Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey
Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey is a different book than a lot of what I read and how I most intuitively think. It was not a text of finely-crafted arguments to defend a position. Based on the subtitle, An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women, I somewhat expected Bessey’s work to be like that, but I’m glad it wasn’t. When it comes to issues of gender equality, many great ones of that type already exist from the likes of Rachel Held Evans and Scot McKnight.
There is clearly a place for the highly structured arguments of tough questions, but those arguments on their own cannot drive you toward healing, beauty, or relationship. They are akin to the role of apologetics where I like to employ the imagery of a hurdles track. Apologetics might be good for removing or shrinking the hurdles, but the person still has to run the track. They still have to experience for themselves, relate for themselves. Removing the intellectual hurdles is good, but if we then all stop there, nothing has really changed.
Fortunately, Sarah doesn’t just remove the hurdles. She does deal with those questions a little bit, but not nearly in the same depth as a lot of other works, and those discussions in my opinion did seem a bit more out of place than when she stuck to her primary style of story and affirmation. I started following her blog only a month or two ago, in part due to the realization that I need to embrace more voices of experience along with intellect in my life. And yes, it is taking me some time to get used to. There is a clear flow, but it is a flow of a more tangential quality, more like a dialogue of friends around a campfire (Bessey’s analogy) than like a systematic theology textbook dealing with each topic exhaustively and with the facade of perfect logic.
For that reason, I have relatively little to say about the book’s actual content. I would sum up the main message as being simply that you are loved and your voice is necessary. That is obviously primarily geared toward women, but the book is not strictly devoted to women; I still felt moved in powerful ways. If you believe in the hurdles that make women in any way less than men, you probably will need to read something else first to continue wrestling with the supposed truth of those objections. Many women would probably read Jesus Feminist and still not feel loved or welcome to speak because they have been taught that the Bible says these harmful things about them.
For many others, though, who have already dealt with the intellectual hurdles or who didn’t have them in the first place, this book can be a powerful invitation into living the Kingdom now, with regards to gender equality and much more. There is a lot of talk about the big picture of God’s Kingdom. Unlike some of those more technical texts, Bessey does a fantastic job of locating gender equality within the Gospel of the Kingdom, creating a surprisingly nice flow from my previous read, Unfinished: Believing is Only the Beginning. You’ll walk away not just feeling like the Bible tells you to live in a Kingdom way, but actually moved and encouraged to live in such a way that trades (to name a few) inequality for equality, judgement for grace, retribution for restoration, and shame for healing.
You are loved. You are beautiful image-bearers of God. You are called to be a part of a Kingdom so beautiful we can’t fully imagine it. Don’t let others tell you otherwise, not even those Christians who have lost this beautiful vision of their calling.