Here is my confession: I want to dislike Nadia Bolz-Weber, but I can’t. She’s a compelling speaker, preacher, writer, and child of God. Her experience of Jesus in the world rings so true to my own experience, though we have never met and don’t have much life experience in common. I’ve been known to say, “If it weren’t for Jesus, I wouldn’t have anything to do with people. Yet the love of Christ compels me…” This, for me, means Christ’s own love is shoving me out into the world. When you read Bolz-Weber’s new book, Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint, you understand her experience is exactly that. Jesus has pushed her out into the world and the light that shines through her might not be one of her choosing, but she’s in its thrall.


pastrix-cover-final-200x300         Pastrix begins with Bolz-Weber’s childhood experience of church. She quickly spells out the shape of things that left her on the outside- due in part to her natural inquisitiveness coupled with her sex.

I knew that I had to get out. I was a strong, smart, and smart-mouthed girl, and the church I was raised in had no place for that kind of thing even though they loved me. (13)


Regrettably, this is the experience of many people in the Church (universal and particular). The author knows that and that’s why she’s telling this story. While the language is occasionally strong (there are a few bombs), it’s nothing your average 8th-grader hasn’t heard. I wouldn’t hold this book back from an inquisitive 9th or 10th grader. Yes, there is death and drugs and pain and loss. These are the ways of the world. And I’d rather have my child or a child of the congregation I serve read about them in this context, have a safe place to talk about them, and be served by the foundation that is built through that conversation than by what they discuss with their friends in the hallway. Let our teens enter the tough years of their lives knowing that God knows and is bigger than them and their experiences (and those of the adults around them).

         I can’t imagine that the God of the universe is limited to our ideas of God. I can’t imagine that God doesn’t reveal God’s self in countless ways outside of the symbol system of Christianity. In a way, I need a God who is bigger and more nimble and mysterious than what I could understand and contrive. Otherwise it can feel like I worshipping nothing more than my own ability to understand the divine. (15)

Bolz-Weber’s chapters begin with her own real experiences. These are not the glorious triumphs of her life, but the triumphs of God in her life- almost always through completely unseen and unexpected avenues (which is how God usually works). She struggles with being duped, with the sudden appearances of soccer moms in her congregation of misfits, with the death of friends. She struggles with herself, only to limp away blessed by God who refereed the match.

         There’s a popular misconception that religion, Christianity specifically, is about knowing the difference between good and evil so that we can choose the good. But being good has never set me free the way truth has. Knowing all of this makes me love and hate Jesus at the same time. Because, when instead of contrasting good and evil, he contrasted truth and evil, I have to think about all the times I’ve substituted being good (or appearing to be good) for truth. (73)

I read this book quickly. In fact, I inhaled it. I wanted to be jealous that she had a book, that she’s well known, even that she’s way more edgy (and, thus, cooler) than I’ll ever be. Yet, I wasn’t envious as I consumed the book like a bag of caramel corn. I was gasping for air as I shouted, “Amen! Amen!” over and over. This is the pastoral colleague with whom you want to have a beer or be next to on an airplane. This colleague can handle disagreement, is human, and perceives the weeping and joy of God in that particular way that speaks to the heart of a matter. It’s not that she’s tattooed or recovering or even Lutheran.

         Any identity other than child of God is spiritually meaningless. (142)

This is a powerful book by a beloved child of God and I recommend it wholeheartedly to you and to anyone in your congregation. Anyone. My only warning is this: much of this book you slurp in like theological tea, only to feel the burn on the back of your throat when you realize it’s theological tequila.

Selections taken from this edition:

Bolz-Weber, Nadia. Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint. Jericho Books: NY, NY, 2013.

6 thoughts on “RevGalBookPals: Pastrix Edition

  1. Julia I have always loved how you write book reviews and then I read this book review which which made me a stark raving fan of your book reviews! You are amazing! and so is the book!


  2. I wanted to dislike it for exactly the same reasons, but she is so compelling, honest, gritty and just REAL that I could not. I’m reading it slowly, to savor every bite.


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