In Which I’m a Jesus Feminist Too.

You have to own what you’re doing here. If you’re wanting to give people a new way to see this, then you have to give people a new way to see this. Don’t tuck it in…People get a book because they want to hear what this person has to say. So if this person turns all the knobs down to the left and sort of says, I don’t know, I just sort of have a couple of thoughts, that’s not interesting. –  Author Rob Bell

Author Sarah Bessey is interesting. And so is her little yellow book, Jesus Feminist, which dropped yesterday. The title alone promises her entree into hot water with just about everybody, but good for her. She did her homework, took the stage and turned her volume up.

Whether I agree with her is premature and frankly kind of irrelevant. Since when do we only read books we’re certain to agree with? Bessey’s moving the conversation in an interesting direction, much like Rob Bell did with Love Wins – the book that earned him the title “heretic.” So let ‘er rip Sarah, I’m already stomping my feet and cheering you on for saying things I think, but can’t yet muster. Things like this:

“We are among the disciples who are simply going outside, to freedom, together, intent on following Jesus; we love him so. We’re finding each other out here, and it’s beautiful and crazy and churchy and holy. We are simply getting on with it, with the work of justice and mercy, the glorious labor of reconciliation and redemption, the mess of friendship and community, the guts of walking on the water, and the big-sky dreaming of the Kingdom of God.

So if that’s what it means to be a Jesus Feminist, count me in.

Because at this very moment, more women are exploited and enslaved on this planet than any other time in human history. One in three American girls is sexually abused before age 18. The average age of a child sex slave worldwide is 11. Why? Because among a thousand other poverty and gender-based reasons, there is demand, or to put it bluntly, there are lots of men who like having sex with women and children against their will.

And THAT is an abomination.

So, if ever there was a time for educated, resourced, liberated women of God to stand up and bang the drum for the lives of their sisters who can’t, this is it. Because if not us, who?

Can you tell God’s been dealing with me about something lately? Open your mouth Erin. Open it.

Open your mouth for the dumb [those unable to speak for themselves], for the rights of all who are left desolate and defenseless; Open your mouth, judge righteously, and administer justice for the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8-9

When I was just a feminist – no modifier – I would have considered the phrase “Jesus Feminist” an oxymoron and maybe even rattled off some caustic remark. But I didn’t know then how much Jesus loves women, how he defended them, listened to them, corrected them and healed them. I didn’t know everything he did was a model for the rest of us, including occasional, chair-tossing, whip-cracking outrage. Don’t forget, Jesus didn’t just carry baby lambs around, he flipped over tables in the Temple too.

And for all the things I’ve heard about women and the church, I’ve heard the following point made exactly once. It was said by a powerful woman of God, who 30 years ago was kicked out of her church for preaching the gospel.

Q: According to the Gospel of John, who was the first person to see the resurrected Christ?

A: Mary Magdalene.

Q: What happened next?

A: Jesus said to her, Do not cling to Me [do not hold Me], for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to My brethren and tell them, I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God. Away came Mary Magdalene, bringing the disciples news (word) that she had seen the Lord and that He had said these things to her. John 20:17-18 (emphasis mine.)

Q: Do you know what that makes Mary Magdalene?

A: The world’s very first gospel preacher.

Pause and calmly consider that. I’ll wait.

Maybe my volume’s up a little high for you today. Believe me when I say, I don’t mean to raise your blood pressure with theological debates. I’ve wasted enough time arguing, so you’re welcome to disagree with me. As Bessey says, there’s room for all of us.

I’m just saying there’s work to be done in this beautiful disaster and we need all hands on deck. Let’s not tie up half of them, especially those who can galvanize and lead others into battles that desperately need fighting.

**As ever, the views expressed herein are my own and not that of my employer.

Mary Magdalene & Lloyd Dobler

A reporter once asked Mother Teresa why so many people find it difficult to accept the presence of Christ.

“It’s because you don’t know him,” she replied.

Mary Magdalene knew Jesus, and she was a demon-possessed prostitute when she met him. In first century Jewish culture, it was inconceivable that a celebrated Rabbi, like Jesus, would talk to any woman, much less one like her. Jesus didn’t just talk to Mary, and drive the demons from her, and restore her dignity, he loved her with a Lloyd Dobler standing under your window with a boom box kind of love – times a million. Not surprisingly, Mary followed him everywhere.

Mary was sobbing outside Jesus’ tomb on the third morning after he was tortured to death. There, Jesus appeared to her but she thought he was the gardener. He asked her why she was crying.

Sir if you carried Him away from here, tell me where you have put Him and I will take him away.

Jesus said to her, Mary!

Turning around she said to Him in Hebrew, Rabboni!

Can you hear the exclamation points? I didn’t add them, they’re in the text John 20:16. It’s hard to grasp the desolation Mary must have felt as the man she believed was not just her Messiah but The Messiah, was murdered. I can hear her astonishment and terror and joy in that one word, which means Beloved Teacher or Master.

Jesus told Mary not to cling to Him but to go tell the disciples he was ascending to his Father. Mary ran with the good news. Do you know what that makes Mary Magdalene, besides a formerly demon-possessed prostitute?

The world’s very first evangelist.

People love to argue about that of course, especially given what the Apostle Paul later said about women speaking in church, but we’ll talk about that later. Promise.

The point is Jesus treasures women – especially the marginalized, widowed, sick, poor, foreign, afflicted and wayward ones. He entreats us to appreciate how humiliating it is to stand under our windows with a boom box begging us to know Him and love Him back.