In Russian Orthodox Christianity, the wife of a priest is called “matushka,” an endearment that means “little mother.” The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America does not have the same term, but it looks like the congregation that the celebrated Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber is leaving will be getting one.
It’s a drag queen called Fruitbomb, the partner of its new gay pastor, an Episcopal priest named the Rev. Reagan Humber. Here is Fruitbomb in performance:
A Religion News Service column about the departure of Bolz-Weber from the parish she founded mentions that her successor will be
Humber, who came to HFASS from St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco, is well-equipped to carry on the church’s alternative vibe. His partner is a hair stylist who moonlights as the drag queen Fruitbomb, and Humber is open about his struggles with opiates and alcohol.
I’m listed in the RNS column as an “admirer” of Nadia Bolz-Weber’s, based on this positive 2013 review of her memoir. I stand by that review, which voiced an opinion that a few religious conservatives offered at the time: that however much we disagreed with her theology, NBW struck us as a genuine person. From my blog at the time:
Look at this excerpt, which comes toward the end of a chapter in which she talks about working as a hospital chaplain, and discovering that there really isn’t a thing you can say to people in profound grief and pain that will help. She talks about how much she loved reading liberal Christian theologians in seminary, because they “rescued” her from her fundamentalist upbringing. But those who speak of Jesus as a wonderful teacher, diminishing His divinity, only take you so far:
This was the bonus to liberal Christianity: I could use my reason and believe at the same time. But it only worked for me for a short while. And soon I wanted to experiment with harder stuff. Admiring Jesus, while a noble pursuit, doesn’t show me where God is to be found when we suffer the death of a loved one or a terrifying cancer diagnosis or when our child is hurt. admiring and trying to imitate a guy who was really in touch with God just doesn’t seem to bridge the distance between me and the Almighty in ways that help me understand where the hell God is when we are suffering.
That’s classic NBW: praising liberal Christianity, but then frankly admitting its limitations. Reading this book, I found myself routinely pushed to the edge by the author’s raw voice and liberal theology, but just when I would think that I was done with her, she would come back with an observation — usually a self-critical observation — that pulled me back in, and made me reconsider my own thoughts and practices.
I am sorry that she is leaving her parish in the hands of such a loony. I imagine it will wither away and die without the charisma of its founder. In the end, there is no substitute for orthodoxy. If the future of liberal Christianity is Matushka Fruitbomb, I’d say it has no future at all.