Books: Dating Jesus: A Story of Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl
By Susan Campbell. Beacon. $24.95.
Rarely has a genuine feminist emerged from the modern evangelical movement. An exception is Susan Campbell, whose memoir, Dating Jesus, chronicles her upbringing as an eager fundamentalist in the Missouri Ozarks during the '70s.
Vigilantly guarding her virginity, the teenage Campbell wears long skirts, turns down invitations to dances, and crosses her eyes at a homecoming photo shoot she considers frivolous. Her true rebellion, however, runs deeper. From an early age, Campbell objects to the church's limited role for women. When her younger brother is chosen as a child preacher, she argues with her Sunday-school teacher about why girls can't preach. Noting that many women in the Bible are either harlots or evil queens, she rewrites her own Good Book, with bigger roles for the matriarchs. After a decade of nosing around feminist texts, Campbell, now a columnist for the Hartford Courant, no longer goes to church. "If all believers are urged to stay on the straight and narrow," she writes, "there seems to be an especially narrow road built for women."