When I was younger, I rationalized my opposition to women in ministry by claiming I’d never heard a female pastor who could give a decent sermon. (At the time I attended a Christian college that periodically invited female pastors to speak in chapel.)
It was circular, self-serving logic, I know. I was hardly the most objective judge, what with my my hostility to the very notion of women as pastors. (And the fact that I was 20 and didn’t know anything about anything.)
I’m glad I got over myself — not least because otherwise, I would have never learned to hear some of the prophetic voices God has raised up, who just so happen to have two x chromosomes.
After reading my advance copy of Jesus Feminist, all I can say is Sarah Bessey is one of those prophetic voices. She describes herself as a “happy clappy kind of Christian… who speaks in tongues and lays on hands.” (In other words, we represent different traditions.)
And dang she can preach.
Jesus Feminist doesn’t fixate on everything that’s wrong with patriarchy. While Sarah suggests that patriarchy doesn’t represent God’s dream for humanity (and I agree), she’d rather spend her time imagining another way, discovering what is God’s dream for humanity, and inviting us all to explore it together.
Sarah celebrates women past and present who’ve demonstrated their full membership in God’s kingdom in myriad ways — some ordinary, some extraordinary. She picks up the thread of redemptive movement in the Scriptures and follows it all the way through to our world today. (Because Sarah is someone who believes that “God is still speaking, still moving, still alive, still loving.”)
In the Scriptures, there are at least two kinds of prophetic voices. One is the voice of righteous indignation, raging against the machinations of idolatry and injustice. Then there’s the gentle voice of hope, whispering (or singing) to us about a new reality, a new way of being human, a better way to live.
Sarah is that second kind of prophet. While some of us want to knock tables over, Jesus Feminist reminds us that sometimes it’s better to sit at them, armed with nothing more than a cup of tea (or something stronger), and see if together we can imagine a better way to live, to celebrate each other, and embrace one another as equal partners in God’s kingdom.
There are plenty of writers who can land a rhetorical punch, who can hitch patriarchy to the whipping post and let loose.
Sarah has done something even better with her book: she’s elevated the conversation.