Here’s the pile of “serious” books I’ve been working my way through lately.Honestly, the fiction (not pictured) – Charles Martin’s new book A Life Intercepted, and Jan Karon’s new book, Somewhere Safe, with Somebody Good have been more fun (I am so totally savoring being back in “Mitford”!), but a girl’s gotta go for a little substance too. Thus the pile.
Confession: I picked up Sarah Bessey’s Jesus Feminist only because I felt I had to. She was coming to speak at our church, and the women I walk alongside mostly (twenty-somethings) seemed to feel like she was speaking their language and saying something important.
I started reading with a bad attitude for three reasons:
1. I’m afraid of being labeled a feminist. I am so done with pushy loud warrior women, fist-pounding, fire-breathing, charging with swords drawn, attacking any man, woman, or child who doesn’t hand them a microphone and a substantial paycheck. No one does their cause any good without a dose of humility and the ability to listen as well as articulate their opinions.
2. I didn’t need to be convinced of the Biblical mandate for gender equality. Been there, studied that years ago. I’m all in. It’s curious to me why Jesus’ radical esteem for women seems so “new” to this generation.
3. Repression or discrimination or subjugation towards me as a woman just have not been issues in my life. I’ve been blessed with opportunities for meaningful work, a community that values everyone’s gifts and a husband who is probably more “for” me than I am for myself.
Now I can just see the steam coming out of some of your ears. I can hear you fuming at your computer screen “But, but BUT…!”
I know, I know. This is an emotional issue and everyone has their own story. I was just telling you honestly my attitude when I STARTED reading Jesus Feminist.
Here’s what I found:
- A gifted writer with a heart for Jesus. Sarah’s most effective weapon is her gracious spirit. She writes of a desire to be done with cynicism and a critical spirit:
“I wanted to be done with that grand piano performance of my own greatness and righteous anger, along with the glossy stage. So much for the concert proficiency at being right; I’m ready to be Beloved instead… years ago, I imagined that I found a battered, old thrift-store piano. As I saw it, I was clumsy and awkward, learning to practice goodness and truth, like scales all over again. I am still practicing gentleness and beauty, over and over again. Someday perhaps my fingers will find those keys without thought.”
- A gentle narrative theology that doesn’t reveal any new “aha’s” but is a fresh voice, accessible for a new generation.
“Neither one of us – woman or man- is secondary or backup; we are all key parts of Kingdom building, intrinsic to the story of God, right now.”
“And if our marriages can give some small and imperfect glimpse of the Kingdom of God in action, warriors fighting in distinct unity, then we need to dance, in and around and with each other, in intimacy and mutual submission…We are able to offer our ‘You first, darling’ as an overflow of the completeness we enjoy in Jesus.”
- Sarah’s is an important voice for those who don’t have one – those around the world, who unlike me, have experienced extreme injustice and subjugation – victims of sexualized violence and unequal access to education and jobs just to name a few. After sharing statistics to quantify these injustices she writes:
“These statistics and anecdotes are what I think about when people ask me if we’re past the need for feminism because behind each stat, there is a story and a soul and a consequence.
‘Aslan is on the move,’ wrote C.S. Lewis in my dog-eared copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Me? I want to move with our not-safe-but-good God.
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.
Our big and good God is at work in the world, and we have been invited to participate fully…”
Bottom line? If a marked up book is an indication of its value, this one’s a keeper. Plus, there’s a great discussion guide in the back.
Here’s one of the questions: The title of this book comes with some big feelings for all of us. What feeling does “Jesus feminism” bring up for you initially?
I’d love to hear from you!