Books

Dating Jesus by Susan Campbell

Elizabeth Amore

Campbell outlines the seduction in detail -- and documents her questioning as she begins to turn away from her lover as a teenager and later in life.


Dating Jesus

Publisher: Beacon
Subtitle: A Story of Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl
Author: Susan Campbell
Price: $24.95
Length: 224
Formats: Hardcover
ISBN: 9780807010662
First date: 2009-01
US publication date: 2009-01
Amazon

The title Dating Jesus evokes a strong feeling inside of me. This could be because it seems so absurd or even a bit sacrilegious. But in a way, it is what every Christian should want to do. They should want to walk beside him, follow in his footsteps, be part of his family. In essence -- it is the idea of courting Jesus that attracts most Gentiles. It lends to the idea that if one leads a positive, spiritual lifestyle, it will attract Jesus to us and in return us to him.

One thing that really stands out in the book: Campbell went into baptism full-heartedly. Jesus had been flirting with her and through his incantations, soothed her into spiritual cleansing and rebirth. This rite of passage, she felt, would secure their relationship.

So she continued to go to his house three times a week in hopes of showing her unwavering worship. Campbell even adoringly sang songs to her suitor. Finally, one Sunday morning, she walked in front of her congregation to profess her love for Jesus, via baptism.

Most people go undergo baptism as infants, unable to make adult decisions – like renouncing the devil and devoting their lives to Jesus and his teachings. This is a poignant moment for the author which she recalls vividly. She questions “What does it mean if a piece of fabric attached to a would-be Christian floats to the top, does the baptism still count?” This curiosity and devotion carries on to her young womanhood. Her strong fidelity leads her to stay celibate (so much so she does not even date).

While “dating” Jesus, Susan notices that there are restrictions to what she is allowed to do because she is female. And like many pre-teens, she begins asking more meaningful questions. The role of women in the church is quite different from that of men. Campbell begins to take note of it and sees that the differences are not fair in her own eyes. She also goes on to allude to the relationship between women's plight as second-class citizens in religion and the feminist movement.

More or less, I feel the author’s experience was one of extremism. She went from being a fervent Christian to feminist. There was never any middle ground for her. This could be said of other religious perspectives as well, but overall has to do with the way one was brought up. I would not necessarily blame her congregation or the Holy Book, but her choice to see Jesus in such an elite manner left her adrift when the rest of her life began to flow away from the church.

Nonetheless, when one has such a fulfilled, meaningful existence with religion, there is often difficulty coping with a non-religious life, it seems. What is there to fill that void? That is something the author struggles with and as such goes to the roots of her religious past to discover more about early feminist thinkers and theologians. The book is chock full of reflections on scripture. Her writing spans from the Old and New Testaments to supplemental literature.

The author also rereads the bible. The rereading of the bible is something I have heard preached in many religious gatherings. Interestingly enough, I understand that certain proverbs and sections will grab you more than others depending on what is going on in your present life. For Campbell, these teachings helped her cope with the fact that in her faith women would never be allowed to sit next to His Holiness on his throne.

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