Monday Memoir: Pastrix

Posted 5 May, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Monday Memoir: PastrixPastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber
Published by FaithWords on September 10th 2013
Genres: Alcoholism, Biography & Autobiography, Christian Life, Personal Growth, Personal Memoirs, Religion, Religious, Spiritual Growth, Substance Abuse & Addictions
Pages: 224

Nadia Bolz-Weber takes no prisoners as she reclaims the term "pastrix"(pronounced "pas-triks," a term used by some Christians who refuse to recognize female pastors) in her messy, beautiful, prayer-and-profanity laden narrative about an unconventional life of faith. Heavily tattooed and loud-mouthed, Nadia, a former stand-up comic, sure as hell didn't consider herself to be religious leader material-until the day she ended up leading a friend's funeral in a smoky downtown comedy club. Surrounded by fellow alcoholics, depressives, and cynics, she realized: These were her people. Maybe she was meant to be their pastor. Using life stories-from living in a hopeful-but-haggard commune of slackers to surviving the wobbly chairs and war stories of a group for recovering alcoholics, from her unusual but undeniable spiritual calling to pastoring a notorious con artist-Nadia uses stunning narrative and poignant honesty to portray a woman who is both deeply faithful and deeply flawed, giving hope to the rest of us along the way. Wildly entertaining and deeply resonant, this is the book for people who hunger for a bit of hope that doesn't come from vapid consumerism or navel-gazing; for women who talk too loud, and guys who love chick flicks; for the gay man who loves Jesus, and won't allow himself to be shunned by the church. In short, this book is for every thinking misfit suspicious of institutionalized religion, but who is still seeking transcendence and mystery.

You’ve all been hanging around long enough to know that I’m an open atheist. (If this is your first time here, welcome! I’m an open atheist!) But this book. This book… allow me to borrow from The Church of Latter Day Saints – this book will change your life. (Or did Trey Parker and Matt Stone actually coin that phrase?) First, I have to thank Monika from A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall for turning me to this book. (Her review.)

For a long time I’ve struggled with the question of what makes perfectly reasonable and in some cases incredibly smart people believe in god – I’m not sure exactly how, but Bolz-Weber has managed to further my understanding on this point. 

She tackles the difficult subjects that are too often glossed over by American conservative Christian denominations. She claims no easy answers or simple paths to prosperity. Her faith has clearly been ragged and tested – but she claims no superiority, and speaks with incredible candor and honesty about her own misgivings about leading her flock. 

The candor is what makes this book a breath of fresh air. She is solid and firm in her faith but is not afraid to show her own humanity. She speaks candidly about her own bias, her church was founded ‘for’ people who didn’t feel like they could fit in a mainstream church. Gays, transgendered, tattooed, ex-convicts, ex-addicts, sex workers, you know… not soccer moms. But once her church began attracting, “the wrong kind of different” Bolz-Weber had to confront her own bias and reassess. She openly states that she was uncomfortable with the influx of suburbia into her congregation, this admission and subsequent acceptance are what makes this book so remarkable. 

What else?
So, there’s the swearing. You know that shit doesn’t bother me, I think that it added to the authenticity and honesty of the memoir, but there are those who felt it was ‘inappropriate’ for a pastor to be swearing. The criticism is this: that ‘those words’ don’t add anything to the narrative and the only reason Bolz-Weber kept them in the book was because it somehow made it ‘edgier’. I must, of course, disagree. 

I think it’s an accurate reflection of who she is. It’s fantastic that she didn’t edit out who she is just because she’s a pastor. Her messages are still clear and on point, very reflective of what mainstream Christianity proclaims to believe. (The death and resurrection of Christ, salvation through grace…)

I also want to point out, that of the 439 reviews this has received on Amazon – 378 of them are five star reviews (that’s 86%!). That in itself is amazing. Not to mention that this is a book that could have been received quite badly by many conservative Christians.


A slight detour
Speaking of language, can we talk about why some religious people are bothered by swearing? Culturally, I totally get it – I don’t want The Girl spouting off vulgarities because it’s rude. 

But biblically? It’s something I’m presenting to you as an honest question because I really don’t get it. I know there’s a whole host of bible verses about swearing and that I get. But if God knows your heart and in your heart you mean ‘fuck’ but say ‘fudge’ … what’s the difference? 

This book is wonderful. It’s touching and there are points that I was nearly moved to tears. She speaks about the difficulty of writing a sermon days after the shooting in Aurora, Colorado. She speaks to the idea of forgiveness and the difficulty with which all people struggle around the concept. Beautifully written and executed. 
While her God is not for me, the truths she has found in pursuit of her God are universal. I would probably attend this church for the community alone, if I lived in the Denver area. Read it. All of you.

I’ve already asked a million questions, Reader. What do you think?


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April @ The Steadfast Reader


  • Oh my. Yes.

  • Sounds like an “exception to the rule” in ‘faith literature.’ Will leave it to those who are interested, though I find who realistic expressions (e.g. swear words) to be refreshing. I always wonder who created this list of ‘bad words’ that we are NOT supposed to use, yet the majority of us do…I cannot resolve that particular conundrum. I raised my children knowing they could use ‘bad words’ at home as long as we didn’t have guests who might be offended AND they were not directing them AT someone in a hurtful way–rather just using them as self-expression, as we would any other words. However, they KNEW to never use them in public and/or around others whom they might offend. And they were good friends with a pastor’s sons! Go figure… I refused to be hypocritical to them about language. Sorry, stepping down from the soapbox now… 😉

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