by Sarah Bessey
Pages: 256 | Publication Year: 2013
Genre: Nonfiction/Christian Living
Word of Mouth: Caitlin
Bessey’s voice is very…sweet. There’s a recurring bit throughout the book about being on a beach that I found tedious. Bessey frequently refers to her children as “tinies” and readers by pet names. I know that sort of thing is appealing to different people and is common with a lot of lifestyle bloggers, but it isn’t to my taste. It was a bit off-putting at times.
There’s also a lot of posturing done to avoid taking a hard stance on anything too controversial. To top that, she’s not hermeneutically sound in places and dances away from engaging with some of the core debates the church has about gender roles in practice. All in all, I was disappointed by the conclusion, where Bessey shrugs off practical implementation as something she isn’t necessarily called to champion or figure out. Well, great. I appreciated the acknowledgement, but still, that’s not very helpful.
Why it’s still worth reading:
This book has problems, yes. But it’s one of a handful of books addressing this conversation on an approachable, popular level. I think it’s a great one to read alongside other books about these issues. For friends already heckling at the title: let’s set aside our differences for the moment and attempt to see how all theological frameworks can be carried out poorly and even harmfully in day-to-day life. Of course those differences are important. But the on-the-ground handling of these issues often lacks grace and tact. Can we have a conversation about the problems and how our dogmatism about nuance can unintentionally reinforce them? Let’s notice problems in our culture and the church surrounding gender and work to find solutions within our theological frameworks.
This book humbly starts conversations I wish I’d had in church growing up. There’s value in reading this as a shared starting point for conversation: What does a 21st century Christian marriage look like in execution? What does it look like for women to use their gifts in the church? Are there issues women in our culture and around the world deal with that the church neglects? There aren’t enough books engaging issues of gender practically from a biblical worldview. Bessey’s book wasn’t what I hoped it would be, and it is far from perfect. But it’s a starting point to necessary conversations. That’s where the value lies, and that’s why you should read it, in my opinion.
I think there is room for different theological viewpoints here. There’s room for differing stances across the egalitarian/complementarian/whatevertarian spectrum under the Christian umbrella. But I’m tired of any conversation about these issues being simply dismissed and unengaged. Maybe I’m speaking only from my personal experience. Goodness, I would love it if I am the only person trying to work through good, godly people diminishing my worth(both seriously and in jest) based on my gender. My conversations with women from different denominations and faith experiences have me convinced, though, that it isn’t just me.
I’m asking for my faith experience not to be belittled because of my gender. I don’t want us to lose the forest over the trees. Let’s not get stuck on smaller disagreements and use them as an excuse to dismiss the entire book and her perspective.
I’m not arguing for every point Bessey makes or for a complementarian/egalitarian side. I’m arguing for a less self-righteous conversation. Let’s listen, engage and discuss, even when we disagree about the practical implications and proper terminology. There’s room to grow in our empathy and understanding, and this book isn’t a bad place to start.
Other interesting articles/sermons about this issue:
- What Does It Look Like to be a Christian Feminist? by Amy R. Buckley on Relevant
- Matt Chandler’s recent “Beautiful Design” series on biblical manhood, womanhood, marriage and service.
- Jesus, Women, and Ministry by Preston Sprinkle on Patheos
- Leadership in Marriage by Bryan Davis
- Submission in Marriage by Kate Davis
- Confessions of an Accidental Feminist by Rachel Held Evans