Friday, December 18, 2015

Jesus Feminist - Sarah Bessey

Jesus Feminist
Title: Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible's View of Women
Author: Sarah Bessey
Publication Date: 11/5/13
Pages: 256
Genre: Nonfiction
How I Found It: It's in the same field as some other books I've loved lately.
Date Completed: 12/1/15

Summary: Despite a title you may or may not find shocking, Bessey presents a rational, grounded argument for the idea that women are equal to men in the eyes of God and, therefore, should be in ours as well. 

What I Thought: If you know me, you don't have to ask if I liked this book or not. The title alone should clue you in as to my feelings about it. Gender issues within my faith have been hot button issues for me the last few years. I've been striving to learn more and explore, as Bessey puts it, "the radical notion that women are people, too." 

This book is far less controversial than some of its ilk. Though the title may set you on edge depending on your particular experiences, Bessey navigates the white waters with grace and kindness. This is not an angry or argumentative book. Rather, she speaks from the heart, calling out to women as though each were her long lost friend, now come to share a fireside chat with her. The gracious tone of the book makes her message inviting and inspiring, rather than potentially debate-inciting. 

I love Bessey's response to that typical question "Who is really in charge in your marriage?" She says: Jesus, only ever Jesus. I love that. It's easily the best response to that question I have ever heard. That's the philosophy Kevin and I try to live out in our marriage. We are a team, both answering to our Savior rather than to each other. Trust me, Christ holds to a far greater standard than either of us could ever impose upon each other. As we often remind ourselves, our marriage is not about making the other person more like ourselves, but more like Christ. 

Surprisingly, the section of the book that spoke most strongly to me was not specifically about gender issues. Rather, Bessey spent some time talking about what she calls the Evangelical Hero Complex. It's this idea that many of us who grew up in the church have; we are destined to do huge things for God and anything less is falling short of some immense plan He has for our life. Before reading this, I had not even recognized this as something I struggle with, but Bessey's words spoke directly to my heart. 
"If it's not big and audacious and officially sanctioned, it's not good enough for God. ...There aren't actually any big things for God. There are only small things being done over and over with great love...with great faith. With great obedience. With great joy or suffering or wrestling or forgiving on a daily basis. ...and grace covers all of it, and God makes something beautiful."
Kevin and I had a great conversation about this topic after I read the book. It was a beautiful reminder for us that living out our faith means doing more small things every day, rather than waiting for something huge to happen. God is the author of big and small and we will never know what acts or words will impact someone in a big way. Our job is simply to share Christ and His love whenever and however we can, no matter how big or small it looks from our perspective. 

I do not want to try and capture Bessey's work. I'd rather have you go off and read it yourself. Don't let the title scare you off if it is right now. Embrace the discussion and the dialogue. I strongly recommend it. 

Quotes I Loved:

  • "It might surprise antifeminists and anti-Christians equally to know that feminism's roots are tangled up with the strong Christian women's commitments to the temperance movement, suffragist movements, and in America and England in particular, the abolitionist movements of the nineteenth century. There is a rich tradition of pro-life feminism that continues today. ...Feminism is complicated and it varies for each person, much like Christianity. It's not necessary to subscribe to all the diverse - and contrary - opinions within feminism to call oneself a feminist. ...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 - nor greater than, but certainly not less than - to those of men, and we refuse discrimination against women."
  • "People want black-and-white answers, but Scripture is rainbow arch across a stormy sky. Our sacred book is not an indexed answer book or life manual; it is also a grand story, mystery, invitation, truth and wisdom, and a passionate love letter."
  • "Women were created and called out as warriors" (as part of Bessey's discussion of the term ezer kenegdo - helpmeet)

Rating: ★★★★☆
Will I Re-Read: Very likely

A Reduced Review: A gracious, thoughtful approach to the gender issues taking place within modern Christianity.

I'm proud to remind you that this book is on my 2015 TBR Pile Challenge list.  I'm so excited I joined this challenge for the first time. I am enjoying having some structure to my TBR and the change to make intentional choices about what I read next. Make sure you check out the rest of my list and follow the challenge throughout the year. 


  1. I enjoyed this book, but found it a little repetitive. I also read most of Sarah Bessey's blog posts, so that might be why it felt that way. She has a very specific and lovely style of writing that I find hard to take in huge doses. I love the lists of synonymous adjectives and concepts in a blog post, but throughout a whole book it got a little... snoozy? That being said, I did highlight a lot of quotes and am currently reading Bessey's second book, Out of Sorts, because I know Sarah has great things to say.

    1. I can definitely see that. Maybe since I haven't read anything else by her before, that quality was less prominent to me. I did feel, at points, that the book could have been shorter while still getting across the same info. I'll have to read her other one!