Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of A Sinner And Saint

Nadia Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran (ELCA) pastor and published author. Her most recent memoir “Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of A Sinner and Saint” has received widespread praise and criticism from Christians around the world. If you search her on Google images, several things would come to mind. She is not the cookie cutter definition of “a called and ordained minister in the church of Christ and by his authority.” ELCA clergy even tried to ban her from speaking at the 2012 Youth gathering in New Orleans. A history of drug use, alcoholism, promiscuity combined with tattooed arms and the tendency to swear like a trucker has drawn some negative attention. However, her sermons will show you a knowledge of scripture that many fundamentalists have (sadly) refused to embrace. 

I must admit that Pastrix was a difficult book for me to write about. I am not going to summarize this book from start to finish. Out of the nineteen chapters in this memoir, there is one that especially stood out to me. Chapter 10 titled “Pirate Christian” is the one I chose to write about. It is in reference to Matthew 5:43-44. She begins by describing a man named Chris, who is an ordained pastor from the Lutheran Church of Missouri Synod. To put it simply, the LCMS takes a more literal and concrete stance on the bible and on the works of Martin Luther. 
PCR is an online radio station that is free from the scurvy plagues of pop-psychology, goofy fads, self-help, pietism, purpose-drivenism, the prosperity heresy, contemplative mysticism, seeker sensitivism, liberalism, relativism, Emergent nonsense, and the sissy girly Oprah fied religiosity that is being passed off as “Biblical Christianity.”
This station defends the historic Christian faith.  
Nadia is the founder of House For All Sinners and Saints. It is an ELCA congregation in Denver, Colorado and has received national attention for it’s open door policy. It’s affirmation of LGBT individuals obviously did not sit well with Pirate Christian.

My liberalness and femaleness and gay lovingness made me easy plunder for the Pirate. On several occasions, he had spent time on his radio show talking about “Pastrix” Nadia Bolz-Weber and all her false teachings. At first I actually liked it. I had gained a bit of national attention as a pastor by this point, and I found being noticed by people who hated my guts especially thrilling. I must really have been important, after all, if someone I’d never met would spent twenty minutes talking about me on his Internet radio show. Granted, those twenty minutes were filled with vitriol, but still… Ego and anger often compare for stage time in my head, and inevitably anger cannot be kept behind the curtain for too long. So after being perversely pleased for being noticed, I was soon enraged for being “persecuted.”

Pastrix: Ch. 11, “Pirate Christian”, Page 110 

I have never understood why people insist upon referring to the full affirmation of LGBT individuals as “the gay issue.” Many people became angry and left my home congregation because of this so called “issue.” I have never listened to this “Pirate Christian” before. “Pastrix” was the very first place that his name was ever brought to my attention. We certainly are allowed to be angry when people make outrageous comments about certain groups they will never have the heart to fully embrace and understand. There are times when it is best to ignore people who are so convinced that their radical beliefs are true, they refuse to listen to anyone who even slightly challenges their viewpoint. We all know of people in the media and even those in our own lives who fit that category. The hardest part is to not let it bother us.

“It’s weird, Nadia,” he (Pirate Christian) said. We obviously disagree about a lot, but something tells me that out of all these Liberal Christians, you and I have a couple things we might agree on.” 

“Great,”  I said, after a moment of stunned silence. Let’s..uh…let’s talk about that.” 

And with an openness that felt like a spiritual waterboarding (Jesus holding my head under the waters of my own baptism until I cry uncle), I had a long conversation with my enemy.  

Since the Pirate and I were in the middle of a fellowship at the conference, the crowd around us who knew about our feud perhaps expected a showdown. But instead, they saw us share a thirty minute public dialogue about our own brokenness and need for confession and absolution, why we need the Gospel, and what happens in the Eucharist. And as he talked he cried. Twice. 

I looked him in the eye and said, “Chris, I have two things to say to you. One, you are a beautiful child of God. Two, I think that maybe you and I are desperate enough to hear the Gospel that we can even hear it from each other.”

God made my enemy my friend that day. And I have not been plunder for the Pirate ever since. Chris has not spoken about me or written about me. But he does call. Sometimes we talk for an hour about theology and our families and at times we argue, but we do it with the respect of friends. We are two unlikely people who have shown each other where there is water in the desert.

Pastrix: Chapter 11, Pages 112 and 113  

I commend Nadia for mustering up the patience to talk to this man and reach out to him as a friend. I cannot say that I would be able to handle the situation in such a way. I am just being honest. I am a “double minority.” I have Asperger’s Syndrome. I do not demand sympathy from anyone! I know that I am not stupid or incapable of achieving anything in life. I know that people will scorn if I use my diagnosis as an excuse for illegal or immoral behavior. Oh, and I love men. 

“Loving my enemies” does not mean that I will muster up warm and fuzzy feelings towards people who hurt me. It means that I will hope and pray for them to treat others with dignity and respect.

“I am sorry if I ever managed to hurt or offend you in any way. I am sorry for any pain that you are going through right now. I am sorry that you decided to impose it on me. However, I am not sorry for the things that make me different from everyone else. 


“When You Say Nothing At All”

“Homosexuality is a belief! It’s not mandatory in that person. That person is not “Born That Way”, no matter what Lady Gaga says. That person is not born that way! It is a decision!”

Caiden Cowger

This is an infamous quote from Caiden Cowger’s viral, but hilarious train wreck of a video called “Obama Is Making Kids Gay.” Immediately following those first four sentences, Cowger goes on this rant about President Obama and that he is encouraging young teenagers to “become gay.” He even had the audacity to bring up his former friends from elementary and middle school and claim they were “not homosexual” when he knew them. To no surprise, his video received a plethora of criticism from LGBT advocates around the world. The Huffington Post even joined the party and wrote an article about him.

I am willing to admit that his comments did make me angry. This video was made two years ago, and I was still new to “the gay scene.” I still am trying to figure out what my sexuality means to me. Part of the long process is figuring out what to do about those annoying homophobes we encounter on the internet and in our everyday lives. Caiden Cowger is the type of homophobe who knows that his comments are bound to anger the LGBT community and our straight allies. He not only wants the attention because he profits from it. He wants the attention because it (supposedly) validates his hateful and divisive views about people who he does not find appealing. Lastly, we should not forget the delusion that his mindset is the exact opposite of genuine love and concern for your fellow man.

Personally, I did not feel the need to respond to Caiden Cowger. After all, many users have done so already. I honestly believe that he deserves the heated criticism for making such remarks about a “lifestyle” that he is still too immature to understand. This brings up one important question when I encounter people who spew rhetoric just like he does. How should I react to such a person if I should encounter them?

It was a warm and humid Wednesday morning. I was volunteering at a local church for Meals on Wheels. Chicken salad sandwiches were on the menu for those who wanted cold brown bag meal. It was my job to scoop the mixture onto two slices of bread and place them in plastic bags. Simple enough job, right? It is common for the workers to engage in small talk while we are preparing a meal. Sometimes, the conversation can turn political or religious. Just the other day, Pennsylvania’s ban on marriage equality was declared unconstitutional. I was ecstatic when I heard the news. The entire Northeastern United States has finally embraced marriage equality! However, my enthusiasm was not shared by everyone. The man sitting across from me began to talk about the potential severe weather in the forecast. I did not expect the direction of which it was about to turn. We will call this man Mr. Taylor. (Notice these are fake names!) The conversation went something like this.

Mr. Smith: “I can’t believe all of this nasty weather in the forecast for today. (Brief pause.) I think God is trying to tell us something! He is clearly not happy! Did you hear about that same-sex marriage ruling for Pennsylvania? Some federal judge ruled the ban unconstitutional!  (An older woman was listening to the conversation. We will call her Mrs. White. She immediately chimed in.)

Mrs. White: “That’s terrible! God does not approve! They should have let the people decide! I thought the Bishop was opposed to gay marriage! Why didn’t he try to stop that?” 

(Mrs. White is apparently a Conservative Catholic. A brief pause follows.)

Mr. Smith: “He is against it! Mayor Peduto probably asked people in those gay bars to voice their opinion and fool us into thinking that we want this in Pennsylvania!

(short pause, then he continues)

 You know what’s more disgusting? Protestant churches are now calling homosexual pastors! The bible says that homosexuality is disgusting, immoral and wrong!  My denomination ordains gay pastors, but our parish did not agree to call one. We don’t want some gay pastor shoving his lifestyle choice down our throats!”

Mrs. White: “Well, they will have to answer to God someday. You never know what the government will demand us to accept next. Polygamy? Pedophilia? Sex with animals?” 

(Topic of conversation changes.)

I must admit that I wanted to respond to their blatant ignorance. “Sir, you happen to be talking to somebody who is out of the closet! Shame on you for being so ignorant!” However, I forced myself to say absolutely nothing. I just sat there and I continued to make the sandwiches. After all, they were not directly speaking to me. (I doubt they even know I am gay.) I have made a vow to myself. I will never live according to the standards of other people. It does not matter if they stem from religious indoctrination, general ignorance or even both. I can only hope that Caiden will wise up and learn to respect people for who they are. However, my prayers have yet to be answered. Some may disagree, but I think I did the right thing. I will remember this experience in the future and remind myself of one thing. Sometimes it’s best to say nothing at all.

My letter to Steve Grand

(click above)



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