April 23, 2014

The Impious Pastor

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Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint
by Nadia Bolz-Weber
Jericho Books (2013)

* * *

Review 2Note: You won’t find Nadia Bolz-Weber’s new book at your local LifeWay Store. If anyone at LifeWay received a copy, I’m sure the reviewer didn’t make it past the cover shot of Nadia, with her impressive (intimidating?) tats, before tossing the book in the trash. If, by chance, someone there actually opened the book, the first word in the first sentence (“Shit…”) would have sealed the verdict:

This is not a safe book.

It is a book about resurrection, however, and a book that realistically portrays those raised from the dead as folks with dirt still under their fingernails. Nadia Bolz-Weber says that her book is about:

…the development of my faith, the expression of my faith, and the community of my faith. And it is the story of how I have experienced this Jesus thing to be true. How the Christian faith, while wildly misrepresented in so much of American culture, is really about death and resurrection. It’s about how God continues to reach into the graves we dig for ourselves and pull us out, giving us new life, in ways both dramatic and small. This faith helped me get sober, and it helped me (is helping me) forgive the fundamentalism of my Church of Christ upbringing, and it helps me not always have to be right.

One look at Nadia, and you might not imagine she grew up in the Church of Christ, a child from a conservative Christian family. She suffered from Graves’ disease, which gave her a “bug-eyed” appearance and caused her enormous relational pain as a child and young teen. Though the church continued to welcome her, she considered the rest of their fundamentalisms unbearable. She began to drink and do drugs in her late teens and college years, and hanging out with others who were doing the same. She found out, through hard experience, that “a community based on the idea that everyone hates rules is, in the end, just as disappointing and oppressive as a community based on the ability to follow rules.” Still, she began to fantasize about herself as one of those people who would die a “rock-and-roll early death.” Then a friend had enough courage to speak the truth to her and she sought sobriety.

Getting sober never felt like I had pulled myself up by my own spiritual bootstraps. It felt instead like I was on one path toward destruction and God pulled me off of it by the scruff of my collar, me hopelessly kicking and flailing and saying, “Screw you. I’ll take the destruction please.” God looked at tiny, little red-faced me and said, “that’s adorable,” and then plunked me down on an entirely different path.

She became part of a “rowing team” of people in AA trying to kick booze and drugs and deal with mental illness and all manner of dysfunction. One of them, a comedian friend, ended up hanging himself and the others asked Nadia, who had by that time returned to religious practice, to officiate the funeral. And that, she says, is how she was called into ministry. Giving her friend’s eulogy, she realized maybe she was supposed to be a pastor for folks like these.

It’s not that I felt pious and nurturing. It’s that there, in that underground room filled with the smell of stale beer and bad jokes, I looked around and saw more pain and questions and loss than anyone, including myself, knew what to do with. And I saw God. …God, among the cynics and alcoholics and queers.

insenseNadia Bolz-Weber became an ELCA Lutheran pastor, starting a mission church called The House for All Sinners and Saints.

A lot of this book is about her experiences as a pastor, and some of it is intimately familiar to me and will be recognizable to most of us who have embraced the vocation of ordained ministry. She talks honestly about her struggles to understand and speak the word God would have the congregation hear each week. She tells about such mundane disappointments as planning a “Rally Day” outreach only to have nobody show up. She records experiences of being used by needy, manipulative, and deceptive people. There’s a hilarious chapter that chronicles her kvetching over the fact that the church is starting to attract too many “normal” types. She describes her CPE training — Clinical Pastoral Education — when she became introduced to ministry in the hospital and felt totally inadequate, like most of us do.

But Nadia is not your grandmother’s pastor. Hell, I’m not sure my kids or grandkids are ready for her!

For one thing, she swears like a sailor (with her pervasive tattoos completing the look). Many preachers will speak about how Jesus and his Spirit convict us of sin. Nadia prefers to quote what her friend says about how “the Boyfriend is all up in your shit right now.” What other Christian book do you know with a chapter about how a church learned to put up with a notorious, incorrigible con man called, “He’s a Fuck-up, but He’s Our Fuck-up”? What other pastor do you know who “every morning thinks about her quirkly little church and prays, Oh God, it’s so beautiful. Help me not fuck it up”?

For another, Nadia believes in God’s grace strongly enough that she thinks it applies to everyone, no matter who they are, no matter what they’ve done, what they look like, or what they continue to do. Most people struggle with knowing how to accept people who are different, those who are on the fringes of societal acceptability. She, on the other hand, struggles with accepting people who wear Dockers and eat at Applebee’s. Nadia prefers to hang with the drag queens and the hermaphrodites. (And who, therefore, has ever given a more honest and realistic perspective on the story of Phillip and the eunuch?)

How many churches do you know who hold “Beer & Hymns” nights?

Pastor David L. Hansen wrote one of the better reviews of Pastrix that I have read. Here’s what he said:

At the end of the day, Pastrix is not a book about Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber. Pastrix is a memoir of grace — and not grace that is polished and cleaned up so that it can be put on a shelf and admired.

Pastrix is not about grace “in theory.” Pastor Nadia’s story, her friends’ stories, and stories of members at House for All Sinners and Saints reveal gritty, real grace. A story of grace that shows up at rock bottom, in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, in the broken places of life. A story of grace that does not wait for us to become good or perfect or nice, that does not wait for us come to church, but instead comes and finds us where we are.

Nadia Bolz-Weber is Capon-esque in her radical embrace of grace. At a key point in the book, she reflects on what is perhaps Jesus’ strongest parable on the subject — the story of the landowner who hired workers in the marketplace (Matt. 20:1-16). Bolz-Weber observes, correctly, that the parable is not primarily about the workers, but about the landowner who keeps going back into the marketplace and choosing people.

We never know when God might tap us on the shoulder, when he might interrupt our lives and call us to his field. We can’t feel superior because we’ve worked a lot of hours there. Nor can we feel superior because we received a good wage even though we worked little. No matter who we are, no matter what we’ve done or haven’t done, we only have a job in the field and a good salary because the gracious landowner called us and took care of us. And, as Nadia says,

This is exactly, when it comes down to it, why most people do not believe in grace. It is fucking offensive.

Comments

  1. WOW!

    So much to comment on here but other regular commenters far more articulate than me will weigh in no doubt.

    I work in a Sodom & Gomorrah type of environment and am quite immune to this type of language. It does NOT phase me the slightest! Before coming to Christ I couldn’t finish a sentence without throwing the F-bomb in there, I felt I HAD to.

    However…the folks that emit verbal profanity in my workplace are unregenerate sinners having not experienced the grace and the forgiveness of Christ. So I EXPECT them to “feel free” to talk this way.

    Now call me a simpleton, but I would expect a “person of the cloth” to not leverage shock factor and superfluous profanity to get her points across. Are we expecting too much? We all know the verses that talk about that stuff in the epistles…are they too “old fashion” for our post-modern sensibilities?

    Driscoll has been hammered for his “profanity” yet he never used explicit expletives like this. Are we supposed to be “inspired” by the sister’s “courage” to swear like a sailor as you put it? She almost wears it as a badge of honour.

    Now you’re probably thinking, “he’s another pietist picking on the language”. Ok, her “story” is representative of many who have lived a life on the fringe and I spent 3 years in a church filled with people like that. I shared meals with an ex murderer and a former prostitute who had children with fathers she can’t even remember. I still visit a guy in prison who is in for murder from that church.

    One of my fondest memories of that crowd is how delighted they were when they realised that by the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit they COULD live life clean of swearing, drinking and filling their lungs with self-inflicted poison. If they “fell back” to any of their old habits, they felt like crap. My point being that just because you spent time in the gutter you don’t have to smell like it in your speech and conduct.

    There are morsels of truth in her statements and propositions but her choice of delivering and advertising the greatest gift given to man is pitiful.

    Great product but terrible sales(wo)man!

    • Amen

    • OK, point taken. Profanity distracts you and you think she shouldn’t do it. You are probably right. Perhaps it would be better if she left off that stuff.

      But I am mystified that you would feel compelled to write 8 paragraphs to express that, and the most you can say about her pastoral ministry to the last, the lost, the least, the little and the dead is a brief and passing acknowledgment that “there are morsels of truth…”

      Seriously?

      How can you not marvel at how Christ is being preached and the Holy Spirit is moving and healing among the castoffs and most reviled corners of our nation? Doesn’t it strike you as the least bit remarkable that people who have been written off by most of the church are encountering the living Christ through the (admittedly) lurching, halting, but determined ministry of this woman? Can’t you catch even the slightest glimpse of Jesus working beyond that tattoos and word choice?

      I think that ministry is not an Olympic sport where one performs to earn style points from the judges. I reacted to your comment as I would immediately after the gymnast has just completed a triple somersault dismount, and the commentator starts into a 2 minute discourse on how ” she wobbled a little on that landing.” I’m thinking the commentator was simply focused on the wrong thing.

      • I agree wholeheartedly with JFDU. Please note that my comments are based on this article — I have not read the book at this time but plan to look at it now that I am aware of it.

        While I find it remarkable that this woman, who loves the indigent in the world so greatly, seeks to bring light to a very darkened place, I would have to question the message she is bringing to this community. Is the gospel really being preached? Accurately? Based on this article, I would have to question this very important, foundational fact. The gospel is so distorted in today’s evangelical mindset, often getting lost in the sensational “works” that we “perform.”

        Further, I think her own comment, “a community based on the idea that everyone hates rules is, in the end, just as disappointing and oppressive as a community based on the ability to follow rules”…..applies to her current ministry, as well. What does God desire of us? Rather than change her profanity (and other poor lifestyle choices), she uses it to get attention, and even to validate her ministry. A true pastor is a humble servant, accurately dividing the word of God and administering the sacraments to a covenant people of God — not a showman who creates one more parade to strut her stuff.

        Like JFDU, I would not embrace the fundamentalist approach to anything — and like JFDU, I’ve been and worked among the indigent in the world. I am sure we would both agree that God works in more ways that we can understand — and with or without this woman’s radical approach, the work of God will be done in each and every one of these people.

        While we certainly do not want to become pious and Pharisaical, we can allow the simple beauty of the gospel to shine unadorned by our own personal life stories and works-based ideologies. We can pray that our personal sanctification will begin to shine in a natural, unassuming way so that others have real hope. We can love others well without having to point attention to ourselves.

        I would hope, with someone like this woman, her sanctification process had gotten to the point that she could have learned to curb her language before she called herself a pastor — that the fruits of the Spirit would shine, rather than her life story taking center stage. Shouldn’t she, because of her immense gratitude for her own salvation, be willing to make personal choices in her life which would edify the Father rather than make him seem to be a mere “Boyfriend?” We are talking about the God of creation, the Lord of the Universe — who is to be thought of in terms of awe and reverence — the same goes for our worship. Rather, I see someone who wants to have God on her terms. Since when do any of us get to do this?

        It’s not about tattoos — and it’s not about beer. It’s about the gospel accurately preached — by a called preacher of the gospel (not simply an inward call).

        It sounds like she gets the fact that the landowner chooses his people, calling them to Himself. But she just doesn’t seem to be able to rest in the sovereignty of this fact. She still has to go out and make a name for herself. I fear she is creating a lot of rabbit trails for people to follow instead of directing them in the manner God desires — the simple preaching of the gospel.

        Because my son-in-law was raised in the Church of Christ, resulting in much theological confusion, I have compassion for her. I can see why her journey has been difficult — but most of us have had a difficult journey.

        I am weary of showmen — I am weary of sensationalism. I fear she has just found yet one new way to be sensationalistic and attention-grabbing……and not necessarily for the right reasons. I am also wearied that many people will choose to support her own personal choices even though they may not be upheld so well in scripture. We always run to the defense of a person like this — but when will people run to defend all that scripture teaches — especially the hard parts often ignored. Oh yeah, we only want to hear the grace part……not the consuming fire part.

        • Kaybee, I’m afraid you may well be ascribing motives to Ms. Bolz-Weber most unfairly, as well as making unwarranted assumptions about the “gospel being preached.” I have not read the book either (yet), but have been following her blog and published sermons off and on for a few years. I strongly urge you to spend some time with her there.

          I think you have misunderstood the point of the “boyfriend” comment.

          • I think you are right. If you saw the church she actually ministers within and the community that’s associated with it, you would be hard pressed to see much grandstanding there. She could easily do the mega church thing and play the preacher-star, but having attended a couple of services there, I just don’t see her going that direction. Making a name is not what seems to drive her. Rescuing Christianity from Christians does.

      • Jesus addressed the issue of relative importance in Mt 23, where he compared tithing spices with weightier matters of the law. “You should have practiced the latter without neglecting the former,” he said.

        If this matter of profanity is as light a thing as you imply, then it should be relatively easy to jettison as well (especially since it can be an unnecessary stumbling block).

        So yes, I am for assigning priority to “the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness,” but any mature person can do that without neglecting “small things.”

    • I always find it interesting how the swearing thing is such a distracting little red herring in churches. My Terrible Old Pastor would often preach on how terrible swearing is to his congregation rife with many other indolent, draining sorts of sins that most of them didn’t think were sins at all. This bully of a man, who turned a blind eye at officiating a marriage in which he knew the groom was not actually divorced from his previous wife, just to help characterize him, would tut-tut about how swearing was what must be conquered in our walk with Je-UH-zus. And though I saw through this, most people in the audience were happy to nod their heads and give him props for ‘mastering his tongue’ and challenge themselves to not use them swears anymore. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, maybe he just wanted them to work up to hearing about loving their neighbor and serving the poor and downtrodden…

      Anyhow, I guess what I’m saying here is that the Not Swearing thing is often an outer appearance that means nothing. Secondly, to many of these hard types of people, swearing is part of their language and they take someone’s ‘pious’ clean speech as being insincere and unrelatible.

  2. Impious only in that she doesn’t hide her tattoos, rough language, and sympathy for hard cases. Unlike a lot of pastors I’ve known who do hide these things, whose “piety” is really just hypocrisy.

  3. Some people are called to the prodigals.

    Some people are called to the elder brothers.

    I wonder who has the harder row to hoe.

    I wish I could find her blog post about her tattoos. She’s a regular O. e> Parker

    Stanley Hauerwas has a salty mouth. So did Luther. So did Peter. One wonders if she’d be all ‘coño’, ‘chingase’ or ‘cabron’ if she had an audience with Pope Francis. It is something that needs to be moderated or it can become a point of pride like anything else. I find her sarcasm more offputting than her profanity. I know, I know, pot, meet kettle, right? but sarcasm and irony are so omnipresent these days, and no other attitude seems so corrosive of hope and wonder. We are told to get out of the seat of the scornful.

    I’m not going to worry about her, though. She seems to have a good handle on it herself. The part where she said that a community based on breaking rules was just as tedious as one based on keeping them indicates that.

    Niche groups need love. Someone one accused the Antiochian Archdiocese of being the chaplaincy for the SCA, and I’ve often amused myself with the idea of taking a contingent of fully vested Orthodox clergy to DragonCon.

    • “I’ve often amused myself with the idea of taking a contingent of fully vested Orthodox clergy to DragonCon.”

      LOVE the idea!

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        There is precedent.

        Ever heard of “Fr Kamau”?

        Catholic priest (D.C. area diocese), Navy Reserve chaplain, historical re-enactor (English Civil War period), and FURSUITER. Regular at FurCon and AnthroCon until his RL duties got in the way.

    • “The part where she said that a community based on breaking rules was just as tedious as one based on keeping them indicates that.”

      I’ve been on both sides of the fence. I was converted in a Church of Christ. The congregation I was part of was affiliated with a sect of the Churches of Christ that was considered controlling and abusive. I eventually joined a group of people from that ministry who were meeting in house churches . . . and who pretty much believed that almost anything went. I told my husband right before we got married that it was time to get out. We are now part of a “progressive” Church of Christ which is a good medium between the two extremes.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      “I’ve often amused myself with the idea of taking a contingent of fully vested Orthodox clergy to DragonCon.”

      DO IT
      DO IT
      DO IT
      DO IT….

    • Eh, based on the description of doxacon (www.doxacon.org) I think plenty of them would love it. They might be disappointed by the lack of a hobbit-worthy dinner party though.

    • That Other Jean says:

      Take them to Pennsic, please!

  4. I have been reading her online sermons and liking them very much. Mule, you wrote, “sarcasm and irony are so omnipresent these days, and no other attitude seems so corrosive of hope and wonder.” BUT, her sermons are FILLED with hope and wonder. Perhaps in her daily life she is sarcastic, but her sermons would appeal to a great cross-section of Christians. And for anyone who doesn’t know about her tattoos, they portray the Gospel stories.

  5. She is immature. She is trying to share the gospel, good but she still paints herself as a pitiful but self-righteous figure in describing having too many normal people show up. Maybe it speaks to her bigotry and not that of the so-called normals she seeks to eschew seeing they are showing up in spite of all her exceptional crudeness and unorthodox appearance/style. In my view she is stuck on her former identity, her anthropological one and most specifically the old man’s influence which led her into radicalism Yes, she is sincere but quite immature and her shortcomings and errant ideas or practices do not get a sympathy pass.

    • Golly, I can’t wait to become mature with no errant ideas and practices so I can get my sympathy pass.
      Where do I go to sign up?

      • You forgot to add how you can’t wait to shine your halo be cause your sarcasm helped you by-pass critical thinking requirements and permitted you to live off of short-sighted quips.

        But let’s pretend you will one day aspire for critical thinking, who suggested maturity grants a sympathy pass? Oh right, not me but hey, don’t let a little contextual fact get in the way.

        • Alex,
          When you make a statement that the lack of maturity, shortcomings,errant ideas and practices does not garner sympathy, you are precisely suggesting that the presence of maturity and inerrancy will in fact grant a sympathy pass from you. That’s a tall pedestal to place one’s self upon.

          And based on your response, it appears they were right – sarcasm does seem to be the perfect foil for smugness.

          • flatrocker

            But that is not what I said. I said it was her sincerity that did not garner her a pass. And it is my view that her sincerity plus (I will add 2 things here) her story and object of rescue which are demonstratively present as pass with regard to valid criticisms in some of the comments I read.

    • I haven’t read the book, but she may just be owning up to something that she has a weakness with. I doubt she knows how to minister to ‘normals’ and might be baffled as to what they are doing at her church. Were I her, I would be worried about the ministry becoming too popular and ‘cool’ to the point that it was no longer an effective place for those she’s serving.

  6. In reading the comments left on her sermons which are posted online, the people who usually criticize her are males. That is not across the board, mind you, but it is something I have noticed. What do you think that tells us, if anything? The females are mainly supportive of what she does, says, believes.

    I am not a fan of the F word myself. My husband uses it a lot and I wish he didn’t. But in her case, she is not saying F this and F that and saying things like “The F-ing man told me a F-ing lie and I F-ing hate that about him.” She is using it as “we all F up sometimes” and “I hope I don’t F up.” There is a difference and I don’t know if I am making it clear what the difference is. Other people may say instead, “we all screw up sometimes.” Even that may be offensive to some folks. The “safest” way to say it is “we are make mistakes sometimes” but I guess she feels that the F word is more descriptive.

    • Joanie,

      I love you for being able to discern shades of meaning in the use of the F Word. Awesome.

      • I jokingly said to a friend the other day that using the “f-word” is actually far better than people saying (or people casually accepting people saying) things like “Damn!” or “Goddam!” or “Go to hell!” etc. Because these expletives are usurping something that only God can do – they’re literally acts of taking God’s name in vain. Whereas using the “f-word” is semantically basically saying “very” or “really” or “Get away” or “messed up”:

        “You’re a f-ing idiot!” = You are REALLY an idiot.

        “F off!” “Leave me the f alone!” = Get away from me!

        “You’re a f-up!” You are a TOTAL mess

        Etc.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          As I understand it, the original application of “Taking God’s Name in Vain” does NOT apply to cussing.

          It means doing Evil and claiming God’s Sanction for it. (“GOD WILLS IT!”)

          It’s God saying “You do your own dirty work — don’t drag My Name into it!”

          • I agree, HUG.

          • David Cornwell says:

            It could also mean the gross misuse of God’s name. Examples of this might be the way it’s used to promote the money raising campaigns of many television ministries. Or the way a “Christian” internet dating site uses God’s name to promote finding “God’s mate for you.”

            If someone would go out and use the name of the Queen of England to promote a questionable cause, it would be deeply offensive to her, or for even a good cause.

        • I thought it meant speaking aloud the divine name YHWH (assuming you are able to guess its pronounciation)

          “GD” offends either because it technically calls for God to be damned, or else because it asks God to damn someone else. Either would be bad.

          The Sermon on the Mount famously forbids all oaths (not cussing-oaths, but raise-your-right-hand oaths), but nobody except the Quakers seem to pay any attention to this verse.

        • There’s a whole book on this, you know. It’s called “The F Word.” A serious linguistic study.

    • I remember my facetious campaign back in Marine Corps days to eliminate use of the “F” word in the Corps. it failed, but it did earn me the nickname of “Reverend” that stuck with me for some time. I was mildly pleased about that, though unworthy.

      In the Corps the word was used as noun, adjective, adverb or verb while undergoing only minor variation. It typically served to replace a word that either didn’t exist in vocabulary or could not be called to mind quickly enough. Rarely was it used for its literal meaning, actually. It also had the asset of sounding tough. My campaign to stamp out its use may have been facetious, but I really was tired of hearing the word. But that was the “F” word in speech …

      Use of the “F” word in the course of writing is calculated …either to cater to a particular audience (in this case an audience unlikely to read the book), to differentiate yourself from literate society, or to grab attention and bump up sales. Using her photo on the cover serves the same purpose, whichever that may be …the purpose of either the author or the publisher (think sales and marketing). In combat, we would call that “firing for effect”. Still, if CM can recommend the book, it’s likely worth the price of admission.

      The “F” word did provide me with one of the best laughs I experienced in Corps days, however. My Gunnery Sergeant was speaking to another Marine in the office, complaining about the offensive behavior of a third. His evaluation? “You know what the matter with him is? He ain’t got no f-in’ couth.” He was serious. Fortunately, I was able to stifle my guffaw.

      • James the Mad says:

        “Use of the “F” word in the course of writing is calculated

        Perhaps, perhaps not. Just working off of the review, mind you, but I get more the impression that she’s simply writing the same way she speaks; that she’s simply being real, rather than doing it “to grab attention and bump up sales.”

        This may well be a case where we’re in too big a hurry to assign nefarious motives. So much of what we read is calculated, and I find this type of candor to be refreshing.

        • James, that was my impression as well. You might say that she is writing in a “conversational style.” Which, upon consideration, might be even more disturbing to some. ;-)

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        In the Corps the word was used as noun, adjective, adverb or verb while undergoing only minor variation.

        Marine Creole (just like Army Creole, except the Marines don’t call it that): Five nouns, three verbs, and one all-purpose F-word.

        It typically served to replace a word that either didn’t exist in vocabulary or could not be called to mind quickly enough.

        Like “Smurf” or “Marclar”…

  7. Oops, I see I “made a mistake.” It should say “we ALL make mistakes sometimes” not “ARE.”

  8. I’m reminded of a time years ago when Tony Campolo said, “[According to a profile in Christianity Today entitled] The Positive Prophet, … I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”

    Regardless of what others think of him, he stirred us believers who were exposed to the remark up, and forced us to think about changing the Christian mindset from “what I’m against” to “what I’m for”. I haven’t read this book, but I think I will check it out.

    I can’t say that I would casually use this kind of language when writing about my faith, but at least she’s being sincere. Which pastor is worse…The one who openly swears, or the one who plagiarizes another pastor’s sermon without giving due credit? The one who is tattooed, or the one who is a slave to the interests of the big money-givers in his congregation? The one who agrees the couple who are living together before marriage, or the one who preaches against homosexuality, while ignoring his deacons’ adultery?

    I think I’ll worry about myself, and let Nadia worry about Nadia. Thank God for grace, for all of us…

    • Sorry…Should read “The one who agrees to marry the couple who are living together before marriage…”

      • Lee,

        Why wouldn’t you agree to marry a couple that was living together before marriage? Marrying them would move the relationship to a place where it can be blessed. Not sure I get the connection.

        • Some preachers refuse to marry a couple that is living together unless they agree to move out and refrain from relations for the time leading up to the actual wedding. Maybe that is the type of preacher Lee is referring to.

          • Sounds counterproductive, I know, but even some Catholic priests do this, and they’re usually pretty practical about such things.

    • Nailed it.

  9. I expected more grace in these comments, on this blog, than I’ve seen. She swears. So what? It is neither immature nor necessarily inappropriate. She uses the language of culture to reach those she ministers to (Philippians 3:8, for example?).

    We still want a safe, sanitized Christianity. I love the comment above that points out the hypocrisy of those who “piety” is shielded and not representative of their true selves. All of us are “becoming”; we haven’t arrived, and yet more grace is reserved for our journeys.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      We still want a safe, sanitized Christianity.

      Aslan declawed and castrated and purring on our lap. Nice and Safe.

      Which is really gonna help when (not if) Tash kicks in the door.

      • One wonders if Aslan sprayed to mark his territory. He is most truly a lion, after all.

        • He’s an archetypal lion, not a zoological one. The real ones don’t talk or do magic.

          Strangely, in Christian tradition the lion symbolizes both Mark the Evangelist, and Satan.

          • Yes. And Jesus is the “archetypical” man, “fully man and fully God.”

            He ate and drank and while the scriptures do not record it, I’m pretty sure it all came out the other end. To say so is not blasphemy — it is affirming The Incarnation, also known as The Great Miracle.

            As Aslan is to lionkind, so is Jesus to humankind.

            And to the point of this whole thread — Ms Bolz-Weber is fully human and does not seek to hide or minimize her humanity. In that she identifies with Jesus. As Aslan (and Jesus) is not a tame lion, so her faith in Jesus is equally wild. She does not seek to tame it, but to let it run rampant. What she is doing is a kind of “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom of God.” Nature is not polite and there are parts of the kingdom of God that are just as raw and untamed as the jungles and savannahs.

            If it makes me uncomfortable (or you) imagine how she must feel.

      • That is a nice way of putting it. +1.

    • So… “being gracious” is defined as not finding profanity to be immature and inappropriate? I’m not so sure… Sounds like, either you like it, or your a graceless prude. …have you stopped beating your wife yet?

      I’m not one to take offense at profanity. In fact, I use it myself quite regularly. More so when I’m by myself, but I am finding myself increasingly sailor-mouthed around others. I don’t have a moral problem with it. In fact, in my experience, much of it is anger-related, so I can cut a person some slack when I hear colorful language. Often it is the result of pent up frustration that legitimately needs some release. But I’m not about to make a virtue out of it. Some of the most gracious persons I’ve ever known have precious little tolerance for this sort of talk, and for good reasons. There are times when it it somewhat warranted, and others when it is outright inappropriate. We can disagree about when these are and still be gracious.

      And I find it at least a little bit silly to proof text a justification for profanity. I just don’t think I could see Jesus using it to be relevant. I guess he missed the memo from Paul, or maybe Paul meant something a bit different. The “language of the culture” is English. It’s ok to be ourselves and not polish our vocabulary to conform to some faux cultural standard of sanctification, but neither should we flaunt the opposite extreme. If she like to talk/write like that, it’s fine with me. I do it too. But recognize that perfectly good and gracious fellow believers will take issue with it for legitimate reasons. I wouldn’t attend a church where the pastor spoke like that from the pulpit regularly: I would expect someone with seminary level education specifically trained in communication, homiletics, and exegesis to demonstrate somewhat more diverse of a vocabulary without wearing out the linguistic crutch of the universal adjective. However, after working for churches for seven years, I wouldn’t hold it against the most revered of reverends should I hear them voice their frustrations in the vernacular.

      • Because of the association between certain words and the expression of vehement anger, there are a good number of people who associate it with verbal abuse, even a forerunner to physical assaults. For those who have good reason to be especially sensitive about such things, a preacher who regularly vents her spleen from the pulpit could take the sanctuary of church and turn it into an anxiety-provoking nightmare. True, no one can please everyone all the time, but all the talk about reaching out to the abused and down and out would ring a little more true if there were at least an acknowledgment of the fact that for many, an “angry edge” is something to fear, not something to celebrate.

        • True. The flip side of this, however, is, that for those of use feeling overcome by our own anger, this kind of speaking/writing resonates with us because it assures us we are not alone. But no matter how much it may appeal to me in a certain frame of mind, the pulpit is not the place. I’m not too bothered by it being in books; you don’t have to read it. Also, I don’t believe this kind of language is ever necessary to reach anybody. I might resonate with it, but there are other equally effective means of talking me off my frustration ledge.

  10. That Other Jean says:

    Christianity, all denominations of it, needs so many more ministers like Nadia. Her morning prayer for the church she leads could, maybe should, be applied to life: “Oh, God, it’s so beautiful. Help me not fuck it up.”

  11. I for one applaud her for being herself. To many Christians wear a two cent plastic smile and hide behind a mask when they interact with other believers. It’s refreshing to see real, and raw, leaders. I maybe not agree with everything she says but I can’t fault her for being authentic.

  12. I don’t know if she’d like me, but I think I’d like her a lot.

    • :o) My thoughts exactly, Damaris. I might be too normal for Nadia’s tastes. I think she would find us both to be very gracious individuals, though.

  13. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    One look at Nadia, and you might not imagine she grew up in the Church of Christ, a child from a conservative Christian family. She suffered from Graves’ disease, which gave her a “bug-eyed” appearance and caused her enormous relational pain as a child and young teen.

    All I can say is she does NOT look like one of those Winsome Gospelly Frumps or Televangelist Trophy Wives or Church Ladies in general. What really gets me are those Yakuza-level tats of hers.

    I would like to see her encounter one of those Comp/Patrio types and watch his head explode.

    • I would like to see her encounter one of those Comp/Patrio types and watch his head explode.

      Guilty as charged. Usually, though, it’s the other head that explodes.

      Nadia doesn’t seem to be very touchy, and by what I’ve read of her sermons she doesn’t seem to be on a campaign for world domination. I tend to relate to women in tandem with my wife, and I think she and my wife would be good, if oddly paired, friends. My wife is kind of the Church Lady on Steroids but with her, it seems to be real, rather than repression, redirection, or sublimation.

      If I had to agree with all of my friends to get along with them, I wouldn’t have a single one. Hell, I wouldn’t even be married.

  14. David Cornwell says:

    Many of our attitudes about swearing are cultural. Certain words carry freight that others don’t, depending on where you find yourself at the time. My high school English teacher told our class that people swear because of limited vocabulary, and because they do not have a better way of expressing the thought. I’ve thought about that a lot over the years.

    However I’ve noticed that sometimes just the opposite is true. It may be absolutely the best way to express a certain thought or feeling. Words that shock become an explosive release for near to the surface emotions. Years of pent up rage over religious abuse and legalism may take time to lance from one’s system. Damage done to one’s body and mind by drugs and booze leave emotions on edge and near to the surface.

    Hit your finger with a hammer, and nothing expresses the thought better than the word on the tip of your tongue. Push it down if you wish and let it raise your blood pressure instead. Go ahead and have a stroke.

    Nadia Bolz-Weber is bringing the radical love and grace of Christ to people who are totally broken, squeezed out, hung up to dry, and nothing left many times but raw emotion. We are so use to dignity and ritual that this offends us. God can probably handle it. Let God do His work in her and the people who gather around her.

    And besides, I think the church I attend would love the beer and hymn nights. We love to sing. And some of those hymns and gospel songs would rock after a few rounds of beer.

    • correct, sometimes an ‘off-color’ word makes the point. A nice clean statement means nothing to some people.

    • One more Mike says:

      This is why I scroll through all other comments, searching too often in vain for what David Cornwell has to say. Always wise, always sane. Would you just start your own blog already?!?!

      • David Cornwell says:

        ” Always wise, always sane.”

        Sometimes I doubt that, so does my wife. But thank you very much.

        “Would you just start your own blog already?!?!”

        I’d never think up enough to say! I hit writer’s block very easily, especially under pressure. I think I do my best writing in response to others. It would be fun to attempt book reviews at some level as they are a response to the written word. But doing it on assignment might be another story.

      • +1

  15. Anyone who thinks “nice pastors” don’t swear probably hasn’t been around them enough…

    My favorite story is from a good friend of mine who was a worship pastor at a large church for a while. She was so upset with the senior pastor’s handling of something one morning that after she walked off the stage through a stairwell that was behind the stage, she kicked the one stair and cursed… I think she ended up hurting her foot a little. I know that doesn’t sound like a big deal to normal people, but the church people who thought they knew here would probably be aghast… I think that’s the thing… So much of evangelism is about always having to put your false self forward. I like the movie Saved for that reason. When it came out, many Evangelicals trashed it, but the thing was, it was a pretty accurate portrayal of what goes on.

    So, I’m not saying that we have to swear to be authentic. Personally, I don’t like it, and I can’t say I use profanity all that often. I’m a pretty even-keeled person, for one thing. I don’t have a lot dramatic ups and downs in my emotions, I suppose. But I know a lot of people who do. The Evangelical thing to do is to try to clean them all up, though. I don’t really think that’s what sanctification is all about.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      The Evangelical thing to do is to try to clean them all up, though. I don’t really think that’s what sanctification is all about.

      Whitewashing the outside of those tombs until they sparkle like a vampire?

  16. Brianthedad says:

    Now having a certain resistance to particular vulgar language I once freely used, I don’t think I’d be terribly comfortable around her. However, reading the first comment, I am reminded of the self-appointed judges who declare whether someone is regenerated based three things: whether they smoke, drink or curse. This I also don’t like to be around, having been turned off it due to some time in a similar CofC church in my teen years. So I’m kind of stuck here.

    There is a need for those who minister to these forgotten, actually, ignored, groups, who are often deemed not clean or nice enough to come to church with us just yet. My big idea question: at some point, does language just become background sound that doesn’t carry the profaneness anymore, depending on the culture it’s in? Is this like the photos of a friend’s African female acquaintances walking around topless? What if those people became Christian? Do they now have to wear a shirt and a proper bra? Is this analogous? Is it a definitional thing that Christians (who are ‘true’ Christians) will look and dress and sound such-as-such, regardless of culture, sub-culture, or nationality? Or is it the evidence of grace? What defines the ‘change’, the ‘regeneration’, the ‘sanctification’? Is it something we all can see? What defines the fruits that we are to know them by? Tithing? Wearing a tie and dockers to church? Cigarette free? Proper English without curse words? Or is it love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, against which there is no law?

  17. Jerry Goodman says:

    Welcome to the uncomfortable and mystery of God’s grace. So as I read the first thing comes into my head is “the rules, my rules . . . of whatever.” And enter into the almost inexplainable grace that romanced me from my sin . . . just as it is with (place your name here). Who knows the journey that is in the heart, let alone my own heart. So as I am learning, each has a journey of renewal and transformation, and it isn’t my journey. It is the working of God’s Spirit in my/our spirit that helping us to lean less in me and more in Him . . . that’s my/our journey.

  18. Quick thoughts:

    (1) It’s interesting to see how many of these comments are centered around the use of salty language. I’m as guilty as the next of using profanity to express my emotions at times, but yet in the same instance it’s not something I celebrate either. Words matter, and certainly verses in James and Colossians would seem to discourage the routine use of profane or course language. Being true or authentic to oneself sounds fine I suppose, but yet don’t we also have somewhat of a responsibility to give consideration to our speech? Yea I know we are human and stumble, fall, fail, and sin. Thank goodness for grace indeed! But I can’t help but be reminded that we are also called to holiness, and as such maybe our language should be reflective of that calling?

    (2) I had never heard of this person until today. How wonderful to see her reaching out to those in society who quite frankly are neglected, forgotten about, or ignored by much of the church in America. If all are created in the image of God, then certainly those claiming to be believers (me for instance) should recognize the dignity and value of all human beings and should be more than willing to share the good news of Christ’s redemption for us and the abundant grace that is offered through Him. I think she’s attempting to do this, and if anything it causes me pause to consider how exactly am I influencing my little sphere of life.

    • Joseph (the original) says:

      well, it is interesting that articles like this actually brings out what actually divides Christian, er, measurers of holiness & propriety rather than generating a collective, “Hallelujah” for the amazing stories of grace, redemption & transformation such a ministry/minister recounts…

      {sigh}

      but this only points out what becomes the hot-button topics for many ‘defenders-of-their-particular-brand’ of doctrinal purity & the expected behavior(s) that prove without a doubt such a person is, “a Real Christian.”

      so, what will it be that determines where the line(s) are drawn? Salty language? Tats? Piercings? Gender of the ordained minister? Creating a welcoming place for every sexual expression? What about the filioque? What the communion elements are? What is the most accurate definition of salvation or redemption or transformation? What role the Holy Spirit has? The need for liturgical practice? What hymns are appropriate? What constitutes a real worship service? What does the gospel really preach in truth & practice? What is Jesus really like? What would He really do? What is good, proper, appropriate, sincere, radical grace in action? ad nauseum…ad nauseum…

      there will always be those who pray thusly: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” then they will pick up stones on their way from church to throw at those so-called ‘Christians’ that are not like they…

      and feel it is their divine assignment/prerogative to do so with feigned humility of course…

      {double sigh}

      claiming to have the most accurate doctrine & orthopraxy the source of much that is actually wrong with those that identify themselves as Christian. and its the silly posturing of wanting to be on the top of the pyramid while pushing down all those ‘defiled’ double-minded backsliders that has been the impetus of many wandering the Evangelical Wilderness. faith tradition & denominational wranglings bring out the worst in all those that claim to love the same Lord & Savior. I suppose this tendency will continue to be the ugly element of the church universal till the end. at least I see no reason to think it is the one log in our eyes that Jesus will be removing anytime soon…

      Lord, have mercy… :(

  19. I dunno.

    I worked with Teen Challenge with down and outers. Also in a street ministry. Was a down and outer myself.

    Still have friends working at TC and with battered women.

    None of us seem to think it is necessary to swear like that. And I do not think it earns the respect of people who are down and out (probably not necessarily disrespect either)

    I just can’t see the necessity of it. Call me thick and missing the point

  20. How did this discussion become about just her swearing? There has to be so much more to this person than a few of her words. I’ve been way more offended by the language of people that don’t use the swears than I am by her; to me, what we say has just as much impact as the words we choose in that expression.

  21. In many ways Bono will always be my pastor. So when he says things like:

    “Jesus, Jesus help me/I’m alone in this world/and a fucked up world it is too” (Wake Up Dead Man)

    It’s normal. It’s honest. It’s true. And it’s entirely appropriate. She’s no different. There is a place for both of them in the Church, and the rest should welcome them even if cringing at times.

    • Woah, woah, hold on…. I’m fine with the swearing but please don’t remind people that “Pop” exists…. that’s almost apocryphal…
      (but yeah, Pastor Paul Hewson does have a way with words, doesn’t he?)

  22. I’ve seen this word before, but I always wonder, should that be pronounced “pass-tricks,” or “pass-tree?”

    • She says “PASS-trix” in a video. I.e., the feminine form of “pastor.”

      • E.g. – mediator (Jesus) vs. mediatrix (Mary) in Catholic discussions.

        me•di•a•trix (?mi di?e? tr?ks)

        n., pl. -a•tri•ces (-??tra? siz, -?e? tr??siz)
        -a•trix•es.
        a woman who mediates.
        [1425–75; late Middle English < Late Latin]

    • @ Miguel, I think it’s pronounced ‘pass-tricks’.

      If I remember right, she chose that title for the book because it’s used by Christian podcast host Chris Rosebrough in a derogatory way towards female preachers on his daily podcast.

      I enjoy a lot of Rosebrough’s shows, but I totally disagree with him about women serving as preachers.

      I cringe every time he mocks or ridicules women for being preachers on his show and wish he would leave their gender out of it and just stick to critiquing their sermons on their merits (or lack thereof) alone. I notice when he criticizes sermons by male preachers, he never raises their gender as a concern.

      • There is a fine chapter in the book about Nadia’s relationship with Chris Rosebrough and the mutual respect that has developed between them despite their differences.

        • Seriously? …as in, you’re not being sarcastic about their “mutual respect?” Maybe I will read this book after all.

          • After an transforming encounter with Chris, she writes: “God made my enemy my friend that day. And I have not been plunder for the Pirate ever since. Chris has not spoken about me or written about me. But he does call. Sometimes we talk for an hour about theology and our families, and at times we argue, but we do it with the respect of friends. We are two unlikely people who have shown each other where there is water in the desert.”

  23. Huh, she is actually living in the world of her church rather than trying to create a world IN her church. And when did using a word that isn’t polished become the same thing as swearing on God’s name? I know in my church the focus is on the words you use, not the thought that is being expressed by those words.

  24. Many of the comments here suggest her F-bombs detract from the Good News gospel message she’s trying to share, at least amongst readers of Internet Monk. Amazingly, readers of Internet Monk aren’t who she’s been called to share the Good News gospel message with!

  25. The Bible has a lot to say about controlling your tongue. There is a lot in there about gossip, using the Lords name in vain, tearing down your brother. One of the sternest warnings Jesus gave was in Matthew 5:22 “And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” Interpretation on why this is so bad is mixed, but I’m going with the approach where the cultural background behind “You fool” is “You are a foolish person who denies God and is going to hell” – making it mostly about judgementalism.

    I don’t see where any of our “profane” words fall in this. At worst you might say they are “worldly”, but quite honestly I see most of the problem coming from an implied dualism where sex and elimination are “beneath” God. He wasn’t beneath a death on a cross, so I don’t think these are beneath him either.

  26. The “F-bomb” carries different weight, culturally, in different areas of the US. In my southern heritage, it is almost the worst thing you can say – and is saved for the most heinous of situations. In the mid-Atlantic metropolitan area where I live now, many people see it as a form of punctuation, even more useful than a comma.

    I haven’t used it, myself, because I’m waiting for a situation that’s dire enough to justify my crossing the boundary of vulgar language. Mostly that’s because I think that if I use it once, it’ll eventually become a habit.

    I would probably be one of the people that make Nadia nervous. But I’m glad God got hold of her and is using her to bless people that people like me can’t reach. Who am I to judge another man’s servant?

  27. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Bit of weirdness:

    You know what her face reminds me of? With that narrow angular face and black hair, she looks kind of like “Natasha” of “Boris & Natasha”. (I’m going to have “Moose & Squirrel” jokes in a my head all day; all in a thick Pottsylvanian accent…)

  28. It’s frustrating that so much energy is being spent either critiquing or defending her language, here, because I think her problems as a preacher and theologian go far deeper than her questionable choices of language and attire. But of course the “mouth like a trucker” routine and the tattoos work as they are meant to–they are distractions. Half the readers will instantly admire her for shocking the bourgeoisie and “keepin it real/stickin it to the patriarchy” and half the readership will talk exclusively about what a foul-mouthed little ruffian she is. Then a whole subset of people will defend her to the bitter end without reading any deeper into what she’s all about, just on the principle of “we have to stand up for the bold lady against the mean prudish fundamentalists!” Even the title of her book cleverly taps into this kneejerk impulse. Very well-played, at least in terms of promotion.

    I started out thinking she was interesting, at least entertaining. Her speech for the ELCA youth gathering was definitely dynamic and inspiring. (Though even watching that, I found the “shock comic” cadences she still uses, reminiscent of for instance Margaret Cho, distracting.) And the ELCA loves her because her church is one of the few in the ranks that isn’t dying slowly of old age or checking out of the denomination. The ELCA powers that be are not too picky about theological particulars–they allow Ebenezer in San Francisco to prance about with goddess “rosaries” and a mural of a Hindu death goddess on their exterior wall, after all–and they do love getting numbers and mission support dollars.

    The swearing, I could get past in the right context. The tattoos are ultimately not so important. Those two things together, played up as being somehow central to her public persona, do suggest a kind of juvenile attitude. But when you get her talking at length, she starts saying things that are really troubling:

    http://www.onbeing.org/program/nadia-bolz-weber-on-seeing-the-underside-and-seeing-god-tattoos-tradition-and-grace

    “Nobody believes every line of the Creed,” she claims. Really? Nobody? Even in the ELCA, this is not true. Sure everyone struggles with belief from time to time, but there really and truly are people who even when they are struggling, are praying “Lord I believe, help my unbelief” instead of crossing out a line here and altering a line there. It’s concerning to me that she so flippantly dismisses the possibility of real faith. And this isn’t a “church lady elitist” thing, either. I have found that often it is the “down and out,” the recovered addict, the abuse survivor, the formerly homeless, who have that full and sincere faith. In other words, the very people she claims to minister to…yet she cannot believe that any of them are capable of such faith? Really?

    “We do this litany of the saints where we go outside and read the names of the dead and invite the dead to witness the resurrection, which is awesome because I’ll chant like “St. Peter and St. Paul.” And everyone says, “Come celebrate with us.” We have this book of dead that people write names in and I always forget to read them in advance because inevitably there’ll be like “Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett.”

    Well…this isn’t a Lutheran thing, for one. We have a “litany of the saints” in the hymnal, but it does not invoke, invite, or implore the saints. It thanks God for their faithful example. That would be the standard Lutheran way. Doing otherwise is pretty controversial–it was a big deal for the Reformers, of course. Invoking and inviting, for instance, St. Paul would be odd in a Lutheran church…but invoking and inviting a drug addled decadent pop star widely accused by many young men of sexual abuse? What on earth are they thinking? What is the purpose of this, other than to just be edgy? This is plainly inappropriate.

    “We are not the kind of family that does a lot of like family devotionals. We don’t pray together as a family. We don’t do this faith stuff in our home. You know why? My kids are around it all the time, and so I just feel like they need a break at home, you know. So like we — I know it’s like a big deal to like build faith in the home and do all that stuff. We don’t do that.”

    This is just tragic. It confirms to me that all of this–the “lady pastor who swears like a sailor and is totes hip” is an act, a false front. A life that is authentically sustained by faith doesn’t leave it “at the office.” It is not something you need a “break” from. Church business? Absolutely! Take as many breaks as you can from that crap! Public speaking? Absolutely! But prayer, devotion, and the sustenance of faith? No…that is not something your kids “need a break” from.

    But if what they have is NOT that faith, but a big, loud, attention-grabbing act meant to appear like a type of faith and religiousity, well, no wonder they get exhausted and want to unplug from that at home.

    So here we have a pastor who doesn’t believe that childlike faith is really possible, who is willing to “bend the rules” in such a way as to ignore not only Lutheran tradition but basic discernment, and who doesn’t feel like her faith sustains her home life or her kids but is something they “need a break” from. That is way more concerning to me than the exterior trappings which she and both her supporters and detractors focus on with so much attention.

    • Excellent critical thinking. Thank you.

      • Ditto and touché to that!

      • Excellent critical thinking? Not so much. I listened to the On Being that Katharina links to yesterday, and, to put it kindly, Katharina was _very_ selective in her quotations. I suggest that everyone actually read the transcript of or listen to the program to see what Bolz-Weber actually said in context. Katharina’s response to the interview is an exercise in literalistic nit-picking and missing the forest for the trees.

        One example: the quote about “nobody” believing all of the Apostle’s creed. That was obviously hyperbole, but Katharina takes it literally. Bolz-Weber uses that statement to make the point that faith is exercised in community, not in isolation, a mistake often made by christians in western cultures that prize individualism over community.

        Katharina’s judgement that Bolz-Weber’s lack of family devotionals is proof that Bolz-Weber is another example of poor “critical thinking.” There’s no argument, just assertion. “Bolz-Weber doesn’t do things the way I think she should, therefore she must be a fake.” There’s a “No True Scotsman” fallacy lurking in there somewhere. The conclusion that Bolz-Weber doesn’t believe that childlike faith is really possible based on what was said in the On Being interview is a non sequitur. What Katharina seems to that Bolz-Weber said about faith and what Bolz-Weber actually said about faith are very different. Again, I recommend reading/listening to the exchange to see what was actually said.

        Katharina has the right to disagree with or dislike Bolz-Weber, but the way in which she has done so is in no way “critical thinking”. It is much more emotional than rational. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s quite inaccurate to call it “critical thinking.”

        I’m just glad that I don’t have to live up to Katharina’s standards of “Good Lutheran” and “Good Christian.” There’s something very LCMS about her post. :)

        • Childish sneering at the Missouri synod along with the insinuation that any person who doesn’t tow some liberal protestant line properly belongs to St. Louis–ELCA ~inclusivity~ at work. I would be surprised if I hadn’t seen it every day for years.

          How am I the one being “emotional” here? Somehow I managed to take apart statements of hers I found telling (and yeah, I didn’t impose a line-by-line critique of her entire book or the entire interview on the board, so of course I had to “pick and choose” what I found to be statements representative of recurring themes) without swearing, ranting, sarcasm, or mockery.

          • Re: sneering. No sneering involved Did you miss the smiley. That was just a good-natured ribbing. I see it struck a nerve, though. You might want to reflect on why that statement bothered you so much.

            Re: emotional. Your response was more about what you _felt_ about Weber than what you though _thought_ about Weber. And there’s nothing wrong with that, as I said.

            Re: “selective.” That was my charitable way of saying “quotes taken out of context.” You left out surrounding portions of text that would tend to argue against your reading of Weber.

            I’d like to offer a piece of unsolicited advice: lighten up a little. I used to be like you, having to make sure that I and everyone else had all of my theological i’s dotted and t’s crossed. That’s a joyless way to live, and I wished I could have back the years I wasted living that way.

          • It is quite common for someone to say something nasty and then sign off with a smile–this is known as passive-aggression. I have found most Lutherans to be above average in their passive-aggression skills, and no, I don’t think that’s a good thing.

            I am being serious now because this is a serious topic of discussion. That doesn’t make me “joyless,” it means that I am communicating in a tone congruent with context.

            I think you’re devaluing my thoughts as “emotions” based on the gender cues of my avatar and username. Your decision that I am being “emotional” is entirely arbitrary.

          • I used to be like you…

            Smug any? If the rest of your comments are any indication, you haven’t changed much. For pete’s sake, you’re correcting somebody’s perspective on an internet board. But go ahead, make sure we don’t cross too many t’s or dot too many i’s. You’re not being nit-picky like us. :D

    • @ Katharina von Bora

      I don’t know enough about the lady preacher to have a big opinion on her either way, so I don’t fall into any of your groups:

      “Half the readers will instantly admire her for shocking the bourgeoisie and “keepin it real/stickin it to the patriarchy” and half the readership will talk exclusively about what a foul-mouthed little ruffian she is. Then a whole subset of people will defend her to the bitter end without reading any deeper”

      Not all readers and posters on Internet Monk are 100% identical, same with The Wartburg Watch blog. Some guy just dropped by TWW blog a few days ago assuming all of us there are 100% on board and fine with all teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, and he made several other incorrect assumptions about the readership there and the participants.

      • It’s a figure of speech, not a verified statistical measurement.

        In general, not only here but across the blogosphere as the promotion of her book has picked up the last week or two, the responses have broken down roughly across those lines. With most responses focusing on her exterior trappings, either pro or con, and not looking all that deeply into her other statements in interviews and text and so forth.

        • Katharina, I hope people will go on to explore more about Nadia, and make their own judgments. But the focus of this post is her book and what it says about her story and her ministry. I’d prefer to keep that the main subject.

          • The interview linked above (dated September 5 of this year) was given in conjunction with the promotion of the book, and goes into some depth about her perspectives. I am not sure what’s wrong with discussing it. Is the problem that I linked to an interview and discussed her views as stated in it, or that I am not part of her fan club?

          • No Katharina, I respect your views and understand a lot of the backlash toward NBW. I myself have mixed feelings about a lot of this, but also think her story and message is worthy of our attention and discussion. I particularly like her emphasis on death and resurrection and think that it is sorely needed in today’s church. She is a gifted speaker and insightful interpreter of Scripture. One of the things I enjoyed most about the book is how, every time a situation came up, she tried to link it with the Gospel passage for that week and hear from God about it.

            Having said that, I know she provokes strong reactions and that is one reason I think her book is good for discussion.

            I was just trying to make sure we all didn’t wander too far afield. I didn’t follow your link to check it out — I was stating a general principle not only for you but all of our readers.

          • Well, the fact that she is an engaging speaker and the fact that she knows enough of the Lutheran vocab and basic theology to sound authentic and refreshing makes the ultimate hollowness of her routine all the more dangerous. I have no doubt that she means well–though once the machines of institutional promotion and commerce take over, that won’t matter for long. I don’t think she is a bad person. I think it’s fantastic that she understands that God has played a role in her life, in changing her for the better. But I think her message is too confused to be put out front in a leadership sort of way. The fact that she can sell it well makes it worse, not better.

          • One of the things I always worry about with anyone in her position is when she gets exposure beyond her local congregation. No matter how one tries to package the perception, one always gets at least half a false impression. What I admire Nadia for is her work with her congregation, which makes up the bulk of the stories in this book, and which belies the “hollowness” you charge her with. I doubt very much if her congregation sees her as inauthentic or without substance.

            If she becomes a “celebrity” or a “model” for others (whether she intends that or not), then I will be sad and will stop listening.

            My own personal philosophy is that true spirituality is local and that it can’t usually be marketed successfully. A pastor’s message is for her or his flock. The only books I tend to read by pastors are those addressed to other pastors about the craft, or stories about ministry .

          • I haven’t seen her in her home congregation, obviously. I don’t know if you have. But I think she’s already on the “celebrity preacher” list. She has been the “rising star of the ELCA” for a while (certainly since 11 or whenever it was she spoke at the youth gathering). And this book is being promoted on Rachel Held Evans’ site which certainly seems to be one of the stops on the way to progressive Christian celebrity, such that it is.

            There’s a very specific “look” that is hip right now, both for churches and for pastors. I think of her, sadly, as kind of a liberal female Driscoll. The shock element, the hipster element, the “keeping it real” element…all candy to people who want to cash in for various reasons.

          • Again, if she ends up playing that role, she’ll lose my interest. You think she already has. Maybe so. I just wanted to hear her story as told in this book, which is intriguing enough for us to hear and discuss.

        • “It’s a figure of speech, not a verified statistical measurement.”

          Well, there goes another irony meter. That statement just blew mine up. :) The irony being, of course, your taking Bolz-Weber to task for saying (obviously a figure of speech – hyperbole) that “no one” believes all of the Apostles Creed.

          • The thing is, even if it is hyperbole in the case of her statement, it’s still a deeply problematic attitude. It’s expressing that disbelief in the bare minimum statement of Christian faith is somehow the norm or common enough to be close to the norm even among professing Christians, even among the clergy. Whether she’s rounding up from 30% or 98% to get to the hyperbolic 100%, it’s incredibly problematic.

          • @Katharnia:

            Well, I guess it is problematic if you consider the Apostle’s creed the bare minimum statement of the Christian faith. Problem is that the Apostle’s creed is not the bare minimum statement of the Christian faith. The bare minimum statement of the Christian faith is:

            “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whosever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”

            One doesn’t have to assent to every statement in the Apostle’s creed in order to believe John 3:16.

          • Kenneth, from your other replies I assume you are a Lutheran. I know that NBW certainly professes to be a Lutheran. There actually are rules–and not just in St. Louis–about these things. And yes, the Apostle’s Creed IS considered the bare bones statement of Christian belief for Lutherans. The whole thing.

            That doesn’t mean a person can’t struggle with the beliefs of the creed, or go through phases where it is difficult to affirm them. But that doesn’t make them optional or unimportant. Especially for clergy and leadership, who are, as the responsibility that comes with their privilege, held to a higher standard to be an example.

          • Kenneth, according to you and who else? I don’t mean this disrespectfully, but you sound like a “nondenominational” evangelical. If you belong to a church that affirms the historic creeds, and certainly if you aim to preach and teach within one, you accept what the Councils and Church Fathers handed down, which is the three historical creeds: Apostle’s, Nicene, and Athanasian. This was decided upon as the definition of an orthodox Christian at Nicea, et al, and then again at Wittenburg, etc, in the Reformation.

            Furthermore, what does it mean to “believe in him”? Well, that’s exactly what the Church Fathers set out to define. The resurrection, the virgin birth, etc–these are the bare minimum of what constitutes “believing in him.”

            This is part of being in a church that recognizes and calls upon the holy tradition. Any impulse against such definition I would argue comes partially from the “radical reformers” (not Luther and Calvin) and American individualism.

  29. I read her first book and quite liked it. She has a way with words and her writing can really hit hard. My complaint is not her language or her looks; it’s her oh-so-careful avoidance of ever referring to God as “he” or “him.” A recently ordained young woman pastoring our local ELCA did the same in her preaching. It cut like a knife and I find I cannot overlook it.

    • That’s an ELCA thing now. The 2006 hymnal was rewritten to be almost entirely like that. Even psalms and the creed were edited to be “gender neutral” or at least neutral-ish. It is indeed painfully awkward to hear, oftentimes. I find the rewrite of the Nicene Creed actually intolerable and theologically at least somewhat misleading. :\

      • I agree. There is much to appreciate about ELW, but it’s shortcoming must be difficult to live with. From what I hear, many ELCA congregations have actually gone with our Lutheran Service Book, which is a vastly superior tome, the best currently on the market, and I’d even wager, the best collection of its kind ever published. But I’m not biased or anything.

  30. I think I like the general message she is sending. It seems like she’s hitting the intersection between good old Lutheran pessimism (we are the poorest and most miserable of sinners), Caponian thinking on grace, and a healthy dose of progressive mainline antinomianism to take the bitter edge off. I just don’t know if I’d call her impious. I think she has her own form of piety, albeit a very non-traditional kind, but she is highly devoted to it nonetheless. For one, she seems relentless in seeking the broken in order to bring them the Gospel. That is refreshing to see in an entrepreneurial religious market where religion is often touted as something to make your easy life even better. She seems to believe in a Jesus I would want on my worst day.

    Getting sober never felt like I had pulled myself up by my own spiritual bootstraps. It felt instead like I was on one path toward destruction and God pulled me off of it by the scruff of my collar, me hopelessly kicking and flailing and saying, “Screw you. I’ll take the destruction please.” God looked at tiny, little red-faced me and said, “that’s adorable,” and then plunked me down on an entirely different path.

    Oh, that is so very Lutheran. God drags us into the family by his grace, even as we protest, kick, and scream. We are saved in spite of ourselves, not because of or in cooperation with. As Luther says, the only things we contribute to our salvation is sin and resistance. I’ve gotta say, most days I don’t really feel like following Jesus, yet for some reason, he holds on to me. I’d have thrown me out long ago, but Jesus is just too good and gracious for that. Bolz-Weber gets this. For whatever significant theological differences I may have with her, I wish that all our pastors in the LCMS understood this as well as she does. Jesus comes only for sinners.

  31. This is exactly, when it comes down to it, why most people do not believe in grace. It is fucking offensive.

    For some time I have been wondering why I have found myself being offended by some of the grace talk that I see blogged here, so have examined my heart.

    Do I believe God has grace for us all? Yes, absolutely. The worst of the worst? yes absolutely. So what bothers me?

    Sometimes it seems to me that it is used as a license to excuse any behavior. It almost seems like the attitude is if we are going to err let it be on the side of freedom to do as we wish. And if anyone dares mention or challenge it the standard accusation is one of legalism. I understand the touchiness on this, hey my mother in law thought playing cards were sinful. When I was a young Christian many thought movies were wrong. I have seen true legalism such as that and I hate it.

    I want to leave us with a quote from Bonhoeffer:

    “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

    Maybe it is not grace that offends some of us, maybe it is the attitude portrayed where we can use that grace as a license for sin. Why is it in all the talk I never see us erring towards attributes that are spoken of highly in scripture?

    • Ken, we emphasize grace here because the evangelicalism from which many of us fled was filled with moralism and very little actual gospel. We don’t mean to err in any direction. When we write about it, we simply aim to magnify grace.

      • +1

        Plus, without grace, where would any of us be?

      • Chaplain Mike
        I know all about the moralism. With a capital P (as in Pentecostal). And with the group I was in having an Arminian bent I think you know what that means!

        But is the answer to swing to the opposite? Can we still look in the letters of Paul and see his encouragement to do better? His letters are full of admonishing that tell me if I am in Jesus Christ my desires become like his.

        Is the Christian life such that we come to him and nothing changes? He leaves us bound up in all our habits (that btw can be self destructive).

        But aside from these arguments it seems to me that sometimes the tone I see portrayed here is more towards license than legalism. And I get the feeling that the maxim is becoming that grace should offend us, and we do not hesitate to descend into crudeness to push the point. There was someone else in my Christian circle here in Canada that modeled that one well. His name is Todd Bentley. I never knew him, but my old leaders hung out with him.

        To be clear, grace is not offensive to me. I came from the wrong side of the tracks, not good middle class America. And if Jesus had not pulled me out of the mess my life would be very different. I am so grateful for his work in me.

    • Right there with you, Ken. I find no relief in grace when it is the cheap kind. Cheap grace may give one superficial reassurance, a pat on the head, but it leaves you with lingering doubt and fear because you know that it is meaningless. It’s like the “affirmation” of hearing “you look fine!” from a spouse who is looking in the other direction. That is, it is no affirmation at all, but a dismissal.

      Cheap grace may feel good to people who grew up with suffocating legalism, for a time, but it leaves them wandering in the “wilderness” and does not really provide true relief.

      • But of course it is not cheap. Never was and never will be.

        It is just the full and entire cost of it was paid on the cross by Jesus.

        The gospel starts there, not with what we have to pay to join the club.

        And yes, it lets us off for free. We are free to do anything, but we were free to do anything anyways. It’s just that Jesus wiped the account books clean.

        That’s the scandal.

        Bonhoeffer missed it (at least in that passage).

        • I don’t get this mindset. Shouldn’t the attitude be humbled obedience, after such a gift, and not this “well we can do whatever we want, so there”?

          I’ll take one of the great martyrs of the faith over a guy on a comment board any day, though, as my spiritual advisor.

    • At the very least, that statement could use some clarification. The older brother is offended by grace. “Older brother” does not include “poor, miserable sinners.”

  32. It has been rightly pointed out that we should not focus on her exterior displays but dig deeper on her belief systems. Very true, but I am also inclined to think that those controversial issues she attracts attention to, are a window into her broader theological grid. There is an unbroken link between the two IMO.

    She has somehow convinced herself THEOLOGICALLY that this is “ok” and “acceptable” to communicate the greatest news to mankind in complacently profane language. This gives a good insight into how one approaches the Bible. (I mean we’re talking about a no-brainer issue here, not about the nuances between dispensationalism and covenant theology that one could get confused about)

    One of the earlier comments made the absurd comparison with Luther and Peter as having “a salty mouth” (now unless you are an exquisite linguist and can compare ancient languages with modern day English apples-with-apples I would not go down that path).

    The difference is that many saints struggle(d) with sin (Luther was obviously infamous) and Augustine as I understand engaged in fornication. However the difference is that these saints acknowledged and confessed their shortcomings (Peter wept bitterly for his denial). This lady does not see her foul language as a sin to be repented of or a propensity to resist. She is quite comfortable in it and wears it as a badge of honor. These traits of hers are not incidental or peripheral to her ministry but central to it. In modern marketing terms she has built “a unique brand” and is sadly known by many for the WRONG reasons. Her ministerial identity is tightly linked and known for the very things she is criticised.

    I doubt many of us would have an issue if she said “this is one of those things I need to bring under control but I’m not there yet”. Au contraire, she is flaunting that brazenness and effortlessly capitulates to her proclivities. I wouldn’t be surprised if she considers herself more gutsy than the rest of us idiots who are foolish enough to think that self-control now and again may be in order.

    I also glean from the comments that we should not be too fussed about those things because “look at the great work she is doing”. The ends don’t justify the means. People’s lives are positively affected and improved by many means. She is not exclusive in that arena. The Salvation Army would outnumber ANY other outreach by far and most of the folks I have met are sincere, God fearing and sacrificial in their efforts. I say they do “a great work” but their troublesome and stubborn rejection of baptism and communion does not compensate for their “good work” and ministry.

    • Yes, exactly. Continually we hear (not just on this site, but everywhere I’ve read her reviewed, interviewed, etc) about the foul mouth and the tattoos not as incidental quirks or flaws, but as key components of what makes her so “awesome.” It’s not a bug, it’s a feature, in other words. It’s reasonable to assume, as you say, that this then points to a deeper set of assumptions in her theology. And that’s what I was trying to highlight by bringing over the link to that interview and pointing out some examples from it. There’s a theme, here. The proclivity to lash out with aggressive language is not something she sees as needing to be curbed or controlled…and then the proclivity to doubt, too, is not something that needs to be curbed. Both of these things are rather celebrated. She talks about the Gospel using profane and disrespectful language…and allows her congregation to invoke deranged pop stars as “saints.” In both cases, there is a broken boundary between what is sacred and what is not. In another part of that interview, she talks about putting a chocolate fountain in the baptismal font. Again, same thing.

      People can be effective evangelists to a form of Christianity that is confused and misguided. I am afraid that may be what is going on with her.

    • JFDU, I am not defending NBW in this response to your comment, but what you say is so filled with bald assertions and assumptions about what NBW’s motives and attitudes are that you can’t be taken seriously.

      First of all, the language issue is related to the book and the way she tells her story and talks about her own thoughts, not how she preaches.

      Second, you assume she does not have misgivings or guilt about her use of language when one of the constant themes of the book is her own brokenness. She writes:

      “But there was one problem with my being a pastor: I’m a lousy candidate. I swear like a truck driver. I’m covered in tatoos, and I’m kind of selfish. Nothing about me says, ‘Lutheran pastor.’

      “So I was scared. I was scared about the fact that in order for me to be the kind of pastor I would want to be, I would need to look at some of my own personal stuff, which I was perfectly happy ignoring. I struggled with the idea of being a spiritual leader. I struggled with knowing I don’t really like emotionally needy people and, given the opportunity, I will walk the other way if I see them coming. I struggled with being available to people all the time when really I’m slightly misanthropic. I struggled with many things…”

      Does that sound like someone “flaunting her brazenness”?

      • It doesn’t NOT sound like it, actually. It’s a version of the “humblebrag.” “Oh goodness, I am so terrible and so very, very bad, isn’t it shocking? But don’t you just love me because I have the guts to be honest about how bad I am?”

        • Well, that’s one way to spin it, but is it actually that? The fact is you have no way of knowing. So why not give a sister in Christ the benefit of the doubt rather than assuming the worst?

        • You disagree with her and think she’s play-acting. I get it Katharina. When we get to the point of asserting that people have certain motives that we can have no true knowledge of, the conversation’s over.

      • Mike I have not read her book but you provided sufficient sampling in your post for one to make a reasonable deduction.

        I’m sorry Mike but you seem to want to have it both ways. On one hand she refers to “swearing like a truck driver” and her selfishness as part of her “brokenness” and articulates her insecurities for her pastoral role and on the other hand she uses that very same thing she regrets as a tool / leverage to put an edge on her book, as if it couldn’t be told without all those verbal ornaments.

        If her logic is that it’s a way to reach and identify with those who speak like that, then we should start swallowing meth in order to reach meth addicts. Her communication style is not an ‘oops’ moment but a deliberate strategy to frame her message. To those who never read a Bible it sends a confusing message because she portrays a synthetic identity. She prefers to keep the rawness of her old self, while projecting the new. I say make up your mind what you want to be. “Oh but it’s meant to highlight that simul iustus et preccator thing”. Is that what Luther had in mind? Really?

        Most of us understand that the old Adam gets too clingy some times and wants to dominate. That’s why we call it a “struggle” with sin. If profanity is one of your struggles, I say “welcome to the club” but don’t use it as a deliberate tool to gain an edge and expect us to legitimize it. Sin-laundering doesn’t fool everybody.

        Now don’t tell me I use bold assertions and assumptions again. What you quoted from her was not a spontaneous random conversation she had on the elevator with somebody. This is from a BOOK, a thought out! written and calculated articulation of her story. This is how she WANTS to be known so scrutiny is fair game!

        John

        • JFDU, you do not take her Lutheran theology seriously enough. It’s not about being (or becoming) good, which is one of the reasons Lutherans have been criticized as being “weak on sanctification.” Read Steve’s comments on Internet Monk long enough and you will understand why they are often accused of antinomianism. Read the bullet points in the next post and note what she says about “climbing the ladder” and being a “sinner-saint.”

          There are pietist strains of Lutheranism that apply a “third use of the Law” to emphasize personal holiness. Obviously NBW is not one of those, hence my title, “The Impious Pastor.” One of the main undergirding beams of her theology is that the faith is not about being good vs. being bad, but about “death and resurrection” — having life in Christ and continually receiving that life through Word and Sacrament. “100% sinner and 100% saint at the same time” brings this out, and this position does not emphasize the “transformation” or “life-change” of a person in this life like modern evangelicalism. By grace, Christ comes to me as I am and gives me life. Every day. Period. End of story.

          In my view NBW possibly has another problem with the Law, as do most “progressive Lutherans.” They emphasize social justice and inclusion (especially of LGBT folks at this point in history) and are often in danger (IMO) of putting people under the Law in another way — through focusing on what we do to welcome the stranger and work for justice. That emphasis on what we do rather than on what Christ has done is a weakness (from a Lutheran theological perspective) in the more progressive parts of the tradition.

          On the other hand, I don’t expect Nadia, or Steve here on IM, or any other Lutherans who try to focus completely on what Christ has done and put no emphasis on what we do, to start putting out tracts on personal holiness that talk about cleaning up one’s language or any other aspect of one’s life. They see that as Law, not Gospel.

          Much of your complaint is with a particular strain of Lutheran theology not with an individual named Nadia.

          • You make some points here I am grateful for. Lately environmentalism has been the big push in our neck of the ELCA woods and it feels very Law-oriented, works righteousness, fill in your Lutheran uh-oh word here. It’s not that I dispute the need to be aware of how we use our resources. It’s the way the material is framed and delivered that truly alarms me. There’s no grace, no love, just a lot of fear and anger and ranting and guilt trips and condemnation. Anyone who questions it is immediately persona non grata, a traitor to all that is good. Similarly, if you even express mild discomfort with the smallest aspect of “inclusivity”–like the fact that it doesn’t seem to have a racial or class dimension but is ALL about GLBT, all the time–you are practically treated like a candidate for excommunication. Apparently all the grace goes to sexual outcasts and bird populations affected by oil spills, and there’s nothing left for the “normals” who can’t get on the bandwagon all the way or just right.

            (Who knows if this will get read at this stage in the game!)

          • An insightful analysis. In many ways, the problems plaguing the ELCA and the LCMS are very similar. The only difference is, in the LCMS, these same problems pose as being “Biblical.” I sometimes wonder what it is about Lutheranism that makes it impossible to defend from the withering scorch of pietistic fervor.

          • Mike we just joined a Lutheran church since last month. See how we go.

            As a closing comment, I’m reiterating that it’s one thing to admit you struggle with sin and another to use it deliberately as a means to an end.

            Peace!

  33. As John Irving’s Owen Meany said, “THERE’S NO NEED TO BE CRUDE.”

    I don’t really mind the obscenity or the sarcasm so much as the caricature-like hipness, which seems like the posturing of a poseur to me. She’s seems to be sounding some of the key notes of classic Lutheran theology, though obviously very post-modern with regard to sexual issues; I just wish she could watch her mouth, and attitude, when she’s preaching to the the kiddies, who already get far more crude snarkiness than could possibly be good for them in their pop culture consumption.

    • This is something else I had meant to address. I actually think the sarcasm is worse than the foul language in many ways. A string of swear words may be just thoughtless, mere verbal noise. But sarcasm, especially habitual sarcasm, is much more corrosive and can be very aggressive and hurtful. It is a way of relating to others that is inherently contemptuous, viewing them as lesser, lower, not as intelligent, not worthy of a real conversation. In fact among my generation (I am at least a little younger than NBW) it is a ubiquitous way to shut down dialogue and make someone an enemy without ever trying to work out a truce. Again, a very troubling thing for a pastor to habitually use.

      • You are so right about the sarcasm, Comrade. ;-P

        Sometimes it’s really hard to see our own flaws, isn’t it? I don’t look forward to the day when Jesus holds up a mirror to me and I see myself for the first time. It actually makes me shudder.

  34. I wasn’t going to weigh in on this post, and I’m usually not this vocal, but I have to say I’m a little disappointed in a lot of the comments here. I wonder if there would be this level of theological, personal and stylistic nitpicking if she was a middle class white male pastor with clean language, no tattoos and no attitude (but plenty of largely invisible or even hidden failings and sins).

    The older I get as a believer the more I have come to understand that God uses people who may be very different from me, even people who have characteristics that put me off a bit, even people who are seem just odd to me, and certainly people who don’t yet have every theological and doctrinal I dotted and T crossed just the way I’d like. In short, I’ve come to the conclusion that God is a lot less picky in a lot of ways than many of us would be. Which is increasingly fine with me because it’s not about me or what I prefer. it’s not my gospel (though I certainly believe it) and it’s not my kingdom (though I seek it as best I can). It is His.

    Is there love? Is there compassion? Is the gospel is preached and Jesus pointed to and lifted up and worshipped? Is there grace in abundance? My sense has become that these trump a lot of the other stuff, maybe even all of it.
    (and no, this is not a variation on the end justifying the means; it is a statement of priorities and an admission that we are all of us works in progress)

    One of my seminary professors once asked what it would take to unify Jesus’ church on earth. The conclusion of the class was that it would take persecution, because like nothing else that tends to focus the believer’s mind on what’s really important. And I guarantee you it won’t be tattoos or a few expletives or minor blips in expression of doctrine that make that cut.

  35. I don’t particularly like vulgar language.

    My preference is for men holding office in the church.

    Just an old-fashioned southerner in many respects.

    But her observations on grace are spot-on, a distinction that is more important than just about anything I can imagine. And if the truth be known, all of us “normal” people in the church probably have some degree of admiration (or envy) for those ministers who really have been given the grace and the insight to reach drag queens and hermaphrodites.

    May the Lord bless her.

  36. “God looked at tiny, little red-faced me and said, “that’s adorable,” and then plunked me down on an entirely different path.”

    I love that picture. I’ve been in AA and Al-Anon for decades, and I can tell you that does feel exactly like what happens when you make it through to the other side.

    Probably NBW does very well with her target demographic — we people with messed-up lives who populate the rooms of the 12-step programs. That doesn’t mean she can speak to everyone very well. But I suspect if she weren’t sincere, we folks in the 12-step programs would ditch her within a few weeks. Some religious people can, I’m afraid, be easily fooled by people who sound pious, but people in “the rooms” all have wonderful c**p-detectors, mainly because we have used phoniness ourselves so artfully that we have every trick down pat. And we will call you on it.

    I don’t think there’s anything evil or even Pharisee-ical about being middle class or respectable. People are what they are — I’m middle-class and respectable, and if I tried to sound or look like NBW I’d just sound and look silly. In the rooms, I sound just like what I am, a pretty conservative old woman. And since I’m not trying to be something else, that’s fine with my friends there whom I love and who love me.

    But not everyone (except Our Lord) can speak to everyone very well. NBW’s approach to the last, the least, and the lost is to meet them where (she believes) they are, and that’s great. But if she spoke in the sanctuary of my church, full of pretty conservative older people, many would be so appalled by her appearance and language that they wouldn’t be able to hear her message. Does that make them evil or disgusting prudes? I really don’t think so.

    So she’s not for everyone, and isn’t that OK? I can’t of course be sure whether she is indeed just a publicity-seeker and a show-off. Only God really knows, and I trust Him to handle it. But apparently she does reach some people.

    People have to start somewhere on their road to God. I have a friend who started by reading Bishop Spong, a famous/notorious Episcopal minister who denies virtually every tenet of Christianity, including the Resurrection. After awhile, when she joined a church and hung out with more, um, standard believers, she gave up Spong. But she had to start somewhere. I myself was encouraged, very early in my journey, by reading a book by Charles Colson. I had always associated deep Christian belief with Pentacostals or rowdy shouters, but here was a book by someone who sounded — middle-class and respectable! Bingo!

    Whatever NBW’s inmost thoughts, isn’t it best to rejoice for the people who come to Christ because of her witness?

  37. It’s fascinating for me that the swearing seems to have elicited such a strong response. What about the make-up?!

    (Yes, there are church cultures where make-up would be considered a ‘marker’ of who is a Real Christian or not).

  38. I’m saddened by the way that people are going after the most obvious targets (her language, her appearance, etc.) and not seeming to care much about the actual content of NB-W’s book.

    (I realize that not everyone has done that, but the majority of comments here seem very ungenerous at best.)

    • Joseph (the original) says:

      numo: after reading all the comments pro-and-con regarding the book, Nadia’s physical & verbal expressiveness, her theological bent, etc., I also started to examine myself & why I would be more accepting of Nadia’s ministry efforts vs. say those of a Mark Driscoll, C.J. Mahaney, John Piper, or a Francis Chan or those of the uber-prophetic/apostolic camps or (fill in the blank ________), etc. something unappealing pushes our buttons whether or not there are claims of gospel being preached, lives being transformed, even miracles being witnessed, etc…

      the argument can be made that yes, there are similar ministry outreaches to similar fringe elements of society by people that don’t swear, have tats+piercings, aren’t female & have a much more conservative orthodoxy. there are some posting here that claim Nadia’s ministry expressions, her book writing & semi-celebrity status is all done as a religious dog-and-pony show mostly for the impact, rather than the work of grace others recognize. and once I recognized just how such issues do divide many of differing convictions it seemed that we (all believers; a generalized grouping) have our ideas of what is a stellar example of Christian expression & someone we can point to as such a champion of being most like Jesus in word & in deed…

      {sigh}

      I will assume that Jesus did not have tats (wasn’t that a Jewish no-no?). nor piercings (except those forced upon Him). but I don’t know if He swore or used salty language. I think I would want “my” Jesus to be as good of an example of graciousness & compassion as the next Christian does. and I believe He could address any person regardless of their station-in-life, their past, their brokenness & bring light to such darkness.

      I don’t like the way some celebrity ministers or higher profile ministries actually represent God to others. in fact, it can get me rather amped up. and just because a claim can be made that, “someone was touched, changed, transformed, etc.” because of what I consider an offensive representation of the very Lord & Savior I worship & follow, I cannot know for certain that such an individual is not part of the divine Family I have also been adopted into…

      I definitely have my pet-peeves & likes+dislikes. I suppose it is how I communicate those peculiarities & how I interact with others of differing perspectives that exposes my level of graciousness, compassion & humility. that is one reason I don’t post/comment so much anymore on this site. others are much more eloquent than I; much more inviting; much more passionate; much more expressive. and really I get tired of hearing myself speak/write above the cacophony that some topics elicit. so I drop in time-to-time to read the responses & get a sense of what all the hullabaloo is about but choose not to engage. regardless of the opinions expressed here, Nadia will not be accommodating them into her mission/ministry. she seems to have a clear understanding of how to express the gospel-in-action to those she resonates with (the least of these). and I believe she also is a divine work-in-process. thank you Jesus for your grace & mercy…

      • Nadia will not be accommodating them into her mission/ministry. she seems to have a clear understanding of how to express the gospel-in-action to those she resonates with (the least of these). and I believe she also is a divine work-in-process. thank you Jesus for your grace & mercy…

        Couldn’t agree more, Joseph!

  39. Enough people have commented on Nadia’s language and approach to ministry.

    I’ll just say that that is a truly great photo of her at the top of the page.