Sarah Bessey is one of my favourite people on the Twitterer.
She is a Canadian who loves Jesus and pretty much any time i have read one of her blog pieces i resonate deeply with it and really feel that she writes both truthfully but also lovingly [often a tough mix to get just right] and so she is one of the few go-to blog people i have. Others being Nate Pyle in a similar way [truth and humility, far too rare in a Christian leader] and then also Jamie the Very Worst Missionary [who i don’t always agree with, although i mostly do and when i do it is usually with loud cheering and huge smiles cos of her in-your-face presentation].
So i was super excited to FINALLY get hold of her book, Jesus Feminist, which i’d been wanting to read for years but never made any steps towards until my sister came to visit from the States and suggested it as a gift she might want to bring me.
In chapter 1 as Sarah explains part of her journey, she writes:
‘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.
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 life-long commitment to Jesus and His Way.’
And a few pages later she nails home the point:
‘After years of reading the Gospel 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 honours 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 towards women “controversial, provocative, even revolutionary.”
Jesus loves us.
In a time when women were almost silent or invisible in literature, Scripture affirms and celebrates woman. Women were a part of Jesus’ teaching, part of His life. Women were there for all of it.’
i completely resonate with the heart and message of the book, which might be why i was a little bit disappointed with it. Which is a hard and horrible thing to say about the book of someone i admire and respect so much [believe me, having just written a book, it really does feel in some ways like putting your baby out there for everyone to comment on, or not].
BUT, i think i know why.
THIS BOOK WILL BE INCREDIBLE IN THE RIGHT HANDS
i have identified two reasons why i may not have enjoyed ‘Jesus Feminist’ as much as i hoped to and none of them have anything to do with it not being a good book.
# The one reason is that i already think so much of what Sarah is talking about in the book whereas for people who still think in outdated, patriarchal-society-enhanced ways this will either be a breath of fresh air [women] or a hugely challenging read [men] but really good for both of them. i didn’t need any convincing and yet i think the book does really well if you are stuck in a mindset that believes that in the church men are more important than women or should have higher status.
# The main reason though is what i would call the Terry Pratchett syndrome. i love Terry Pratchett and he is my favourite read-for-entertainment author. i was fortunate enough to start with ‘The Colour of Magic’ which is his first Discworld novel and read them largely in order and then suddenly, around the time of ‘Guards Guards!’, ‘Moving Pictures’ and ‘Pyramids’ [all three of which i read close together] he suddenly jumped to another level and just got increasingly better and better. Then one day i reread ‘The Colour of Magic’ and it seemed so bad in comparison, just because Pratchett had gotten so good.
That’s what i feel with Sarah Bessey. It is not that anything is particularly wrong with ‘Jesus Feminist’. But it’s just that i discovered her through her writing after that, and it has been a couple of years and she has just gotten so much better.
So for any women out there who are feeling ‘less than’ or ‘insignificant’ in the church, this is a great book for you to be reading. If you know someone who struggles with that, then buy them a copy and stick it in their hands – it might very well be life-changing. But if you are someone who is on the same page with that conversation then i would highly recommend following Sarah on the Twitterer which you can do @sarahbessey or bookmarking her blog over here as one worth visiting regularly. In a world with so many voices and people and posts and too little time, Sarah Bessey is someone who, at the moment, is one of my favourite people to watch and listen to and learn from.
i have a bunch of turned over pages in her book and so i imagine, when i get a chance, i’ll be sharing a few more extracts, cos there really was some great stuff in it…