Jesus Girls

Jesus Girls Book Cover
Jesus Girls Book Cover

Evangelicals are supposed to be experts at telling their story. From an early age you are expected to have a “testimony,” a story of how God saved you from a life of sin and sadness and gave you a new life of joy and gladness. What happens if you don’t have such a testimony? What if your story just doesn’t fit the before-and-after mold? What are you supposed to do if your voice is not one usually heard?

In these offbeat, witty, and often bittersweet essays, up-and-coming writers tell the truth about growing up female and evangelical. Whether they stayed in the church or not, evangelicalism has shaped their spiritual lives. Eschewing evangelical clichés, idyllic depictions of Christian upbringing, and pat formulas of sinner-to-saint transformation, these writers reflect frankly on childhoods filled with flannel board Jesuses, Christian “rap” music, and Bible memorization competitions. Along the way they find insight in the strangest places—the community swimming pool, Casey Kasem’s American Top 40, and an Indian mosque.

Together this collection of essays provides a vivid and diverse portrait of life in the evangelical church, warts and all.

List of Contributors:

Jessica Belt
Paula Carter
Kirsten Cruzen
Anne Dayton
Kimberly B. George
Carla-Elaine Johnson
Megan Kirschner
Anastasia McAteer
Melanie Springer Mock
Audrey Molina
Victoria Moon
Shauna Niequist
Hannah Faith Notess
Andrea Palpant Dilley
Angie Romines
Andrea Saylor
Nicole Sheets
Shari MacDonald Strong
Stephanie Tombari
Heather Baker Utley
Jessie van Eerden
Sara Zarr

Written by experienced women writers from diverse evangelical Christian backgrounds, the tales are honest, approachable and revealing. Each author has put aside her inhibitions about exposing the flaws of her home church—from power struggles to the indoctrination of shame—and takes evangelicalism to task for its ‘carefully filtered’ yet ambiguous conventions. Yet all of the authors tell of a more realistic, meandering faith, enduring even while rife with doubt. Readers will be inspired to re-examine their own beliefs and perhaps even create their own un-testimonies.

Publishers Weekly

OK, male Evangelicals . . . it’s time: you need to listen to your sisters, mothers, and daughters. Their voices have been marginalized for too long, and as you’ll see in these pages, they have some tremendous stories to tell (or ‘testimonies to share’).
OK, female Evangelicals . . . it’s time: spread the word on this amazing collection of essays. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I think you’ll agree.
OK, non-Evangelicals . . . it’s time: if you thought all Evangelical women were sitting quietly in church or baking casseroles for the next pot-luck, all the while dreaming of the next election in which they can vote right-wing . . . here’s a jolt and a pleasant surprise for you. Another great collection of deep feeling, honest thinking, and splendid writing from the folks at The Other Journal.

—Brian D. McLaren, author of The Secret Message of Jesus

Since the Puritans, spiritual autobiography has thrived in the New World. These women show that the American conversion testimony is endlessly resilient, as they break and remake it again and again. There’s a wild range of piety here, but the authors do believe in the possibilities of narrative. Intelligent and sensitive, their essays brilliantly shatter the born-again-bimbo stereotype!

—Julia Spicher Kasdorf, author of The Body and the Book: Writing from a Mennonite Life

A marvelous writer herself, Hannah Notess has gathered here a circle of riveting storytellers. Speaking from their own experience, these women reframe the ancient religious questions in contemporary language—questions about suffering, sin, and salvation, about the source and purpose and conduct of life. Above all they ask what Christianity meant to them when they were growing up, and what it means to them now. Their answers are as varied and rich as their voices.

—Scott Russell Sanders, author of A Private History of Awe

Nothing sentimental or triumphant here. These essays peel back the veneer and speak the messy truth about evangelicalism’s quirks and pieties, its hypocrisies and failures. Thoughtfully varied and inventively organized, this collection creates a rare space for young women to find the wit in witnessing and put testimony to the test. Evangelicals, beware—beware young women. They are watching, they think for themselves, and they will speak.

—Debra Rienstra, Associate Professor of English, Calvin College

Jesus Girls offers a choir of welcoming voices that is much needed as we seek to understand the cultural and spiritual impact of evangelicalism on women in late twentieth-century America. These are testimonies of women who had embraced the music, slogans, T-shirts, and attitudes of a generation and now return those memories to us as readers in the twenty-first century. These are deep, honest reflections that will cause you to laugh, to cringe, to grow silent, and to possibly weep before God. As a father of three daughters, I recommend Jesus Girls as a deeply theological collection—a very human book that offers courage, whimsy, and humility for men and women alike.

—Jeffrey F. Keuss, Associate Professor of Christian Ministry and Theology, Seattle Pacific University

This book lovingly messes with the basic narrative of evangelical experience. Instead of the usual before and after testimonies, we get to hear interesting, funny, wild, and sweet stories of real women with bodies and un-conforming minds—women who slink and slide through the muck; free to raise their hands (or not) in worship, free to rethink what “Holy” even means. If you grew up in the evangelical subculture, you should read these stories. They’ll make you wince and smile. They’ll make you hopeful about the grace of God.

—Debbie Blue, House of Mercy pastor, and author of Sensual Orthodoxy and From Stone to Living Word.

The quality of writing in these stories is unusual in Christian publishing . . . Getting to know them is a pleasure—I recommend it.

— Anne Eggebroten, California State University
from Christian Feminism Today, Spring, 2010