Sarah Bessey. Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women / Exploring God’s Radical Notion That Women Are People Too. Howard Books, 2013. (235 pages)
Sarah’s website. CT article: ‘I’m a Feminist Because I Love Jesus So Much’. Shepherds Theological Seminary review. Jonathan Merritt on RNS review/interview. Perhaps most intriguing is the CBMW review (worth reading).
— notes —
Leaonard Cohen writes that there is a crack in everything–that’s how the light gets in. And hallelujah, I also think it’s how the light gets out. (8)
At the core, feminism simply consists of the radical notion that women are people, too. (13)
Patriarchy is not God’s dream for humanity. (14)
After years of reading the Gospels and the full canon of Scripture, here is, very simply, what I’ve learned about Jesus and the ladies: he loves us. (16)
As a Jesus feminist, I believe we are part of the trajectory of the redemption story for women. (30)
Lean into the pain. Stay there in the questions, in the doubts, in the wonderings and loneliness, the tension of living in the Now and the Not Yet of the Kingdom of God, your wounds and hurts and aches, until you are satisfied that Abba is there too. (52)
I look forward to the day when women with leadership an insights, gifts and talents, callings and prophetic leanings are called out and celebrated as a Deborah, instead of silenced as a Jezebel. (92)
And so of course we won’t define “biblical womanhood” well using a list of chores or a job description, a schedule or an income level. After all, healthy God-glorifying homes look as different as the image bearers that entered into the covenant, and biblical doesn’t mean a baptized version of any culture, ancient or modern. (97)
Whether we turn to the right or to the left, our ears will hear a voice behind, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (100)
I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love. – Mother Teresa
If more mothers were pastors or preachers, we would likely have a lot more sermons and books about the metaphors of birth and pregnancy connecting us to the story of God. I am rather tired of sports and war metaphors. (115)
I can assure you: there isn’t anything very dignified about giving birth. (118)
We’ve been grouped together by folk wisdom and our common anatomy, and yet we are all bearers of the image of God as women. So now what? (127)
…all of my carefully reasoned understandings about how everyone has a different calling and some of us are just called to different things than poverty relief and caring for orphans stank rank like heresy. (144-145)
Here is the funny thing I learned when I began to disentangle from my Evangelical Hero Complex: I’m pretty sure that there aren’t actually any big things for God. | There are only small things being done over and over with great love, as Mother Teresa said. With great faith. With great obedience. With great joy or suffering or wrestling or forgiving on a daily basis, usually without appreciative applause or a slick video production summary. And grace covers all of it, and God makes something beautiful. One stone at a time. (155-156)
I’m through wasting my time with debates about women-should-do-this and women-should-not-do-that boundaries. I’m out. What an adventure in missing the point. These are the small, small arguments about a small, small god. (171)
Misguided hierarchies and inequalities have no place in God’s shalom. Patriarchy isn’t the dream of the Kingdom of God, and so we can loosen our grip on this old culturally conditioned way of thinking, unfurl our fingers, and simply let it sink to the bottom at last. (174)
My activism as a Jesus feminist is marked and distinguished as being on behalf of others first. (186)
— review —
There’s a principle in publishing, that about 85% of what is published has already been published. The idea of something “new” or “innovative” is challenging to the business of publishing because the “market economics” are not viable for a book and ideas which people have no frame of reference. Into this growing Christian genre “disruptive deconstruction” (my term) comes Bessey’s Jesus Feminist. For anyone completely new or on the cusp of discovering this gendered liberation, start here. I commend her for putting together her own story, woven with good resources, and with an impassioned voice. For anyone who has been down this road before, well, buy this book for your friends who are on the cusp of discovery.
As mentioned at the top, the CBMW review is worth reading for it points out some of the weaknesses, and disappointments in the book, as well as offers an alternative voice by which one can perceive this discussion with greater understanding. These are important because the strengths of one’s argument need to be tested against opposing arguments.
In addition, I have this continual critique and frustration with these popular authors who aren’t quite studied on the full breadth of topics, yet they make assertions (presumably because it’s fits their narrative argument) like this one that perpetuates false history, and pervading biases:
Everyone–including the Jews–excluded women from education, religious training, and participation (with the exception of temple prostitution in pagan worship). (65)
False. The added irony is that throughout the book, Bessey (correctly) cites female leaders in the Bible, in both the Hebrew scriptures (OT) and the New Testament! Without citing any additional primary sources, Bessey’s statement is false, according to her own book. Secondarily, to the previous point, statements like this weaken Bessey’s credibility on the academic robustness of her thesis. Though inspirational, it is tenuous, academically and philosophically, in many places.
Regardless, I accept the subtitle, that this is an “invitation” and “exploration.” For that, I do commend this to you, and appreciate Bessey for being another voice, not only of Christian disruption and deconstruction, but one of commission as well.