December 16, 2017

Accidental Saints: A review and a review of a review

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Note from CM: We will devote this week to reviewing some recent books that have caught my interest and attention. Thursday will be an Open Forum day for you to share what you have been reading.

📖

IM Book Week
Book One: Accidental Saints, by Nadia Bolz-Weber
A review and a review of a review

• • •

This is why we have Christian community. So that we can stand together under the cross and point to the gospel. A gospel that Bonhoeffer said is “frankly hard for the pious to understand….”

• Nadia Bolz-Weber

This chick makes me want to be a real Lutheran.

I mean, a grace-alone, non-pietistic, beer drinking, Luther-tongued, damn the religious authorities, desperate for Word and sacraments kind of Lutheran, as down and dirty in my faith as the streets of 16th century Wittenberg.

This girl gets it — the gospel, that is.

And when I read self-righteous, ranting reviews of this book like the one Tim Challies wrote, it quite frankly ticks me off. He seems to mistake having proper manners for the resurrected life and dismiss the kind of rough-hewn faith and obedience that Nadia Bolz-Weber talks about.  So, I run straight to the Luther Insult Generator and say this to the likes of such critics: “You vulgar boor, blockhead, and lout, you ass to cap all asses, screaming your heehaws,” which was Luther’s nice way of saying, “You just don’t get it.”

But more about that later.

Nadia Bolz-Weber knows how to write about grace, raw, honest grace, and grace in the rawest of places. Which means in my heart and yours, as well as in the lives of those who, to some, may look like spiritual misfits and losers. She also curses, which bothers not a few people. To which I say, with all due respect, tough shit.

Seriously, her style is not mine. I don’t like cursing and consider it a bad habit I’d like to eradicate from my life. I despise tattoos. I’m not thrilled with a lot of progressive politics and the animus it generates in the name of inclusiveness and tolerance. But I hope the reality of Bolz-Weber’s rock solid Lutheran theology of grace and the poignancy with which she writes about real people with real problems (including real pastors) in a real world that is really messed up will never cease to move me.

This book moved me. Not just because Nadia Bolz-Weber is such a good storyteller, but because the stories she tells are gospel stories. These are true tales of death and resurrection, failure and forgiveness, brokenness and renewal. Jesus walks the streets of Denver!

And too many of us have forgotten that the gospel is for the pastor as well as the parishioner. For example, she tells about an excruciating experience in which she messed up her calendar and deeply disappointed a couple in her congregation for whom she was to officiate a wedding. When they graciously forgave her and freed her from the commitment, it made Nadia recognize what she really needs all the time as a minister:

And receiving grace is basically the best shitty feeling in the world. I don’t want to need it. Preferably I could just do it all and be it all and never mess up. That may be what I would prefer, but it is never what I need. I need to be broken apart and put back into a different shape by that merging of things human and divine, which is really screwing up and receiving grace and love and forgiveness rather than receiving what I really deserve. I need the very thing that I will do everything I can to avoid needing. (p. 179f)

Never trust a pastor who is unaware of his or her desperate need of God. If you ask me, that’s the standard.

As for the pious and how they react to such raw honesty, in Tim Challies’ scathing review of the book he pronounces judgment on Nadia Bolz-Weber in no uncertain terms:

Let me say it candidly: Bolz-Weber has no business being a pastor and, therefore, no business writing as a pastor. She proves this on nearly every page of her book. Time and again she shows that she is woefully lacking in godly character. Her stories, her word choice, her interactions with her parishioners, her temper, her endlessly foul mouth, her novel interpretations of Scripture—they lead to the alarming and disturbing picture of a person who does not take the office seriously enough to ask if she is qualified to it.

Apart from the appalling idea of casting this kind of judgment on someone from a safe and comfortable distance, I am really not sure what book Tim Challies read. What I see here is a woman who takes her office as seriously as life and death! She reaches out to people in neighborhoods where folks in many middle class evangelical churches would never step foot. Her book is saturated with scripture and worship and an understanding of the place of community that middle and upper class white evangelical churches regularly and consistently ignore, preferring individualistic routes of “discipleship.” These tend to produce moralistic, mannerly people, but few who would wash the feet of drug addicts or follow up a Good Friday service with a congregational march to a dark alley to lay flowers and pray where a woman had recently killed her children and then herself.

This is a book for the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, and those who hunger and thirst for God to make things right. It is not a book for the rich, the satisfied, the privileged and the moral guardians of polite society.

But we’ve lost the plot if we use religion as the place where we escape from difficult realities instead of as the place where those difficult realities are given meaning. It’s like if you were stuck in a subway tunnel during a sudden blackout. You can respond to the fear and darkness either by using the remaining battery on your cell phone to entertain yourself with Candy Crush or by using that phone as a light to see others around you, to see the contour of your environment, and maybe even to walk toward a light source more reliable and powerful than your own. Religion can be a way to hide, numb, or even entertain ourselves like a spiritual Candy Crush, either through the comforting blandness and predictability of mainline Protestantism or through the temporary lifting of our spirits and hands in Evangelical worship. Of course, there are many ways of pretending shit ain’t broke in ourselves and in the world, but escapist religion is a classic option, and churches have seemed to turn into places where we have endless opportunities to pretend everything is fine. (p. 75)

Many of Nadia’s stories have a kind of O. Henry quality to them. They’re full of surprising epiphanies and a kind of “karma” that speaks of God’s grace coming back on the unsuspecting pastor in ways she doesn’t always like.

The sting of grace is not unlike the sting of being loved well, because when we are loved well, it is inextricably linked to all the times we have not been loved well, all the times we ourselves have not love others well, and all the things we’ve done or not done that feel like evidence against our worthiness. Love and grace are such deceivingly soft words — but they both sting like hell and then go and change the shape of our hearts and make us into something we couldn’t create ourselves. (p. 180)

By telling these stories, mostly on herself and about the ways God “gets” her with lessons of grace and mercy, this book puts the lie to another of Challies’ charges in his review. He criticizes Accidental Saints for giving Christians a free pass on Christian growth, saying it is “…meant to appeal to those who want to bear the name of Christ but without becoming like Christ.” Basically, he is bringing out the old charge that Lutherans are “weak on sanctification,” saying, “Her God calls us to himself but then leaves us to be whoever and whatever we want to be.”

Really? Tim, you’re better than that.

But I guess Tim Challies couldn’t get beyond the tattoos and curse words to see the bigger picture. This is a story of a woman who by any measure of sanctification is growing leaps and bounds in Christ, who keeps going back to Jesus and to his Word and to the church community and to brutally honest confession and to the sacraments again and again and again in good times and bad. This is a story of the transformed life of an alcoholic and drug abuser, a person with a deeply dysfunctional and broken past. Now she’s leading worship, preaching the Word, building “truth in love” relationships in a congregation, reaching out to the poor, visiting the sick, and helping us all understand grace better through a book like this.

But the greatest evidence of her sanctification is that she knows she needs Jesus every minute or she’s a goner.

I’m sure if Pastor Nadia were here with me right now, she’d say, “Remember, Mike, Jesus also died for Tim Challies. You have a little anger problem there, huh?”

And then I’d probably start cursing too.

• • •

Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People
Nadia Bolz-Weber
Convergent Books
2015

Comments

  1. Doesn’t surprise me that Challies, a man who exercises very little grace towards the things and people he writes on, would so greatly misunderstand a book on that subject. I suspect deep down he believes we’re saved by orthodoxy instead.

    I found Pastrix to be a great read and I look forward to Bolz-Weber’s new book.

    • “I suspect deep down he believes we’re saved by orthodoxy instead.”

      Yep. I have seen a lot of that with that crowd. ‘Depart from me for I never knew you’ means you failed the theology test at the pearly gates!

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        ‘Depart from me for I never knew you’ means you failed the theology test at the pearly gates!

        How does that “theology test” differ from the spells in the Egyptian Book of the Dead or the Freemason-esque passwords and handshakes practiced in a Mormon Temple ceremony?

        • Simple: Osiris isn’t real, but Yahweh is. Duh.

          Although I should point out “Depart from me” is the result of failing the fruits test: Didn’t feed Jesus (nor his needy proxies) when he hungered, didn’t clothe him when naked, didn’t visit him in prison, etc. We get busted not for lacking orthodoxy, but orthopraxy.

          ’Cause if you’ve legitimately received grace, you invariably do grace.

  2. Bolz-Weber makes me squirm, which is why I choose to continue listening to her.

  3. I’m not too familiar with Bolz-Weber yet, just what I’ve seen in the news lately. I think I would like her, and I hope to read her book.

    I have to say, though, that this post feels very deja-vu to me – and could have been written nearly verbatim about Driscoll circa 2003 or so. In fact, the thing that first brought me to internetmonk so many years ago was a piece Michael Spencer wrote defending MD against the old Christian guard (Team Pyro, etc) who could not look past his cussing and irreverent delivery to appreciate how Mark was bringing the gospel to so many unsaved in Seattle.

    Well, we all know how Driscoll went of the rails as fame and attention piled on in the ensuing years (and, as it turned out, he may have even been off the rails in 2003). I pray similar does not happen to Bolz-Weber as she garners more attention and fame.

    • My impression is that the frat-boyish Driscoll and the fringe-dweller Bolz-Weber are two entirely different kinds of people; I’d be very surprised if she’d fall prey to the same kinds of hubris and controlling heavy-handedness that he made his habit.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        This. The similarities are superficial. Which isn’t to say that Bolz-Weber might not run off the rails. Indeed, I would expect her to be the first to acknowledge this possibility. Which gives me hope for better results than with Driscoll.

    • Huh. I think this is a really fair observation, as far as the “draw” and aesthetics go. I’m rooting for Nadia to stay the course and be the real deal. But the real test will come as she gains more of a following. The current dispute she finds herself in, alongside Rachel Held Evans, is very concerning and I hope it will be honestly spoken to very soon.

      • Is this the thing about supporting Tony Jones? Or something else?

        • This guy sounds like a piece of work. Cheating on his wife would be bad enough; if he really distinguished between his ex-wife as his legal wife and his other women as his “spiritual” wives, then he’s a douche and a heretic.

          He’s obviously also a poor businessman: anyone with theology that messed up could be making bank in tele-evangelism.

      • “The current dispute she finds herself in, alongside Rachel Held Evans, is very concerning and I hope it will be honestly spoken to very soon.”

        I don’t keep up with the celebrity Christian circuit. Can you me provide more details?

        • I don’t want to derail the thread. Just google the pertinent names, including the one Mike mentioned in the comment above. The ladies at The Wartburg Watch, which is linked to in the side column blogroll, have written about it.

          • Sean – yep!

            CM, while i like what she says, there is a huge disconnevt due yo these and related issues. I agree thst smackdowns of the new book, and of her personally, are uncalled-for, but… i canmot, at this point, support her appearances in the public square. Not until/unless she has a vhangenof heart on T. Jones et. al.

            /rant

          • Yikes! Yes, this is shameful. Spousal abuse is spousal abuse, whether the abuser is a conservative, progressive, or emergent church leader. All of a sudden my opinion of Bolz-Weber, and Evans, has to be revised. How quickly people turn a blind eye to abuse when friends and colleagues are accused, even when there’s good evidence that the abuse has really occurred.

          • Robert, Nadia’s FB posts from that time (some of them posted to a closed group for Lutheran clergy) were pretty damned bad. (In more ways than one.) RHE is young and probably a little naive, but Nadia is not only old enough to know better, but has lived a tough life, seen a lot of things *and* is currently in pastoral ministry. If I were her bishop, I’d have (figuratively speaking) busted her chops.

            But that’s just me. And, as we’ve said, much more info. is over on TWW, also from a recent protest of Nadia and RHE’s big conference can be found on the STuff Christian Culture Likes FB page.

            apologies for my typos, which are many!

          • Thank you folks, I get the gist. Not interested actually. I’m too busy worrying about the people I do know then to fret about the ones I don’t.

          • The Tony Jones thing is quite the cock-up. I don’t know who or how much or how little to believe.

    • My guess is that she’s too much of an outsider to gain too much of a following, though pride does have a way of creeping into the hearts of the humble. All of us are in danger of that.

    • She also has the benefit of being part of something of a church hierarchy, rather than being the unofficial pope of a mini-denomination. That doesn’t give absolute protection, but it helps.

      • Excellent point. I hear about her checking with her bishop a lot.

        • I hope her bishop is addressing the issues Sean and I mentioned. So far, maybe in private, and maybe not.

          The last thing the ELCA needs is a “celebrity” padtor (in the usual sense). I can’t help thinking that it wouldn’t go down well in my state/diocese, but then, i think most of us are still, at heart, part of the now-dissolved LCA, and PA Dutch to boot. ; )

      • David Cornwell says:

        Good.

    • Tattoos and “cussing” shouldn’t be the standards of comparison. I’d look at more empire reach, denomination, theological background, etc.

      Also, Driscoll only talked about watching MMA…Nadia is an actual weight lifter and heavy trainer, lol.

  4. kerokline says:

    She has a great interview on NPR’s “Fresh Air”. Here’s my favorite bit –
    “Nobody ever meets me and guesses [that I am a pastor]. The best thing is on airplanes. … Eventually if you talk to [people], which I try not to do, but if it has to happen, then they’ll say, “What do you do?” and I’ll invite them to guess, and never once have they guessed. I did get “burlesque dancer” once, which pleased me to no end. If you’re a middle-aged Lutheran pastor and someone guesses you’re a burlesque dancer, that feels like a win for the day.”

    • lol…..sure that happens to Chap Mike all the time…. or professional playoff winning pitcher for the Cubs…

  5. He seems to mistake having proper manners for the resurrected life and dismiss the kind of rough-hewn faith and obedience that Nadia Bolz-Weber talks about.

    Yep, that’s part and parcel of a of evangelicalism in general, and of wide swaths of the Reformed world in particular. Oddly enough, the sanctified Christian life in those circles looks amazingly like white upper middle class suburban life, complete with Miss Manners mores. I actually once had an older friend in a men’s bible study I once attended, a man who I had known for quite awhile and whose counsel I sought regularly, question my salvation for my using the word “shit” at a BBQ we were having.

    And heaven help you if you don’t fit in.

    I won’t even touch the notion of a Reformed blogger criticizing someone else for bad manners in polemic, because that is just too darn damn easy. 😉

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      You do disservice to Miss Manners. She always has a sense of humor about her topic, and she repeatedly emphasizes the underlying principle that the essence of good manners is concern for others. Yes, she adores the trivia of Victorian table settings, but she never confuses good manners with knowing the proper technique for the use of a fish fork.

    • “So how’s my BBQ?”

      “It’s shit.”

      “Are you sure you’re saved?”

    • Miss Manners is actually a social satirist in disguise. She’s written some very funny matetisl under her real name, Judith Martin. Her column has slways been funny, though her humor isn’t everyone’s cuppa.

  6. It sounds like what matters to Challies is the window dressing, not the substance; that’s unfortunate and sad, but far from uncommon. I don’t know much about either Challies or Bolz-Weber, but I know whose church I’d rather attend on a Sunday morning.

  7. The march to that dark alley following a Good Friday service is symbolically, is viscerally, so powerful. The willingness to step into the haunts of radical evil, to be present to and pray in the places where the demons have had their way, to identify with those who have seemingly been lost to the power of death and negation, is to embody the living Jesus in the world. We need more of this; we need to be more of this. At least, I know that I do.

    • That kind of reminds me of the story in Mark 5 where Jesus goes to Gedara and a demon possessed man runs out of a graveyard and challenges Jesus. Everything about that story says ‘unclean’ and ‘evil’ – a first-century ghost story, but he just marches right in. Think of how ‘uncomfortable’ the disciples must have felt, kind of like most us would in that dark alley.

  8. You’ve got my full attention on this one, Chap Mike: my Kindle hasn’t been used in many months, it’s about to wake up.

  9. Oh, come on. Does anyone outside Tim’s sanctimonious, fundamentalist, neo-cal echo chamber take him seriously? He has already disqualified himself as a decent human by supporting his church’s wicked foolishness that women aren’t even allowed to read the Scripture in the church service. Why he (or anyone else) would think he has the moral high-ground is beyond me. He just comes across, unfortunately and typically, as an arrogant jerk.

    • kerokline says:

      I think it really hit me that Challies was just not person worth listening to when listed Pope Francis in his list of “False Teachers”. The Pope is a false teacher! Psh, yeah, that’s totally a thing reasonable people say without the slightest hint of irony.

      It started out fine! Safe choices, like Arius, Pelagius (though wrongfully maligned, I think), and Muhammad (not a Christian). No one could argue with the choices, though its bizarre to listen to him rehash ancient theology fights through the lens of Gospel Coalition Calvinism.

      Then he got a little more recent – Joseph Smith, Ellen G. White, Charles Taze Russel? Still a-ok from a theology standpoint, but its weird to pick fights with groups most people don’t consider orthodox.

      Then he got way bolder – Harry Fosdick? I mean, sure, he kind of kicked off the fundamentalist-modernist/progressive split, but calling him a false teacher seems harsh. He’s dead though, he can’t defend himself. Norman Vincent Peale? He’s not a theologian! He’s a pseudo-psychologist who had a huge influence in the tone of American mainstream Christianity.

      Marcus Borg? So, I guess I can get behind this one in the sense of a person who has been a huge influence and clearly has no desire to be attached to orthodox belief… but that’s also kind of the reason this is odd. Borg doesn’t present himself as orthodox, why bother re-affirming that he’s not orthodox?

      Pope Francis though?!? I’m gonna pretend you didn’t just say that. Who do you think you are? He’s a false teacher because he says things like “who am I to judge?” Now you’re just want to get a rise of out Catholics.

      Maybe you had a seizure and accidentally finger-vomited that post onto your blog.

      Next up was Benny Hinn. Sure, I think we can all get behind this one in theory, but who exactly do you think is reading this? I don’t think anyone who would bother to read your blog is still in the “pro faith healing” camp.

      Brian McLauren?!? Challies, come on! I think McLauren earned his spot for doubting inerrancy, but that was already covered with Fosdick and Borg. TD Jakes? I mean, he was brought up in Oneness Pentecostal churches, but there’s no evidence he holds an unorthodox view of the Trinity. He affirmed the orthodox view in an interview with Driscoll, for what his word is worth (not much to Challies).

      His last post was on Creflo Dollar. Again, who do you think is reading your blog Challies??

      Anyway, this rant was brought to you by the “my family goes to a Gospel Coalition adjacent church, so I can’t get far enough away” foundation. Ugh.

      • I appreciate your story, kerkoline, and I’m sure I inspired your rant by this post today.

        But maybe it’s time to stop piling on Tim Challies. My point is simple — he doesn’t get Lutheran teaching about grace and his critique of NBW is unwarranted. I won’t go any farther than that. If I do, I’ll have to face the Luther Insult Generator again.

        • Richard Hershberger says:

          Specifically, the idea of “Simul iustus et peccator.” This seems to be a difficult concept for many on the Reformed side.

        • kerokline says:

          No, you’re right Chaplain. No more venting.

          We all need to face the Luther Insult Generator once in a while 🙂 As Luther might have said of me, “For you are an excellent person, as skillful, clever, and versed in Holy Scripture as a cow in a walnut tree or a sow on a harp.”

      • Clay Crouch says:

        By the way Borg died early this year. Now if he was looking for an Episcopalian to round out his list, Shelby Spong would have been a shoo-in.

        • Richard Hershberger says:

          Indeed. Spong is a bugaboo for all people. I was asked once if Lutherans had an equivalent of Spong for the conservative faction to freak out about. My response is that yes, we do: it is Spong. He does double duty, saving us the trouble.

        • Borg was an Episcopalian; he moved from Lutheranism to the Episcopal Church well over a decade ago.

          • Clay Crouch says:

            Yes, wasn’t he married to an Episcopal priest? My mother new Spong way back in the 40’s (he grew up in Charlotte, NC). She said he was kooky then.

        • Borg, in certain ways, was not radical as he may have seemed. His approach to prayer, for instance, followed a very traditional model.

      • Well I think Pope Francis is a real teacher but a teacher of what? The message I get is that his organization will overcome any obstacle and weather any storm in order to survive no matter the cost. And it has obviously been very successful in surviving even though the cost has been enormous.

    • Does anyone outside Tim’s sanctimonious, fundamentalist, neo-cal echo chamber take him seriously?

      Unfortunately, that’s a very very very huge echo chamber…

  10. I’m surprised no one’s mentioned Challies’ strict complementarian stance: A woman pastor? That would have biased his opinion of Bolz-Weber and her book before he’d even opened it to the first page.

    Great review! While I passed on Pastrix, I’ll definitely be picking this one up.

    • Yes, he kind of sidestepped that in the review, but he made it clear where he stands.

    • Well, how could we have missed that hippo in the tutu walking thru the room: June Cleaver , Dallas or Trinity educated with honors, mother-of-the-year and member of the US soccer team would not be a candidate for Challies…… so what’s it matter that she’s inked up and talks like an angry tradesman ???

  11. What Greg said. Time to fire up the Kindle. You couldn’t sell me on a book faster than you did in this review. And totally not surprised by Challies’ take on it.

  12. Challies is a pharasee’s pharasee

  13. This attack on Tim Challies is the most judgmental and self-righteous piece of writing I’ve ever read in my life.

    • I won’t go as far as the way you’ve stated it, but I did find it interesting that most of this book review was spent talking about Challies review.

      • “Most” was an overstatement. Sorry about that. Better stated would’ve been : “too much of this book review…” Challies was brought into it too much for my taste.

        • My take is that sometimes what I am speaking positively about is most clearly seen in the light of the negative attacks upon it. NBW is a controversial figure, and is especially troublesome for people with my background. I’m taking a stand with my Lutheran sister on this one. And I’m sure the way I’m doing it is at least 75% wrong. And now I’m defending myself.

          So, let me dial up the ol’ Luther insulter and see what he has to say to me. OK this seems fitting: “You should not write a [post] before you have heard an old sow fart; and then you should open your jaws with awe, saying, ‘Thank you, lovely nightingale, that is just the text for me!'”

      • And what would Nadia say about that? Probably something about grace, with a couple of scatalogical adverbs for emphasis.

        This seems to be a real issue with comment sections, generally, no matter what the subject. It’s just too easy to become bobble-heads by piling on one commenter’s judgment of another Christian. We need to GIVE grace as Nadia explained.

    • It’s not meant as an attack on Tim Challies but about what he wrote and about a particular view of NBW that is pervasive in his circles. He did judge her personally, saying she has no business being a pastor. I said nothing like that regarding Challies, but focused on his words. I also tried to do it with a bit of humor and self-deprecation — please note the ending. I’m clearly acknowledging that my “righteous indignation” may be a very real problem here.

      • Actually, yes….the self-irony (is that a term?) was a well-done close to your article. I didn’t mean to be too critical.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        It’s OK, you are at least in good company. I always like to remember Tolkien’s view of book reviews and reviewers – that they tell you a lot about the reviewer, and not much about the book. Everyone who has written reviews falls into this.

    • Jazziscoolithink says:

      Wow, you must not have read Challies’ review then.

    • Clay Crouch says:

      Clark, you need to read more!

    • To defend someone from attack is not an attack. To point out someone being self-righteous is not self-righteous.

      • turnsalso says:

        “The man who neglects his soul for fear of becoming self-righteous suffers from blindness; he does not see how self-righteous he is.” -Tito Colliander

  14. 1) This post is the first one I can remember at iMonk that I literally laughed out loud.

    2) This post gets printed out and passed on to my own Lutheran pastor, who may well laugh out loud himself.

    3) The cover of this month’s Lutheran Magazine features a portrait of Katie Luther, the theme being Then and Now. Katie could be Nadia’s sister and I would have been totally impressed if the cover had Nadia alongside Katie. I think the two would likely have been best friends forever.

    4) The name of the church that Challies pastors is Grace Fellowship Church. I’ll let that speak for itself. On the church website is the following statement under Affiliations:

    “Grace Fellowship Church is currently not formally affiliated with any denomination or family of churches. Legally, GFC is an independent local church governed by a body of elders elected by the membership. Independence is not a posture that GFC has formally adopted, but a position it finds itself in at this time as a result of God’s providence.”

    I don’t know the story behind that but I think I’ll let it speak for itself as well.

  15. David Cornwell says:

    ““Grace Fellowship Church is currently not formally affiliated with any denomination or family of churches. Legally, GFC is an independent local church governed by a body of elders elected by the membership. Independence is not a posture that GFC has formally adopted, but a position it finds itself in at this time as a result of God’s providence.”

    Hope this is not too far off the track for this post. But I’ve never understood how the ordination of a pastor happens in these kind of churches. Or do they even ordain pastors?

    I don’t want this to turn into a sidetrack. So short answer will do.

  16. Christiane says:

    it would be fun to watch Nadia and Tim in a conversation with each other . . . why this occurred to me, I don’t know, but I can imagine only one of them having the backbone to go through with it.

  17. I am currently loving this book. A wonderful point that she makes is that many in Lutheran/pastor circles misunderstand her ministry. They think she is ‘cool’ and to emulate her they need to be ‘cool’. She points out that ‘cool’ people don’t have time to come to a mid-week bible study. They are busy with careers, sports, families… Only messed up people come to her bible study.

    I also don’t put Nadia in the celebrity pastor group. First, she admits she is messed up. Second, her following is actually quite small, and I don’t think her local church is very large at all. Thirdly, my guess is that her congregation is too small and ‘messed-up’ to financially support a staff. I believe she only writes and markets the book to help provide for her family and support the church.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      “They think she is ‘cool’ and to emulate her they need to be ‘cool’.”

      Yeah, well, Lutherans have been trying for the past half century to figure out how to do outreach to the kids nowadays. This generally turns out poorly. When I was a kid this involved a bunch of people of extremely northern European ancestry trying to sing negro spirituals. In the ’80s this morphed into trying to adopt “church growth” techniques by becoming pale imitations of Evangelical churches. Or rather, that was the better result. The worse result–fortunately rare–was stuff like this: http://www.joyonline.org/. Go take a look and search for any hint that this organization ever had any Lutheran connection. You can find it, but you have to hunt for it.

      I fully expect that some Lutheran pastors will look at the Pastrix and conclude that this is how you do it, and try to copy her. I also expect that the results will be painfully embarrassing. But it is part of who we are. Not my part: my part can absolutely nail a Bach cantata, and we stick to what we do well. In the meantime, I am happy to embrace the Pastrix as also being a part of who we are.

      • Richard I hope you don’t think Lutherans are the only ones who tried to do this. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Southern Baptists trying to be “relevant”. At some point the SBC just gave up and decided to get mean.

        • Richard Hershberger says:

          Most of the older denominations tried this is one form or another. The Catholic folk mass of the ’70s is another painful memory. I am most conversant with the various ways the Lutherans have gone down this path.

          My impression is that the SBC succumbed to a coup by a Calvinista fifth column. I’m not sure how or if this relates to attempts to be relevant.

          • Richard, *some* folk Masses were good, with good music, the way i remember it. But the kind you mentioned – we will not speak of them, Although i think that the Lutheran and Episcopalian attempts at same were, for the most part, even worse. Their legacy lives on in the many appalling vestments worn in TEC.

          • When I was a kid, I remember going to a folk music Mass on Ascension Day; one of the musical selections was the song “Leaving on a Jet Plane”.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            I remember going to a folk music Mass on Ascension Day; one of the musical selections was the song “Leaving on a Jet Plane”.

            Argh. That’s either South Park episode material or whoever arranged the music had one weird-ass sense of humor.

          • Robert – Sounds all too believable. I recall an article in Newsweek that mentioned a controversial mass in which *donuts* were used instead of wafers or bread. There certainly were, as gospel blues singer Rosetta Tharpe has it, “Strange things happenin’ every day.” (Understatement!)

            I lived in a very small convent for a year or so when i was in undergrad, and some of the nuns there were very up on good music that was being written in various places, including a Jesuit seminary somewhere in the Midwest. I’ve got some LPs sitting in storage that are orders of magnitude better than the average songs being written for folk masses – and amazingly, people enjoyed singing them. (I haveblong been puzzled by the way many Catholics hold back from singing in church – it’s downright baffling for folks like me who come from a church background where music is a vital part of the liturgy and order of service. A lot of Lutherans love to sing, or at least, that’s been true of the churches I’ve attended.)

  18. Reading the post on NBW referred to by CM, I had a similar take. He is barking up the wrong tree.

    Nevertheless, it made me pause and consider and pray for our sister Nadia.

    We have all seen too many times how celebrity is no respecter of pastors. How the image can eventually consume the person. How the need to constantly manufacture more outrageous responses can become the driving force behind what began as a ministry.

    While I don’t think Nadia is there, who can deny that she is as subject to this temptation as anyone? And it is undoubtedly a sneaky and pernicious tendency. I pray that the grace of Jesus through his Holy Spirit will enable her to remain truly humble (rather than show humble), and that many will see Jesus through her and be drawn to him. And I pray that we may all consider and learn what the Spirit has to teach us about the true nature of holiness.

    There are many well-known men and women with national reputations from whom I have learned a great deal. I worry about all of them. Pride is an old killer.

  19. I’m in between books right now at the moment as well, and instead of reading a previously purchased Enns book…why not this one.

  20. Went to Challies website to check out the article and attached comments. Attached comments….. riiiiiiggggghhhhht. I guess if you had comments allowed, you’d have to moderate, and we KNOW how much fun that is….

  21. Burro [Mule] says:

    I’m so glad NBW and I are neighbors on the IMonk blogroll. If we had not have been, I would not have read as much of her as I have. She’s crunchy and spicy, not at all your standard Lutheran fare.

    God bless and be with her bishop. Of course, that tells us what brand of Lutheran she is, doesn’t it?

    I know I haven’t done much blogging lately. If Rev. BW has been poking around on my blog like I have on hers, I’ll need to put some fresh meat up for her. Maybe a post on what chromosomes would have to undergo a mutation to make Arabs more successful at parliamentary democracy.

    She’s an abomination to me on so many levels, but I’ve always had a soft spot for abominations. Being one myself, I like them better than those who defend them or attack them. I don’t think we’d get along, precisely, but we could have a good fight.

    • Burro [Mule] says:

      I see we’re about the same size, same general age, and same fitness level.

      Cool.

      • Go start a cage fight with Driscoll, dudebro. I think you’re out of your league here.

        • Clay Crouch says:

          Please stop encouraging him! Every time you respond to him his mouth opens slightly and his eyes gently roll back. Being and abomination and all.

          • Sometimes his incivility gets to me. This is the 1st comment in a while that angered me, mainly because I have had many Arab immigrant friends and former students. He hit a nerve.

    • Mule, that ethnic slur is Just. Not. Cool. You get away with statements like that in the manosphere, but how do you think it would be received by Orthodox and Byzantine Cstholic Arabs?

      I don’t get why you feel such a need to take swipes at others, be they women, people from other cultures, prople ftom *this* culture; the works.

      • To be fair, when I was in UAE, the “cultural immersion guide” spent much of the time laughing at Arabs and pointing out how the idea of democracy and cooperation were foreign to them. Not that Burro isn’t offensive, as usual, but it seems to be a shoe that fits.

        • To the best of my understanding, the Emirates are thrir own thing. Although i have never been there myself. The Arabic-speaking countries are nothing if not culturally diverse.

          As to democravy (or democratic republics), there’s not exactly a genetic readon for our extremely brief span of time living with such systemd of gobetnment. Nor has the transition from authoritatian rule to the kind ofsystem we havebern some polite, peaceful thing.

    • She’s crunchy and spicy

      The Lutherans here in Minnesota sure do love their spicy salsa, especially the one with the label of Heinz 47. Goes great with the lutefisk.

      I don’t belong in this state…

      • Back East, us Lutherans would be plying you with pies (shoo fly, apple, the works) and various other PA Dutch specialties.

        Pick your stste, then name your poison. Those peeps out your way can kerp their lutefidk!

        • Pies are good. But I need to meet some Mexican Lutherans, maybe they will know how to cook with some spices.

          • Ok, question for the Lutherans out there – what ethnic group is most underrepresented in your denomination?

          • In my part of the country: black folks. There are probably more Latinos in ELCA churches south of here, as a large number of immigrants from Mexico, RP, the Dominican Republic and various Central American countries have been coming there for the past 15+ years, and some of them choose Protestant churches after they arrive, or have been here for a while.’

            Funny, though: in Erie, PA, there used to be an Italian Lutheran church, right smack in the heart of Little Italy (the ‘hood long ago ceased being Italian, but still…). I once met someone who was a member – had grown up in that church – who absolutely refused to believe that I had never heard of Italian Lutherans before. And… since then, I never have.

          • Err, PR, as in Puerto Rico.

          • I think you will find that highly spicy food is more of a Border (Tex-Mex, etc.) thing, though I might be all wrong about that. I’ve known people who went to Guadalajara and other cities who ate the local entrees and found them to mildly spiced at best.

          • Eckhart Trolle says:

            I was going to guess “Jews”…

          • Definitely blacks in my neck of the woods. I didn’t write “African-Americns”, because they are very heavily represented (about half of my church are African immigrants). I mean non-immigrant black neighbors. They are sadly in short supply.

          • numo, My uncle’s wife was an Italian Lutheran; her father and mother had gone over to the Lutherans shortly after their arrival in New Jersey from Italy.

          • Robert, i think a lot of people made the switch soon after coming. Back in the 80s, i had a friend who was black but also Italian American. Her Italian immigrant grandma met her husband in a Pentecostal church (a black congregation) frequented by many new Italian immigrants, as the weren’t welcome in most white Protestant churches in the NYC area at that time.

          • Only here to comment on spicy Mexican food… 🙂

            My FIL is from Guanajuato and my family and I are currently living in Puerto Vallarta. I often ask servers if a dish is spicy and they usually reassure me, given that I’m a gringo, that no it isn’t. Of course I always assure them that I LOVE spicy food and lo and behold the gloves come off. Sometimes it’s spicy enough that it feels like they’re testing me. Some of the most exquisite red chile you’ll ever taste, if you can convince them you want to eat like a Mexican. 😀

        • Hey, I just moved to Lancaster County and experienced Shoo Fly pie for the first time!

          • I advise you to stay away from the scrapple; I advise everyone to stay away from the scrapple. The baked oatmeal isn’t so bad, depending on the particular recipe, and the Whoopie Pies also vary in quality from place to place. I don’t care for the chicken Bott Boi, but the ham loaf…the ham loaf is exquisite. And if you’re like me, you’ll love the Amish potato salad.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            I’ve always been partial to the roast pork and sauerkraut.

          • I would never eat scrapple, which is actually more of a Philly thing that migrated to Lancaster County. The Plain People up here don’t, make it – *nobody* makes or eats it.

            As for pot pie, homemade is the only way to go; ditto for chcken and dumplings and chicken and waffles. Though there are a few churvhes in my area that regularly serve both to the public for a nominal fee, and I’ve heard very good things about the food. Ditto for an RC parish about 20 miles from here that attracts people from far away (and i do mean far) for their Lenten seafood buffet + fish fry. I haven’t been, but need to go next year.

          • Christiane says:

            SEAN, I married a Pennsylvania man of recent German heritage ( his grandparents were from Germany) who was Lutheran and converted to Catholic.
            He’s absolutely besotted with pork cooked with sour kraut. I make it for him at least once a month together with mashed potatoes. He’s in German-American heaven eating that stuff. I’m not a fan of sour kraut myself, but it gives me joy to see him happy with his dinner. (the really weird side dish he loves with this is creamed-corn, the sweet kind you can buy canned, but I think it must be some childish memory of ‘good eating’ that stayed with him because the combo of creamed corn with the cooked pork and sour kraut is . . . well . . . you have to try it to believe it.) 🙂

          • Christiane, I like pork and sauerkraut, but sauerkraut does not like me… so I make do with mashed potatoes and gravy.

          • I would imagine a lot of people eat creamed corn with sauerkraut, etc. – Google Cope’s Corn (they ship!). Their dried corn is very, very tasty.

          • Christiane,
            Does he eat stuffed pig stomach?

          • Robert, you would bring up hog maw – yikes!!!

  22. I had the privilege to hear Nadia speak. She spoke candidly with wit, depth, and sobriety. She read from the book months before it was published.

    I have no interest in Christian celebrities. I don’t know her, but I don’t think she is trying to be a celebrity. I think she is pretty much what you get. Maybe that honesty in itself is a novelty.

    Regarding unfair comparisons with other individuals: again, not knowing her, I don’t think she is mean spirited nor motivates through violence and intimidation.

    Driscoll didn’t ultimately fall because he cussed. That in itself is a sad commentary and minimizing of the gravity of that train wreck and the injury left in his wake.

  23. Christiane says:

    from the unbelievably negative Challies review, I can imagine that he feels very threatened by a form of Christianity with the kind of authenticity he may envy but not be able to emulate . . . he has bought into another form of Christianity based on a more shallow way to quickly examine whether or not a subject is ‘acceptable’ and then either hand them tithing envelopes or show them the exit door . . .

    I know at some level, when fundamentalists encounter real authentic Christianity, they must feel at least a twinge of discomfort . . . and maybe even some self-pity . . . but maybe in the end the idea is to quickly eliminate that which one’s base should not read at all, lest they too see in Nadia some glimmer of ‘the real thing’ and become ‘restless’

    yes, I chose the word ‘restless’ in honor of ANDY’s reaction to Nadia and in honor of RICK’s reply to Andy. 🙂

    maybe a lot of the ‘negativity’ cast out towards the world by fundamentalists is simply some kind of smoke screen to hide within . . . the darkness generated prevents them from seeing the depths of their own contempt for ‘those other sinners’

    • Good points. Piety is nothing more than a thin layer of spray paint that covers the dirt the pious see on the “world” and their “lesser” Christian brethren.