Getting Over Tattoos: My take on the “Nadia Phenomenon”

Well, I’m finally joining in on the “Nadia Phenomenon.”

Sort of.

Nadia Bolz-Weber is a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the church I am also a pastor in. In case you haven’t paid much attention, Nadia has been pretty mainstream these days, which for any Lutheran, is about as common as my Minnesota Vikings football team winning these days.

A couple things here: One, I have never met Nadia. So I realize I’m definitely doing a whole lot of assuming, which is dangerous. Two, it’s kind of hard to avoid that though, especially when said person is doing interview spots on TV, getting interviewed by Krista Tippett, and has had her memoir make the NY Times bestseller list.

And honestly, that’s the one thing about the “Nadia Phenomenon” that bothers me, and at the same time has kept me from responding: the “marketing package” that is Nadia, the subsequent rockstar-like status people have elevated her to, and her strange preoccupation (and neurosis perhaps?) with those who trash her and what she says. For me, why be another one of the mob? Think for myself, I say, see though the packaging and the bullshit.

But then I came across this article on Nadia in the Washington Post. It is refreshingly well-written, and it gets to the heart of what I like so much about Nadia Bolz-Weber.

Nadia embodies a Christianity that is full of integrity; a Christianity that is sorely needed in today’s world.

Nadia talks about being all about God’s grace, and she is. If you cut through all the “packaging,” past the profanity, the tough image, the tattoos….you’ll see honesty, courage, and joy: things that spring forth from the experience with God’s grace.

And that grace is lived out – she quickly points out when she misses the mark, when she needs to self-correct, ask for forgiveness, and move on. She sees that God’s grace isn’t just for her own self-enjoyment and affirmation, it also shapes how she sees and deals with others.

And it’s this that really convinces me of her integrity:
She doesn’t apologize for who she is, but she will apologize for what she does when it misses the mark. That is all God’s grace.

On a personal note, that’s how it works for me too. I’ve gotten there a different way and understand it through the sport of wrestling, but that is how it works for me. Honesty. Courage. Freedom. Willing to admit when I screw up and ask for forgiveness, but then moving on.

I’m not trying to, and have no desire to put myself on the same level as Nadia; the course God has her on is simply, not one I feel called to. But when I look past the packaging, I get it. And I appreciate it. And I’ll keep on doin’ what I do.

For her naysayers and critics out there: I say get over it. Get over whatever it is about her that pisses you off, and read her book. Listen to her interview with Krista Tippett. Read her sermons on her blog.

For the dismissive folks out there, the “that’s nothing that isn’t already happening in our congregations” crowd: look past the stuff on the surface and hear the integrity in her words. Chances are there’s something you can learn there about yourself.

For the record, I’m still not joining in on the “Nadia Phenomenon.” (I don’t think she’d want me to either, and it’s not my style)

I think it’s a pretty damn good thing though.


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