Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible's View of Women (Anglais) Broché – 5 novembre 2013
Les clients ayant acheté cet article ont également acheté
Descriptions du produit
Jesus Made a Feminist Out of Me
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. I understand that—I do.
I know feminism carries a lot of baggage, particularly within the evangelical church. There are the stereotypes: shrill killjoys, man-haters, and rabid abortion-pushers, extreme lesbians, terrifying some of us on cable news programs, deriding motherhood and homemaking. Feminism has been blamed for the breakdown of the nuclear family, day care, physical and sexual abuse, hurricanes, the downfall of “real manhood,” the decline of the Christian Church in Western society, and spectacularly bad television. Most of what has passed for a description of feminism is fearmongering misinformation.
In some circles, using the word feminist is the equivalent of an f-bomb dropped in church—outrageous, offensive. It’s likely some people saw this book sitting on the shelf and figured they knew what sort of author was behind the words written here: a bitter man-hater arguing that men and women had no discernable differences, a ferocious and humorless woman, perhaps, and so it’s no wonder they reacted at the sight of Jesus alongside feminist like someone had raked long fingernails across a chalkboard. Who could blame them with the lines we’ve been fed about feminists for so long?
It’s a risk to use the word feminism here in this book—I know. But it’s a risk I’d like you to take with me. Me? I like the word feminist, even if it worries people or causes a bit of pearl clutching. The word feminist does not frighten or offend me: in fact, I’d like to see the Church (re)claim it.
Some people think the concept of a Christian feminist is a misnomer, an embarrassing and misguided capitulation to our secular culture. It might surprise antifeminists and anti-Christians equally to know that feminism’s roots are tangled up with the strong Christian women’s commitments to the temperance movement, suffragist movements, and in America and England in particular, the abolitionist movements of the nineteenth century.1 There is a rich tradition of pro-life feminism, which continues today.2 Christian feminism predates the works of second- and third-wave secular feminist writers, such as Betty Friedan, Simone de Beauvoir, Gloria Steinem, Rebecca Walker, and Naomi Wolf. Feminism is complicated and it varies for each person, much like Christianity. It’s not necessary to subscribe to all the diverse—and contrary—opinions within feminism to call oneself a feminist.
Feminism gained popularity as a result of “secular” work and scholarship, but the line between sacred and secular is man-made. Because God is the source of truth, Christians can still give thanks to God for the good works associated with feminism, such as the gaining of status for women as “persons” under the law, voting, owning property, and defending themselves in a court of law against domestic violence and rape. As Canadian theologian Dr. John G. Stackhouse Jr. says, “Christian feminists can 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.”3 Modern Christian feminism is alive and well, from social justice movements to seminaries and churches to suburban living rooms, worldwide.
At the core, feminism simply consists of the radical notion that women are people, too. Feminism only means we champion the dignity, rights, responsibilities, and glories of women as equal in importance—not greater than, but certainly not less than—to those of men, and we refuse discrimination against women.4
Several years ago, when I began to refer to myself as a feminist, a few Christians raised their eyebrows and asked, “What kind of feminist exactly?” Off the top of my head, I laughed and said, “Oh, a Jesus feminist!” It stuck, in a cheeky sort of way, and now I call myself a Jesus feminist because to me, the qualifier means I am a feminist precisely because of my lifelong commitment to Jesus and his Way.
PATRIARCHY IS NOT God’s dream for humanity.
I’ll say that again, louder, and I’ll stand up beside our small bonfire and shout it out loud. I’ll scare the starfish and the powerful alike: patriarchy is not God’s dream for humanity. It never was; it never will be.
Instead, in Christ, and because of Christ, we are invited to participate in the Kingdom of God through redemptive movement—for both men and women—toward equality and freedom. We can choose to move with God, further into justice and wholeness, or we can choose to prop up the world’s dead systems, baptizing injustice and power in sacred language. Feminism is just one way to participate in this redemptive movement.
In the context of our conversation here, two common labels used regarding the roles and voices of women in the church today, for better or for worse, are egalitarian and complementarian.
In general, according to theologian Carolyn Custis James, egalitarians “believe that leadership is not determined by gender but by the gifting and calling of the Holy Spirit, and that God calls all believers to submit to one another.” In contrast, complementarians “believe the Bible establishes male authority over women, making male leadership the biblical standard.”5
Both sides can treat the Bible like a weapon. On both sides, there are extremists and dogmatists. We attempt to outdo each other with proof texts and apologetics, and I’ve heard it said that there is no more hateful person than a Christian who thinks you’ve got your theology wrong. In our hunger to be right, we memorize arguments, ready to spit them out at a moment’s notice. Sadly, we reduce each other, brothers and sisters, to straw men arguments, and brand each other “enemies of the gospel.”
I know some people like to poke holes in each other’s arguments, pointing out inconsistencies and trading jabs of verses and scholars and church history like scrappy boxers. Some do this well, with kind skill and mutual respect, and it’s a joy to behold as they learn from each other. Others seem a bit more like mud wrestlers, hanging out on blogs or Facebook comment sections, at boardroom tables or in classrooms, at coffee shops or Christian bookstore shelves, with a lot of outrage—all in an effort to figure out how the other guy is wrong; it’s theology as a fight-to-the-death competition.
And all God’s people said, ”That’s exhausting.”
So could we agree on one quick thing before I keep going? I think the family of God is big and diverse, beautiful and global. So these dogmatic labels, while sometimes useful for discussion in books and classes, aren’t always the right boundaries for a life or a relationship. Most of us live somewhere in the in-between.
Let’s agree, for just a little while anyway, that both sides are probably wrong and right in some ways. I’m probably wrong, you’re probably wrong, and the opposite is true, because we still see through a glass, darkly.6 I want to approach the mysteries of God and the unique experiences of humanity with wonder and humility and a listener’s heart.
I have tried to stop caring about the big dustups between complementarians and egalitarians. I’m pretty sure my purpose here on earth isn’t to win arguments or perform hermeneutical gymnastics to impress the wealthiest 2 percent of the world. I don’t think God is glorified by tightly crafted arguments wielded as weaponry. Besides, I highly doubt this one slim book by a happy-clappy starry-eyed Jesus-loving Canadian mama will put any of this debate to bed when so many scholars and smarter-than-me people continue to debate and argue. That’s not what I’m after.
After years of reading the Gospels and the full canon of Scripture, here is, very simply, what I learned about Jesus and the ladies: he loves us.
He loves us. On our own terms. He treats us as equals to the men around him; he listens; he does not belittle; he honors us; he challenges us; he teaches us; he includes us—calls us all beloved. Gloriously, this flies in the face of the cultural expectations of his time—and even our own time. Scholar David Joel Hamilton calls Jesus’ words and actions toward women “controversial, provocative, even revolutionary.”7
Jesus loves us.
In a time when women were almost silent or invisible in literature, Scripture affirms and celebrates women. Women were a part of Jesus’ teaching, part of his life. Women were there for all of it.
Mary, the mother of God, was a teenage girl in an occupied land when she became pregnant with the Prince of Peace, and as Rachel Held Evans points out, Scripture emphasizes that her worthiness is in her obedience “not to a man, not to a culture, not even to a cause or a religion, but to the creative work of a God who lifts up the humble and fills the hungry with good things.”8
Even Mary’s Magnificat is surprisingly subversive and bold, isn’t it?9 In the face of evidence to the contrary, she sings how she is blessed, how God lifts up the lowly, filling the hungry with good things and sending the rich away empty.
Throughout the records of the Gospels, I saw how Jesus didn’t treat women any differently than men, and I liked that. We weren’t too precious for words, dainty like fine china. We received no free pass or delicate worries about our ability to understand or contribute or work. Women were not too sweet or weak for the conviction of the Holy Spirit, or too manipulative and prone to jealousy, insecurity, and deception to push back the kingdom of darkness. Jesus did not patronize, and he did not condescend.
Just like men, women need redemption. We all need the Cross of Jesus Christ, and we all need to follow him in the Way of life everlasting. In the words and actions of Christ as recorded in Scripture, we see what “neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek, slave nor free” looks like in real, walking-around life.10
During his time on earth, Jesus subverted the social norms dictating how a rabbi spoke to women, to the rich, the powerful, the housewife, the mother-in-law, the despised, the prostitute, the adulteress, the mentally ill and demon possessed, the poor. He spoke to women directly, instead of through their male-headship standards and contrary to the order of the day (and even of some religious sects today).
No, it was just him, incarnation of three-in-one on one. Women were not excluded or exempted from the community of God. Women stood before God on their own soul’s feet, and he called us, gathered us, as his own.
When they threw the woman caught in adultery down into the dust at Jesus’ feet and tried to use her shame to trap him, he leveled the playing field for both sin and marriage. There aren’t too many of us women who don’t imagine ourselves there, exposed, used, defiant or broken—sometimes both—and humiliated. And he, bless his name, restored, forgave, protected, drew a shield of grace around her with his dusty fingertip; and her accusers vanished. “Go,” he said, “and sin no more.”11
When the woman with the issue of blood reached out to touch the hem of his garment, Jesus did not respond with frustration. No, he touched her in return, praised her faith, set her free without recoiling.”12
When Jesus healed the woman who was bent over, he did it in the synagogue, in full view. He called her “daughter of Abraham,” which likely sent a shock wave through the room; it was the first time the phrase had ever been spoken.13 People had only ever heard of “sons of Abraham”—never daughters. But at the sound of Jesus’ words daughter of Abraham, he gave her a place to stand alongside the sons, especially the ones snarling with their sense of ownership and exclusivity over it all, watching. In him, you are part of the family; you always were part of the family.14
When Mary of Bethany sat at his feet, she was in the posture of a rabbinical pupil. Men and women rarely sat together, let alone for religious training, but there she was among them, at his feet. She was formally learning from him, the way the sons of Abraham had always sat—the daughters never had that spot. Even after Martha tried to remind her of her duties and responsibilities to their guests, Jesus defended her right to learn as his disciple; he honored her choice as the better one and said, “It will not be taken away from her.”15
When Mary, the sister of Lazarus, reproached Jesus after her brother’s death, he wept. In fact, he privately taught her one of the central tenets of our faith—the same thing he taught Peter: “I am the resurrection and the life”; this is the rock upon which he builds his church.16 Martha received this teaching, too; she believed him, and where would we be if she hadn’t shared what she heard from the lips of her beloved friend and Savior?17
When the Samaritan woman at the well met Jesus, he treated her like any other thirsty soul needing the living water.18 She was leading a life that likely generated the hiss of shame and eyes of judgment. She was among the least valued and most dishonored of her day. Yet Jesus engaged her in serious theological discussion; in fact, hers is the longest personal conversation with Jesus ever recorded in Scripture. It was also the first time that the words “I am the Messiah” were spoken from his lips, and she became an evangelist. She told her story. She told of Jesus, and many were saved. When the disciples expressed their surprise at this turn, Jesus was matter-of-fact: this is simply the way of things.
When Jesus finished teaching in a synagogue one day, a woman called out from the audience, “God bless your mother—the womb from which you came, and the breasts that nursed you!” Yet Jesus replied to this common blessing with “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.”19 Women aren’t simply or only blessed by giving birth to greatness; no, we are all blessed when we hear the Word of God—Jesus—and put it into practice. We don’t rely on secondhand blessings in Jesus.
We also see seven women in the Gospels described with the Greek verb diakoneo, which means to minister or to serve. It’s “the same one used to describe the ministry of the seven men appointed to leadership in the early church.”20 These women were Peter’s mother-in-law; Mary Magdalene; Mary, the mother of Jesus and Joseph; Salome, the mother of Zebedee’s sons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza; Susanna; and Martha, the sister of Mary and Lazarus.21
Even though the word of a woman was not considered sufficient proof in court, Mary Magdalene was the first witness of the resurrected Christ and the first preacher of the Resurrection. Jesus commanded her to go tell his brothers, the disciples, that he was returning to “my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Before the male disciples even knew he was breathing, Jesus sent a woman to proclaim the good news: he is risen!22 The last shall be first, again, always.
The women of the gospel narrative ministered to Jesus, and they ministered with him. The lack of women among the twelve disciples isn’t prescriptive or a precedent for exclusion of women any more than the choice of twelve Jewish men excludes Gentile men from leadership.
We can miss the crazy beauty of it because of the lack of fanfare in Scripture. Women were simply there, part of the revolution of love, sometimes unnamed, sometimes in the background, sometimes the receiver, sometimes the giver—just like every other man in Scripture, to be engaged on their own merit in the midst of their own story.
Jesus thinks women are people, too.
Revue de presse
"Never strident, Bessy's approach is instead solid and clear....An excellent choice." (Booklist)
"World, meet Sarah Bessey. Settle in and get to know her because this woman has arrived. Reading Jesus Feminist is like drinking a warm cup of tea while taking a cold shower—Bessey manages to comfort the reader and wake her up at the same time. I cried and nodded and said 'preach, sister!' again and again. Bessey is a treasure and a prophet and I've notified all of my friends (both men and women) that Jesus Feminist is a must read." (Glennon Doyle Melton, author of the New York Times bestseller Carry On, Warrior and founder of Momastery.com)
"Lucid, compelling, and beautifully written. This book will encourage women everywhere to take their high place in Christ." (Frank Viola, author of God's Favorite Place on Earth and From Eternity to Here)
"For some time now, feminism and Christianity have been bedfellows, but primarily in the halls of academia. What Sarah Bessey does is claim the voice of feminism for her own Christian faith—an evangelical faith, no less! The result is a powerful and empowering narrative that both men and women will find compelling and readable." (Tony Jones, theologian and author of The New Christians)
“I love writers who are insightful enough to be cynical but choose not to be. I love books that help me see things I'd never noticed before—in life, in myself, in others, in the Bible, in Jesus. I love writing that makes reading enjoyable and easy, because I know how hard it is to write that way. For these reasons and more, I love Jesus Feminist. It's not ‘just a woman's book.’ In fact, it's the kind of book that will help both women and men see how unhelpful that distinction is.” (Brian D. McLaren, author, speaker, activist)
"It's hard to navigate an extremely delicate and important issue with gentleness and intention. In Jesus Feminist, Sarah Bessey has clearly proven herself a master at the task. Bessey powerfully, yet gracefully, compels both genders to rethink the role and value of women in the Christian faith, and emboldens women to know and live out that intrinsic value within the Body of Christ. Jesus Feminist is a critically important work; a must-read for everyone in the Church." (Nish Weiseth, author of Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World)
"Sarah says she doesn't feel a call to preach, but she speaks with the fire and artistry of a great preacher. Her sermon is one of hope: though the Church has often ignored the voices of women or lumped them into one limiting category, a revolution is coming. Sarah's voice is prophetic and she will free other women to speak and act with power, love, and courage. And may it be a summons for men in the Church to speak less and listen a lot more." (Adam S. McHugh, author of Introverts in the Church)
"With grace, humility, and confidence (even in the unknown), Sarah Bessey's Jesus Feminist masterfully humanizes one of the most controversial topics of the day. Bessey realizes that life, love, and faith cannot happen without community and the understanding that 'controversy' is less about sides and more about being whole together." (Andrew Marin, author of Love Is an Orientation)
"If you never imagined yourself as a card-carrying Jesus Feminist, this book will give you second thoughts. Sarah Bessey makes her case—not as a fire-breathing debater—but as a woman utterly captivated by Jesus who will stop at nothing to follow him. Her winsome writing made me laugh, cry, and stand taller as a woman. Unless I’m mistaken, it should swell the ranks of Jesus Feminists too. Sign me up!" (Carolyn Custis James, author of Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women)
“Sarah Bessey is so gifted a writer, so smart and welcoming and humble, the Church might not even notice how often it gets kicked between its ‘doctrinally sound traditions,’ where it hurts. But what makes Jesus Feminist so fantastic, so challenging is Bessey’s ability to be both the friend who tells us the truth about womanhood inside our churches and the sage who shows us how Jesus embraced equality and how we can do it better. With Jesus Feminist, Bessey is a modern-day Moses, seeking to not only free a Church held captive by dogma but also to redeem generations of women who have been stifled and silenced far too long.” (Matthew Paul Turner, author of Churched)
"Jesus Feminist is a book that needed to be written! With honest vulnerability and a strong biblical foundation, Sarah Bessey shares her very personal journey and insight regarding the roles and qualifications for women in ministry." (Helen Burns, author of Miracle in a Mother’s Hug and What Dads Need to Know About Daughters and Moms Need to Know About Sons)
"I want to write like Sarah Bessey. What she does with words is extraordinary, and the topic she's chosen is so deeply important. Jesus Feminist is a beautiful, challenging, rich, gutsy book, an absolute must-read." (Shauna Niequist, author of Bread & Wine)
“I’ve read countless books addressing the place of women in the kingdom, and I have never, ever read anything so lovely, so generous, profound and humble as Jesus Feminist. If you’re expecting anger or defensiveness or aggression, move on. If you are looking for intelligence and warmth and spirit, read this immediately." (Jen Hatmaker, author of 7 and Interrupted)
“Jesus Feminist is a revelation, a genre-defying tour-de-force that soars above the caustic rhetoric that has defined these conversations in the Church. Sarah Bessey throws combinations like a literary Muhammad Ali: sharp-edged prophetic critique, elegant poetry, theological provocation, humble memoir, endless charm. There is so much heart, wonder, and most of all authentic soul in this book; you won’t know what hit you.” (Jonathan Martin, author of Prototype)
“Sarah Bessey makes me want to get to know Jesus all over again, but this time specifically through my womanly flesh, engaging God with the glorious gift of being a woman rather than in spite of it.” (Enuma Okoro, author of Silence and Reluctant Pilgrim)
“Jesus Feminist summons the Church to join in a conversation about women in God’s Kingdom. Sarah Bessey disarms us and then hands us a cup of tea. She creates a safe space for deep discussion, gentle reflection and holy imagination. She calls, converses and commissions us into the wild ways of Jesus. This is a holy invitation for all my sisters to come to the table at last. A must read!” (Kelley Nikondeha, co-founder of Amahoro Africa)
Aucun appareil Kindle n'est requis. Téléchargez l'une des applis Kindle gratuites et commencez à lire les livres Kindle sur votre smartphone, tablette ou ordinateur.
Pour obtenir l'appli gratuite, saisissez votre adresse e-mail ou numéro de téléphone mobile.
Détails sur le produit
En savoir plus sur l'auteur
Dans ce livre(En savoir plus)
Commentaires en ligne
Commentaires client les plus utiles sur Amazon.com (beta)
Then my wife told me I needed to read Jesus Feminist. Her sister had read and loved it. A good friend had read and loved it. And the kind of books I liked to read were nerdy, she said, and no one other than me cared about them. So why not read and review something normal people actually liked?
As per usual, I listened to my wife, returned to Barnes & Noble, purchased a copy, and started reading. Although Sarah Bessey writes well and although I pretty much agree with her, I found reading the book’s initial pages to be a long, hard slog. She tells stories where I would assert propositions. She asks questions where I would offer answers. She assumes conclusions where I would make long arguments. Her authorial voice is so different than mine. I would approach the topic of “the Bible’s view of women” in such a different way.
Midway through chapter 2 (or was it 3?), I realized what the problem was. It wasn’t her, it was me. Here am I, a man, having a hard time listening to a woman make a case in her own voice on an issue where we agree. Let me repeat that for my male readers: I wasn’t listening to what a woman was saying because she was a woman.
Now, I realize that I am probably not Sarah Bessey’s intended reader. My guess is that she wrote this book for Christian women, not so much to argue for their equality with men from a biblical viewpoint as to assume it and urge them to get on with the Kingdom work God has called them to do. That being the case, good on her!
Still, it’s pretty hard on a guy to realize that his egalitarianism is theoretical rather than practical. That it exists in books and arguments rather than in his willingness to listen to a sister. For Sarah Bessey’s unintended effectiveness in exposing my, well, sexism, good on her!
Back to what the book actually says rather than its effect on me: Jesus loves women. Patriarchy is not God’s design for relations between the sexes. Husbands and wives need to figure out how their relationship works for them through trial and error, rather than based on rules that are allegedly exported from the Bible. Churches need to fully deploy (and employ) the feminine half of the congregation. Women’s ministries need to be missional, since God calls them to change the world, not make a craft. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!) Christians need to do the hard work of addressing the lack of justice and peace in the world, much of which centers around the ill treatment of women and its side effects. And women don’t need permission; they just need blessing.
To which I say: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes, respectively.
Is Jesus Feminist a great book? I don’t know. It’s not the kind of book I normally read, so I don’t have a metric.
Is Sarah Bessey’s a needed voice? Yes. On behalf of women such as my wife, sister, and friend. And to men like me as well.
"First, Sarah Bessey loves to go after the straw man [i.e. a position that someone doesn't actually hold]. Even the subtitle betrays this tendency: Exploring God's Radical Notion That Women Are People, Too. Did Sarah seriously believe her complimentarian [sic] (Biblically minded non-egalitarian) friends would think it a radical notion that women are people too? Who has ever suggested they are not?"
Who indeed Steve? Here are some quotes from the architects of complementarian theology, and from those who continue to perpetuate it today:
"[For women] the very consciousness of their own nature must evoke feelings of shame."-Saint Clement of Alexandria, Christian theologian (c150-215) Pedagogues II, 33, 2
"In pain shall you bring forth children, woman, and you shall turn to your husband and he shall rule over you. And do you not know that you are Eve? God's sentence hangs still over all your sex and His punishment weighs down upon you. You are the devil's gateway; you are she who first violated the forbidden tree and broke the law of God. It was you who coaxed your way around him whom the devil had not the force to attack. With what ease you shattered that image of God: Man! Because of the death you merited, even the Son of God had to die... Woman, you are the gate to hell." -Tertullian, "the father of Latin Christianity" (c160-225)
"Woman is a temple built over a sewer." -Tertullian, "the father of Latin Christianity" (c160-225)
"Woman was merely man's helpmate, a function which pertains to her alone. She is not the image of God but as far as man is concerned, he is by himself the image of God." - Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo Regius (354-430)
"Woman does not possess the image of God in herself but only when taken together with the male who is her head, so that the whole substance is one image. But when she is assigned the role as helpmate, a function that pertains to her alone, then she is not the image of God. But as far as the man is concerned, he is by himself alone the image of God just as fully and completely as when he and the woman are joined together into one." -Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo Regius (354-430)
"Woman is a misbegotten man and has a faulty and defective nature in comparison to his. Therefore she is unsure in herself. What she cannot get, she seeks to obtain through lying and diabolical deceptions. And so, to put it briefly, one must be on one's guard with every woman, as if she were a poisonous snake and the horned devil. ... Thus in evil and perverse doings woman is cleverer, that is, slyer, than man. Her feelings drive woman toward every evil, just as reason impels man toward all good." -Saint Albertus Magnus, Dominican theologian, 13th century
"As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence."-Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church, 13th century
"The word and works of God is quite clear, that women were made either to be wives or prostitutes." - Martin Luther, Reformer (1483-1546)
"No gown worse becomes a woman than the desire to be wise." - Martin Luther, Reformer (1483-1546)
"Men have broad and large chests, and small narrow hips, and more understanding than women, who have but small and narrow breasts, and broad hips, to the end they should remain at home, sit still, keep house, and bear and bring up children." - Martin Luther, Reformer (1483-1546)
"Thus the woman, who had perversely exceeded her proper bounds, is forced back to her own position. She had, indeed, previously been subject to her husband, but that was a liberal and gentle subjection; now, however, she is cast into servitude." -John Calvin, Reformer (1509-1564)
"Even as the church must fear Christ Jesus, so must the wives also fear their husbands. And this inward fear must be shewed by an outward meekness and lowliness in her speeches and carriage to her husband. . . . For if there be not fear and reverence in the inferior, there can be no sound nor constant honor yielded to the superior." - John Dod, A Plaine and Familiar Exposition of the Ten Commandements, Puritan guidebook first published in 1603
"The second duty of the wife is constant obedience and subjection." - John Dod, A Plaine and Familiar Exposition ofthe Ten Commandements, Puritan guidebook first published in 1603
"The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." --Pat Robertson, Southern Baptist leader (1930-)
"Women will be saved by going back to that role that God has chosen for them. Ladies, if the hair on the back of your neck stands up it is because you are fighting your role in the scripture. -Mark Driscoll, founder of Mars Hill nondenominational mega-church franchise. (1970-)
(above quotes retrieved from [...]
"It is the natural order among people that women serve their husbands and children their parents, because the justice of this lies in (the principle that) the lesser serves the greater.... This is the natural justice that the weaker brain serve the stronger. This therefore is the evident justice in the relationships between slaves and their masters, that they who excel in reason, excel in power." (St. Augustine, Questions on the Heptateuch, Book I, § 153, as cited at [...]
"Let the woman be satisfied with her state of subjection, and not take it amiss that she is made inferior to the more distinguished sex." (John Calvin, as cited in Oliphant, J. (2011). AQA Religious Ethics for AS and A2. New York, NY: Routledge)
"It means that a woman will demonstrate that she is in fact a Christian, that she has submitted to God's ways by affirming and embracing her God-designed identity as--for the most part, generally this is true--as wife and mother, rather than chafing against it, rather than bucking against it, rather than wanting to be a man, wanting to be in a man's position, wanting to teach and exercise authority over men." (Bruce Ware, as cited in Taylor, S. (2013). Dethroning Male Headship, p. 109. Auburndale, FL: One Way Press)
Mark Driscoll explains that women are restricted from positions of teaching and authority at his church: "Paul forbids women to teach and exercise authority as elders-pastors.... So at Mars Hill Church, only elders preach, enforce formal church discipline, and set doctrinal standards for the church." (as cited from [...])
"To be a woman is to support, to nurture, and to strengthen men in order that they would flourish and fulfill their God-given role as leaders." (Owen Strachan of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, as cited from [...])
The New Bible Commentary, 21st Century Edition, interprets Ephesians 5 as stating that husbands are to be regarded as the "masters" of their wives, and that wives are commanded by God to "obey" them (Wenham & Carson, 1994).
To summarize, women have been depicted as less than fully human, more evil than men, inferior, less intelligent and born for a life of subjection to male authority. Their place, according to these authors, is in the home to bear and raise children for husbands that they must "obey" as their "masters."
Does Sarah Bessey really "love to go after the straw man" as Steve suggests? I don't think so.
Sadly, those with a prejudice--in this case against women--are often the last to see it. That is why they may think that others are arguing against a "straw man." The straw man isn't made of straw in this case at all. Some complementarians simply appear unable to recognize the deeply ingrained sexism of their worldview. Just because they can't see it, doesn't mean it isn't there:
[sek-siz-uh m] noun
1. attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of sexual roles.
2. discrimination or devaluation based on a person's sex, as in restricted job opportunities; especially, such discrimination directed against women.
"Jesus Feminist" is a refreshing contrast to the sexism that is so prevalent in church history and that lingers on in a patriarchal (i.e. complementarian) worldview today. Sarah Bessey's work is poetic and inspirational. She communicates a passionate view of the impartial love of Jesus with grace and eloquence.
Starting with the introduction and all the way through to her hopeful commission in the final chapter, Sarah's primary mode of interaction with the reader is one of disarming. She sets the tone early on 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."
She's acknowledging up front the firepower we often bring to discussions like these, and suggests that, instead of trying to kill each other, maybe we could just try to hear each other instead. As you read on, you start to understand that this is no empty gesture. Sarah is consistently disarming in her grace, her candor, and her willingness to let us into the most intimate, most painful experiences of her life. Some people bring knives to gunfights. All Sarah brought was her story, and the result is that we cannot help but lower our weapons and listen to her tell it. So as you settle in past the introduction and into the meat of the book itself, the feeling is far more coffee (or tea!) on a Saturday afternoon than it is a sermon on Sunday or a lecture on Monday.
There are two primary arcs that Sarah weaves artfully through the book, and I'll try to do them justice here. The first is the refusal to meet the old arguments for patriarchy on their own terms. She kindly-yet-thoroughly dismantles much of the traditional case for the marginalization of women and girls in and by the church, and presents a positive, Jesus-centric ideal for the radical inclusion of women in the ongoing redemptive work of God in the world. She says,
"Instead, in Christ and because of Christ, we are invited to participate in the Kingdom of God through redemptive movement-for both men and women-toward equality and freedom. We can choose to move with God, further into justice and wholeness, or we can choose to prop up the world's dead systems, baptizing injustice and power in sacred language."
She's essentially refusing to allow patriarchy exclusive claim to the language of the divine, and it works quite well. The line about "baptizing injustice and power in sacred language" is still ringing in my ears.
In speaking of Jesus healing the woman with the crippled hand in the synagogue, she highlights the phrase Jesus used, "daughter of Abraham." This has always struck me as a really pivotal, even if often overlooked, piece of the story. With a single word, Jesus upsets generations of religions dogma and sociocultural programming. Some might ask, "to what end?" But that's the thing, we know the end, and we start to see where Sarah is taking us. The trajectory of Christ's life was always singular in its focus of reconciling creation back into shalom with its creator. Every word that he spoke was a waypoint one that journey, and this one was no different. In deconstructing the rigid gender hierarchies of His day, He was giving us a model (and I'd argue a directive) to do the same thing in ours.
In dealing with the household codes, she says they "are not universal standards without context or purpose." And I might add, "no matter how much we would like them to be." In contextualizing, she says,
"It's helpful for me, in discerning the meaning of these passages, to turn to the rest of the writer's work. In a letter to the church in Galatia, Paul wrote, 'There is no longer Jew or gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.'"
Again, she gracefully refuses to allow patriarchal voices to violate the text in order to continue to oppress women and girls. She brings the point squarely home with this:
"When women are restricted from the service of God in any capacity, the church is mistakenly allowing an imperfect, male-dominated ancient culture to drive our understanding and practice of Christ's redeeming work..."
Indeed. Here we catch a glimpse again of where she's taking us in that she's showing the utter irrelevance irrelevance of this mode of thinking. She's leading us by the hand toward something bigger, gently and lovingly telling us to just leave all of that behind for good and step into something greater.
Where Sarah really starts to sing is when she starts talking about the Kingdom of God. This second arc is the real telos underlying much of her work, and it shows. Now, it's not that the rest of the book isn't wonderful, but she really hits her stride here, especially in the latter half of the book, and you can tell it's where she's most at home. She's part preacher, part prophet, and part political revolutionary as she says of the work women (and men) are doing all over to advance the Kingdom of God,
"Can't you see? It's all an act of protest, a snatching back from the darkness, a proclamation of freedom, a revolution of love. And isn't it a miracle!"
She paints a picture with her words of the Kingdom of God that's so beautiful, so radically inclusive and so affirming of its constituents that it's hard to not want to be a part of it. She leaves no question about whether or not patriarchy is something that could be a part of this new Kingdom. She doesn't beg readers to take her word for any of this, but rather she invites them to walk in the fullness of what she already knows to be the truth. It is a testament to both her grace and her authenticity, I think, that she can so plainly lay out a critique of the social system that awards me privilege at her expense, and instead of feeling rebuffed, I feel encouraged that there's something better out there for me to step into as well. "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand," Jesus said. I think what that means is finally starting to sink in. She writes,
"If we only had eyes to see and ears to hear and wits to understand, we would know that the kingdom of God in the sense of holiness, goodness, beauty is as close as breathing and is crying out to be born both within ourselves and within the world; we would know that Kingdom of God is what all of us hunger for above all other things, even when we don't know its name or realize that it's what we're starving to death for."
By the end of the book, when her song about the Kingdom of God reaches its crescendo in an exhortation and an invitation to stand up and take part in this new Kingdom, you can't help but want to get on board. And through it all, she reminds us that there is another way, that clenched fists aren't necessarily the only way we can react to the sort of systemic injustice she's combatting here. Instead, she shows us an alternative paradigm of open arms. Clenched fists are worthless but for striking out, but open arms grieve with those who grieve and comfort those who need comforting. You can slide one of those open arms around the waist of a brother or sister who's falling down and hold them up or you can lock arms in solidarity with your sisters (and brothers) across the world or right there in your hometown. Clenched fists connote condemnation, but open arms on the other hand, that's the stuff of redemption.
"You and me," she says near the end, "we are Kingdom people, an outpost of redemption, engaged in God's mission of reconciliation.
May it be so.
Bessey insists her intention in writing this book is to move from heated debate over women's roles in marriage and ministry to a conversation grounded in a simple radical truth: that Jesus values women. The practical purpose ofJesus Feminist however, is to engage the most commonly held differences between egalitarians and complementarians through the lens of Bessey's strongly held opinions, with each chapter focusing on a specific aspect of the gender debate. For example, she gives specific attention to women as image bearers and ezer warriors, she provides personal testimony to her role as life-giver, and offers evidence of how her marriage exemplifies mutual submission. She celebrates biblical heroines like Deborah, Priscilla, Lydia, and Junia as examples of women using their God-given gifts in leadership roles. Her hermeneutic is admittedly trajectory, reaching beyond the biblical text to a spirit of "redemptive movement." She is careful to consider the key biblical texts which are controversial in the gender debate, (1 Tim 2 and 1 Cor 14), and she reiterates the egalitarian view that historical context (along with Gal 3:28) disqualifies these passages as normative for today. With a permeating theme of social injustice, the book offers a consistent message: women, in following Jesus, can help release the world from the oppressive hierarchy that resulted from the Fall.
Although Bessey presents these familiar egalitarian views, this is not just another typical book on the topic of women's roles; it provides a unique passion in the delivery of the material that attempts to bring readers beyond the controversy. Her poetic style and strong language leap off the page; the reader can almost hear the rising of Bessey's voice as she reaches the climactic end of each chapter. She makes compelling statements; those who already agree with her views will be moved and inspired.
It is the last chapter, which is the most impressive, in which Bessey challenges her female readers with a great commission. She is on a quest, and wants all of female humanity to join with her. The delivery of her words is powerfully influential.
Yet this book is not for everyone. Those who disagree with Bessey's egalitarian views may be offended by the (not so) subtle criticism of those outside her camp. It is not always clear who the book is condemning. Is it academic types (those "sitting at the Table"), old-fashioned ministry women (who do crafts and bake), or any woman in general who doesn't "get" Jesus? A serious discussion on the critical concept of authority is notably missing outside the author's denunciation of societal power structures. Also absent is any discussion of the Trinity. For those who can ignore the (not so) carefully disguised angst toward those who according to Bessey "miss the point," there remains minimal intellectual discussion. Readers longing for a fresh, refined, more textually supported voice in this conversation will be quite disappointed.
In addition, there are several inaccuracies in the book which can be easily glossed over by the reader. The implication that eliminating social injustice provides a means for eternal salvation is contrary to the gospel, and the suggestion that no one will be lost goes against the teaching of Scripture. Strikingly, the inference that male and female can only collectively bear the image of God is taken from a blog which portrays Jesus as having breasts. Also faulty is the suggestion that the meaning of 1 Tim 2:11-15 is too obscure to be understood and that there are no scholars who can offer a meaningful interpretation. Some elementary research on this would have proven beneficial.
Most significantly - and most disheartening- is the book's failure to clearly state the gospel even once. Such a definitive and passionate view on how Jesus considers women surely deserves clarification of the nature of the relationship between a woman and her Savior. Yet, as with many writings by post-modern Christians, the book focuses much on God's love, and less on His holiness. There is no mention that women (just like men) are sinners hopelessly alienated from their Creator and without any means of reconciliation except through the atoning blood, suffering, death and resurrection of the God-man Jesus Christ (Rom 3:23-26). For example, chapter ten emphatically pronounces woman as equal, lovely, called, chosen, gifted, valued and worthy. It's disappointing the word redeemed didn't make the list.
Jesus Feminist, with its bright yellow cover and controversial title, will accomplish what it was set out to do, i.e. catch one's attention and begin a conversation about women and Jesus. Readers will meet Sarah Bessey by the bonfire and will ponder the stories she tells; many will be moved, touched, and energized. However the reader must proceed with caution and discernment since the strength of Jesus Feminist lies in its passionate delivery of one woman's experience and feelings, not in its ability to seriously consider deep biblical truth and doctrinal and exegetical issues. This reader was left dissatisfied.
I consider this book well written but the arguments poorly substantiated. As one who holds to a grammatical-historical hermeneutic, and who embraces the biblical concepts of authority, headship, and submission, I encourage like-minded ministry leaders to give careful consideration to the views presented by Sarah Bessey so they can address the potential influence this book may have on the women to whom they minister.
Personally, I prefer the former. I know that many people think women are overly emotional beings, addicted to soap operas, being emotional around their periods, and Lifetime movies, but I am proof positive that women aren't all the same (basically things that this book touches on, but doesn't really delve deep into). When I read a nonfiction book titled "Jesus Feminist" with "Through a thoughtful review of biblical teaching and church practices" as a descriptor, I thought I was getting a scholarly work, but instead, I felt it was "Chicken Soup for the Christian Feminist's Soul".
I fear I must say something really quick, or people might get offended or get the wrong impression. There is NOTHING WRONG with a personal memoir about how awesome Jesus is, how awesome women are and the wonderful things that many women do. And there are LOADS of women out there that want/need to read books like this, whether to get them motivated or to affirm what they already believe.
I am not that woman. When I saw "Jesus Feminist", I wanted to read about how the modern evangelical interpretation was too stringent and to examine how it was meant to read for the intended audience. And, admittedly, Bessey does do this for a couple of the common "clobber" verses - the ones about wives being silent in church and wives submitting to husbands.
But Bessey spends a LOT of time talking about her own path to feminism and then branches into the many ways women are doing lots of wonderful things in the world. This is great, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't what I wanted/expected from this book. It wasn't how I interpreted the title.
There were other, little things that bugged me. Things like calling your children "tinies". (It's not cute, it's ridiculous.) Things like using Rachel Held Evans as a reference AND having her write your foreward. (Although the reference section is pretty good, some of it felt a bit off to me.) In fact, much of the tone of the book is hinged on tweaking your emotional sensors - something I definitely dislike in a book. I don't like books that write things just to make you cry, and this is definitely one of those books.
So, back to my first question: what do you want to read when you read "Jesus Feminist"? Do you want a methodical nonfiction book, one that will define what feminism is, the verses, how modern scholars interpret these verses, maybe even look into how Jesus acted like a feminist back in his day? If so, you'll find a few chapters, but most of the book will be a disappointment (like to me) or just boring. But if instead, you want a casual talk about how Christians can be this thing called feminist and be varied and different and influential, then this is right up your alley.
Brought to you by: