Why I’m a Jesus feminist (and I haven’t even read the book yet)


When I was growing up, feminism was a dirty word.

Actually, we didn’t call them feminists. We called them feminazis.

Militant, man-hating, bra-burning radicals who taught literature classes and took orders from Hillary Clinton and outsourced their childrearing duties (assuming they had any children) to some Orwellian, quasi-socialist village.

Then I became a feminist myself.

It started in college, when a friend in my political philosophy class took time to explain to me what feminism actually was. Turns out it didn’t have anything to do with the caricature in my head. (Heck, even the whole bra-burning thing proved to be an urban legend.)

It continued in seminary, when I learned that the arguments used to rationalize the subjugation of women are the same ones that were used to justify slavery a century and a half ago.

Then I fell in love… and found that mutuality offers a better starting point for a happy marriage than hierarchy. (Eleven years and counting.)

Then I became a father… and realized I couldn’t settle for anything less than my daughter’s full equality — in her family, in her church, and in her world.

41yNlmBxf0L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I came to believe that gender equality is rooted in creation itself, reaffirmed and renewed in the person and work of Jesus. That’s why I can’t wait for Sarah Besey’s new book… and that’s why I embrace the label Jesus feminist.

I’m a Jesus feminist because I believe my daughter is fully and gloriously human, that she and I bear the same divine imprint, that she is not mine, that she is free to discover for herself what God made her to be, and that the possibilities open to her are endless.

I’m a Jesus feminist because the gospels insist we allow women to sit alongside men at the feet of our Messiah — that is, to take the posture of a disciple. The story of Mary and Martha is not a Sunday school lesson on the importance of setting one’s priorities; it’s a radical affirmation that my daughter has as much right as anyone to call herself a disciple of Jesus.

I’m a Jesus feminist because some of the finest preachers I know are women, including those whose main pulpit is a blog (cc: Sarah Bessey, Rachel Held Evans).

I’m a Jesus feminist because women were the first apostles, the first to witness the resurrection. If not for their courage, vision, and willingness to see what Jesus’ male disciples couldn’t — if not for that, I wouldn’t be a Jesus anything.

I’m a Jesus feminist because I won’t accept a world which turns my daughter into an object — neither the evangelical modesty culture that teaches girls to be ashamed of their bodies nor the hyper-sexualized culture that tells them their bodies (and their willingness to flaunt them) are all they have to offer.

I’m a Jesus feminist because the apostle Paul said there isn’t “male and female” anymore. Just one body, one family, one inheritance in which we all have equal share.

And someday, if my daughter feels a calling deep in her bones to share this message with others — or if she feels called in any other way to lead — I will be right there cheering her on.

Because even though I haven’t read Sarah’s book yet, I’m pretty sure that’s what Jesus feminists do.

P.S. Go and buy the book when it comes out.


9 thoughts on “Why I’m a Jesus feminist (and I haven’t even read the book yet)

  1. This article does not really contain much truth – sorry feminists. Yes ,women are made equal through Jesus Christ. However, Christ through the writers of scripture prove that there are differing roles. Also – there were no female apostles. Disciples, yes – but not one of the 12 apostles put in place by Jesus Christ. Ladies – please put your faith in Jesus Christ and your ideas based on the Word of God – not this book or your own pride. If you really care to continue this discussion – vicndonna@bluemarble.net. Thank you.


  2. Author – just for your information – bra burning was not an urban legend. I know as I observed this in the 60s and 70s. Also – your ideas don’t really align with scripture do they?


  3. i like the spirit of your article but take issue with your reference the the “evangelical modesty culture that teaches girls to be ashamed of their bodies.” That seems like a bit of a jab that paints evangelicals with broad brush. I identify as an evangelical and I’m trying to teach my daughters modesty but it has NOTHING to do with shame. It has everything to do with feeling beautiful from the inside out because our worth comes from God. Therefore we should not feel compelled to solicit affirmation from others by flaunting their bodies. It’s really more about an attitude and the clothes, although the clothes are important, too. Of course there is nothing wrong with trying to look your best on the outside. It’s my observation that most women who truly feel beautiful and comfortable with their bodies don’t run around half naked and they still look beautiful. When I was younger i considered myself a feminist but, though my values haven’t changed, i no longer use that word. Our modern use of it conjures up a feeling of competition against the men that totally misses the point. Should we all just be humanists?


    1. Hi Virginia,
      I’m referring to a specific approach to modesty that’s been the subject of a lot of discussion lately. You only have to search online for “evangelical purity culture” or “evangelical modesty culture” to find stories of those who were made to feel ashamed of their bodies. Here’s a good analysis from Rachel Held Evans: http://www.qideas.org/blog/modesty-i-dont-think-it-means-what-you-think-it-means.aspx

      It sounds like you’re taking a different approach with your daughters, and I commend you for it. I have a daughter too, and when she’s older, I want her to understand that her worth doesn’t depend on her willingness to flaunt her body. I want her to dress for herself and not for those who would treat her as an object (and expect her to behave like one).

      So I hear you. Not all discussions of modesty lead to the shaming of women. But there does seem to be a problem with how many evangelicals think and talk about modesty. I’m glad you’re showing your daughters another way.


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