(This post is part of a synchroblog celebrating the release of Sarah Bessey’s book Jesus Feminist.)

Among mothers there is a certain play date etiquette we adhere to when our children rush up to us and begs, “Mom, can (insert new best friend forever) come over and play?”

We don’t offer peanut products of any kind, in any configuration, in any amount. Ever. Even if the child has peanut butter smudges across her chin and brags about all the Reese’s Pieces she got on Halloween night.  Never.  Because, just your luck the moment you serve that baby a PBJ her latent nut allergy will manifest and she’ll go into an anaphylactic shock right on your kitchen floor.  Better safe than sorry.  So…no nuts.

And we always plan to chat at the pick up for at least twenty minutes over tea, water, coffee, or in my favorite cases, a glass of wine.  Wine not withstanding, I dread this part of the play date.

Really, what do we have to talk about after I update her on the play date?  No nuts.  Lots of reading. Lots of Legos. Lots of noise.  Then we sit in an awkward silence, until one of us mentions dinner and we rush our children out the door under a frenzied cloud of “thank you” and promises to “do this again!”

I always feel at a lost for these conversations, which is exactly how I felt when Laura* came over to pick up her son one autumn evening a few years ago.  I was especially nervous about our post play date conversation because just days before, I found out she was a lesbian.  Can you believe it?  A lesbian!?!  Like with an actual partner at home!  I’m embarrassed to admit that sending my son to her house worried me so when she told me she had class that afternoon and asked if I would host the play date, I was relieved.

Laura, with her gregarious no-nonsense personality, firm handshake, and well-worn The North Face fleece, was the stereotype I feared as an evangelical Christian,  and oh the thoughts I thought about Laura…. liberal, godless, angry, skeptical. Feminist.

She and I stood on my porch while the boys maximized on our obligatory pick-up chat by creating the biggest leaf pile of all time!  Holding my cup of coffee with both hands, I asked, “What class did you just come from?”

“Life of Jesus. I’m almost finished with my program at the Episcopal Divinity School.” She said.

Interest sparked and thoroughly confused, I wondered  “So are you planning on becoming a priest? Like with the Episcopal Church?”

She gave me a knowing smile over her cup, sipped, nodded and went on to tell me her story.  She told me about setting up her stuffed animals as a little girl and serving them the Holy Communion.  She confessed to struggling as a young woman to reconcile her calling and sexuality.  She shared how everyday in her program she felt like she was coming home! She got to talk about Jesus all day and then show his love to her parishioners in the evenings.

While listening to her story, I whispered in my soul,  ‘Lord, do we have more in common than I think?’

Here was this woman, as different from me as one could be: mid forties to my late twenties, short salt and pepper bob to my chemically relaxed ponytail, white skin to my brown, gay to my straight—yet we had one person in common.


She then went to ask if she could pray with me.  With our heads bowed, she placed her hands on my shoulders and talked to Jesus…about me.  For me. With me.  And it humbled me.  Completely.

As we prayed, the sweet, generous, barrier-breaking, presence of Jesus, was nearly tangible in the midst of a lesbian feminist priest-to-be and a well-meaning, but still judgmental evangelical urban missionary.

Standing on my porch, with our boys giggling in the background and colorful leaves swirling around our feet, Jesus challenged my stereotypes and undermined my legalism.

When we said, “Amen” together, I felt the Holy Spirit whisper back to me, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

Conviction gripped my heart, if Jesus called my new friend clean,  who am I call her impure?

Jesus changes everything.  Whatever I may have felt about her orientation or her calling, I knew one thing about Laura…she loved Jesus as much as I and that one piece of information was all I needed to call her Sister and pure.

Jesus changes everything, which is exactly why I can call myself a Jesus Feminist with a steady voice and squared shoulders.

You see, while there are so many expressions of feminism rooted in pride, anger, and selfishness, the heart of feminism is a radical belief that women are people too.   This respect for the unique way we reflect the Imago Dei is so Jesus, it would take a denial of herculean proportion to say, “Jesus and feminism have nothing in common”.

Look with me at his ministry for one moment:

Jesus went out of his way to sit in the beating hot Samaritan sun to talk to a woman of unfortunate birth and unclean reputation. This woman held the longest recorded theological conversation with Jesus then wielded the power of story beautifully by inviting her community to come and meet him. With this story Jesus whispers to us:

Do not call unworthy those whom God has equipped to be his instrument of Shalom.

Shocking feminism!

My Jesus, a feminist.

Jesus stopped teaching on the Sabbath to notice a woman bent over for eighteen years.  For over a decade, this crippled sister was rarely dignified with a simple face-to-face interaction, so Jesus not only healed her, but called her by a name she may have never appropriated for herself, “Daughter of Abraham”.  Jesus always noticed the marginalized and sets them free—especially when common practice and common sense says, “How dare you!  It’s the Sabbath”.  His adherence to spirit of the Law and not necessarily the letter of the Law teaches us:

Do not call outcast those whom God has made his very own offspring.

Subversive feminism.

 My Jesus, a feminist.

When the better portion—his presence, his teachings, his calling was available and our girl, Martha called out her sister who chose to sit at Jesus’ feet, he corrected her for being overly worried about convention and harshly judging all those who don’t fit in her narrow perception of “good disciple”.  She was anxious about so much, but there was only one thing that mattered—Jesus‑ and through this rebuke he reminds us:

Sisters, Sisters, do not call anyone unbiblical who God as called a disciple.

Stunning feminism.

My Jesus, a feminist. 

So, I’m a Jesus Feminist because of Jesus.  Because he changes everything.

I have no right to call my feminist sisters impure when his life and ministry clearly reflects this powerful trend that women and their voices matter.

To be honest, I’m still processing my identity as a Jesus Feminist.  It’s true that in the first few months of learning from Christian feminists, I made sure to wear my Targét bras instead of my fancy Victoria Secret. brassieres, just in case the power of their words caused me to break out into a bra-burning fit of ecstasy.

You never know what happens when the power of the Spirit and the boldness of feminists combine.

Bras could have burned, y’all.

But, I have found those terrible stereotypes of angry, bitter, or godless (bra-burning) women to be untrue and like my experience with Laura on my porch, I realized these women love Jesus too.

These women are impressive.  Truly.  As Elizabeth Bennett says in the 2005 version of “Pride and Prejudice”, such accomplished women are “…a fearsome thing to behold”.   They are scholars, intellectuals, activists, writers, and professionals. They are plucky, strong-willed, rebellious, and courageous.  They are the stuff of legendary heroines.

Jesus’  teachings come to life in their words and his presence is nearly tangible when I learn from them.  And that’s all I need.

Jesus changes everything.

I will not call impure what God has called clean.

And someday I hope I become a heroine in my context.  A heroine who is a shocking, subversive, stunning Kingdom of God, Jesus feminist.

A feminist, who stands with the overworked and underpaid single mom who feels stuck in a vicious cycle of paycheck to paycheck. A compassionate feminist who longs to gather up into my arms the little girl watching her strung-out mama turn tricks learning her value is merely in her body thanks to our patriarchal society.  A persuasive feminist who uses my voice for the elderly grandmother not receiving appropriate healthcare due to a more “cost-effective” system that created a one-sized fits all treatment for both women and men.

As long as there’s this type of violence to the Imago Dei in inner city Boston, I’m a Jesus Feminist.

Because Lord knows, I’ll never be the perfect play date hosting parent.