Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Raw and Real Cussin' Female Lutheran Pastor: What's Not to Like?

False expectations of an "ass-kicking Messiah," the devil is a "damned liar" and other, similar mouthfuls accompany pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber's verbal repertoire.  My brother sent me a story about pastor Nadia from NPR, and at first, I wondered if this was another NPR way of promoting the liberal side of Christianity, which tends to demythologize the meta-narrative of Scripture in favor of a post-Enlightenment rationalism that eschews the miraculous, the reality of sin, salvation in Christ, and other orthodox, Christian tenets.  Wrong.  Not only that, but there is much about what pastor Nadia is doing that is right.  In a word, pastor Nadia is raw and real; plus--she's orthodox! At least, that's the impression I get so far.

First, pastor Nadia recognizes that typical church for both conservative and liberal Christians is an "Elks Club with the Eucharist."  I think she means mostly liberal churches here.  Here's the context from the article on NPR:
"What she and her church are trying to do, she says, is simple and radical: create an authentic Christian experience without the pretension that can come with church.
"I think people's tolerance for bullshit is at an all-time low," she says."
She nails it.  That's the statement of the year, right there.  Church is in so many ways, an Elks Club with the Eucharist.  At least, at typical mainline Protestant churches it is.  The same can be said of many conservative churches as well: Show up in church clothes, nod and smile, attend a worship service--and this is the most important point--the sermon must be a gentle, encouraging, pat on the back, and never, ever, ever, offend anyone at all.  After getting a good fix of this easy-does-it elixir, you nod and smile some more, go home and eat, watch football, and never get authentic or real with anyone for the rest of your life.  This is the "b.s." Nadia is talking about of which people have low tolerance.  If that's all church is, why bother?  People long for authenticity, community, and relationships that foster "getting real" with a view of personal and communal well-being. 

Here are some good things that pastor Nadia is doing:
  • Singing the liturgy and hymns a capella.  This is good because it fosters a high, communal sense of worship among the people, where everyone is singing together, for good or for ill.  It's the "ill" part that fosters community, because it's flesh and bone with no frills.  Additionally, using the liturgy and hymns ties the people into the historic Christian faith.  Can't argue with that, friends.  This is especially true as a contrast to the happy-clappy rock songs with shallow theology and zero historic resonance sung in so many evangelical churches.  
  • Sitting in a circle during church.  Again, community.  God is a circle, don't you know?  Without beginning, without end.  And, people are facing one another, like community groups often do.  When you face people, you get to see them, raw and real.  This is opposed to sitting in rows, where everyone is staring straight ahead.  The circle creates an ethos of shared community and shared sensibility.  This is a time of worship, cleansing and healing.  
  •  Everyone reads Scripture and serves the Eucharist.  Community in action during worship, cleansing and healing through the shed Body and Blood of Christ.  Where is it written that pastors alone are to administer the elements?  Reformation time, friend: we're all priests now.  
  • Pastor Nadia tells it how it is.  In her sermon on Adam and Eve and the Serpent, she says the devil is a damned liar.  Truth!  Pastor Nadia is not afraid to drop a few bombs here and there.  That's my kindof Christian.  Paul had a pretty earthy mouth too, you know.  Have you read Philippians 3:8 lately (Paul's, "I consider all things as skubala [excrement] compared to knowing Christ")?  Or Galatians 5 (Paul's "I wish they would go the whole way and castrate themselves!")?  This reminds me of the time I was teaching at a Christian school and a mom got upset with me because I taught the 8th grade class about the theological implications and beauty--yes beauty--of circumcision.  "Can you tell me about circumcision without getting icky, Chris?"  That was the question I had to answer in a private meeting.  Yes ma'am.  I wonder what pastor Nadia would say?
  •  I love this lady.  Heck, I don't even believe in lady pastors.  I could be wrong about my reading of that text. Where is it, 1 Timothy?  Even if I'm not wrong, I don't care.  Sometimes, you just have to be a pragmatist, and pastor Nadia is doing the work of a pastor for people that would never step into an Elks Club in order to have the Eucharist.  I know, I know.  You've heard that argument before: "Church X is so cool because they reach people that would never step into a normal church."  I already told you it's a pragmatic argument, so get over it. 

    My kindof church! 
  • One last point or two: I don't know what her views are on sexual purity.  Albeit, what this pastor is doing rightly is asking people to get real and raw with their inner junk, their shame, their brokenness, rebellion, and pain.  That is precisely what does not occur at an Elk's Club, even with the Eucharist. 
Here's Nadia's web page.  http://www.nadiabolzweber.com/

Here's the NPR story.  http://www.npr.org/2013/12/20/255281434/pastor-leads-a-new-brand-of-church-for-sinners-and-saints?sc=17&f=100

Here's a great sermon on Adam and Eve and the Serpent.  Her sermons are usually 10 minutes long.  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/2012/06/sermon-a-re-telling-of-adam-and-eve-and-that-damned-snake/


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