In Which I Celebrate Jesus Feminism & Sarah Bessey {And A Mini-Interview}

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For most all of my life, I have been a Jesus Feminist.

 

Until Sarah Bessey recently claimed, championed and ‘coined’ the phrase , I had never given a name to this concept.  I have to say, I’m NOT the blogger whose good at writing posts about things like social justice, theological apologetics, or {God forbid} politics.   Granted, I have strong opinions on these subjects and love to read and learn from those who communicate well in these areas.

But me?  Well, let’s just say I tend to be the artsy-fartsy type {with an analytical bent, mind you} who wants to put all of us Feminists and Activists and Artists and Business-Folk and Moms into a big room where I can cook for you, and with bellies and hearts full, we ‘hug it out’.

I was raised by a strong Mom, and a loving Step-Dad.  In my house, ‘feminist’ was never an ugly, inappropriate or dirty word.  I always had the feeling my mom was one, though she didn’t use that terminology.  I saw both my Mom and my Step-Father supporting our family together.  I’ve always believed women are ‘equal’ to men.

I soon came into contact with more conservative views at my childhood Baptist church, then college Bible studies, and later on at big city megachurches and a Christian theatre that mixed ministry with big business.  I began to hear and experience so many stereotypes, misunderstandings and plum wack-adoo interpretations of the misunderstood ‘f’-word.

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…

 

 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…

 

I must say that my view, acceptance and support of feminism never suffered much, until, sadly enough, I became more involved in my evangelical faith.  Suddenly, I was learning things about concepts such as ‘submission’ ‘male headship’ and ‘Biblical womanhood’.  I began to question both the precepts I was raised with, and the new information I was being told I must swallow ‘if you want to be a real Christian in a serious relationship with God’.  {Yes, unfortunately, a Christian community fed  me that crazy and ridiculous line.}

God has a global dream for his daughters and his sons, and it is bigger than our narrow interpretations or small box constructions of “biblical manhood and womanhood” or feminism; its bigger than our frozen-in-time arguments of cultural biases, bigger than socioeconomics (or the lack thereof), bigger than marital status, bigger than our place, bigger than all of us–bigger than any one of us.

 

The beauty of this bigness is that it is small–down to each life.  God’s vision is a call to move forward into the future in the full operation of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control, with a fearlessness that could only come from him.

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Many a heated conversation, questioning thought and Jacob-sized-wrestling match took place with friends, faith community, and of course, God.  Without unpacking years of up and down church experience–let’s just say, I swung far to the right, then the left, and now have reached middle ground–a rooted place to land.

 I would say I’m in the center of where I know I’m supposed to be, in the fullness of relationship with God–fully human, fully feminine, and fully free.

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I think the family of God is big and diverse, beautiful and global.

 

Let’s agree, for just a little while anyway, that both sides are probably wrong and right in some ways.  I’m probably wrong, you’re probably wrong, and the opposite is true, because we still see through a glass, darkly.  I want to approach the mysteries of God and the unique experiences of humanity with wonder and humility and a listener’s heart.

On the one hand, Sarah’s book about being a feminist doesn’t reveal to me a lot of brand new truth.  I’ve always felt that personally, I reconcile my faith as a Christian, and my position as a feminist.    But when it comes to the heart and soul of Sarah’s written words–the important message God’s given her to tell is really so much bigger than just one story–its about all of us really.  

This book has given me so much hope and inspiration and a dose of courage to stand fully in my beliefs.

These words help me celebrate the beauty of how God has uniquely created me.   

This message of feminism mixed with the deeper message of Jesus–in this book, and in everyday real life–is revolutionary, brave, smart and desperately needed, especially in the Evangelical Christian church today.

I’ve never had the courage to shout my views about feminism from the pulpits or pews of my church.  Sarah’s words have spoken truth into my heart, and reminded me it’s not only ok to believe what I believe, it’s what Jesus Himself practiced, taught and lived out everyday.  

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I’m a Sarah too, and I’m a Jesus Feminist.

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Sarah Bessey: A Mini-Interview

Photo of Sarah Bessey by Tina Francis

I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Bessey earlier this year.  Along with her thoughtful and insightful wisdom, she answered a few of my questions about Jesus Feminist.

 

One of the things I’m looking forward to with your book is your wonderful writing style.  You describe it on your blog as “narrative theology”.  Can you talk more about this concept?

 

Sarah: Sure.  It’s just a made-up little phrase of mine–kind of like how Jesus Feminist started started out as a way for me to say, “Here’s the kind of feminist I am: a feminist because of Jesus!”.  I tell a lot of stories and I’ve come to recognize that I’m usually telling a bigger story about the God I worship, and the way I see the world.  So even if it’s a small few paragraphs of the narrative of my life, I’m writing theology because I’m writing about how I think and see and experience God in my life.  I believe in the power of story to disarm and create connections.

 

Can you talk about how got your publishing deal?

 

Sarah: It is a bit of a backward story.  (I wrote a bit about it in this post).  Basically, I did nothing right.  My path to publishing could pretty much be summed up entirely as an indicator of God’s sense of humour and/or sovereignty.  I gave up on being a writer in 2008, after an experience at a writer’s conference.  And it wasn’t until I gave up on my lifelong dream of being a “real writer” that I felt the freedom to finally, at last, WRITE.  So I wrote like crazy, without care of voice or platform or readers for years.  People started to show up to read my work, but I didn’t strategize or make a plan.  I wasn’t very intentional at all, I just kept showing up.  Even the writing gigs I have at Deeper Story [editor & contributor] and She Loves Magazine arose organically out of relationship, instead of a carefully crafted pitch.  I still can’t predict what makes one post go viral over another, but its happened a couple of times.

 

When editors asked me about writing a book, it quite terrified me at first, so I called a couple of friends of mine who are writers to figure out what to do next!  Then I signed with a literary agent, thanks to a friend’s good word on my behalf.  Then I wrote the [book] proposal which was about eighteen times more work than I expected.  We [then] sent it around throughout early 2012.  I ended up signing a two-book deal with Howard Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, which was a crazy thing to me.  Jesus Feminist is coming out this fall, and my next book [Currently titled Recovering Know-It-All:  How A Cynical Follower of Jesus Fell Back In Love With The Church] will be out the following year.  I still laugh hysterically over this because it’s just so weird and wonderful and utterly out of my control.

 

When did you begin writing your book?

 

Sarah: In December of 2011.

 

What is the main thing you want people to come away with who read Jesus Feminist?

 

Sarah: My greatest desire is for men and women to live loved and to walk in the freedom and wholeness that Christ lavishes upon us.

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Jesus loves me, and all of us, this I know.

 

I wrote this post to chime my voice in with other bloggers over at Sarah’s place for a Jesus Feminist Synchroblog – check it out! 

{all quotations in this post, unless otherwise specified, are both from the book, Jesus Feminist, and a personal interview with Sarah Bessey. Affiliate links used support this blog.}

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