In which I review “Jesus Feminist”: part II

I couldn’t narrow my thoughts about this book to one blog post, so this is second of a two-part review of “Jesus Feminist” by Sara Bessey.

One of the great things about running a blog is that I get to declare decisions that I would have made, even though I am in no position to be making those decisions. And so, in reading some other reviews of Jesus Feminist I found that there were a lot of people writing about what the book could have been. Even though the writer makes clear that she hadn’t set out to write a highly academic piece, and that she probably isn’t the person to write that kind of book anyway, a number of people still would like to read/critique the more academic treatment.

Now, if I was the editor, and someone came to me with a proposal for a book called Jesus Feminist, I would have something else in mind. Technically I do run a publishing company. Sure it only has one author so far (me), and zero sales, but the concept isn’t entirely absurd. From time to time, I read about some crisis that has the feminist community up in arms, and it strikes me that Christians are one group of people that should agree with them. I don’t just mean one quadrant within the church, I mean everyone from the left-leaning, intolerance-hating, peace advocating Christians to the right-leaning, God and country, literal reading (except for gluttony and loving enemies) believers. I would love it if someone would take the overlapping areas of agreement and flesh them out, or maybe just bring them to public attention.

If it were up to me, I would love it if this was was a book that tackles a number of pressing feminist issues and devotes a chapter to explaining why Christians and feminists already do agree in potentially very constructive ways on each particular issue. Maybe this could be the sequel, we could call it, “Jesus and Feminism: why can’t we be friends?”

At the very least #JesusFeminist could be the hashtag that people use when they tweet about apparent agreement between Christian belief and Feminism. Let me give a few examples of what that might look like.

One issue that feminists often complain about is the double standard in society that men are often lauded for the sexual promiscuity and called studs, while women are derided for the same behaviour and called sluts.  With this general principle, the church should whole-heartedly agree.  Of course feminists would like to advocate a woman’s right to choose her own sexual behaviour without social consequence, and while many in the church would disagree with that interpretation, I think there is still room for us to tweet our agreement.

“There is no double standard in the Kingdom. Formerly promiscuous men and women both welcome. #JesusFeminist”

“The grace of God is so great, even studs can be forgiven. #JesusFeminist”

“For it is by grace that we are saved, through faith, lest no stud may boast. #JesusFeminist”

Another issue that flairs up with the occasional mispoken word from police men and government figures that suggest a woman invites/deserves to be sexually assaulted because of how she dresses. While we shouldn’t expect to see the church defend a woman’s right to dress however she wants, we should expect them to hold the men involved accountable for their actions.

“God will not tempt you beyond what you can bear, and neither will scantily clad women. #JesusFeminist”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘She was asking for it,’ but I say you have already committed adultery in your heart. #JesusFeminist”

“It isn’t unloving to say men are accountable for their own actions, it’s unloving not to say it. #JesusFeminist”

Finally, one issue that won’t go away in both the church and in feminist debates. Studies have shown over and over again that women get paid less than men for doing the same work.  While the gap seems to be closing, many still hold this up as a fundamental justice issue.  The church has largely been percieved to be unsympathetic in this cause, partly because the loudest voices within the church expect women to be content to be unpaid home makers.  Still, there should be room for agreement here.

“Please, pay our women more, so they can tithe more. Sincerely, – The Church. #JesusFeminist”

“There is pay equality in heaven. Equal jewels for equal service. #JesusFeminist”

“Work like Ruth, remmunerate like Boaz. #JesusFeminist”

Sure it’s just a collection of tweets right now, but it wouldn’t be the first time that a twitter account or hashtag resulted in a book contract or sitcom.

I guess neither of these posts constitutes an actual review, but this was my take on what it could have been.

In which I review “Jesus Feminist” : Part I


I couldn’t narrow my thoughts about this book to one blog post, so this is first of a two-part review of “Jesus Feminist” by Sara Bessey.

Sarah Bessey is someone that I follow with a great deal of interest, for a variety of reasons. First, she embodies a lot of the ways I see myself. She is Canadian, and we need more writers who spell colour with a ‘u’. She’s also a parent to kids the same age as mine. If they ever meet as adults, I’d like to think their conversation would go something like this: “Your parents over-shared about you online as kid? Mine too.” She not only enjoys telling stories, but also seems to write as though she believes that telling the story well is at least as important as staying within the bounds of orthodoxy while you tell it.  So, while she recognizes the pitfalls of the label, there might be some days when she would identify herself as an evangelical Christian.

There are also ways I wish I could be more like her. She tells stories well and approaches complex subjects simplicity, graciousness and humour. She’s a great writer, she’s such a great writer that she has parlayed a blog into a book contract, and that book is what I’m reviewing now.

Not to be entirely outdone, I have managed to parlay a significantly less successful blog into a self-published book. This also means that I am open to learning ideas from other authors about book promotion, and the grass roots promotion of this book was brilliant. She invited her readers to take pictures of themselves, holding up signs that read “I’m a … and I’m a Jesus Feminist.” It demonstrated popularity, it communicated accessibility, and it was fun. I had even envisioned what mine would look like; me holding a piece of paper that read, “I’m a Mennonite pastor and ..” while standing in front of my church sign that read “I’m a Jesus Feminist.”

I had to hesitate though, as I wondered about the accuracy of that statement. Am I a Jesus Feminist?

In many ways, the answer would be yes. Do I agree with the tagline on the cover, “God’s radical notion that women are people too”? Of course. Do I believe that women are equal to men in the eyes of God? Yes. Do I believe that women should be equal to men in the eyes of the law, and therefore be entitled to equal pay for equal work, and full voting, driving and legal protection rights? Do I want my wife and two daughters to live in a world where their merit is evaluated independent of their gender? Yes. In fact, I’m sure that I would meet most of the academic criteria to classify myself as a feminist.

I recognize too that many people will use a different definition for feminism, that include things that I am not comfortable with. I recognize too that there are a variety of things that empowered women feel entitled to do, and I unapologetically don’t think that those things are in their best interests. So, using that rationale, there will be people on both sides of the feminist fence that would argue the label doesn’t fit me.

Now, if I left that message on the sign for any length of time, I might turn some heads, I might help Ms. Bessey sell a few more books, and I might even generate some healthy conversation around God’s view of women etc. I also know a long list of people who would want to offer me a corrective semantic argument by explaining to me the evils of feminism, and in various theological circles I would be branded accordingly. But as inconvenient as they might be, I don’t fear the ghosts of feminist present or future.

Most of all, I fear the ghost of mysogyny past. At various times, many of us will take the path of least resistance, whether or not we are aware of the consequences. For the better part of my youth, the short cut to an easy laugh, social acceptance and evangelical orthodoxy was to oppose feminism, and I recognize now that in the process, I hurt some people. In the process, I propped up systems and institutions that under-valued and devalued some of the exact same people it was supposed to be protecting and upholding.

So, am I a feminist? Don’t ask me. Maybe ask my wife. Maybe ask my daughters in their first year of university.  Better yet, wait until my new, less automatic view of women produces more good than my old view caused harm, but by then, the answer to your question will be obvious.

Playmobil Advent – Day Twenty-three

Today’s Santa Claus comes from kit #4889 and can be viewed/ordered here.

Some would argue that Santa Claus doesn’t belong with the Nativity set. I read a valid point this week that if we put Santa and baby Jesus side by side as equally worthwhile symbols of Christmas, then when children grow older and realize that Santa doesn’t exist, they will assume the same is true of Jesus. I would also argue that Santa doesn’t need to be part of our religious rituals, but I felt that with this set, I could put Santa and St. Nicholas side by side and use them to paint a fair picture of where the story of Santa comes from. Santa exists because of Jesus. The original gift-giving that inspired today’s frenzy was initiated by a man motivated by Jesus’ teachings.

Day 23 – Malachi 3: 1-6 (TNIV)
1 “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.
2 But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. 3 He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, 4 and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years. 5 “So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty.
6 “I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.

Playmobil Advent – Day Twenty-two

Today’s lantern is from Playmobil kit #4884 and can be viewed/ordered here.

On the second day of reading about Jesus as the light come into the world, we get the only electric piece in the set, a cute little lantern with an auto shut-off. The light even flickers like a lamp would.

Day 22 – John 1: 9-18 (TNIV)

9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
15 (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

Playmobil Advent – Day Twenty-One

Today’s wise man is part of Playmobil set #4886 and can be viewed/ordered here.

Finally, all three wise men are present. Of course we set them up for the time when they realize that there is no mention anywhere of specifically how many were in the party of the Magi, but each king brings a different gift, which sets the scene up nicely. Already the various pieces of the camel’s heavy load have been spread around.  The coins in the chest of gold have been spread around and the ropes around the camel itself need to be re-wrapped a number of times.  As the platter fills though, the approaching Christmas celebration becomes easier to grasp.

Day 21 – John 1: 1-8

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

Playmobil Advent – Day Twenty

Today’s wise man is part of Playmobil set #4886 and can be viewed/ordered here.

Today we met a second wise man, with a second different kind of gift, and representing a second different race.

Day 20 – Matthew 2: 7-12 (TNIV)

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” 9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Playmobil Advent – Day Nineteen

Today’s wise man and fully stocked camel are part of Playmobil set #4886 and can be viewed/ordered here.

Playmobil has once again demonstrated their theological astuteness by making the wise men a separate package.  It might even be smart of me to not bring them out until after Christmas or even to hold off on buying the package until a few years after starting the tradition.  The Magi are still a part of the story, and now that Jesus is here, the celebration continues.  The first of three racially distinct wise men comes with a fully loaded camel, included a chest full of gold coins.  We won’t tell the kids that there are loose coins in that chest, because if we did, they wouldn’t survive Advent.

Day 19 – Matthew 2: 1-6 (TNIV)

1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: 6 ” ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ “

Playmobil Advent – Day Eighteen

Yesterday’s second smaller angel is part of Playmobil set #4889 and can be viewed/ordered here.

Each angel in our set is assigned to a particular group of other characters.  The first large angel speaks to Mary and Joseph. The first small angel speaks to the shepherds and second angel speaks to the wise men who will arrive soon.

Day 18 – Isaiah 52: 7-10

7 How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
8 Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy.
When the Lord returns to Zion,     they will see it with their own eyes.
9 Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The Lord will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.

Playmobil Advent – Day Seventeen

Today’s two doves are from Playmobil kit #4884 and can be viewed/ordered here.

There were two doves in the pocket for today.  One of them is visible in the picture behind the smaller angel, and the other one fell down in between me setting it up and me taking the picture, and I didn’t notice. I don’t know if they were intended to be turtle doves, of they manufacturers had today’s reading in mind, but it was quite appropriate to be reading about doves, after Jesus was born and before the wise men arrive.

My daughter’s ginerbread house is also included in the photo.

Day 17 – Luke 2: 22-32

22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

Playmobil Advent – Day Sixteen

Today’s three sheep are from Playmobil kit #4884 and can be viewed/ordered here.

The list of animals is growing.  The shepherds would likely have left the sheep behind, but it makes for a nice scene.  Ruby was really excited to pull out the sheep from the calendar.  It’s fun watching her piece together the story, and the excitement when she knows where the pieces belong in the pciture is nice too.

Day 16 – Isaiah 40: 9-11

9 You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!”

10 See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and his arm rules for him.
See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.