Like many of her fans, I fell in love with Sarah Bessey via her blog. Her writing is stunning; Her posts simultaneously heartfelt and provocative, oftentimes leaving me in both tears and deep thought.
Since I love her writing, I was thrilled to read an advanced copy of her book, Jesus Feminist . As a female church worker who's served in both mainline and evangelical contexts, I care deeply about this topic. Sarah addresses it with the same heartfelt, provocative flare her readers have come to expect.
From the start, Sarah acknowledges the controversial nature of gender roles in Christian circles. She offers a confession of sorts, saying, “We have often treated our communities like a minefield, acted like theology is a war, and we are the wounded and we are the wounding.” Sarah implores her readers to “discover how we can disagree beautifully.”
Throughout her book, Sarah weaves her personal narrative together with an exploration of the Biblical passages typically used to define, and so often limit the roles of both men and women according to their gender. She explores these texts through the lens of the Cross, which is the “center of this story”. With the cross as the center of the story, Sarah reminds readers that “the gospel is always glad tidings and great joy for all mankind” and that “the Good News is proclaimed when we love each other.”
As a result of viewing Scripture through this lens, Sarah reclaims the word feminism. She urges readers to “celebrate any sort of feminism that brings more justice and human flourishing to the world, no matter who is bringing it, since we recognize the hand of God in all that is good.”
One of the ways that Sarah celebrates feminism is by sharing the birth story of one of her children. She does so beautifully; I wept throughout the entire chapter. In the process of sharing her birth story, Sarah suggests, “If more mothers were pastors or preachers, we would likely have a lot more sermons & books about the metaphors of birth and pregnancy connecting us to the story.”
It's in passages like these that Sarah truly shines. It's also what differentiates her work from that of others who have written about gender roles in Scripture and Christianity. By vulnerably and willingly sharing her story alongside Scripture, Sarah has crafted a book that rather than isolate those with whom she disagrees, will instead foster conversation. To this end, Sarah even prays for “unity beyond conformity because loving-kindness preaches the gospel more beautifully and truthfully than any satirical blog post or point-by-point dismantling of another disciple's reputation and teaching.”
Certainly, Sarah has written a book that honors her prayer. As a result, I believe it will help people see that like Sarah, they can be “feminists precisely because of our lifelong commitment to Jesus and his way.”
In fact, based on the response to a community-sourced photo project to affirm God's radical notion that women are people, too, I'd say Sarah's already succeeding in doing that.
I, too, submitted a photo for that project because like Sarah, I am a Jesus feminist.
I pray that through conversations about this book, more and more people will also claim their identities as Jesus feminists committed to participating in “the kingdom of God through redemptive movement – for both men and women – toward equality and freedom.”