleted videos are harmful, they are also beliefs that I used to advocate. It was not through relentless hatred that I changed my views, but by being exposed to challenging beliefs and the continual pursuit of intimacy with Christ that I was able to re-examine what I always thought to be gospel.
I know that my criticism of these Christian leaders was totally from a place of self-righteousness. It feels good to feel like you’re right, and friends often benefit from “bonding” via mutual hatred for the same thing. While poking fun in private can sometimes be harmless, we must be careful to monitor the difference between making playful jokes and beating others over the head with our baton of perceived superiority.
I will continue to scrutinize myself and those leading Christianity, but I will also work to recognize intentions and spend more time questioning myself rather than directing my pride onto criticism of others. I wish for GirlDefined, Emma Mae Jenkins, Sadie Robertson and all the other female Christian leaders to do the best with the platforms that they have been given. They make me want to be more careful with mine.
Do you have thoughts on these channels? I’d love to hear your opinions on them in the comments! Let’s engage below: