This week I read Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey. Even before I finished it I texted my friend and told her to take a break for thirty seconds and go read this book. This was such a healing way to encounter the idea of feminism as a Christian.
Sarah Bessey starts off by inviting us to join her by the fire–glass of wine in hand–to talk about this thing to which no one has all the answers. She writes with humility and grace, and asks us to listen and lean into this moment–to respectfully wrestle with the known and unknown.
She weaves her story in and around her premises. One premise is that Jesus’s interactions with women were revolutionary in and of themselves. He included, taught, protected and loved them. He loves women and He created them uniquely to stand alongside men to love this fallen broken world. We should look to him as our author. Another argument she makes is that when Scripture was God-breathed and inspired and then written down, the writers wrote to a specific time, place and people. Paul and the others wrote within a context so they used the systems in place to create a better way within the system that the world offered. She argues it’s similar to how the writers address slavery. Of course God does not want one human being to own another–but it was socially acceptable at the time, and while hope wants it to change, it seeks to create a new and better relationship in that fallen dynamic. She argues that Paul was writing to a patriarchal society and that this was a man-made design that Paul worked within, while hoping for the day when men and women would walk in the knowledge and design that they are no longer male and female or Jew and Greek, but all one in Christ. Being a feminist and a Christian are not mutually exclusive. I “grew up” in a complementarian church where arguments were presented and the case was closed. In this book, Sarah Bessey offered some insights giving me the opportunity to wrestle with both sides of the equation.
And in the end, her purpose is not more power for women, but to globally change the position of women in the world–so that we are all united in our human-ness. Worldwide, women and children are still the most exploited of all humankind. And that’s an impossible task for the Church to tackle when half of the population’s gifts, talents, and voices are silenced, quieted, or hushed. There are places and spheres where women have very limited options, where they are excluded, persecuted, and hurt because of their gender. The Church is called to stand in this gap and be a voice for those who have none.
God is so much bigger than our gender, race, or sexual orientation. Sarah Bessey writes us into this discussion and invites us to live in this messy place where there are no easy answers. To me, this reads like a love letter to women inviting them to bring all of themselves to the table–not for ourselves or our own rights and power, but to do the work of the kingdom of God. To make this happen requires that we work as one, with each part operating at full strength.