Tuesday, March 31, 2020

"Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint" - Nadia Bolz-Weber

It was an interesting experience to read "Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint" a few years after the book's release and after many of the reviews already sort of explained Bolz-Weber to the world.

By now, Bolz-Weber is a household name - at least in progressive Christian circles. By now, she's released a couple other books and left her role as senior pastor at the church she founded to devote herself more fully to writing, speaking, etc. With Bolz-Weber, there's an awful lot that falls within that "etc."

I love Bolz-Weber. I believe I've now read all her books. I've seen her speak. I follow her on Twitter. Heck, I think I may have even fanboy'd a bit when she responded to one of my Tweets following some recent health issues I've been experiencing.

Truthfully, I've always preferred Bolz-Weber as a speaker more than a writer. There's something about the Bolz-Weber personality that comes alive in-person or even on video that doesn't always quite connect on the printed page. I still love her books, but I'd nearly always say her public speaking is 5-star while I typically fall within the 4-star range for her books.

By now, the disclaimers are well known but I'll repeat them on the off-chance that you're checking out this review before reading the book.

If you can't handle progressive Christianity, this book is not for you.

If you can't handle graphic language, this book is not for you.

If you can't deal with the concept of a female, tattooed pastor who's prone to graphic language, then this book is definitely not for you.

A former stand-up comic, recovering alcoholic, and overall party animal, Bolz-Weber may not necessarily look the part of your usual Lutheran pastor but I, for one, couldn't really tell you what a Lutheran pastor is supposed to look like anyway.

"Pastrix" is sort of memoir meets theological reflections, a weaving together of Bolz-Weber's life journey and a journey through some of her memories in church planting. I would say that she goes through both memoir and theological reflection on a more surface level, at least for the most part with some definite exceptions, and at times I did find myself longing for something a little more in-depth as Bolz-Weber made the transition from her previous way of living into the life she lives now (or back when the book was written) as a wife and mother of two children.

However, as has always been true of Bolz-Weber's writing, I found myself writing things down and referencing back to statements made and examples given. Every chapter in the book starts with a scripture that is applicable to Bolz-Weber and to the chapter that's about to unfold.

While you might not like the way she looks and you may not like the words she uses, Bolz-Weber grounds herself in scripture and wrestles with biblical stories with honesty, intelligence, insight, and transparency.

One of the joys I experience with Bolz-Weber is that for the most part what you see is what you get. She writes things here that most of us have thought at one time or another - perhaps with different language, but with pretty similar sentiment. She wrestles with things we wrestle with. She fails in ways that we've all failed and she's had those epiphany moments like we've all had. Bolz-Weber is refreshingly honest, authentic, real, and sincere. She scares me a bit (I'll openly admit I'd probably be intimidated to meet her), but I also was incredibly touched on the day she responded to a random Tweet comment I made about my physical recovery. Her response was simple, yet I found it incredibly meaningful and it's that kind of presence and compassion that really comes alive in this book.

While I think the disclaimers are probably appropriate, this is a book I'd highly recommend and even if you're in a different theological place I think this is the kind of book where it's worth stretching your boundaries a bit.

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