One of the books I’m reading at the moment is Kristin Kobes Du Mez’s A New Gospel for Women: Katherine Bushnell and the Challenge of Christian Feminism.
Professor of History and Gender at Calvin College, Dr. Du Mez wrote this book before her latest Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation (which I’ve also read).
Although these two books may seem to address very different subjects, they are profoundly related.
It actually makes perfect sense that a book about the long-lost Dr. Katherine Bushnell and her groundbreaking work as an activist, medical doctor, and biblical scholar on behalf of women’s rights would lead Du Mez to write her next book about patriarchy and John Wayne.
In the U.S. and globally, Bushnell encountered the brutal oppression and sexual abuse of women and girls. According to Bushnell, far too often the men who perpetrated these crimes—even Christian men—“often did so with impunity, continuing to be revered in their communities as respectable Christian gentlemen.”(Sound familiar?) It launched her quest to probe more deeply into the Bible’s message for women. Questions she was asking inevitably raised the subject of patriarchy, which is the topic Du Mez tackles in Jesus and John Wayne. Both books are important, eye-opening, and profoundly relevant for American Christians at this particular moment in time. Do we wrestle enough with how our Christianity transforms how we think and live and treat other image bearers? Does it set us apart or do we just blend in? How truly do we embody the example and teachings of Jesus?
Readers should read both books!
Don’t let the word “feminism” (“patriarchy” either, for that matter) put you off. Feminism isn’t a four-letter word. It’s time we had a long-overdue thoughtful conversation on the subject, especially given the fact that Christian women staunchly committed to Scripture were pioneers of feminism. Du Mez will doubtless surprise many readers as she delves into the Christian roots of that movement.
So be brave, buckle up, and read both!
I had only gotten to Chapter 2 of Bushnell’s story when the quote below stopped me in my tracks. That’s where Du Mez is interacting with well-known missiologist Professor Andrew Finlay Walls‘ book, The Missionary Movement in Christian History. She’s drawing specifically from his chapter titled “Gospel as Prisoner and Liberator” when she writes:
Drawing on Christian history and theology, Dr. Walls explains that within the Christian gospel itself reside opposing tendencies: an “indigenizing principle” and a “pilgrim principle.” The gospel is always incarnated, Walls argues, received in a particular time and place and “indigenized” in particular cultural settings. Yet at the same time, the gospel has a transformative element; followers of Christ are meant to be transformed, set apart from the culture in which they live.
Then comes this quote from Professor Walls that I’ll be thinking about long after I finish the book:
“Along with the indigenizing principle which makes his faith a place to feel at home, . . . the Christian inherits the pilgrim principle, which whispers to him that he has no abiding city and warns him that to be faithful to Christ will put him out of step with his society; for that society never existed, in East or West, ancient time or modern, which could absorb the word of Christ painlessly into its system.”
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