I say “suddenly famous” because Bolz-Weber currently is riding a wave of popularity built on her speaking events (drawing 500+) and her new book which hit the NYT Bestsellers list. The book, Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint, is worth a review in itself as a means of exploring the substance of Bolz-Weber’s new forms of Christianity. We’ll post a book review here in a few weeks, but today just take a minute and read the article about Bolz-Weber.
Bolz-Weber ministers within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, but her ministry flows more from the streams of postmodernism than either the German Reformer of the 16th century or the Apostle Paul of the 1st.
In her body and her theology, Bolz-Weber represents a new, muscular form of liberal Christianity, one that merges the passion and life-changing fervor of evangelicalism with the commitment to inclusiveness and social justice of mainline Protestantism. She’s a tatted-up, foul-mouthed champion to people sick of being belittled as not Christian enough for the right or too Jesus-y for the left.
Rebellion — or perhaps it is better to say “insurrection” — against established religion of both the left and the right drives Bolz-Weber. Don’t be fooled though; she is certainly liberal in faith and practice, but her “style” is anti-soporific. She wants to see that the religion of the left produces a yell, not a yawn.
This emphasis on experience over rules challenges conservatives, but it also bothers progressives who have turned church into what she views as essentially a nonprofit organization.
“This [the church] isn’t supposed to be the Elks Club with the Eucharist,” Bolz-Weber said in a taxi ride before her Austin talk. Religion should be “something that’s so devastatingly beautiful it can break your heart. Instead it’s been: ‘Recycle.’ And ‘Don’t sleep with your girlfriend.’ ”
Listen to the aesthetics-driven language she employs. Neither truth/belief (logos) nor action/behavior (ethos) serve in any foundational way to this form of Christianity. No, this grounding — if you can call it that — is an aroma, a mood, a feeling. This putting pathos at the center of the “gospel” strips the “good news” of any specific theological content or ethical exhortation.
Her message: Forget what you’ve been told about the Golden Rule — God doesn’t love you more if you do good things, or if you believe certain things. God, she argues, offers you grace regardless of who you are or what you do.
Half-truths are never true. What she says about grace — “God offers you grace regardless of who you are or what you do” — is true. But the grace (free unmerited favor of God) is a grace that transforms and makes holy the one who formerly knew neither grace or godliness. Bolz-Weber says, “God doesn’t love you more if you do good things.” Though that is true, what is the telos of grace. To what end were we created and to what end does the grace break into our life in the first place? The Apostle Paul says that grace leads to good works (ethos) — and those good works find definition in the revealed Word (logos).
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10, ESV)
“Bolz-Weber’s liberal, foulmouthed articulation of Christianity speaks to fed-up believers” (The Washington Post, published November 3, 2013).