Sarah Bessey wrote an amazing book called Jesus Feminist that I devoured like candy. In her book, she shares her insights on the role of women in the church. As a new Christian and as someone still learning the “language”, I was never exposed to the varying opinions on what roles of women in the church should be so I was surprised by the way this issue divides people. As Sarah says in Jesus Feminist, “At the core, feminism simply consists of the radical notion that women are people, too. Feminism only means we champion the dignity, rights, responsibilities, and glories of women as equal in importance – not greater than, but certainly no less than – to those of men, and we refuse discrimination against women.”
Here’s my perspective as a new believer.
I am a Jesus feminist.
I became a Christian a year and 8 months ago and it was a big deal for me because it went against everything I thought I believed about God. While I wasn’t raised with any intentional spiritual or religious influence, I always felt like God existed and as I struggled to make sense of the challenges I faced in life, I frequently sensed God was there. But I thought that believing in Jesus was something you had to be born into. I remember thinking as a child that since I wasn’t baptized as a baby I couldn’t be a Christian. I had a lot of misguided beliefs like that but God wasn’t deterred by my limited understanding. When I was bullied, abused and broken, He kept the light on in my heart knowing that I’d someday be guided toward it.
I’m a feminist because of my stepmom. She came into my life when I was 10 and she was 24. I wanted to be her so badly that I stole her glasses and wore them to school so that I could look like her. She showed me that a woman could be strong, intelligent, feminine and opinionated and she wasn’t afraid to use her voice. When her company went on strike, she took me with her to the picket line and while it probably wasn’t the best place for a kid, I felt empowered by watching others stand up for their rights. When I was a young woman, she started following Jesus. It was confusing to me. It shook things up in our family and even though I could see positive changes with her and my dad, I felt excluded and even betrayed. At the time, I was all but drowning in my own path and was nowhere near able to comprehend hers.
I’m a follower of Jesus because the light that God turned on in my heart long ago began to burn brighter. I was 41 years old before I really started to show up in my life. I had always planned to deny myself the gift of having children and now I had two. I thought that I needed to drink every day to ease the constant anxiety of living and I made the choice to stop. I prayed relentlessly for guidance and God kept saying, “Jesus.” I didn’t want to listen. I truly believed that embracing Christianity would only serve to limit my view of the world. I’d had enough experiences with Christians to think they were closed minded, judgmental, anti-gay, anti-woman and anti-freedom. My biases ran as deep as my fears but as I became more authentic in my own life, I was drawn to people who were humble, at ease with themselves, giving and curious. It surprised me that most of the people showing up in my life happened to be Christians. Despite my resistance, I chose to trust where God was leading me. I was in the shower one day when it hit me. Dive in. Trust. Don’t be afraid of the water. It was my baptism.
I’m a Jesus feminist because when I let Jesus into my heart, He showed me that the only thing limiting my view of the world was me. My faith has expanded my capacity to love and to accept and forgive others, especially myself. I haven’t chosen a religion as much as I’ve grown in my ability to understand God. My core values have stayed the same so when it came time for me to choose a church, I chose one where the primary focus is advocating for the poor, immigrants and others on the fringe of society and where the minister happens to be a gay woman. To me, being a Jesus feminist means that I have a God-given duty to use my experiences, my struggles and my voice to lift others up with me. It’s going to look different for everyone because God has given us different tools, gifts and experiences. And he expects us to use them.