Sarah Bessy’s Jesus Feminist is another book I borrowed from my local library but need to get my own copy of so I can re-read with a pen. I was hooked from the cover with the subtitles, “An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women: Exploring God’s Radical Notion That Woman Are People, Too.” And it did not disappoint.
Chapter One begins:
Jesus made a feminist out of me.
I can’t make apologies for it, even though I know that Jesus plus feminist might be the one label that could alienate almost everyone.
Amen, Sister. Both Jesus and feminist might have more baggage and misuse and abuse than any other words ever. At least, I can’t think of any. I couldn’t tell you which has caused me more discomfort and difficulty in my life, searching for God or longing for a world where I am not just a girl and where girls are equal to the rest of the human species. Having once-upon-a-time left church in a large part because of how women were treated I think this book carries a message the world needs to hear. She does a beautiful, simple, job of reconciling two seemingly opposed ideals into a synthesis pointing clearly to both equality for all human beings and God’s Good News.
Wherever there is injustice or oppression, anything less than God’s intended purpose from the dawn of Creation, our God has always set his people on the trajectory of redemption.
A few pages later:
We hunger for justice for the oppressed precisely because of or deep love of God and our commitment to Scripture.
With moving honesty she describes her own upbringing and her family’s religious background:
My mum and dad found Jesus spectacularly, in a turn-your-life-upside-down sort of way, during my childhood.
She goes on to describe her college years and early marriage and observations of women’s place in church.
During this season of my life, the more I learned about Jesus, the more I struggled with the iterations of Christianity around me. Much of what I saw or experienced in the modern church didn’t match up with what I thought I knew about the ageless God.
I particularly enjoy her openness about her personal life and vulnerable bluntness about questioning faith and finding new faith. And how giving birth taught her to accept pain rather than fight it. (Disclaimer, in my experience, she’s right. I had two kids with no medication and it was absolutely the most transformative, empowering, and yes, spiritual experience of my life. I was not afraid and flat-out banned anyone with infectious fear or anxiety from my proximity.)
if you are struggling to break that cycle of fear-tension-pain, I’ll tell you a bit more about the God I love so wild but remember, the subtext for all of it is this truth: lean into it.
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…. You will not find your answers by ignoring the cry of your heart or by living a life of intellectual and spiritual dishonesty. Your fear will try to hold you back, your tension will increase, the pain will become intense, and it will be tempting to keep clinging tight to the old life; the cycle is still true.
I love her courage. I grew up with a never-ask-questions-or-it-isn’t-faith Jesus. A nice middle-class purity and prosperity God. A mean hell-fire and homophobia God. A girl asking questions was particularly bad news. It took me a long, long time to find a new faith and the Good News and even longer to be willing to break through the last of that pain and participate again.
She didn’t disappoint the nerd in me either. She offers fascinating insight into her own wrestling with the Bible and love of words and the Word both. While keeping it all grounded in a real world context:
people with real lives and real stories and real hurts, real marriage and real churches and very real complex needs. The world is failing women….
She digs into Greek and history and Hebrew and the baggage many of us carry from the Bible being used to justify abuse and domination rather than to point to Good News for ALL people. She even bluntly drags her own marriage under the microscope and gives us an up close view of deeply personal and intimate application of her own questions and context. And then jumps into the creation story and offers a fascinating quotes from Rachel Held Evans and Victor Hamilton (I’m going to have to add them to my reading list now) on that old assumption about Eve created for a lesser place:
what God created for Adam will correspond to him. Thus the new creation will be neither a superior nor an inferior but an equal…. She will be his strongest ally in pursuing God’s purposes and his first roadblock when he veers off course.
The entire chapter Dancing Warriors is packed with quotes I’d love to share. Well, actually, this book was so good I’d buy a thousand copies to give away if I could.
In the early new light of Creation, God didn’t set up a “masculine” rule as his standard and plan for humanity. No, it was masculine and feminine together, bearing the image of God. New Testament scholar at Fuller Seminary J. R. Daniel Kirk says “Only this kind of shared participation in representing God’s reign to the world is capable of doing justice to the God whose image we bear.”
I’m running out of word-count again. Really, I do try to keep myself limited to a reasonable length. It’s just so hard to give a good book the full treatment and stay brief. I’ve only given a short preview here so go read it yourself. I loved this book.