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.