Book Club: Jesus Feminist

This is where a blog book club fails: right here, where I'm sitting alone in my office/diaper changing station room/out of season clothes storage room.  Because what I really want is a nice glass of wine, a plate piled with appetizers, and all of you, gathered together for conversation about this book.  Because. Really.  Did you read it?  There is so much I want to talk about!

I love Sarah Bessey's writing.  She approaches what is, for some, a controversial topic with grace and beauty, inviting people into a conversation, rather than blasting them with arguments.  She tells her story, and the stories of many women, weaving scripture and theology through it like a colourful tapestry.  I closed the book feeling inspired, wanting all the more to "Proclaim the Kingdom of God with [my] hands and [my] feet and [my] voice to every soul in [my] care and influence" (195).

When I introduced the Ponderings Book Club, I listed four questions I'd like us to reflect on.  So, here we go.  If you are willing, I'd love to hear your answers to any or all of these questions (or just your thoughts in general) in the comments.

1. What is one of your favourite sentences and why?

I have had trouble choosing just one, but I was struck by these lines in the introduction: "Let's sit here in hard truth and easy beauty, in the tensions of the Now and the Not Yet of the Kingdom of God, and let us discover how we can disagree beautifully" (2).  It is easy to argue about theology, to believe that we are right, while everyone else is wrong. It's easy to draw lines, to judge others who don't see things the way we do.  It is much harder to disagree beautifully.  It is much harder to care for someone with whom we don't agree, and to refuse to let our differences divide us. It is easy to win an argument.  It is not as easy to dialogue and disagree and still journey together.  I have much to learn about this!

2. What one new thought or insight did you gain?

Because I'm a woman and an ordained pastor, you can probably guess that I have long believed that women are called to leadership within the church.  So the new insights I gleaned have more to do with how being a Jesus feminist gets lived out.  (If you haven't read the book yet, she explains that "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" (13-14). 

Reading this book along with the book Half the Sky was an eye-openning reminder of the vast gender gaps that exist in our world.  It's so much bigger than the shameful wage differences between men and women in North America.  The challenges that women face to simply survive in many parts of the world--challenges that arise because they are women--should make all of us who follow Jesus want to take action.  The stories are heartbreaking and overwhelming, and so far from what God's Kingdom is all about.  I love this line: 

As long as I know how important maternal health is to Haiti’s future, and as long as I know that women are being abused and raped, as long as I know girls are being denied life itself through selective abortion, abandonment, and abuse, as long as brave little girls in Afghanistan are attacked with acid for the crime of going to school, and until being a Christian is synonymous with doing something about these things, you can also call me a feminist.
— page 171-172

3. What do you want to explore in more depth or have further conversation about?

If we were gathered in my living room, or, even better, around my fire pit under the stars, I'd want us to talk about what next? How will we respond to the disparity between the genders in many parts of the world?  What will I do to make a difference?  At this point, I don't know.  But I don't want to leave it there.

4. Would you recommend this book to others? If so, what type of person do you think would enjoy it?

Yes!  Please, read it!  I would especially recommend it to people who have grown up being taught very specific gender roles in the church, yet are curious if there might be a different way.

Okay, your turn!  What did you think of the book?

And...next month's book: cold tangerines by Shauna Niequist