The appeal of ‘Dating Jesus’

Behold this three-part series that merrily suggests recent books to give this Christmas … or to add to your own reading list. The Charm Marm doesn’t approve of these ideas, but I do.

Not exactly love at first sight.

Combining endearing humor and impressive scholarship, journalist Susan Campbell preaches the gospel of independence in her memoir, Dating Jesus: A Story of Fundamentalism, Feminism and the American Girl. Campbell details her church-heavy girlhood in Missouri as an irrepressible tomboy – she asked questions from the start and seemed to always know something wasn’t quite right when she was told that women were expected to remain silent in church. (It all sounds so obvious once you know better, but some of us believed what we were told at the time, so I’ve always admired those rebels in the back pew who never quite accepted that they were destined to be perpetually pliant.) Although she didn’t stick with church, her questions eventually led her to seminary, and Campbell weaves the work of philosophers, historians and feminist theologians into her story.

Recalling her early years, Campbell writes about witnessing door-to-door, playing baseball, taking her fashion cues from The Brady Bunch and singing hymns in four-part harmony. She writes about loving seminary classes many years later, especially when one of her professors says that many of the early Biblical texts subverted the hierarchy of the day. And yes, she writes about dating (and not dating) and dancing (and not dancing) and loving the real Jesus – the egalitarian one – despite what religion has to say about him.

She writes about believing in God but not joining a church; the feeling she describes of missing singing hymns but not quite wanting to be in the room where everyone’s singing them will be particularly poignant for anyone who grew up in a hard-core spiritual setting but now abstains from organized religion.

Campbell attends one Sunday with her brother, though, and describes another familiar feeling: Walking into a church, when so many churches these days preach a “lite” version of the Bible, knowing that you know more about what’s being taught than most of the people who actually attend.

“Although it is arrogant,” Campbell admits, “I realize that if we want to throw down and hold an impromptu Bible Bowl, he and I could beat any two of these people — clergy included — hands down.”

Apply with irony.

“Fundamentalism broke off in us, didn’t it?” Campbell’s brother asks her. She agrees – it broke off in her like a sword, she muses, and much of Dating Jesus is about Campbell healing that wound. As such, her book is a balm of its own.

And speaking of balm (oh, nice one!), if you’re giving this book as a gift, consider pairing it with every Christian Charm School drop-out’s favorite accessory: Looking Good for Jesus lip balm.

Read an excerpt
Visit her blog
Dating Jesus, $10.80
Looking Good for Jesus lip balm, $5.99

And speaking of balm (oh, nice one!), if you’re giving this book as a gift, consider pairing it with every Christian Charm School drop-out’s favorite make-up bag item: Looking Good for Jesus accoutrements.


One Response to “The appeal of ‘Dating Jesus’”

  1. Hey! My book made it to two really cool websites! « Dating Jesus Says:

    […] December 20, 2009 · Leave a Comment But what I wanted to title this blog entry was “Why Didn’t I Think Up This Name, ‘Jesus Goes to Charm School?’” […]

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