“Jesus Feminist” seeks to liberate women from sexism within the church

by Kaitlyn Schwenk staff writer

Hailed on the back cover as “a clarion freedom call for all who want to realize their giftedness and potential in the kingdom of God,” Sarah Bessey’s November-released “Jesus Feminist” is part memoir, part critique on the calling and place for Christian women today.

Bessey, a popular blogger and writer, invites women and men alike to hear her personal story of confusion, loss, redemption and recognition in the family of God. Her website states, “Bessey engages critically with Scripture and church practices that are often used against full equality [of women].” She continues, urging the church, “Stop asking ‘man or woman’ as a qualification for ministry and … start helping everyone find freedom in the fullness, hope, glory and work of Christ.”

One of the first things Bessey does in her book is to explain her use of the term “feminist” as simply viewing women “as people too.” She then communicates her purpose: not to be another voice in the debate of females and ministry but simply to free women to understand their liberty and importance to God’s kingdom purpose.

Throughout its twelve chapters, “Jesus Feminist” touches on topics familiar to many Christians today: interpreting the Word, submission in marriage, women in the Bible, women’s ministry and the God-given commission to share his love and Gospel to the broken world.

Despite an appealing, earnest and intimate writing style, the author tends to weave back and forth between solid doctrine and statements that appear questionable, especially regarding the topic of submission in marriage. Bessey’s point of view is confusing at times, for she writes wise, acceptable words on one page but then meanders into less biblically sound ideas on the next (though she disclaims up front that her book is exploration of her thoughts, sometimes imperfect and unfinished).

Always, an emphasis is placed on Bessey’s “undefinable” position and how she disregards labels. And yet, she can’t help but inject fragments of one-sided bias into her narrative. Throughout the book, she also subtly pushes the concept that women everywhere are being oppressed and are not being given enough voice or permission to use their God-given gifts. She calls for women to pursue unity, equality and justice wherever the Lord has placed them — good things, and necessary encouragements for all who follow Jesus.

However, when aligned with Scripture, many of her words appear slightly skewed. Yes, women need to understand their calling in Christ, but I believe that does not facilitate a
mindset of blurred gender lines. She stresses equality over and over again, but it seems to her that manifests itself in throwing out “patriarchy.”

Although containing much encouragement and thoughtful commentary, this book must be read with discernment. Bessey’s “radical” notion that women are people, too, may be met with nods of staunch agreement on the surface, but her underlying implications and motives need to be looked at with careful introspection harnessed to God’s Word.

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