Appropriately enough, I stumbled accidentally onto Accidental Saints: Finding God in all the wrong people by Nadia Bolz-Weber. I have a thing I do when I want a type of book but don’t know what specifically–I look up a similar book in the library catalog, find that shelf, and see what else is nearby. That brought me to Accidental Saints, and after I loved that one, I went backwards and read Nadia’s first book, Pastrix.
Nadia is a Lutheran pastor. She is also unconventional, heavily tattooed, honest about her flaws and kind of brilliant. Pastrix tells Nadia’s story, from early days as a sarcastic, alcoholic stand-up comic, to finding her faith in God (with a side-trip into Wiccan goddess worship before becoming Lutheran–she doesn’t find the two in contradiction), to founding her church, the House for All Sinners and Saints. Accidental Saints tells the story of her church, sharing about some of the individuals there and how she has learned from them. They’re known as the inclusive church for the people who don’t look churchy–drag queens, prostitutes, former (?) con artists, cynics and alcoholics.
Nadia is funny, insightful, inclusive and somehow both deeply reverent and deeply irreverent at the same time. (Maybe it’s a question of what’s considered irreverence.) I think Nadia speaks to me where I live because she, like many authors I gravitate to, is another driven, sometimes self-critical woman. She also shares a concept of God that really resonated with me, one focused on love, compassion (the core of my personal morality), and acceptance.
I like Biblical scholarship and esoteric debates (sometimes), but I appreciate that Nadia’s perspective is from on the ground, in the real world, dealing with real people in all their beauty and flaws. But being flawed is okay; as she says, “your weakness is fertile ground for a forgiving God to make something new and to make something beautiful, so don’t ever think that all you have to offer are your gifts” (Accidental Saints, 38).
Both books are full of gems like that. I found Accidental Saints spoke to me a bit more, but both were excellent, insightful books. Religion can, unfortunately, take on a judgmental air sometimes, as well as a patriarchal one, and Nadia’s books are completely in the opposite direction. She’s highly non-judgmental (though she does struggle at one point when her church gains some acclaim and more traditionally churchy people show up among the prostitutes and transvestites–this requires some processing), and definitely has some fierce feminism going on too. She is, after all, a female pastor within a Christianity that has not always been cool with that.
One of Nadia’s key messages is that you can meet God as you are, that we don’t have to be perfect to be faithful, loved and used (in a positive sense) by God. Or, as she put it in Pastrix, “I am not the only one who sees God and the underside at the same time. There are lots of us, and we are at home in the biblical stories of antiheroes and people who don’t get it; beloved prostitutes and rough fisherman” (9). As someone who has always loved the Biblical stories of imperfect people, I loved Nadia’s books and message too.
Author’s Site: http://www.nadiabolzweber.com/
Buy them here on Nadia’s Amazon page