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.

Let Your Freak Flag Fly.

Yesterday, I received a rejection letter from a company to which I have applied for five different jobs.

It was a Christian company.

The first time they didn’t hire me, I wondered if they found me online and didn’t like my “brand” of Christianity, because they never even called me back. In the weeks that followed, I found myself pulling punches, editing myself into something they might like better, just in case they looked again. Reading those drafts, which thank God I didn’t post, is painful. My voice is fractured, boring and meanders all over the place.

I made myself into someone I’m not, so someone I don’t know would like me. Guess what? They still don’t.

Maybe it’s just the economy, but the point remains: I am useless to the world if I am lying about myself. I have learned from reading The Bible that I shouldn’t be domineering or offensive or aggressive, but do have to actually like who I am and not apologize for it – a topic I mulled over in yesterday’s post.

So I’m a Democrat and a yoga-teacher, and a thinker and a skeptic, who’s in love with organic farming, food politics and Jesus; and I don’t think those things are mutually exclusive. Watering any of that down to be palatable to everybody, just makes me bland, and that, I think, is an insult to God.

Photo: TPSDave

Photo: TPSDave

That’s the problem I had with Christianity forever. I believed I had to be a pious, churchy version of myself, and hose down the fiery parts that actually fuel the things I care about, like girls from poor families
sold by the busload into sexual slavery. Lots of religious folk trade in such phoniness, but Jesus does not.

In the gospels, Jesus prizes poor, marginalized women and will happily put my energy into their service, if I allow him to direct it; and surely the mind behind the aurora borealis can be trusted to handle that.

I believe there’s a juicy sweet spot in America populated by tons of people who would delight in the gospel if they actually could hear it, but if what they hear first is hell, the Law and a six-day creation, they’ll keep rejecting all of it and never know what good news the gospel really is.

So today, I’m changing the tagline on this blog to: Going to the Sea: A Sassy Democrat’s Guide to Faith.

This is who I am. Who are you?

Can’t We At Least Talk About It?

English: Rob Bell at the 2011 Time 100 gala.

Author Rob Bell is blowing my mind right now.

Bell is a speaker/creator/musician/entrepreneur/filmmaker and former pastor of one of the fastest growing churches in America. In 2011, he was named to Time Magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. That same year he landed on the magazine’s cover for setting a doctrinal wildfire in the evangelical community.

In his book Love Wins, Bell challenged the orthodox Christian view of hell and suggested Christians should leave room for uncertainty on the matter.

Big trouble. Sides were chosen, tweets were tweeted, the word heresy was affixed, but in our frantic, digital infotainment age where everybody knows everything with 100% certainty at all times, I thought it was refreshing to hear somebody say, maybe we don’t know for sure, let’s talk about it.

After all, what good is doctrinal certainty if it drives people away from the gospel?

I don’t have an opinion on Love Wins because I read only half of it. I put it down because I couldn’t handle it. It was confronting my early, fragile beliefs about Christianity and when things are fragile you tend to build walls around them.

Bell calls that bricklaying in his first book, Velvet Elvis and he advises against it.

“Each of the core doctrines…is like an individual brick that stacks on top of the others. If you pull one out, the whole wall starts to crumble. It appears quite strong and rigid, but if you begin to rethink or discuss even one brick, the whole thing is in danger.”

Alternatively, Bell says, knowing God should be like jumping on a trampoline – a giddy and consuming experience made possible by the springs holding the mat and frame together. The springs, Bell says, are the doctrines of Christian faith that give structure to the experience, and he believes they are designed to flex. He reminds us that The Bible has already withstood centuries of communal scrutiny and debate, and in fact, that’s how early Jews and Christians settled their issues of faith –  through study, reflection and discussion within their communities.

My understanding of God is springier now than it was a year ago when I put Love Wins down. I’m more comfortable hearing opinions that mess with mine, because I’m bouncing more than I’m hiding behind bricks. The most interesting Christians I know are doing the same thing.

Even if I wind up disagreeing with Bell’s opinions, I admire his willingness to wrestle with scripture and challenge conventional wisdom in a public forum. That’s brave, especially given America’s touchy religious climate. Love him or hate him, Bell is a seeker who isn’t censoring his findings in order that people like him.

“The ultimate display of our respect for the sacred words of God,” Bell says, “is that we are willing to wade in and struggle with the text – the good parts, the hard-to-understand parts, the parts we wish weren’t there.”