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215 of 220 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 23, 2014
You know our mothers told us never to judge a book by its cover? I ignored that advice when I saw Jesus Feminist on the shelf at Barnes & Noble. Yellow is not my favorite color. I didn’t like the juxtaposition of the Cross and the Venus symbol. And despite being theologically egalitarian, I don’t like the word feminist. So, I left Sarah Bessey on the shelf and exited the store sans book.

Then my wife told me I needed to read Jesus Feminist. Her sister had read and loved it. A good friend had read and loved it. And the kind of books I liked to read were nerdy, she said, and no one other than me cared about them. So why not read and review something normal people actually liked?

As per usual, I listened to my wife, returned to Barnes & Noble, purchased a copy, and started reading. Although Sarah Bessey writes well and although I pretty much agree with her, I found reading the book’s initial pages to be a long, hard slog. She tells stories where I would assert propositions. She asks questions where I would offer answers. She assumes conclusions where I would make long arguments. Her authorial voice is so different than mine. I would approach the topic of “the Bible’s view of women” in such a different way.

Midway through chapter 2 (or was it 3?), I realized what the problem was. It wasn’t her, it was me. Here am I, a man, having a hard time listening to a woman make a case in her own voice on an issue where we agree. Let me repeat that for my male readers: I wasn’t listening to what a woman was saying because she was a woman.

Now, I realize that I am probably not Sarah Bessey’s intended reader. My guess is that she wrote this book for Christian women, not so much to argue for their equality with men from a biblical viewpoint as to assume it and urge them to get on with the Kingdom work God has called them to do. That being the case, good on her!

Still, it’s pretty hard on a guy to realize that his egalitarianism is theoretical rather than practical. That it exists in books and arguments rather than in his willingness to listen to a sister. For Sarah Bessey’s unintended effectiveness in exposing my, well, sexism, good on her!

Back to what the book actually says rather than its effect on me: Jesus loves women. Patriarchy is not God’s design for relations between the sexes. Husbands and wives need to figure out how their relationship works for them through trial and error, rather than based on rules that are allegedly exported from the Bible. Churches need to fully deploy (and employ) the feminine half of the congregation. Women’s ministries need to be missional, since God calls them to change the world, not make a craft. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!) Christians need to do the hard work of addressing the lack of justice and peace in the world, much of which centers around the ill treatment of women and its side effects. And women don’t need permission; they just need blessing.

To which I say: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes, respectively.

Is Jesus Feminist a great book? I don’t know. It’s not the kind of book I normally read, so I don’t have a metric.

Is Sarah Bessey’s a needed voice? Yes. On behalf of women such as my wife, sister, and friend. And to men like me as well.
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127 of 137 people found the following review helpful
on February 9, 2014
Review of "Jesus Feminist," and response to one star review by "Steve."

Steve's Criticism:
"First, Sarah Bessey loves to go after the straw man [i.e. a position that someone doesn't actually hold]. Even the subtitle betrays this tendency: Exploring God's Radical Notion That Women Are People, Too. Did Sarah seriously believe her complimentarian [sic] (Biblically minded non-egalitarian) friends would think it a radical notion that women are people too? Who has ever suggested they are not?"

My Response:
Who indeed Steve? Here are some quotes from the architects of complementarian theology, and from those who continue to perpetuate it today:

"[For women] the very consciousness of their own nature must evoke feelings of shame."-Saint Clement of Alexandria, Christian theologian (c150-215) Pedagogues II, 33, 2

"In pain shall you bring forth children, woman, and you shall turn to your husband and he shall rule over you. And do you not know that you are Eve? God's sentence hangs still over all your sex and His punishment weighs down upon you. You are the devil's gateway; you are she who first violated the forbidden tree and broke the law of God. It was you who coaxed your way around him whom the devil had not the force to attack. With what ease you shattered that image of God: Man! Because of the death you merited, even the Son of God had to die... Woman, you are the gate to hell." -Tertullian, "the father of Latin Christianity" (c160-225)

"Woman is a temple built over a sewer." -Tertullian, "the father of Latin Christianity" (c160-225)

"Woman was merely man's helpmate, a function which pertains to her alone. She is not the image of God but as far as man is concerned, he is by himself the image of God." - Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo Regius (354-430)
"Woman does not possess the image of God in herself but only when taken together with the male who is her head, so that the whole substance is one image. But when she is assigned the role as helpmate, a function that pertains to her alone, then she is not the image of God. But as far as the man is concerned, he is by himself alone the image of God just as fully and completely as when he and the woman are joined together into one." -Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo Regius (354-430)

"Woman is a misbegotten man and has a faulty and defective nature in comparison to his. Therefore she is unsure in herself. What she cannot get, she seeks to obtain through lying and diabolical deceptions. And so, to put it briefly, one must be on one's guard with every woman, as if she were a poisonous snake and the horned devil. ... Thus in evil and perverse doings woman is cleverer, that is, slyer, than man. Her feelings drive woman toward every evil, just as reason impels man toward all good." -Saint Albertus Magnus, Dominican theologian, 13th century

"As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence."-Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church, 13th century

"The word and works of God is quite clear, that women were made either to be wives or prostitutes." - Martin Luther, Reformer (1483-1546)

"No gown worse becomes a woman than the desire to be wise." - Martin Luther, Reformer (1483-1546)

"Men have broad and large chests, and small narrow hips, and more understanding than women, who have but small and narrow breasts, and broad hips, to the end they should remain at home, sit still, keep house, and bear and bring up children." - Martin Luther, Reformer (1483-1546)

"Thus the woman, who had perversely exceeded her proper bounds, is forced back to her own position. She had, indeed, previously been subject to her husband, but that was a liberal and gentle subjection; now, however, she is cast into servitude." -John Calvin, Reformer (1509-1564)

"Even as the church must fear Christ Jesus, so must the wives also fear their husbands. And this inward fear must be shewed by an outward meekness and lowliness in her speeches and carriage to her husband. . . . For if there be not fear and reverence in the inferior, there can be no sound nor constant honor yielded to the superior." - John Dod, A Plaine and Familiar Exposition of the Ten Commandements, Puritan guidebook first published in 1603

"The second duty of the wife is constant obedience and subjection." - John Dod, A Plaine and Familiar Exposition ofthe Ten Commandements, Puritan guidebook first published in 1603

"The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." --Pat Robertson, Southern Baptist leader (1930-)

"Women will be saved by going back to that role that God has chosen for them. Ladies, if the hair on the back of your neck stands up it is because you are fighting your role in the scripture. -Mark Driscoll, founder of Mars Hill nondenominational mega-church franchise. (1970-)
(above quotes retrieved from [...]
"It is the natural order among people that women serve their husbands and children their parents, because the justice of this lies in (the principle that) the lesser serves the greater.... This is the natural justice that the weaker brain serve the stronger. This therefore is the evident justice in the relationships between slaves and their masters, that they who excel in reason, excel in power." (St. Augustine, Questions on the Heptateuch, Book I, § 153, as cited at [...]

"Let the woman be satisfied with her state of subjection, and not take it amiss that she is made inferior to the more distinguished sex." (John Calvin, as cited in Oliphant, J. (2011). AQA Religious Ethics for AS and A2. New York, NY: Routledge)

"It means that a woman will demonstrate that she is in fact a Christian, that she has submitted to God's ways by affirming and embracing her God-designed identity as--for the most part, generally this is true--as wife and mother, rather than chafing against it, rather than bucking against it, rather than wanting to be a man, wanting to be in a man's position, wanting to teach and exercise authority over men." (Bruce Ware, as cited in Taylor, S. (2013). Dethroning Male Headship, p. 109. Auburndale, FL: One Way Press)

Mark Driscoll explains that women are restricted from positions of teaching and authority at his church: "Paul forbids women to teach and exercise authority as elders-pastors.... So at Mars Hill Church, only elders preach, enforce formal church discipline, and set doctrinal standards for the church." (as cited from [...])

"To be a woman is to support, to nurture, and to strengthen men in order that they would flourish and fulfill their God-given role as leaders." (Owen Strachan of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, as cited from [...])

The New Bible Commentary, 21st Century Edition, interprets Ephesians 5 as stating that husbands are to be regarded as the "masters" of their wives, and that wives are commanded by God to "obey" them (Wenham & Carson, 1994).

To summarize, women have been depicted as less than fully human, more evil than men, inferior, less intelligent and born for a life of subjection to male authority. Their place, according to these authors, is in the home to bear and raise children for husbands that they must "obey" as their "masters."

Does Sarah Bessey really "love to go after the straw man" as Steve suggests? I don't think so.

Sadly, those with a prejudice--in this case against women--are often the last to see it. That is why they may think that others are arguing against a "straw man." The straw man isn't made of straw in this case at all. Some complementarians simply appear unable to recognize the deeply ingrained sexism of their worldview. Just because they can't see it, doesn't mean it isn't there:

[sek-siz-uh m] noun
1. attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of sexual roles.

2. discrimination or devaluation based on a person's sex, as in restricted job opportunities; especially, such discrimination directed against women.

"Jesus Feminist" is a refreshing contrast to the sexism that is so prevalent in church history and that lingers on in a patriarchal (i.e. complementarian) worldview today. Sarah Bessey's work is poetic and inspirational. She communicates a passionate view of the impartial love of Jesus with grace and eloquence.
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55 of 61 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2013
Right out of the gate, let me say that I think what Sarah is doing here is really important. By putting the word "Jesus" in lights right next to "feminist," she's forcing a certain conversation that some folks would rather not have right now (or ever). Feminism has been recast in the past few decades as anathema to Christianity in many ways. Simply suggesting that one can hold to both concepts and implying that being a "Jesus Feminist" is possible in a way that will not, in fact, result in a sort of universe-destroying cataclysm, is a radical statement in itself, it would seem.

Starting with the introduction and all the way through to her hopeful commission in the final chapter, Sarah's primary mode of interaction with the reader is one of disarming. She sets the tone early on saying,

"We have often treated our communities like a minefield, acted like theology is a war, and we are the wounded and we are the wounding."

She's acknowledging up front the firepower we often bring to discussions like these, and suggests that, instead of trying to kill each other, maybe we could just try to hear each other instead. As you read on, you start to understand that this is no empty gesture. Sarah is consistently disarming in her grace, her candor, and her willingness to let us into the most intimate, most painful experiences of her life. Some people bring knives to gunfights. All Sarah brought was her story, and the result is that we cannot help but lower our weapons and listen to her tell it. So as you settle in past the introduction and into the meat of the book itself, the feeling is far more coffee (or tea!) on a Saturday afternoon than it is a sermon on Sunday or a lecture on Monday.

There are two primary arcs that Sarah weaves artfully through the book, and I'll try to do them justice here. The first is the refusal to meet the old arguments for patriarchy on their own terms. She kindly-yet-thoroughly dismantles much of the traditional case for the marginalization of women and girls in and by the church, and presents a positive, Jesus-centric ideal for the radical inclusion of women in the ongoing redemptive work of God in the world. She says,

"Instead, in Christ and because of Christ, we are invited to participate in the Kingdom of God through redemptive movement-for both men and women-toward equality and freedom. We can choose to move with God, further into justice and wholeness, or we can choose to prop up the world's dead systems, baptizing injustice and power in sacred language."
She's essentially refusing to allow patriarchy exclusive claim to the language of the divine, and it works quite well. The line about "baptizing injustice and power in sacred language" is still ringing in my ears.

In speaking of Jesus healing the woman with the crippled hand in the synagogue, she highlights the phrase Jesus used, "daughter of Abraham." This has always struck me as a really pivotal, even if often overlooked, piece of the story. With a single word, Jesus upsets generations of religions dogma and sociocultural programming. Some might ask, "to what end?" But that's the thing, we know the end, and we start to see where Sarah is taking us. The trajectory of Christ's life was always singular in its focus of reconciling creation back into shalom with its creator. Every word that he spoke was a waypoint one that journey, and this one was no different. In deconstructing the rigid gender hierarchies of His day, He was giving us a model (and I'd argue a directive) to do the same thing in ours.

In dealing with the household codes, she says they "are not universal standards without context or purpose." And I might add, "no matter how much we would like them to be." In contextualizing, she says,

"It's helpful for me, in discerning the meaning of these passages, to turn to the rest of the writer's work. In a letter to the church in Galatia, Paul wrote, 'There is no longer Jew or gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.'"

Again, she gracefully refuses to allow patriarchal voices to violate the text in order to continue to oppress women and girls. She brings the point squarely home with this:

"When women are restricted from the service of God in any capacity, the church is mistakenly allowing an imperfect, male-dominated ancient culture to drive our understanding and practice of Christ's redeeming work..."

Indeed. Here we catch a glimpse again of where she's taking us in that she's showing the utter irrelevance irrelevance of this mode of thinking. She's leading us by the hand toward something bigger, gently and lovingly telling us to just leave all of that behind for good and step into something greater.

Where Sarah really starts to sing is when she starts talking about the Kingdom of God. This second arc is the real telos underlying much of her work, and it shows. Now, it's not that the rest of the book isn't wonderful, but she really hits her stride here, especially in the latter half of the book, and you can tell it's where she's most at home. She's part preacher, part prophet, and part political revolutionary as she says of the work women (and men) are doing all over to advance the Kingdom of God,

"Can't you see? It's all an act of protest, a snatching back from the darkness, a proclamation of freedom, a revolution of love. And isn't it a miracle!"

She paints a picture with her words of the Kingdom of God that's so beautiful, so radically inclusive and so affirming of its constituents that it's hard to not want to be a part of it. She leaves no question about whether or not patriarchy is something that could be a part of this new Kingdom. She doesn't beg readers to take her word for any of this, but rather she invites them to walk in the fullness of what she already knows to be the truth. It is a testament to both her grace and her authenticity, I think, that she can so plainly lay out a critique of the social system that awards me privilege at her expense, and instead of feeling rebuffed, I feel encouraged that there's something better out there for me to step into as well. "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand," Jesus said. I think what that means is finally starting to sink in. She writes,

"If we only had eyes to see and ears to hear and wits to understand, we would know that the kingdom of God in the sense of holiness, goodness, beauty is as close as breathing and is crying out to be born both within ourselves and within the world; we would know that Kingdom of God is what all of us hunger for above all other things, even when we don't know its name or realize that it's what we're starving to death for."

By the end of the book, when her song about the Kingdom of God reaches its crescendo in an exhortation and an invitation to stand up and take part in this new Kingdom, you can't help but want to get on board. And through it all, she reminds us that there is another way, that clenched fists aren't necessarily the only way we can react to the sort of systemic injustice she's combatting here. Instead, she shows us an alternative paradigm of open arms. Clenched fists are worthless but for striking out, but open arms grieve with those who grieve and comfort those who need comforting. You can slide one of those open arms around the waist of a brother or sister who's falling down and hold them up or you can lock arms in solidarity with your sisters (and brothers) across the world or right there in your hometown. Clenched fists connote condemnation, but open arms on the other hand, that's the stuff of redemption.

"You and me," she says near the end, "we are Kingdom people, an outpost of redemption, engaged in God's mission of reconciliation.

May it be so.
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180 of 221 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2013
The book Jesus Feminist, by Sarah Bessey, is sure to grab one's attention. A Canadian mother of 3 with a heart for following Jesus, Sarah Bessey is eager and enthusiastic to tell others what it looks like to be a woman of God. The book begins with a welcoming foreword from blogger Rachel Held Evans followed by a poem entitled "Let Us Be Women Who Love." The content of each subsequent chapter is unified by a proclamation of evangelical egalitarian views followed by stirring romantic prose delivered with a consistent invitation away from mundane prattle into authentic conversation about what it means to be a woman of faith.

Bessey insists her intention in writing this book is to move from heated debate over women's roles in marriage and ministry to a conversation grounded in a simple radical truth: that Jesus values women. The practical purpose ofJesus Feminist however, is to engage the most commonly held differences between egalitarians and complementarians through the lens of Bessey's strongly held opinions, with each chapter focusing on a specific aspect of the gender debate. For example, she gives specific attention to women as image bearers and ezer warriors, she provides personal testimony to her role as life-giver, and offers evidence of how her marriage exemplifies mutual submission. She celebrates biblical heroines like Deborah, Priscilla, Lydia, and Junia as examples of women using their God-given gifts in leadership roles. Her hermeneutic is admittedly trajectory, reaching beyond the biblical text to a spirit of "redemptive movement." She is careful to consider the key biblical texts which are controversial in the gender debate, (1 Tim 2 and 1 Cor 14), and she reiterates the egalitarian view that historical context (along with Gal 3:28) disqualifies these passages as normative for today. With a permeating theme of social injustice, the book offers a consistent message: women, in following Jesus, can help release the world from the oppressive hierarchy that resulted from the Fall.

Although Bessey presents these familiar egalitarian views, this is not just another typical book on the topic of women's roles; it provides a unique passion in the delivery of the material that attempts to bring readers beyond the controversy. Her poetic style and strong language leap off the page; the reader can almost hear the rising of Bessey's voice as she reaches the climactic end of each chapter. She makes compelling statements; those who already agree with her views will be moved and inspired.

It is the last chapter, which is the most impressive, in which Bessey challenges her female readers with a great commission. She is on a quest, and wants all of female humanity to join with her. The delivery of her words is powerfully influential.

Yet this book is not for everyone. Those who disagree with Bessey's egalitarian views may be offended by the (not so) subtle criticism of those outside her camp. It is not always clear who the book is condemning. Is it academic types (those "sitting at the Table"), old-fashioned ministry women (who do crafts and bake), or any woman in general who doesn't "get" Jesus? A serious discussion on the critical concept of authority is notably missing outside the author's denunciation of societal power structures. Also absent is any discussion of the Trinity. For those who can ignore the (not so) carefully disguised angst toward those who according to Bessey "miss the point," there remains minimal intellectual discussion. Readers longing for a fresh, refined, more textually supported voice in this conversation will be quite disappointed.

In addition, there are several inaccuracies in the book which can be easily glossed over by the reader. The implication that eliminating social injustice provides a means for eternal salvation is contrary to the gospel, and the suggestion that no one will be lost goes against the teaching of Scripture. Strikingly, the inference that male and female can only collectively bear the image of God is taken from a blog which portrays Jesus as having breasts. Also faulty is the suggestion that the meaning of 1 Tim 2:11-15 is too obscure to be understood and that there are no scholars who can offer a meaningful interpretation. Some elementary research on this would have proven beneficial.

Most significantly - and most disheartening- is the book's failure to clearly state the gospel even once. Such a definitive and passionate view on how Jesus considers women surely deserves clarification of the nature of the relationship between a woman and her Savior. Yet, as with many writings by post-modern Christians, the book focuses much on God's love, and less on His holiness. There is no mention that women (just like men) are sinners hopelessly alienated from their Creator and without any means of reconciliation except through the atoning blood, suffering, death and resurrection of the God-man Jesus Christ (Rom 3:23-26). For example, chapter ten emphatically pronounces woman as equal, lovely, called, chosen, gifted, valued and worthy. It's disappointing the word redeemed didn't make the list.

Jesus Feminist, with its bright yellow cover and controversial title, will accomplish what it was set out to do, i.e. catch one's attention and begin a conversation about women and Jesus. Readers will meet Sarah Bessey by the bonfire and will ponder the stories she tells; many will be moved, touched, and energized. However the reader must proceed with caution and discernment since the strength of Jesus Feminist lies in its passionate delivery of one woman's experience and feelings, not in its ability to seriously consider deep biblical truth and doctrinal and exegetical issues. This reader was left dissatisfied.

I consider this book well written but the arguments poorly substantiated. As one who holds to a grammatical-historical hermeneutic, and who embraces the biblical concepts of authority, headship, and submission, I encourage like-minded ministry leaders to give careful consideration to the views presented by Sarah Bessey so they can address the potential influence this book may have on the women to whom they minister.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
What do you want when you read "Jesus Feminist"? Do you want a scholarly discourse about feminism, biblical theory, and gender roles? Or would you like to read emotional "pick me up" stories about how awesome women are doing awesome things?

Personally, I prefer the former. I know that many people think women are overly emotional beings, addicted to soap operas, being emotional around their periods, and Lifetime movies, but I am proof positive that women aren't all the same (basically things that this book touches on, but doesn't really delve deep into). When I read a nonfiction book titled "Jesus Feminist" with "Through a thoughtful review of biblical teaching and church practices" as a descriptor, I thought I was getting a scholarly work, but instead, I felt it was "Chicken Soup for the Christian Feminist's Soul".

I fear I must say something really quick, or people might get offended or get the wrong impression. There is NOTHING WRONG with a personal memoir about how awesome Jesus is, how awesome women are and the wonderful things that many women do. And there are LOADS of women out there that want/need to read books like this, whether to get them motivated or to affirm what they already believe.

I am not that woman. When I saw "Jesus Feminist", I wanted to read about how the modern evangelical interpretation was too stringent and to examine how it was meant to read for the intended audience. And, admittedly, Bessey does do this for a couple of the common "clobber" verses - the ones about wives being silent in church and wives submitting to husbands.

But Bessey spends a LOT of time talking about her own path to feminism and then branches into the many ways women are doing lots of wonderful things in the world. This is great, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't what I wanted/expected from this book. It wasn't how I interpreted the title.

There were other, little things that bugged me. Things like calling your children "tinies". (It's not cute, it's ridiculous.) Things like using Rachel Held Evans as a reference AND having her write your foreward. (Although the reference section is pretty good, some of it felt a bit off to me.) In fact, much of the tone of the book is hinged on tweaking your emotional sensors - something I definitely dislike in a book. I don't like books that write things just to make you cry, and this is definitely one of those books.

So, back to my first question: what do you want to read when you read "Jesus Feminist"? Do you want a methodical nonfiction book, one that will define what feminism is, the verses, how modern scholars interpret these verses, maybe even look into how Jesus acted like a feminist back in his day? If so, you'll find a few chapters, but most of the book will be a disappointment (like to me) or just boring. But if instead, you want a casual talk about how Christians can be this thing called feminist and be varied and different and influential, then this is right up your alley.

Brought to you by:
*C.S. Light*
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2014
This book changed my life. It empowered me, assured me, and left me in tears feeling loved by my Creator. If you are a woman, you must read this. I know at first the title is jarring, but by the end of the first chapter you will not only understand the term "Jesus Feminist" but will understand why Jesus HIMSELF was a feminist. This book can alter your view of a woman's place in the church and home and, as a woman, empower you to embrace the way you are made. God designed women not as an afterthought, but for specific purpose. Thank you, Sarah Bessey, for such a beautiful book that is so timely for our church's today.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2013
Let's start with the title {one that she says is guaranteed to "alienate almost everyone!"} because I'm afraid some of my more conservative friends and readers will rule out the book based on this.

Sarah {I feel like I can call her Sarah--ha} defines feminism very broadly as "God's radical notion that women are people, too." So feel free to put aside the politics and presuppositions, and don't be nervous about being open to what she has to say.

"Feminism is complicated and it varies for each person, much like Christianity."

"My activism as a Jesus feminist is marked and distinguished as being on behalf of others first."

There is no anger in her tone and no harsh spirit. In a world where "speaking the truth in love" is usually code for just being rude, it was refreshing to read someone actually speak the truth in love.

If you read Sarah's work already, Jesus Feminist will feel familiar.

There are stories of how her mutually-submissive marriage works...

"Mutuality is a beautiful picture of trust and a sign of the kingdom of God."

"Well, who is in charge here? We are. Yes ,but if push comes to shove, who is the leader? We are. But then who is the spiritual head of your home? Only Jesus. Only ever our Jesus."

"Like many other Christians throughout the ages, we believe scripture teaches mutual submission in marriage, and so we strive for our marriage to be a reflection of the original God-created order--we endeavor to make our marriage a restoration of oneness, of equality, of two lives in the concert of playing second fiddle to one another."

There are stories of mothering, one linked so beautifully to Christ's coming that I read with tears streaming down my face...

"The mess of the incarnation [is] personal, it's private, and there just aren't words for it--and it's a bit too much. It's too much pain, too much waiting, too much humanity, too much God, too much work, too much joy or sorrow, too much love, and far too messy with too little control."

And there are stories of church...

"Some of us have stories of how we tried to fit in. We showed up at the events, played by the rules, and left feeling just a bit emptier and isolated, like a square peg in a round hole of crafts and Tuesday morning coffee...and then, sadly, the church ladies who loved to craft and hang out on a Tuesday morning together felt judged and dismissed."

There are stories of her family, her background, her spiritual walk, and you come away with an understanding of how she has arrived at this point. While she also tackles larger themes of injustice and oppression, the book is self-aware--but without being arrogant.

"I've abandoned the idea that my job is to get the absolute, 100 percent right answers on everything."

"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."

It was interesting reading this from her charismatic background where seeing women in all types of "ministry" was her normal. She did not grow up with the conservative view that women should be limited in their roles in the church; yet, she has still come to the conclusion that the Church is not realizing its full potential.

"When women are restricted from the service of God in any capacity, the Church is mistakenly allowing an imperfect male-dominated ancient culture to drive our understanding and practice of Christ's redeeming work, instead of Jesus Christ and the whole of the scriptures."

Kind of like how we, supposedly, only use 10 percent of our brains. Or how I basically use my Mac for just surfing the Internet. We can do so much more, and Sarah's mantra is "there is room for all of us."

It's worth repeating that one of my favorite things about the book is the absence of anger. Sometimes I get frustrated when I hear other Christians use too much snark, sarcasm, or just an overly harsh tone. You will not find that here.

"We have often treated our communities like a minefield, acted like theology is a war, and we are the wounded and we are the wounding."

"Loving-kindness preaches the gospel more beautifully and truthfully than any satirical blog post or point-by-point dismantling of another disciple's reputation and teaching."

So, even if you disagree with her, you feel as if you can have a conversation with Sarah that is marked with respect, kindness, and the mutual desire to follow Christ.

But my most favorite thing? That she consistently pointed to our need for Jesus and his forgiveness.

"He was in the sacred everyday of my life, redeeming it all, teaching me to pray, filling me with joy in my weakness, teaching me to rely on him."

"Women--sisters, daughters, mothers, wives, friends--the kingdom has come. God is your home. You will find rest for your weary soul. There is healing and forgiveness here."

Hallelujah, indeed.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2014
Writing a book with this title alone definitely took guts, and while it wasn't the book I was looking for I do admire Bessey's courage. Writing anything specifically to a Christian community with the word "feminist" in the title would be downright scary.

I'd hoped it'd be more of an academic approach to how Christianity and Feminism not only aren't polar opposites, they're actually compatible ... but "Jesus Feminist" is not that sort of book. It reads like a conversation -- the flow is organic rather than a point by point argument. The style and tone is often almost poetic. While it isn't what I was personally looking for, Bessey is a talented writer and it is a moving piece that I do plan on recommending to a few friends who I think will connect with it even better than I did.

I think the main reason this book didn't appeal to me as much as I'd expected though is because Sarah Bessey is writing to Christians who are likely horrified by the word feminist. I am studying gender studies in college -- therefore, the word "feminist" is by no means a turn off.

As a result of being more of a "women's-study feminist" if you will -- that's where I was first introduced to feminism -- the fact that feminists like bell hooks were never quoted was disappointing. And sometimes, perhaps I was reading too much into it, it felt like the author was more trying to "reclaim" feminism as a Christian idea or show that "Jesus feminists" are the "real deal" when it comes to feminists. I was hoping Bessey would help introduce self-identified Christians to the Women's Movement and help place feminism within it's historical context, breakdown stereotypes and inaccurate assumptions about "secular feminists," and help bridge the assumed ideological chasm. However, due to the strong focus on "reclaiming" feminism, it felt like Bessey was creating something new, separating "Jesus feminists" off from the larger feminist conversation, which feels like just a different take on the us versus them Christian ideas about feminism.

The book is a call to self-identified Christian men and women, specifically within the context of church, to focus on social justice issues like women's rights, poverty, etc. And I'm fully supportive of that. However, what I was hoping for was a book that would serve as more of a bridge between the women's study feminists and the egalitarian Christians. Instead, while it is a beautifully written book and does make some great points, it often left me feeling out in the cold.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2014
I come from a conservative, Christian background. I'm currently a stay-at-home daughter who aspires to be a stay-at-home mom one day. This book was completely refreshing! Finally, someone who realizes that there isn't a one-size fits all "ism"! I don't think I agreed with Bessey on every point, but as she says in the subtitle, it's "an invitation to revisit the Bible's view on women."

An *invitation* (not an angry demand) to develop your own opinions, to do your own homework. Bessey isn't your stereotypical feminist writer...she's a "mum" to kids who loves staying home and doing what mums do. She is pro-family, she is grateful to the men in her life who do their job well, she is tenderhearted and understanding. This book might look bold with the bright yellow cover and provocative title, and it is bold! But it's also gentle. It's also genuine.

Really loved this book. Will return to my highlights in it again.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 2014
I was disappointed because I was expecting this to be expository, and was hoping for some new scriptural insights about how Christ displayed feminism in his words and actions. It turned out not to be that at all - the only parts that were intellectually enlightening were quotes from Rachel Held Evans' blog, which were not new to me. The remainder of the book is the author's personal ramble about her family life. To some extent, it seems like she is trying to justify her self-identification as a feminist with her decision to be a stay-home mom (I am not saying that you can't be both, but that she sounds defensive). Also, the author expresses her faith in very emotional terms. For these reasons, I personally don't identify and empathize with the author and the sentiments expressed in the book.
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