In which I review Jesus Feminist (and steal the “in which” tagline)

Jesus. Feminist. I’ll admit, part of my curiosity with this book was putting those two words together. Not just in the same sentence, but right next to each other. Sarah Bessey is one of the bloggers I heard about through the Deeper Story crowd, and at this point it’s been so long I can’t remember if it was directly or indirectly, but over the past couple years I’ve tried to track with her blog as best I can. Through this, I learned enough to know that I like her writing, and that her imagery is often pure gold. I knew that she and I didn’t really agree on all aspects of the mammoth topic that is “gender roles” but when I saw the title of her book, I literally asked “What the Hell?” (sorry, grandma). Out loud. At work. Still, I had a feeling this book was going to be a game changer for us. I wasn’t disappointed.

I confess, I still don’t agree with everything she says in the book. I’m still a Complementarian. I don’t want to talk Theology, though. First, because that would distract from everything else I have to say about the book. Second, because responses to blogs on gender roles has such a wide range of effect that it could go from a pleasant “Hey, well said” even if someone disagrees with me to feeling like Hiroshima happened all over again and destroyed the whole Internet, with the focal point being my blog.

If I don’t want to talk Theology, why mention I’m a Complementarian? Because I want what I’m about to say to have its full effect: I agree with Sarah more than I disagree with her. Yep, you read that right. I agree with more than I disagree with a book that so closely associates “Jesus” and “Feminist” with each other.

I read Jesus Feminist in a weekend. On a Kindle. In ten hours. I feel like my eyes still have LCD burned into them, lol. It wasn’t just curiosity about Sarah’s definition of “feminist” that kept me plugged in, it was that she did what she does best: she invited me into her life and walked with me through her story. She let me experience the happiness, the sadness, the joy, and the frustration. Even the pain that is most personal to her. She walks us through memories of joy and laughter, sadness and tears, all to illustrate her point that “women are people, too.” Seriously, there will be tears, y’all.

As I write this, my thoughts still haven’t changed from that Tweet. Jesus Feminist is a breath of fresh air when it comes to this conversation, especially in the world of the written word. She handles a very complicated, very personal issue with grace and dignity. She writes with conviction, but also with compassion. She admits that both sides of this argument have wounded the other, and then she lays down her sword and hands us glasses of wine so we can talk like civilized people. And I’ll add that we should probably put the swords in another room, lest we become Peter and start chopping off ears.

Everyone needs to read this
I don’t care where you land on this issue, you need to read this book. Complementarians, Egalitarians, and the Confused need to read this book, because this is how this conversation should take place. This is the tone we should strive for: one filled with humility and compassion and grace. Complementarians need to read this because we need to have a better understanding of what Christian Feminists should be trying to achieve. Egalitarians need to read this to see how to winsomely approach and discuss a subject that may have painful memories and experiences as baggage. Complementarians would do well to try to be this winsome, too.

I’ve told Sarah several times before this book that much of what she argues for as a Feminist, I argue for as a Complementarian. Like I said earlier, this book is a game changer. Or it can be, if we Complementarians take it seriously. If we read it for the real hurts left behind in places where men aren’t being men, and where men aren’t cherishing their wives. If we read it for the wounds and scars left by men who elevate themselves by stepping on their wives instead of making much of Christ by making much of their wives by sacrificially leading and serving them, as Christ does the Church.

So, pre-order it on Amazon and read Jesus Feminist when it comes out in November. By the end of it you’ll go to your Bible, probably holding back tears, and ask “God, why? How should gender roles really look?” You may not change your position, I didn’t. But with tears in our eyes seems to be a great place to begin this conversation anew, extending grace and compassion to those who disagree.

7 responses to “In which I review Jesus Feminist (and steal the “in which” tagline)

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  2. Vic Christian

    Just a question – if God’s will for the church is for male pastors/elders and teachers of men, is it sin for a person to teach otherwise, as it would be for any other subject? If so – how could a Christian recommend a book that advocates sin. Just wondering – thanks.

    • Hey, Vic, thanks for dropping in.

      That’s honestly an angle I hadn’t thought about before. I’d honestly have to do a lot more thinking before I could even begin to answer that part of the question.

      That said, the range of freedom women have to teach in Complementarian circles is vast. Some feel that women should only be able to teach women, and that’s the end of it. Some believe that if a woman feels that she has something the church needs to hear, she should take it to the pastor and let him prayerfully consider it. If he chooses to let her deliver the message, then that is still taking place under his authority.

      I tend to fall more into the latter camp. Granted, I haven’t really see that play out in preaching per se, but in more spontaneous impressions from the Holy Spirit in more charismatic circles. Call it prophecy, if you have to label it. Also, I do think it’s important to remember that just because I believe Scripture to place limits on who women can teach freely, that doesn’t mean that their voices should be ignored or that their opinions and perspectives don’t matter.

      I’ve learned tons from women just seeing them interact and go about life without even trying to really teach.

      The reason I recommend Sarah’s book to Complementarians is because I think most Complementarians turn a blind eye to when Complementarianism is abused and mishandled when it doesn’t happen directly in their sphere of influence, and sometimes even when it does. They need to be confronted with the facts and the emotion that Sarah communicates so well.

      I recommend this to Egalitarians/Feminists because this was literally a breath of fresh air when it comes to this conversation. More Christian feminists would do well to adopt Sarah’s tone, because sometimes their message gets drowned out by their tone and no one gets anywhere, even on points where I’d look and say “Yes, this is wrong, and we need to fix it.”

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  4. Thank you Don, for this wonderful review. I’m reading a Jesus Feminist now to and am planning on reviewing it next week. I love your words so much because I very much identify as a Jesus feminist, but I practice submission in my marriage don’t think hierarchy is wrong or against the Kingdom principles Jesus taught us during his earthly ministry. I very much think there is role distinction within in the trinity and take my cue from Jesus, who in very essence to Father submitted to him and his wills—even to death on the cross. Your review is helpful and encouraging. Blessings, Osheta

    • Thanks for stopping in and sharing your thoughts, Osheta. I’m grateful this space was encouraging to you. It’s truly always humbling and a blessing to hear that.

      Grace and peace,

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