On Sarah Bessey’s “Jesus Feminist”: Can These Terms be Reconciled?


I recently picked up Sarah Bessey’s book “Jesus Feminist.” The first paragraph certainly stirs the pot of conventional women’s bible studies:

“Jesus made a feminist out of me. It’s true. 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 rapid abortion-pushers, extreme lesbians, terrifying some of us on cable news programs, deriding motherhood and homemakeing. Feminism has been blamed for the breatkdown of the nuclear family, day care, physical and sexual abuse, hurricanes, the downfall of “real manhood,” the decline of the Christian Church in Western societyy, and spectacularly bad television. Most of what has passed for a description of feminism is fearmongering misinformation” Bessey (1). I agree with this, because I’ve seen it. I’ve seen the name of Jesus invoked as a control mechanism in marriage, and Paul’s teachings used as a model to destroy independence and equality in marriage. I’ve sat with women whose controlling husbands used the bible as a millstone to drag their wives to the bottom of the sea–out of sight and under their thumb.

I don’t know of anyone THAT paragraph won’t ignite–though the fires that begin burn for different reasons.

This book is unlike anything I have ever seen, and I consider myself a bit  of a book expert. I don’t have a PhD (yet), but I did a great bulk of my Master’s work with 20th century feminist writers, particularly such as Gloria Anzaldúa, Julia Kristeva, bell hooks, Laura Brady, and Eileen Schell. I remember devouring these writers’ works like a fat kid eats cake. Their words were so very empowering, yet simultaneously disturbing, because I was having a hard time reconciling their works with the works of God in my heart. Thirty plus years of attending church and hearing the teachings of the distinct line drawn between male leadership roles and female leadership roles caused quite a disturbance. As Sarah muses, “In some circles, using the word feminist is the equivalent of an f-bomb dropped in church–outragous, offensive” (1).

I wondered if I could be both feminist and Christian, both reverent and seeking, both open to new teachings without endangering my soul and wounding the Spirit of He who made me. It seemed unlikely. Who then, do I propose to be? And isn’t it a bit late to be asking these kinds of questions?

I don’t think it’e EVER too late to ask questions. I also don’t think the kind of God I serve minds. I think He respects those who geniuniely seek.
I could sure use a few friends on this journey with me. Want to come along with me while I figure it out? I’ve made a cup of coffee for you just the way you like it. Let’s do this.

3 thoughts on “On Sarah Bessey’s “Jesus Feminist”: Can These Terms be Reconciled?

  1. Pingback: On Sarah Bessey’s “Jesus Feminist”: Can These Terms be Reconciled? | Tina Bausinger: Southern Mom

  2. Apparently, I *need* to read this book. I am certainly sure it would be more aligned than the last one I borrowed from you. (*ahem*)
    My mind immediately is drawn to my early pre-teenage years when I sat in “big church” and listened intently to Bro. Jim Parker (of Sand Springs Baptist Church in Mineola, TX) scream at the top of his lungs about how “women from his[my] congregation would behave and mind- just like Paul teaches and Jesus and God want ya too!” But, what I really remember from that particular day (and most Sundays I spent there) was that I was waiting for him to fall over dead from a heart attack. Yeah, He was *that* preacher. We were all going to hell. I was doomed.
    Thankfully, I have been redeemed of my doomedness and am enjoying my walk with Jesus. And, Thankfully, He stays close enough that he can shove his hand over my mouth, a lot.
    But, recently I heard a different interpretation of what Paul is teaching at Ephesus. Not necessarily a different interpretation, so much as a different way to look at his teachings for Christian households and families. Like, RHE’s different spin and light on the Proverbs 31 woman.
    Please bear in mind that I have not read Jesus Feminist so I cant really compare notes- but I will and soon- because the next semester is gonna start soon and that will need my attention, I better get a move on!
    But, the main takeaway from the recent spin I heard is this: Women are commanded to submit to their husbands. (Sounds kinda pissy to me- but if we look at submit it really signifies and can mean: respect)
    So women are commanded to respect their husbands. I can do that.
    Men on the other hand are commanded to love their wives. Just as Christ loves the church. It is literally his fault if we fail- his will answer for our faults, because he is our leader.
    And the reason that both husbands and wives should gladly bear this? reverence for Christ. Its not about your husband and its not about his wife (You.) Its all about Christ.
    I am looking forward to reading and chatting about this! With real coffee- soon =)


  3. Hi Jessica! So glad you like this post. Yes, this verse is discussed in detail in Jesus Feminist, but it has an interesting take in that Bessey addresses the Greco-Roman standards that are being used in this verse’s historical context. It’s really fascinating. I’m not saying I agree with her ideas 100%, but they are interesting to consider. Do get the book so we can talk about it!


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