In Which I Am an Unabashed Jesus Feminist

I love writing. And I love reading. But more than anything I love reading great writing. And Sarah Bessey is a flat-out GREAT writer.

I’d been following her blog for a couple years now and have always appreciated how she manages to simultaneously speak with such passion and grace. She has a way of teaching through storytelling that makes you forget how much you’re learning and simply enjoy the lesson. [As you read her blog, you’ll notice the “In Which” in this post’s title is entirely unoriginal to me.]

Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women (Howard Books, released on November 5, 2013) is her latest project and it is a wonderful contribution to the conversations surrounding faith, gender, church, and the Bible.

She starts [as the title probably implies] with Jesus. She weaves her own narrative of growing up in an incredibly faithful, yet by most standards “ordinary” family. One of the first lines to make me laugh out loud was when she described her dad. She says,

My dad is a true Canadian kid, deeply distrustful of religion, Toronto, politicians, and the Establishment.

She goes on to talk about life growing up in the church as one where women were constantly confined to certain parameters based on the fact that they were a woman, rather than where their gifts may lie. In many, though certainly not all, churches women are consistently put into boxes within the church. They’re told they can be involved in children’s ministry, hospitality ministry, the women’s Bible study ministry, the quilting and sewing ministry, the keep the coffee warm ministry, and on and on it goes. Regardless of their strengths and passions, women are confined to certain boxes, and those boxes limit their participation in the broader Church. And Bessey’s point is this: the Kingdom of God is missing out on some seriously talented and passionate people because of it!

A favorite part of mine [perhaps because of my love of lists-as-evidence] is in Chapter Six when she goes through the narrative of Scripture through the history of the church describing the incredibly significant roles women have played in the history of our faith. Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Jael, Ruth, Rahab, Esther, Hannah, Tamar were a few of the significant women of the Hebrew Bible. Moving through to the New Testament women like Priscilla, Lydia, Mary, Martha, the Samaritan woman, Mary Magdalene, Euodia, and Junia. She then considers women of modern church history like Florence Nightingale, Mother Teresa, and Harriet Tubman.

When we think about the impact that women have had throughout the history of the faith, it should be overwhelming evidence against trying to strictly define what women can or cannot do in the life of the body of Christ.

But so often it isn’t. And that’s where the feminist part of this book comes in.

I have to admit that I was ready and waiting for the unabashed feminism to come in with a hyper-aggressive, demanding approach. But:

1) That’s not Sarah Bessey’s style.

And

2) As Sarah points out, that’s not the way of the Jesus Feminist.

The wonder of this book is in its subtlety. I was barely aware that I was becoming a Jesus Feminist until I closed the book and I could feel the tension in my muscles when I considered the injustice of the Church telling women what they can or cannot do because of their womanhood.

It doesn’t necessarily matter where you fall on political lines or religious affiliations, this is an important book for everyone to read. The writing is both poetic and challenging, but espouses a kind of humility that is incredibly rare.

It’s available on Amazon or at your local bookstore. Even though I was given an advanced ebook copy, I still ordered my own copy. You should too. Buy it. Read it. Buy it for your friends to read. Buy it for your pastor to read. Then talk about it. These are the conversations that are worth having.

Cheers,
Eric

I received an advance copy of Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey from NetGalley in return for my review. There was nothing that stipulated that it had to be positive, only honest. No other compensation was provided.

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Watch Nicki Minaj Take Down Sexism

You could be the king, but watch the queen conquer.” – Nicki Minaj from Kanye West’s “Monster”

Before starting… let me put out the disclaimer that in the clip below, Nicki Minaj echoes a lot of what many women in the hip-hop world have said before. Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliot, Queen Latifah, Jill Scott and many others have preceded her in pushing for rights and respect, but I thought this clip was really interesting. Check it out.
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I like parts of this video. I dislike others. The part about Donald Trump and other men in power being the “boss” vs. women in power being the “bitch”. Other people have written at length about this. This is the part where I’m the most with her in this video. I think she makes great points about how men and women are treated differently and how traits that are perceived as inherently “masculine” — like something as simple as being assertive — carry negative connotations when women exhibit them. When a woman’s assertive, she’s a bitch. When a man’s assertive, he’s a boss. This is such a common double standard in our culture that it’s ridiculous. If you don’t believe me, ask Hillary Clinton.

But where I cringe in this video is at the very end where she discredits herself and everything that she has just said! She shows that she buys into what culture says about women because when women speak out against this kind of thing, they can often be characterized as stupid, petty, or otherwise weak.

What did you think of the video? Do you think she made a good point? Shoot me a comment and let me know your thoughts.

Cheers,
Eric

The Brothers Speak Out: Responses to Masculine Christianity

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, 
neither slave nor free, 
nor is there male and female, 
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” 
– Galatians 3:28

So my post from Monday was a part of a much bigger movement expressing affirmation for women in the church. Over 150 men responded and I wanted to share of the posts. There are some incredibly profound things written in these posts. I’m going to highlight a paragraph or two from some of my favorites, but check out Rachel Held Evans’ site for a full list of all of the responses. They’re wonderful.

Justin Bowers: Courageous Daughters – A Response to John Piper

I currently lead a ministry in a rural community where physical, sexual, and emotional abuse have run rampant.  Generational sin and systemic oppression have led to a place where one statistic suggests that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys have been abused.  The effects of this are stifling, and especially to the girls.  There is a pattern of sexual brokenness, desperation for love and affection, and an abundance of students who have stopped dreaming.

And do you know what the answer to these issues is?

It is NOT more masculine leadership.
It is NOT more focus on men being real men.
It is NOT a hard line slam of failing fathers from the pulpit.

The answer is the body of Christ being the fullest extent of the body of Christ it can be… MASCULINE, FEMININE, and IN RELATIONSHIP as the FAMILY of CHRIST.

Ben: Redemption and Strength in Women and Men

I recently learned from Rachel Held Evans that John Piper has stated not too long ago at a pastor’s conference that Christianity has a “masculine feel” to it. As a guy who appreciates the unique insights I have received from my brothers and sisters in Christ from all walks of life, I have to wonder why we would feel the need to assign Christianity with a “masculine” feel. After all, God created humanity as both male and female, and he did so in his own image (Genesis 1:27). So both male and female are made in God’s image. Which leads me to think that perhaps using “Christianity has a masculine feel” language, no matter how many caveats one might want to attach to it, leaves out the feminine half of God’s image-bearers. 
I think God gave Christianity a redemptive feel, a feel of reconciliation, a feel of hopeful expectation through his desire to save wayward, broken people like us. And that transcends categories of “masculine” and “feminine.” Reconciling isn’t a masculine act any more than it is a feminine one. I know as many female reconcilers as I do male ones.

Bo Sanders: “Bananas, Bullies, and the Bible – You Can’t Start in the Middle”

“Like Ray Comfort and his banana, John Piper ends up making the opposite point than he wanted to! Comfort intended to exalt the original design but instead highlighted human cultivation, influence and adaption. Piper desired to show how God has made us but instead showed how we have made God.”

Tim Owens: “In Response to Masculine Christianity – A Letter to My Daughter”

Is Christianity masculine?

You will ask because of so many who act and speak and teach, often quite convincingly, that it is! Audrey, first you must learn before everything else: they are your brothers. Love them as you would everyone else. You may find that it takes all the rugged resolve you have. Even so, you must always love your brothers, no matter how silly or condescending or even oppressive they may be.

Audrey, God has called you to more than this. And as you become the daughter you are called to be you will likely face the lash of criticism. And so every time a statement is made or a caveat given, every time an opportunity is denied or a perspective defended, every time you are left feeling smaller or told that you bear less Image, remember that you have been called to more than this. Your love must be stronger, your faith bolder, and your determination more rugged than their doubt.

These are just a small bit of the wonderful responses that came in. Be sure to check out more.

Cheers,
Eric

A Response to John Piper’s “Masculine Christianity”

“We see the world not as it is, but as we are.” – Talmud

There has been a call to return — did we ever really leave? — to a masculine Christianity. This movement, spearheaded by the likes of John Piper and Mark Driscoll, has come to a head in some ways due to some recent comments by Piper. Recently, he wrote:

“God revealed Himself in the Bible pervasively as king not queen; father not mother. The second person of the Trinity is revealed as the eternal Son not daughter; the Father and the Son create man and woman in His image and give them the name man, the name of the male…God appoints all the priests in the Old Testament to be men; the Son of God came into the world to be a man; He chose 12 men to be His apostles; the apostles appointed that the overseers of the Church be men; and when it came to marriage they taught that the husband should be the head.”

It needs to be pointed out that this is an extremely selective reading of the Biblical narrative. It only listens to half of the narrative. Take, for instance, the creation narrative. Genesis 1:27 says

“So God created humankind in his image,
   in the image of God he created them;
   male and female he created them. 

In the initial act of creating a relationship between God and humanity, God creates both men and women in God’s image. God’s command to “have dominion” over everything goes to both men and women. It’s plural throughout the rest of the chapter.

While Piper repeatedly highlights the rest of the male-centered stories of the Bible, he leaves out the fact that God has been represented as:

  • A mother (Numbers 11:12, Job 38:8, 29, Isaiah 42:14, Isaiah 49:14, Isaiah 46:3, Isaiah 66:12, Hosea 11:4, Acts 17:28)
  • A seamstress (Nehemiah 9:21)
  • A midwife (Psalm 22:9, Psalm 71:6, Isaiah 66:9)
  • A woman working leaven into bread (Luke 13:18-21)
  • A woman seeking a lost coin (Luke 15:8-10) — This is in a line of parables where God is depicted as both male and female. There’s that egalitarian thing again.

There are countless images for God in the Bible — both male and female. It’s a case of you get what you look for. We could revise the Talmud quote from the beginning of this post to say “We see the Bible not as it is, but as we are.” In John Piper’s case, he wants God to be a man and he wants a masculine Christianity so he finds those instances in the Bible and reads that Bible through a masculine lens.

If we’re proper students of history, we know that Christianity has been masculine and dominant for far too long. I suggest that it’s actually a time to re-imagine feminine images of God. I think when we do that, we gain a richer theological imagination that helps us move outward into a new realm of possibility.

And that’s something that excites me.

Cheers,
Eric

If you’re interested in a more feminine view of God, I would encourage you to check out the writings of Rosemary Radford RuetherSallie McFagueOctavia ButlerElizabeth Johnson, and Naomi Goldenberg. I think you would be better served reading any of these ladies than Piper or Driscoll.

Best Online Video I’ve Seen In A Long Time

Before I say anything about it, please watch this video. It’s a bit long, but completely worth it.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/28066212]

This is the trailer for a documentary that opens in the next couple weeks. Check this site for a screening in your area. Megan and I are seeing it in Phoenix in a couple weeks.

What are your responses to the trailer? What caught your attention? Anything surprise you? I hope you’ll get a chance to dig deeper into this. I know I’m excited to.

Cheers,
Eric

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