There is a growing awareness amongst Christians that the Church in America has often become a place of meeting for the healthy and privileged. Nadia’s church, House of All Sinners and Saints, deliberately fights against this habit, reaching out to the culturally disenfranchised–the alcoholics, the homeless, the queer and transgendered. Reading about her passion (based on her history as a conservative Christian turned Wiccan alcoholic turned Lutheran pastor) was completely invigorating.
What really impressed me, though, was that her knowledge of God’s love doesn’t stop there. As an outsider, it is easy for her to love outsiders. But when her church started attracting middle-class suburban men and women, she felt many of the same emotions of disgust and tight-lipped smiles that are usually directed for her crowd. What is amazing about Bolz-Weber is her commitment to live out her faith, no matter how hard or how long she spends fighting against it. So against her natural inclinations, she welcomed the “normal” people into her church and created space for conversations between the different groups of people. What resulted–friendships and healing relationships between two often opposed groups of people–was absolutely beautiful to read about.
I love stories of Christians leaving comfort and legalism and diving into the strange, scary world of the disenfranchised. But too often the same labels of “good” and “bad” are kept, only attributed to the other group. Bolz-Weber inspired me to throw away the categories and rest in the knowledge that we are all sinners and we are all saints, queer or straight or poor or wealthy or addicted or clean.
Nadia Bolz-Weber takes no prisoners as she reclaims the term “pastrix” (pronounced “pas-triks,” a term used by some Christians who refuse to recognize female pastors) in her profanity-and-prayer laden narrative about an unconventional life of faith.
Heavily tattooed and loud-mouthed, Nadia, a former stand-up comic, sure as hell didn’t consider herself to be religious leader material–until the day she ended up leading a friend’s funeral in a comedy club. Surrounded by fellow alcoholics, depressives, and cynics, she realized: These were her people. Maybe she was meant to be their pastor.
Using life stories–from living in a hopeful-but-haggard flophouse of slackers to surviving the wobbly chairs and war stories of a group for recovering alcoholics, from her unusual but undeniable spiritual calling to pastoring a notorious con artist–Nadia uses stunning narrative and poignant honesty to portray a woman who is both deeply faithful and deeply flawed, giving hope to the rest of us along the way.
Release Date: January 2013
Want another opinion? Check out reviews by Rachel Held Evans and The American Conservative.