I can’t write about Jesus Feminist without writing first about what it is and feels like to be a charismatic and thus what it is and feels like to read the words of a charismatic such as Sarah Bessey. Any definition of a charismatic character will describe charm and draw and attraction. The charismatic Christian movement shares similar characteristics of charm, draw and attraction. My experience growing up in this church background introduced me to a blend of what was a church and community experience as well as the parts of my character which were charismatic. This led me for a long time, and probably still today to understand the word charismatic and its deeply felt experiences with a sense of energy, life, passion and emotion.
Sarah Bessey is a charismatic in both character and worship tradition. She’s a blogger that I discovered a couple of years ago and now I probably read her nearly every week. Her blog started me on blogs in general and introduced me to a community of people writing, thinking, photographing and creating discourses that I didn’t know were out there. As with every blog not every topic or post is right up my street – but I keep reading because I think I like her and every now and again she writes something that is so great, she’s a talented word smith and a visionary. My favourite Bessey pieces are listed below (in the order that I found them).
Jesus Feminist is her first book and it is a wide reaching, thoughtful, well researched and careful vision of gender theology, value and justice. It is kindly written, it is considerate, it is self aware. It is, as Sarah Bessey herself describes a ‘love letter’ both to the church but also about Jesus. Jesus Feminist is story first and foremost and within that story Bessey reveals the glimpses and visions she has of the gospel and the kingdom that she hopes and prays for. This is not a technical book, it is not a robust theological or biblical exploration of gender in scripture or church tradition. It is the story of a woman who discovered and is discovering love and her desire and faith to see that discovery in the lives of all God’s people. I really liked the tone and pitch of the book, it is gentle and tentative in its request to see if readers may journey with her, Sarah Bessey’s tone is evocative, moving and prophetic.
There isn’t really any new reasoning or new angles in the book but I think Bessey is really clear that she’s not trying to contribute new ideas but to inspire fresh vision and love. She’s an important voice as an author with her background, belonginging and influence. In publishing a book that talks about Jesus and Feminism she is leading and marking a really significant moment and shift in the evangelical (but not exclusively) Christian church history. If I’m honest, I’m not sure how comfortable I am with the term Jesus Feminist, I’ve read more compelling books that have rocked my world about gender, justice and theology and I personally can’t fully get behind the Christian certainty in her story. I don’t think this book is for me in my place, I think it’s for the evangelical church in the broadest sense and it’s for the people who are saying ‘I’m a Christian and I’m not sure about feminism but I trust Sarah Bessey’. If this book starts conversations, draws people to consider gender in new ways, opens up the possibilities for change and for other perspectives it is doing something remarkable in a tradition that for too long has been either too prescriptive and/or too silent about the differences and most often discrimination between men and women in the church.
Am I moving with God to rescue, restore and redeem humanity? Or am I clinging fast, eyeteeth clenched to an imperfect world’s habits and cultural customs, in full knowledge of injustice or imperfections, living at odds with God’s dream for his daughters and sons? He calls his people farther and farther out into the fresh air for the wild and holy work of restoration, renewal and redemption. – Page 173
I care about this book and the impact and influence it is and will have because I care about the communities I have been a part of, the faith I am growing in and through, the that God I trust is there and the Christ whom I think is profound. I care about sexism, homophobia and transphobia, discrimination, oppression, poverty, violence, sexualisation, normative discourses, fear and alienation. I think Sarah Bessey’s vision starts to awaken hope and emotion, emotions that have been buried too long under roles and hermeneutics and tradition. This book moved me and excited me because of where it will go and what it could do, it’s not completely about the words on the page it’s about what you imagine and what you feel when you’re reading. It’s about what’s happening when you’re holding your breath as you turn a page, blinking back some tears. That’s why it’s charismatic and it’s exactly what the beautiful charisma, charm and worshipful attitude of Sarah Bessey will have been praying for as she pored over her vision and prophecy.
What she says isn’t new but it’s a revisitation, it’s a commissioning it’s a kingdom picture and that’s all Bessey ever says that it is.
My favourite Bessey pieces: