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Book Review– Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey

June 9, 2014

Jesus Feminist

When I think of feminism, I think of two things, primarily. I should have a whole lot more in my head, only university was Long Ago as well as Far Away, and I have forgotten nearly everything from my Heroines in History paper, though I enjoyed it at the time.

The first of the two things is that my mum was (allegedly) a Feminist when I was little. She stayed home with the babies and kept house and didn’t have her own income and expressed her Feminist whatevers by refusing to cook dinner. I’m not sure what that was, but it doesn’t really fit any of the ‘waves’.

The other was, during my last year of high school, we had a student teacher in my Art History class who was of the buzz-cut and combat-boot militant Feminism, with the lesbian part of the deal for that lady fairly self-evident. We were in class one day and the groundskeeper was mowing the lawns outside. You know, doing his job. She marched out there and yelled at him til he took the lawn mower away, then came back looking pleased with herself, saying, ‘There you go, girls: Challenge the Patriarchy!’

So, when I come across a book named Jesus Feminist, I don’t necessarily think Good Things. I ordered it, having found and enjoyed reading Sarah Bessey’s blog and, after watching it on my desk for a week or so and detecting no outward signs of trouble, I got stuck in.

It turns out that Sarah Bessey comes from a church background similar to my own. There was no huge issue made of gender, and theology was simple. Or simplistic. The jaded cynicism came later, with exposure to different ways of seeing in the wider church community. She has moved past that, however. Bessey says in her introduction:

‘I won’t desecrate beauty with cynicism anymore. I won’t confuse critical thinking with a critical spirit, and I will practice, painfully, over and over, patience and peace until my gentle answers turn away even my own wrath.’

What I like about this book is the graciousness and open arms that Bessey displays. I especially like her chapter about women’s ministry (because O Dear Lord deliver me from traditional women’s ministry, forever and always, Amen). She shows that being a Jesus Feminist is simply recognising, ‘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.’

The book is bursting with examples of how operating from this worldview might look in everyday life and everyday social justice. It is about looking outward, about seeing what is happening in our communities and in places like Haiti and the brothels of Southeast Asia and saying, ‘What can I do? How can I help?’ and then finding something you can do, a way you can help, and simply doing it.

So, thanks to Sarah Bessey and her book Jesus Feminist, I can say that, by her definition, I’ve always been a Feminist, and that is OK with me. I recommend this well-written, thought-provoking read to anyone who is interested in women’s issues in a modern world.


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