Friday, November 8, 2013

Not your grandfather's Pastor?!?

Her name is Nadia Bolz-Weber and she is the darling of the ELCA but also, it appears, the cult figure of many folks outside the ELCA.

Nadia Bolz-Weber bounds into the sanctuary like a superhero from Planet Alternative Christian. Her 6-foot-1 frame is plastered with tattoos, her arms are sculpted by competitive weightlifting and, to show it all off, this pastor is wearing a tight tank top and jeans.  Looking out at the hundreds of people crowded into the pews to hear her present the gospel of Jesus Christ, she sees: Dockers and blazers. Sensible shoes. Grandmothers and soccer moms. Nary a facial piercing.

To Bolz-Weber’s bafflement, this is now her congregation: mainstream America.  These are the people who put her memoir near the top of the New York Times bestseller list the week it came out in September. They are the ones who follow her every tweet and Facebook post by the thousands, and who have made the Lutheran minister a budding star for the liberal Christian set.  And who, as Bolz-Weber has described it in her frequently profane dialect, “are [. . .]ing up my weird.”

You can read all about it here...

At the core of Bolz-Weber’s five-year-old Denver church, the House for All Sinners and Saints, are people who felt hurt by religion — as she did.

Early on, she says, she was aware of hypocrisy, homophobia and sexism in her fundamentalist upbringing. As a teenager, she had a thyroid disorder that caused her eyes to bug far out of her head, and she always had the feeling that she didn’t belong. She marinated her anger in drugs and alcohol for about a decade.  Yet she never stopped believing in God. She dabbled for years with Wicca and experimented with every liberal faith group, from Unitarians to Quakers. She performed stand-up as a type of no-cost therapy. It was going through anti-addiction recovery that finally soothed her anger. Her encounter with a tall, cute, Lutheran seminary student named Matthew Weber brought her back to church.

You can listen to her here...

Let me begin by applauding the way she speaks without apology of JEEsus and of grace.  I would not classify her as theologically orthodox or thoroughly Lutheran but her message is not the pablum of repackaged culture that is empty of sin and grace as are so many sermons today.  That said, what troubles me is both the idea that the church is the reason why so many are not Christian or have dropped out of their faith AND the vulgarity that characterizes her witness (some might call it "earthy" language but it is more than earthy).

What troubles me is that much of her appeal is the appeal of a rebel, someone who has fought the system and won, and who flaunts her disconnectedness.  This when she is anything but a rebel -- she is the darling of the ELCA and featured speaker to their national youth gatherings and other national venues of the ELCA.  This when she has hardly fought the system -- she is supported (enthusiastically) by the people of the system (financially as well).  This when she is hardly disconnected but one of the drawing cards of the ELCA, the success stories of their program of diversity, social justice, and liberalism with a message and a heart.

She likes to imagine herself as "not your grandfather's minister" but strangely her appeal is to suburban types, to little old ladies with gray (or blue hair).  What is the appeal?  I can only conclude that she represents a sort of romantic idea of the underdog, the rebel with a cause, the bad girl is a good girl under her tats and behind her disgusting mouth.  I find it hard to see how the ladies who sew the LWR quilts can be attracted to her style of church or Lutheranism.  Perhaps it is borne of the despair of a liberal truth that no longer stands for anything, has the power to do anything, or means anything.  Is she orthodox because she has the liturgical year tattooed on her arm?  Is she Lutheran because she speaks of grace?  Is she the hope for the future because a church has lost its connection to its past?  Is she the promise for a people who are sure that their church has no tomorrow and therefore they are willing to take her (even as shocking as her mouth and appearance might be), follow her, and support her?

Perhaps I can sum it up in one of her comments:  I do not know how preachers cannot be comics first....  Hmmm.  Maybe it is a show... and the best the church can offer is a shocking distraction in which, hidden a bit, is a little something of grace?  If that is true, then she represents a sad tomorrow for those who think she is the shape of the future.

The points I make can be found in expanded form as Chris Rosebrough and Todd Wilken have a friendly interview about her (without just trashing her).  Listen to it all here...


Carl Vehse said...

"Her name is Nadia Bolz-Weber and she is the darling of the ELCA"

That pretty much sums up all one needs to know about Nadia Bolz-Weber... or Elizabeth Eaton, for that matter.

The only other point is that the referenced article was written by fifth-column Washington Compost religion media skank, Michelle Boorstein, whose other rantings promote more leftist crapola.

Gary said...

Don't let the evangelicals find out about her. If she is pulling in big crowds, every bar stool preaching, jean-wearing evangelical pastor will get himself tattooed to the hilt and spew the same vulgarities..."if it brings young people to Christ".

I pray this is a wake-up call to "church growth" pastors in the LCMS. If numbers are your primary focus, your "show" needs to continually get bigger and more sensational to keep the crowds entertained.

God help us.

Dr.D said...

I wonder if she knows about this passage of Holy Scripture:

Philippians 4:8 (KJV) 8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Or this one:

James 1:26 (KJV) 26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.

I really do not have time to find out much more about her. Her photo and your report have told me too much already. She is a false teacher as evidenced by her life and what she has done to herself, and by her language.

Fr. D+
Anglican Priest

Anonymous said...

Ever wonder why these same tattoo advocates would not dare to appear before a judge sporting tattoos and piercings? Hmmmmmmm?

I know that the LCMS has much bigger problems to address, but it would be ideal if the NYG and Higher Things could provide ongoing, sober guidance regarding the Christian interpretation of maintaining a clean appearance. Dress does influence behavior.

Fr. D+, Thank you. You have used scripture to justify why I and my wife do not have tattoos. I also refuse to allow my sons to get any.

Self-depreciating humor is not funny nor attractive. Nadia Bolz-Weber is the perfect example of a person that glorifies in sporting a self-depreciating identity. Why should Larry the Cable Guy and Em and Eminem be role models for our nation's youth?

Why should I admire someone that deliberately debases herself to portray a "wounded warrior" status. What is so special about a "wounded warrior." Everyone has been betrayed by friends, relatives, coworkers, business associates, employers, or even by church institutions at one time or another. Get over it.

Anonymous said...

Gery: Indeed. Christianity has been deconstructed in order to conform to the culture. The medium has become the message.

Have we come to the point where most mega-churches have become so sensationalized to the point of becoming boring and uninteresting. The "shock value" is long gone, and the 50+ year old baby boomer church leaders have yet to wake up to that fact that kids have grown immune to the constant hype.

Kids are smart enough to detect when someone is trying to use a "show" in order to manipulate them. The LCMS, in turn, does the Church a disservice by imitating the shallow practices of false churches. Such kids do not remain loyal to the LCMS.

Anonymous said...

This brings to mind another celebrity. Other than for his minor (typecast) role in a popular science fiction TV series, should this man deserve so many fans among traditional conservatives?

He remains wildly popular. I don't get it.

laura said...

Too bad you haven't taken the opportunity to hear her preach... or bear witness to the true diversity that flocks to HFASS. Nadia has created a community for people who have been driven out of religion by people like you all.

Anonymous said...

Dear Laura,

Is that community a Church or a coven? Is the message there the message of the Church as received from Jesus Christ, or is it the message of the world?

The fact that someone draws a following does not mean that they have a Christian message at all. Recall the story of the Pied Piper? There are countless others as well: Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Obama, etc. to name a few.

Fr. D+
Anglican Priest