Throughout this year, I will be sharing one book review each month. I am not a professional book reviewer, but I would like to share my thoughts about some of the books I have read recently that have impacted my life in meaningful ways. This month’s book is Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber. Do yourself a favor and read this book soon! You can purchase it here:
Have you ever read a book that made you feel defensive? Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber did that to me. First, let me provide this disclaimer: if you do not like reading books with bad words then do not read this book. I hope you will, but if curse words make you cringe, this book will bother you.
Now about my defensiveness: Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). The name of her congregation is House For All Sinners and Saints (HFASS). And she grew up in the Churches of Christ.
Sharing denominational history is one of the things that allows me to connect with Bolz-Weber. However, as she describes the shortcomings she perceived, I find myself wanting to defend the church of my youth.
The problem, however, is: she’s right.
I love the church I grew up in. I learned a lot that shaped me into who I am today. But there are some things that are problematic: the obscure, subjective concept of “Age of Accountability,” the discrediting of women, and the focus on exclusion. As Bolz-Weber addresses these items, I want to stand up and say, “But we do some stuff, right, too!”
I realized quickly the reason I was so defensive is that I agree with what the Pastrix has to say. I see the shortcomings, I see the faults, and I don’t always know what to do about them. So to read a book by someone who left and found a spiritual home elsewhere leaves me questioning why I am still where I am. (I had my own journey in churches outside the denomination of my youth and it was a blessed time. And the church I attend now has done much to address/correct some of the shortcomings Bolz-Weber addresses in this book.)
However, Bolz-Weber is very gracious toward the church of her youth, as well. While she is honest about the struggles and why she ultimately left never to return to the CofC, she also acknowledges what she gained. Mostly, what she gained was community. She was loved and accepted and learned about Jesus. I am always drawn to people who are able to recognize and acknowledge the good in midst of the bad.
Which is really the main point of the book. Bolz-Weber shares her journey from Christianity as a child, to rebellion as a teen and young adult, to reconnection with God through AA, to accepting the call to pastor God’s people. When she realized she was being called by God, she had this to say:
“I looked around and saw more pain and questions and loss than anyone, including myself, knew what to do with. And I saw God.”
That sentiment describes what the Pastrix tells throughout her book. As she shares stories of her life, her family, and her church community, she always comes back to the presence of God in the lives of His people. Her story is sometimes messy, it is sometimes shrouded in doubt and uncertainty, but it always comes back to the presence of God.
Read this book and struggle with all of the uncomfortable feelings a tatted up, cursing, female pastor stirs within you. You will be better for it.
Because in the midst of the uncomfortable-ness, God will be present.