Nadia Bolz-Weber - The Tattooed Pastor
A Lutheran pastor from Denver, Colorado is shaking the grounds of Christian communities with something other than her imposing built.
You definitely can’t miss the tattoos, either.
Nadia Bolz-Weber, everyone.
The tattoos are only a part of the packaging of the 6-foot-1 tall woman with pixie cut hair style. She looks like a lesbian feminist-slash-activist on the street in her roughed-up jeans and tops that showed off her impressive arms—product of tattoos and Crossfit. But some will recognize her as their pastor at the House of All Sinners & Saints. But Nadia doesn’t—nor does she try to—come off as a redeemed saint on earth claiming to know what’s good. And she’s definitely no Westboro Baptist Church style preacher either. Far from it.
“Getting sober never felt like I had pulled myself up by my own spiritual bootstraps. It felt instead like I was on one path toward self-destruction and God pulled me off of it by the scruff of my collar, me hopelessly kicking and flailing and saying, ‘Screw you. I’ll take the destruction please.’ God looked at tiny, little red-faced me and said, ‘That’s adorable,” and then plunked me down on an entirely different path,” Nadia shares in Pastrix.
In The House for All Sinners and Saints, you'll see various faces you wouldn’t normally see at “average” churches across the nation. “She has queers and freaks and outcasts of all sorts in her congregation,” according to The Guardian. The church also helps to run a day shelter for gay teens. That's not surprising, as one-third of the House are part of the LGBT community. They even have a “Minister of Fabulousness,” a drag queen named Stuart.
Recent from Stories
In her latest book, Accidental Saints she shares what she thinks about the negative things we succumb to on a daily basis and how the Healer—Jesus himself responded to the same ones he stumbled upon during his time here: “...demons, whether they be addictions or actual evil spirits, are not what Jesus wants for us, since basically every time he encounters them he tells them to piss off.”
The 40-something Lutheran may still be uncertain of where she stands but she's positive about one thing—where God stands in her life and always will. “How we feel about Jesus or how close we feel to God is meaningless next to how God acts upon us. How God indeed enters into our messy lives and loves us through them, whether we want God’s help or not.”
Nadia—who started getting tattooed at 17—herself struggled with both physical and spiritual restraints, abusing alcohol drugs for at least a decade before picking up the pieces and made something out of her life. She became a comedian, she met a man and had two kids, but it wasn't until 2004 when she had to eulogize a friend who had committed suicide. That's when things got interesting.
In 2008, Nadia Bolz-Weber was ordained as a pastor. Not long after she opened up the door of her church, the House for All Saints and Sinners.
Despite all this she's certain that she's not even close to ‘there’ yet—the peak as she tells Guardian, “It’s not like ‘I once was blind, and now can see’: it’s more like, ‘I once was blind and now I have really bad vision’.”
She knows the struggle too well and she's not here to sugarcoat and conceal how the church is really like. “Church is messed up. I know that. People, including me, have been hurt by it.” But in all its brokenness, we are the church.
I wish there were pastors like Nadia around my place. Nadia’s the type of pastor who will listen to you talk about things like listening to this certain band that’s supposed to be toxic to your faith and you won’t end up feeling like she’ll judge you when the conversation is over because she knows what it’s like to be into these kinds of things.
And she’s obviously just as crazy about tattoos as we are. She swears. She is well-aware of how much of a screw-up she’s been. Yet, her flaming belief that God is bigger than everything she’s ever known in her whole life—flaws and shortcomings included—and knowing he loves her nonetheless, is what she’s all about. I like her for that. She speaks the language. She knows what it’s like. She can’t possibly speak for the likes of me with empty sentiments that are supposed to save me if she haven't been through the rough, similar things.
“God, please help me not be an asshole, is about as common a prayer as I pray in my life.”
― Nadia Bolz-Weber in Pastrix
As somebody who identifies as a Christian, I still find it difficult to come to terms with myself and the big mess I made of my life. I often feel lost and neck deep from all my faults and relapses. That’s partly because I’m brought up into believing that half of the things I like will send me to hell. It could be right, though. But I eventually find myself detaching to the church and everyone else concerned.
I resented the idea of God hating me for listening to alternative rock, reading books that are considered heretical, mingling with people every smothering parent with good-intentions will warn their kids about, and of course, being fascinated with tattoos because of what Exodus 21:6 says. I want to believe that God is not as shallow as that. As shallow as the lowly humans he created.
I’m still a lost sheep. But it’s people like Nadia who personify the term “fishers of men” Jesus used in Matthew 4:19. Conservatives might be appalled to see somebody like Nadia standing on their pedestals—a tattooed person and a woman at that. I suppose that’s the kind of thinking Jesus condemned when he walked on earth. After all, he didn’t choose high priests and who were considered “religious” then. He chose the outcasts—the people everyone else looked down upon—to be close with him and follow him.
“Never once did Jesus scan the room for the best example of holy living and send that person out to tell others about him. He always sent stumblers and sinners. I find that comforting.” —Nadia Bolz-Weber
She’s currently on a book tour to promote her latest release, Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People. Check out the rad cover!