Monday, November 11, 2013

Jesus Feminist: A Book Review

I have a friend who is a published author. She has a blog that is very popular (with my wife for instance) and can turn a darned lovely phrase whenever she has a mind. And she's a really nice person and I do not scruple to use the term "nice." You'll get the idea of what she's like when I say that I don't use the word "nice" in any shallow sense.

So I'm showing a fair amount of temerity to take on the task of reviewing the book that has propelled her onto, if not a global stage, then at least onto an off-and-on extended world tour. What if I don't actually like it? What if I violently disagree with it? What would my wife say? My objectivity and social life might come into conflict.

Well, they haven't. I haven't really anything negative to say about the book, try as I might. So I feel quite safe about saying the following.

The first thing that struck me about the book was its tone. It's a very gentle volume. To be sure there are times when Sarah is presenting harsh realities, but the style never varies from the warmth she establishes at the beginning by inviting the reader to metaphorically sit by her at a beach bonfire. It's a book meant to inspire, not argue, to encourage, not score points. The simple call at the beginning to join her at the campfire out of the place of warring issues just by itself speaks eloquently to the futile obsession we have about such things as doctrine or issues.

The name of the book Jesus Feminist, really only applies to part of the book. A lot of it could just as well be called Jesus: Friend of the Downtrodden and Jesus: The One Who Helps You Live. I, whom you'd think, as a man, should be reading this book from the outside, frequently was caught off guard by the simple wisdom and learned a thing or two, as the saying goes. Ultimately Sarah is doing her best to inspire women to come and be equal partners with men. But in the mean time, she's dishing up a lot of encouragement to any else who would want to join her at her bonfire.

There are two or three chapters of fairly low-key case stating -- something for the proof texters to chew on. But this is not really why to read this book. You are probably already convinced of one side or the other and you will either find yourself in the choir being preached to, or in the crowd yelling "Crucify!"

Some of the book I skimmed for the opposite reason that I skim most Christian books. Most of the time I will skim a book when the presentation at the beginning is so bad that I view the unfortunate collection of paper in my hands as a complete write-off -- but for whatever reason I still have to finish it. Sarah's book got skimmed because I could see where she was going and needed no further elucidation. She already had me singing along pages ago.

Sarah's feminism should scare no one. This is not a placard waving manifesto. The title might be misleading to some on that point. This is an invitation to live and not even waste a "damn" on the torpedoes. More could be said. But this for sure. Good on you, Sarah!

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