Thursday, April 19, 2018

Pastrix - Nadia Bolz-Weber

Title: Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint
Author: Nadia Bolz-Weber
Publication Date: 9/10/13
Pages: 204
Genre: Faith / Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I attended a conference Bolz-Weber spoke at.
Date Completed: 4/12/18

Summary: Bolz-Weber went from a child raised in the church to an alcoholic stand-up comic to a sober Lutheran pastor. She tracks those big shifts and muses about the nature of faith in this memoir.

What I Thought: Back in March, I attended the Why Christian conference for the first time. It's a progressive Christian conference hosted by Nadia Bolz-Weber and Rachel Held Evans, whose work I adore. It was being hosted at Duke University, which is basically in my geographic backyard. While I don't align with every theological stance the conference takes, I wanted to take the opportunity to learn and grow and listen. I'm so very glad I went. It was an incredible two days sitting under the testimonies and teachings of women of every stripe and color. It was a beautiful reminder of the diversity of the church and how we are united at the Eucharist table in our belief in Christ. 

The most powerful experience of the conference was when Bolz-Weber led us through the Eucharist liturgy. Despite the fact that I've never attended a church that follows a liturgical schedule or style, I've come to love the structure of it. It makes me feel connected to centuries of believers who spoke the same words before me. The organizers of the conference and each person who spoke had clearly put much thought and intention into each word and song and breath.  I don't think taking communion has ever made me cry before, but standing in the beautiful chapel at Duke and worshiping and taking communion with 1000+ people of every type imaginable was so moving. It's the kind of experience that reminds you how beautifully diverse heaven will be. 

This book is part of my 2018 TBR Challenge!
After hearing Bolz-Weber speak a few times at the conference, I knew I wanted to read some of her written work, for which she is well-known within the progressive Christian community. She's so different from any other pastor I have known - and I've known a lot of them. She is real and vulnerable and broken and open about her failings. Despite being a Lutheran pastor who follows the structure of that denomination, she is creative and unpretentious in her presentation. That vibe carries over strongly in this book as well.

Bolz-Weber writes with transparency about the highs and lows of her faith. She is course in her language and honest about her failures. She talks extensively about the parishioners who attend her small church in Denver, House for All Sinners and Saints. She talks about ways they have subverted Christian norms including taking bagged lunches to workers of all stripes - including adult bookstore cashiers and strippers - on Thanksgiving Day and making the stations of the cross with photos from the devastation of the Haitian earthquake. She and her community go out of their way to see dignity in every human life.

I don't see eye-to-eye with Bolz-Weber about everything. But, these days, I like being pushed. I like reading about the views and experiences of people who think differently than I do. That's why I went to the conference in the first place...and to get my books signed by Rachel Held Evans. If you don't like profanity or thinking outside the spiritual box, this one isn't for you. But if you want to be stretched and maybe even feel a little uncomfortable when you see your own failings reflected in Bolz-Weber's, then you'll enjoy Pastrix

Quotes I Loved:
  • "The love and grace and mercy of Jesus was so offensive to us that we killed Him."
  • "For some reason, [women] didn't have the authority to pass a man the collection plate, but we did have the authority to pass the same man a plate of fried chicken and potato salad an hour later at the church potluck." 
  • "It is not the parable of the workers. It's the parable of the landowner. What makes this the kingdom of God is not the worthiness or piety or social justicey-ness or the hard work of the laborers... none of that matters. It's the fact that the trampy landowner couldn't manage to keep out of the marketplace. He goes back and back and back, interrupting lives... coming to get his people. Grace tapping us on the shoulder." 
  • "This is our God. Not a distant judge nor a sadist, but a God who weeps. A God who suffers, not only for us, but with us. Nowhere is the presence of God amidst suffering more salient than on the cross. Therefore what can I do but confess that this is not a God who causes suffering. This is a God who bears suffering. I need to believe that God does not initiate suffering; God transforms it."
  • "Forgiveness is a big deal to Jesus, and like that guy in high school with a garage band, he talks about it, like, all the time." 
Rating: ★★★★☆
Will I Re-Read: Yeah, maybe.

A Reduced Review: Irreverent and real, Bolz-Weber tracks her unique faith journey and talks about the struggles of keeping faith in our modern world. 

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