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A Conservative Admires The Pastrix

Bart Gingerich is a conservative Protestant, but he finds some things to admire in the rising star among Mainline/Emergent liberal Protestants, the Lutheran pastor (“pastrix,” as she calls herself) Nadia Bolz-Weber. Excerpt:

I don’t think she or all of her ideas should be as derisively dismissed as they have been this past week by many American evangelicals. Speaking from firsthand observation, I think Nadia Bolz-Weber is the most pastoral, the most traditional, and thus the most grounded of the post-everything Christians. In short, she knows the human soul and how it is formed.

She realizes that Christianity is an alien thing in this world. God save us from the Mainline’s hippie slacktivist Christ and evangelicalism’s “personal relationship Jesus,” who wears Dockers and drives an Accord (“or worse, a graphic tee and a smartcar”). She knows Someone mysterious invaded our world, and our comforts (mental and material) are deceptive. In many ways, Bolz-Weber reconciles her liturgical side with her progressivism since her Christianity is “always putting me into something new.”

I noticed this especially in her discussions on liturgy at the 2013 Wild Goose Festival. She realized that a church service shouldn’t tell you how to feel, nor should it be formed to elicit certain uniform passions. We feel very differently on every Sunday; we are the variable, and the liturgy is the constant. It forms us; we don’t form it. The constant contact with prayer to God transforms the soul. “It’s like water working down the rough edges of a stone,” she observed. The minister, an unfit instrument, works as but the choirmaster in prayer and the waiter in the Eucharist, the grace of which is provided by Christ. Whether or not these liturgies or sacraments are valid is another question for another post.

Contrast this with the spontaneity of contemporary worship services. Typical American evangelicals strive to give meaning and memory to bread and juice, all the while denying a supernatural presence with regard to the elements themselves—a comfortable rationalism. We sing “I want to worship You” when we really might not actually want to, but it’s a therapeutic melody and worship’s become whatwe feel about God and life, not Who God is, what He has done, or simply ascribing worth to Him. Of course, the power of true love in the fallen world isn’t necessarily wanting to do something, but doing it anyway whether you feel like it or not. Whether in marriage, family, or friendship; we show up and be there, and our preferences don’t matter. It all centers around the beloved. This is very counter-individualism and thus, in a sense, counter-American. However, it’s desperately needed at this moment, and that’s why I give Bolz-Weber more appreciation, despite her anthropological and theological heresies.

You should read the whole thing, because Gingerich, who is a conservative (and a Reformed Episcopal seminarian, and no stranger to this blog), by no means praises her uncritically. Still, his remarks are yet another encouragement to me to get through the books I’m reading now so I can tuck into the copy of Bolz-Weber’s book, Pastrix, that one of you readers kindly sent to me.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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