Bones…look what came in the mail!

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Rachel Held Evans
‘All Things New’: A Review of ‘Pastrix’ by Nadia Bolz-Weber

So my friend Nadia Bolz-Weber and I don’t have a lot in common—at least not on the surface.

Nadia’s tall, buff, and typically decked out in a black tank top to show off her tattoos. I’m short, plump, and given to flowey, floral peasant skirts and colorful beaded jewelry. Nadia cusses like a truck driver and tells it like it is. I’ve got a sweet Southern accent and can charm my way through uncomfortable situations just like my mama taught me. Though we both grew up in conservative church cultures, Nadia spent much of her young adulthood battling addictions while I kept working the good-girl schtick, even when it wasn’t working for me, even when it became shallow and untrue. We’re both in different types of recoveries, you might say.

And yet somehow we keep running into each other and making sense with one another as we travel the speaking circuit. I think it’s got something to do with the way the Kingdom draws unlikely people together in our shared brokenness and hope, our shared need for grace.

Grace.

If there was one word to describe Nadia’s new book, Pastrix, it’s grace….though let me assure you, she’s got some saltier ones sprinkled throughout it. (The first words of the memoir are, “’Shit,’ I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to be late to New Testament class.’” So if you have a problem with that type of language, you probably won’t like the book.)

Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint is an irreverent, funny, and beautifully-written memoir that strips this faith thing down to its bare bones. Weaving the story of Mary Magdalene through her own, Nadia reclaims the term “pastrix” (used derisively by some Christians who refuse to recognize female pastors) to highlight the absurdity and goodness of a God who would choose someone like her to be a “pastor to her people”— alcoholics, depressives, misfits, and cynics. It’s a compelling page-turner that takes the reader from the wobbly chairs of Alcoholics Anonymous to a smoky downtown comedy club to the pews of the Lutheran Church where Nadia pastors called House for All Sinners and Saints.

But here’s the thing: In this book, Nadia isn’t just a pastor to the textbook down-and-outs; she is a pastor to people like me, people whose struggles may not be the easy-to-identify homelessness or alcoholism, but are instead the sneaky ones like pride, cynicism, discouragement, fear, and perfectionism. At a time when I was dealing with some serious burnout with the Church, when I was angry about all the judgment and division I’ve come to expect from it, Pastrix arrived and dropped a badly-needed Truth bomb right in the middle of all my crap.

This book reminded me of why I am a Christian. It stripped everything down to its most essential, its most hopeful. It reminded me of the goodness and grace of God in ways I struggle to articulate here. I cried through entire paragraphs, overwhelmed with both conviction and relief.

Who would have thought a foul-mouthed, tattooed Lutheran preacher could have such an effect on a sweet, Southern evangelical?

But I think that’s what I like best about this book. It’s not really about Nadia. Where she could have easily relied on her larger-than-life personality to carry the story, Nadia instead gets out of the way…at just the right moments. She gets out of the way and lets God do God’s thing. She leaves you marveling at the beauty and absurdity of grace.

Grace for Rick, the homeless, pathological liar who attends Nadia’s church. Grace for the faithful Lutheran pastor who mentored Nadia and who, before the policy changed, was once removed from the official clergy roster of the ELCA because he was gay. Grace for the LGBT people in Nadia’s community and grace for the people who would oppose their presence there. Grace for her conservative parents who upon learning that she planned to enter full-time ministry pulled out the family Bible and pointed not to 1 Timothy 2:12 but to Esther 4:14. Grace for herself when she got mad at her congregation for not doing things her way. Grace for one of her most relentless critics—a man who calls himself “Pirate Christian”—to whom she declared, “Chris, I have two things to say to you. One, you are a beautiful child of God. Two, I think that maybe you and I are desperate enough to hear the Gospel that we can even hear it from one another.”

As Nadia puts it:

“God’s grace is not defined as God being forgiving to us even though we sin. Grace is when God is a source of wholeness, which makes up for my failings. My failings hurt me and others and even the planet, and God’s grace to me is that my brokenness is not the final word. My selfishness is not the end-all…instead, it’s that God makes beautiful things out of even my own shit. Grace isn’t about God creating humans as flawed beings and then acting all hurt when we inevitably fail and then stepping in like the hero to grant us peace—like saying, ‘Oh, it’s OK, I’ll be a good guy and forgive you.’ It’s God saying, ‘I love the world too much to let your sin define you and be the final word. I am a God who makes all things new.” (51)
I cannot recommend this book enough. If it has even close to the same effect on you as it had on me, it will restore your faith in God, your hope for the Church, and your love for yourself and your neighbor. It will remind you that you don’t have to be cynical on the one hand or naïve on the other to gather under the Big Tent of grace. You just have to be hungry, thirsty, ready.

***

Be sure to pick up a copy of Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint. And if you’ve never “met” Nadia, this video is a nice introduction: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=kM9Y5S3UYi8&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DkM9Y5S3UYi8

http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/pastrix-review-nadia-bolz-weber

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56 thoughts on “Bones…look what came in the mail!

  1. For a minute I was thinking someone was just trying to wind me up…

    Tattoos and foul language…will I bite?

    ………………..

    decisions, decisions,

  2. Nadia …..

    She’s a Lutheran? She’s a lot different to my old grandma and her friends I remember serving the tea and scones.

  3. I watched the vid and quite honestly it had the opposite effect of listening to the circuit pastors at our local gospel halls. It made me feel nervous for her obvious awkwardness and discomfort. There was no sense of soothing or feeding the sheep, just catering to people who are in rebellion to God (dare I mention demons?). Oh and I thought the tattoos were ugly as sin (pardon the pun).

    Well we have the choice, obey or disobey and clearly she has chosen disobedience.

    No need to condemn. God will judge us all.

    What’s the instruction there for others? If the blind follow the blind they will both fall into the ditch.

    Oh er, by the way at she bows out she makes a New Age/Hindu hand gesture, a slight bow with hands together, usually said with namaste (an anagram of mesatan),

    According to Wikipedia: It can also be performed wordlessly and carries the same meaning:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Namaste

    Well God didn’t say we weren’t free to listen to whoever we want to listen to, but he did tell us there would be a price to pay. Your choice.

  4. Just kiddin with ya Greg. No fights from me.

    I’m sure she’s a nice kid, and probably young people like the way she dresses etc.

    She can probably reach lots of people who like that image and way of speaking.

    Unfortunately, most of the people I know wouldn’t listen to her, and wouldn’t want their kids to go anywhere near a church if she had influence there.

  5. This is appalling. Talk about have your cake and eat it. This is called syncretism which is an abomination to God.

    I may agree with all or some of the Hellbound movie, and will try to watch it. Other than that I don’t have a strong enough stomach to listen to and watch these people for more than a very limited time. It’s so demon infested, it makes me feel literally like throwing up.

    “There is a presence in the darkness for whom darkness is not darkness at all?” And who would that be? The way he is talking about it, we all ought to head off there instead of to the light.

    These people come across to me as desperate to divert as many people who are willing to be diverted from serving the one true God and join in, enticing them to join in on their own wrongdoing. They don’t realise that foolishly they are serving the devil. There is no getting away from that.

    Similar to the New Age, they blurt out endless ultimately meaningless worldly BULL, stringing together buzzwords to make jargon which sounds like self-help psychology mixed up with tempting people with other people and things that are supposed to sound interesting and desirable. Yuk.

    They are not teaching the gospel, therefore they have another gospel and another Jesus. They might talk about it but they do not actually teach it.

  6. Greg, if you changed your theology you’d make a great Todd Bentley.

    I can picture you and Nadia preaching together.

    Seriously, I just can’t understand why anyone could think tattoos are attractive.
    At least she doesn’t have nose rings!!!

    ugh….

    It’s hard to look at her.

    If Martin Luther were here he’d pour a keg of beer over her!!

    ugh….

    What happened to the sweet girls like Evie, and the Flying Nun and Maria from the Sound of Music.

    Now that’s how women should look and behave!

  7. and maybe you didn’t notice….but she obviously didn’t have her legs together.

    I think I’ll show my daughter his lady as an example of how not to look or act.

    Trouble is…..will there be any young man left worthy of my daughter???

  8. I’m a twister from way back.

    btw Bones, I’d love to hear your history in more detail one day because we are probably really similar.

    I understand your cynicism. I was thinking lately – esp after you posted those old songs, and talking about Chuck Smith, and then yesterday with the Ron Carpenter video….

    Guys who have been around for a long time have had so many disappointments. By that I mean, super high profile people who seemed so spiritual but then ended up to be just like anyone else – or worse.

    Anyone who has been a Christian – esp in the charismatic world for over 30 years deserves some kind of medal I reckon.

  9. Anyways it’s been enjoyable posting here, something I don’t usually do. I’ve got so many things to do in the run up to Christmas and through Christmas as well, I don’t have any more time for posting other than some new articles on the blog. Blessings to you all. Alice

  10. No, but if they ever make a movie, you could be him. Can you act?
    I just watched a youtube of him talking about a little girl who rose from the dead.

    Anyway, Bones, that Darkwood Brew was pretty interesting. Believe it or not, I like Christianity…. and I like the different forms. I’ve slipped into a Russian Orthodox service, been to a Gregorian mass, I really like interdenominational events, but I’m really most at home at a simple chorus singing, good message, time of prayer – all for altar calls, and then fellowship at the end. – so minimalist charismatic.

    But, this Darkwood Brew is a great idea and format. Excellent use of the internet.
    I don’t see the point anymore in everyone having a big buildign project. But Pastor wants a mega church, and being part of thousands is great. Just that over and over there is a church split, or a Pastor falls, and you are left with a half or quarter filled auditorium that may or may not be paid off, and they are only used a few times a week anyway.

    So, in the internet age, having a small room with a few people and then a wider internet audience/congregation is great.

    It wouldn’t be a church replacement for me – and a tough place to bring kids, but kudos to them. Probably people who are interested in Christianity can watch, those who have left churches, and then people like me who every once in a while will watch. Great. I like the band too.

    And I appreciate that Nadia says good stuff.

    I just hate tattoos. 🙂

  11. ugly, ugly, ugly and want them to cover up.

    Almost makes me as unhappy as seeing a NSW blue jersey.

    Hard to explain, and not logical, but something i just feel.

    Did I mention that I hate tattoos?

  12. Alice, please comment from time to time. Just a little. I’m the only sane one here and it gets lonely.

    3 comments a week would be fine. That’s better, Greg and Bones are very resistant to reason, logic and sound biblical teaching 🙂 so, you’re better off not getting too close.
    It’s like quicksand here. Once you fall into the abyss…it takes years to crawl out.

    Alice? For some reason I thought Truth in Reality would be a guy. Is that saying something about my biases?

    Anyway, I hate tattoos…

  13. “There is a presence in the darkness for whom darkness is not darkness at all?”

    No. Not a demon but the living God Himself.

    Maybe some people have never been in darkness to understand that.

    That’s the only way you could attribute a demon to that statement. Bit like back masking.

    If you want it to be there you’ll find it.

  14. lol @ Greg. Wicked man!

    @Bones Back masking?

    I was never really good at hearing that stuff. And got confused when the preacher would say “It’s as clear as a bell – did you hear “It’s fun to smoke marijuana”

    but the next guy said “It’s clear as a bell, did you hear “Start to smoke marijuana”.

    So in the whole song there was one sentence, and they couldn’t agree on the beginning.

  15. Brings back memories. Youth meetings where Pat Mesiti would play the music backwards, and make everyone laugh, cry, feel guilty, vow to be a radical rambo for Jesus etc.

  16. I still hate tattoos though.

    By the way Greg, what did you think of the Ron Carpenter broadcast?
    (I don’t feel bad in discussing it because of privacy issues, because it was published to the whole world by the church and he addressed people watching on the internet)

    Heavy stuff.

  17. Everytime I come to Singposts, I see that wannabe truckie woman….and some bearded narcissist.
    What’s going on here?

  18. What happened to the RECENT POSTS thing.

    Also, maybe we should have a miscellaneous box. There’s stuff I come across that I’d like to talk with my ….eh…. buddies? colleagues? brothers-in-arms? mortal enemies? with but can’t find where to put them easily.

    Big news is the five skulls thing from Georgia

    A quote.
    ““Had the braincase and the face of Skull 5 been found as separate fossils at different sites in Africa, they might have been attributed to different species,” a co-author of the journal report, Christoph Zollikofer of the University of Zurich, said in a statement. Such was often the practice of researchers, using variations in traits to define new species.”

    Not saying anything about evolution/creation – just that we don’t know everything. And current scientific conclusions aren’t the be all and end all for me.

    Who knows what they’ll discover and conclude in 50 years.

  19. “And of course to condition people to accept taking the mark of beast.”

    Keep this to yourself….but I have my suspicions that Greg actually is the beast.
    And that makes Bones….okay, quiet, I’ve already said too much!

  20. Greg, what’s up with the public comments – used to be a list of the most recent comments – that’s what I always looked to first – as I never want to miss the latest briliiant insights from the beast and the false….eh I mean you and Bones.

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