Nope, Not Going Home
October's Field Notes Part 1: Update and An Exclusive Essay
|Sarah Bessey||Oct 20, 2019|| 423||39|
Hello my friends, glad to be here in your email inbox today!
(I’ve been on a Bill Hader kick ever since Bill Hader Dancing graced my timeline.)
October is that special month when every single subscriber receives the first issue of Field Notes here. So we’ve got a lot of friends in the room today which is nice - welcome, we’re glad you’re all here! This edition features the exclusive essay for the month and a little update from me.
About that exclusive essay though…
Listen. I would be a happy woman to never again need to pull out a soapbox to remind powerful men that hey, guess what? Women Are People too.
At this point, I don’t even need these men to be good Christian leaders, I would settle for them taking a break from acting like disgruntled pelicans. <— deep Schitt’s Creek cut there.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, consider yourself blessed.
If however you happened to be subjected to a video circulating the Internets of John MacArthur mocking noted Bible teacher, leader, minister of the Gospel and victim’s advocate Beth Moore then BUCKLE UP.
I may have come in here a bit hot. I am irritated. #BloggingLikeIts2009Again
This is what you get when I waited until Saturday night to start writing.
But first, let’s talk book stuff
Well. This was a big month with lots to celebrate and I’m not quite recovered yet.
We launched my brand new book Miracles and Other Reasonable Things out into the world and it went beautifully. Truly it was an overwhelming week and I am so VERY grateful for your support. You all SHOWED UP. I had a hunch with this book that it would either really, really land with people … or really, really not. And I am so relieved by the response. Every single comment, tag, Goodreads or Amazon review is making my day. I could especially bawl over all of the responses from the people I wrote it for - the ones who are, as Kate Bowler says so beautifully “on the losing side of life.”
There was a moment last week when the book peaked at number 14 which was fun for everyone but especially my son Joe - who is a numbers man - because he was earnestly tracking the book’s upward climb with screenshots on our ancient iPad and reporting dutifully. Bless him.
Because it’s a bestseller on Amazon at the moment, the price has been slashed there. Not often you can get a lovely hardcover for $15 which is nice if you want to give a gift this Christmas or stockpile them to inflict upon your unsuspecting friends and neighbours.
But I also wanted to mention that all of the attention going to Amazon isn’t necessarily the best for local economies and so I also put together a little contest to support local bookstores. The big online retailers serve a purpose, absolutely, but there are few happier and more supportive places than a well-loved bookshop. Also they smell good.
This weekend, stop by your local chain, indie, or used bookstore and snap a picture of one of my books (I do so love a good selfie in the Christian Living section - but it doesn't have to be a selfie, feel free to be creative!) and post it online with the hashtag #MiraclesInStore on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
Me, being a dork at our local bookstore House of James and not at all sorry:
Don't forget to tag your bookshop in order to boost their signal too - feel free to extol their many virtues!
This week, we'll randomly choose a winner from the hashtag to receive ALL THREE of my books including my brand new one MIRACLES AND OTHER REASONABLE THINGS personally signed by yours truly along with a few other amazing goodies.
(If your favourite bookshop is sold out of my books or they don't have them in stock, that's fine - take a picture of your shop anyway, it still counts! That goes for you in the UK, too - I know the book isn’t out until the end of the month for you but you can still play. I can only ship to Canada, USA, and the UK/Ireland, I'm afraid.)
Let’s see what else…well, I’m super mad at everyone who doesn’t love Meghan Markle but that’s nothing new.
I’ll see you back here next week to talk books and then all of the good things bringing me life and joy these days. If you aren’t already a paid subscriber, make sure you subscribe today so you don’t miss the rest of Field Notes this month - I’ve got some great stuff coming your way.
Ready to embody Molly Weasley on behalf of sad Duchesses and mistreated Bible lady-teachers everywhere,
Nope, Not Going Home
Exclusive Essay for Subscribers
A video surfaced recently of renowned and bestselling Bible teacher John MacArthur at a conference. I’m not sure why they thought this was wise or good or necessary. But here’s what happened. Amongst other nonsense from three men purporting to be Christians, including a weird swipe about selling jewelry and “hocking" (WHAT IS HAPPENING), they said - to giggles simply her name as part of a word association game, Beth Moore? And this freaking guy said, Go home. (Nope, not linking to the video, may it sink into the sea.)
To Sister Beth Moore. To Elder of the Church Beth Moore. To Mama Beth Moore.
You know who never told women to go home?
To be clear: this is of course unmitigated misogynistic garbage, par for the course with this team. It’s unkind, unholy, ungodly, and un-FREAKING-believable. This guy needs to publicly apologise and then go sit quietly in a room with Beth Moore teaching tapes on repeat at full volume until he can properly repent. I wouldn’t mind a three-paragraph essay on the wonders of Beth’s hairdo while he’s at it.
I have appreciated getting to know Beth Moore a bit over the past few years. Since Rachel died, she has been very kind to me. Of course, I most particularly enjoy Twitter Enneagram 8 Enhanced Beth Moore who only grows stronger on criticism from fellow Baptists, I think she drinks husband-father-pastor-TULIP-bro tears in a fancy tea cup with her pinkie out. Beth Moore has been a dedicated Bible teacher for decades, a faithful friend to many whom I love, in recent years a staunch voice calling evangelicals to repentance for their racism and misogyny, and a tireless unbowed advocate for abuse victims particularly in the Church.
She also really loves Jesus.
So yeah. Not here for it.
Initially I intended to write this essay as a litany of all the women in Scripture who did not, in fact, go home. Women like Deborah the judge and prophetess who commanded armies. Or Mary whom Jesus welcomed to his side in the posture of a rabbinic pupil, a role normally reserved for men. Or Anna who prophesied in the temple while holding a baby Jesus. Or Junia whom Paul referred to as “chief among the Apostles.” Or Hagar who named God. Or Joanna and Susanna who literally bankrolled Jesus’ ministry. Or Priscilla who was an early church leader, pastor, and teacher. Lydia who was a respected in business, wealthy, and independent - and key to the foundations of the early church. Phillip’s four daughters were all respected prophets. Mary Magdalene, commissioned by Jesus to preach the resurrection. I could go on. (I usually do.)
In the 2nd century, the early church was described as being “filled with women, children, and slaves.” Why? Because it was the one place in society where they were loved, cherished, valued, educated, and on equal footing with men. The early church consistently subverted the norms of society as much as they could without incurring the wrath of the state, looking for ways to upend the Greco-Roman household codes to protect women. The Early Church was the one place in society where we weren’t told “go home, woman” but “show up, sister.” In fact, it is my sincere belief that if the Apostle Paul knew how a few lines he wrote in a letter to a particular church in a particular context had been twisted to silence women for generations, he would be brokenhearted.
Goodness, I wish these “Bible teacher” guys loved their Bibles enough to read the whole thing.
But the truth is that this comment and that sad moment of mockery and casual sexism isn’t about biblical interpretation. Not really. So me quoting bible verses and contextual criticism and reminders of hermeneutical gymnastics isn’t what is called for. (Plus he wouldn’t listen to me anyway because apparently my vagina disqualifies me.)
This isn’t really about “different interpretations of the Bible.” I can play that game all day. No, this is actually about the fact that insecure men like this guy and every other chortling panicked weakling in that room are showing their cards. We knew they were nervous about equality and accountability but they are tipping their hand. The men whose day has come and now has gone, desperately grasping power.
They are afraid.
After all you’re on shaky ground these days if your foundation is built on broken systems and injustice and keeping others down so you can stay up. Keep laughing, the future of the church doesn’t look like them. Maybe deep in their heart they even know that God isn’t a straight white upwardly mobile male despite their best efforts at cramming the Divine into their American exceptionalist box. So they wrap their lives up in the powers and principalities of this world - like patriarchy, nationalism, racism, homophobia, transphobia etc. - and anoint it with sacred language and expensive suits and their own fear.
But you can’t fool us anymore, sirs.
There is an old-fashioned Bible word for what that is: sin.
It is sin to mock a sister in Christ. I believe it’s also a sin to keep women from preaching, teaching, leading, in the full expression of the body of Christ she was given. It’s a sin to cover up abuse and to want to silence those who are speaking up against it. It’s a sin to be complicit in such things and it’s a sin to snicker at cheap shots. It’s a sin to quench the work of the Holy Spirit in and through the lives of women. Repent, the kingdom of God is at hand!
I know that Beth Moore doesn’t need me defending her. (She may even be mortified by my words - and so may you. After all, we do disagree on vital things such as LGBTQ+ inclusion in the Church, no side note. And yet she has also proven herself to be an encouraging, tender, empowering voice in my life, she has been a prayerful public friend to those whom I love when they suffered at the hands of the mob, and nope, you will not come for her on my watch.)
But I write this essay because it’s not just about Beth Moore. We all know that. That moment was about all of us and our experience at the hand of the whole sinking ship of evangelical boys’ clubbery.
Every single one of us who has been told by men to go home. To stay silent. To shut up. To stop stirring up trouble. To take a seat. That we are shrill or angry or bitter or disruptive.
It’s emblematic. He sat there as every brazen flippant man drunk on the approval of men exactly like him, who does not fear God enough to keep his engrained misogyny in check long enough to even spare a passing glance at the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and so lives in sin and leads others into the same trap while continually enabling and facilitating and baptising the abuse of the vulnerable. It’s a pity, men like this are missing the work of God already underway - that shalom-rooted, peace-making, world-healing grace of Kindom come. Or it would be a pity if it weren't such a damnable, damaging shame.
So here is the thing: for every single one of us who have been told go home, the Spirit of God is singing to you, “No, sister! Show up!”
Keep showing up.
Don’t make yourself smaller and quieter and lesser in a misguided attempt to avoid criticism and mockery from small-souled men like this. Consider it a badge of honour. Especially when you are speaking up alongside of those who have been silenced or marginalized by the powerful, raise your voice in the chorus of righteousness.
You don’t need anyone else’s permission. You certainly don’t need mine. And if they won’t listen in the church, stand on the corner. Bang on your pots and pans in the street. Cry out at the gates for Love. Hell, get on Twitter. You have not been called to the sit-down-and-shut-up life. You have not been called to a go-home life. You have been called to the abundant life, the she-who-the-Son-sets-free-is-free-indeed life.
The One whose approval you crave is not found in keeping the establishment happy.
I am so grateful for the women before us, alongside of us, and coming up behind us who dare to take God at Their word, who dare to believe that we are also made in the image of God, who insist that the Gospel is good news for all of us.
As I wrote in my first book Jesus Feminist, “Rest in your God-breathed worth. Stop holding your breath, hiding your gifts, ducking your head, dulling your roar, distracting your soul, stilling your hands, quieting your voice, and satiating your hunger….Stop waiting for someone else to say that you count, that you matter, that you have worth, that you have a voice, a place, that you are called. Don't you know, darling? The One who knit you together in your mother's womb is the one singing these words over you, you are chosen.”
Let the ones languishing in the house built on sand laugh. The rains have come and are beating on that house. It may wash away. I won’t miss it, old eyesore that it has become.
Let’s build a home worth living in, worth fling the door wide open for everyone. An expansive, beautiful, redemptive, warm, just, sturdy home right on the Rock. We’ll welcome the ones who were left out in the cold and when they tell us to “go home” we’ll say, “didn’t you know? we’re already there. We’re the house where God is quite at home.*”
Oh, and Sister Beth? Eshet chayil. Woman of valour.
*Ephesians 2:22 MSG