In the first 24 hours that 60 other Christian women and I have spent talking and praying in Texas Hill Country, I have seen Sarah Styles Bessey tear up three times. Every time, it's when she starts talking about Jesus.
"I'm a feminist because I love Jesus so much," she tells me as we escape the chatter to discuss her new book, Jesus Feminist (Howard). A popular blogger and mother of three, Bessey grew up in the charismatic renewal movement of 1970s Western Canada. In that post-Christian culture, leaders—men and women—were sorely needed. So every Sunday, Bessey writes, "Women prophesied with honor. They led key ministries. They preached. . . . The church ladies cooked and fed and danced with babies at the back of the room, sure, but they were also at the front."
It's her charismatic identity and its emphasis on the kingdom of God that underscores Bessey's "invitation to revisit the Bible's view of women." Rather than trying to baptize feminism's current concerns (among them LGBTQ equality and pro-choice rights) with pick-and-choose Bible verses, Bessey starts with the whole narrative of Scripture. There, she finds a Jesus—and even a Paul—who saw women as equally crucial as men to advancing the gospel. To paraphrase Rebecca West: Feminism is the radical notion that women are disciples too.
Bessey and I talked about how she came to love Paul, what she would tell stay-at-home moms who are perfectly content, and what strict complementarians can appreciate about her book.
You say you are a feminist because of Jesus. Won't a lot of readers be uncomfortable with the label?
I don't think people need to self-identify under a certain ...