The Book You’re Going To Be Talking about This Fall

My bedside reading this week is an advanced copy of Nadia Bolz-Weber‘s theological memoir, Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and a Saint. In addition to the arrestingly beautiful author photo on the cover (taken by the incomparable Courtney Perry), it deserves a wide readership for a number of reasons.

Nadia and I met, I think, in 2008. We became fast friends, and have been ever since. I’ve joyfully watched her rise to become an ecclesial elite, and I cheer her on when she preaches in front 10,000 at Red Rocks or 35,000 at the SuperDome…

…or in front of 115 at House for All Sinner and Saints.

The fact that Nadia pastors a small church and yet is seen as an expert in all things church would have been unthinkable 15 years ago, when we were all neck-deep in the church growth movement. But now, with house churches and new monastic communities and organic church and slow churches, Nadia’s voice and vision is pitch-perfect for our time. But there’s an even more important reason that her book (and her life) kicks ass.

If you’re like me, your Twitter and Facebook and blog feeds are full of people who are angry, angry, angry at the church. Of course, I’m not above the occasional post about Mark Driscoll, or poking fun at college chapel service gone awry. But the relentless anger of some toward the church and the Christian faith that I see is nothing short of exhausting.

And here’s the fine line that Nadia walks successfully. Nadia was reared in a repressive, conservative, keep-women-down environment. She is, as anyone who’s seen her speak or read her work can tell, a very intelligent and gifted person. Yet those gifts were squelched in her church-of-origin. As a result of that repression and addictive tendencies, Nadia’s life took her far from church — I won’t spoil the book by spilling details here, but she wound up living in some nasty places, in the arms of nasty guys, and putting nasty stuff into her body.

What she did not do was reject the church, writ large. What she did ultimately do was go in search of a more progressive, more accepting, more intellectually satisfying theology. And she found it in Lutheranism’s theology of the cross. (Side note: Nadia did this in seminary; I think many of us are watching Rachel Held Evans do this publicly, on her blog and in her books — she is looking for, and finding, a more progressive, yet still orthodox and faithful, theology.)

Twice I’ve edited Nadia’s writing for Animate projects. Both times she has turned in scripts that are concise, well-written, and, most importantly, theologically awesome. Pastrix is no different. Nadia is a great storyteller and writer, which makes the book fun to read. But it’s her commitment to the church — with all its flaws — and the way that she has internalized and gives voice to the theology of the cross that really make this book rise above so many other books I get in the mail.

Pick up a copy of Pastrix when it drops in a couple weeks. I’m guessing you’ll give it away to a friend after you read it, so you might want to pick up two copies.

  • KentonS

    Her book tour stops in Big D next month. A few people I’ve told – some of whom are not ordinarily interested in things emergent – really liked the video on the amazon page for Pastrix and are excited to go see her.

  • Bob Carlton

    5 fall books I am looking forward to:

    Bellman & Black ~ Diane Setterfield
    The Dark Path ~ David Schickler
    Confronting the Classics: Traditions, Adventures, and Innovations ~ Mary Beard
    The Circle ~ David Eggers
    Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else ~ Chrystia Freeland

    One comment: I find myself reading fewer “Christian” books.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

      Re your “One comment” — this is one worth reading.

  • Thursday1

    If you’re like me, your Twitter and Facebook and blog feeds are full of people who are angry, angry, angry at the church.

    Slightly off topic, but you do realize how highly unusual this is. Most people who leave the church (or who are on the edge) don’t have any really negative feelings towards it at all. They’re just kinda indifferent. (BTW I am not for one moment denying that these angry people are out there, nor that many of them have been genuinely mistreated.)

  • Alan Molineaux

    ‘But the relentless anger of some toward the church and the Christian faith that I see is nothing short of exhausting’

    Do you think this is a measurable statement Tony? Surely something’s the church does are worth being relentlessly angry with.

    To not have such passion might mean we allow such things to go unchecked.

    What are your thoughts?


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