As I wrestle with doubt while gravitating toward the Anglican church, Nadia Bolz-Weber’s books seem like the perfect travel companions. Nadia herself seems like someone who would make a great mentor for my journey. And I’m not saying she’s not, but I didn’t LOVE Accidental Saints like I thought I would.
There are some great insights on the work of loving unlovable people and the messiness of faith, as well as thought-provoking stories, but they are just too short to have much impact. We don’t really get to know any of the people who influence Nadia’s faith, and her conclusions at the end of each vignette feel too hasty.
I do have a few things in common with Nadia. We’re both tattooed (she has way more ink than I do) and not against dropping f-bombs if a moment calls for one. The thing is, I try to save my bad words for heightened, dramatic situations to make strong points. The swearing on literally every other page was off-putting (“The fucking air conditioner took itself way too seriously and I was really fucking cold”) in a “Look at me, I’m so cool” kind of way. It seemed like she was trying to impress me with her not-like-them-ness, but after a few chapters I started wishing she would knock it off already.
She makes every effort to let the reader know that her church opens its doors to anyone, and truly anyone: drug dealers, prostitutes, all kinds of “unlikeables.” Hard to find fault with that. But there’s very little speculation about how such people challenge the notion of what Christians are “supposed” to look like. Nadia’s background is conservative, and the transition from fundamentalist theology to a more progressive one is skimmed over, if not glossed over completely, in both of her books. “God loves you as you are” is a great message, and it’s true that loving people can be challenging, but the spiritual conflict just didn’t feel very deep.
And yet, throughout the book are gems of wisdom like this one:
The sting of grace is not unlike the sting of being loved well, because when we are loved well, it is inextricably linked to all the times we have not been loved well, all the times we ourselves have not loved others well, and all the things we’ve done or not done that feel like evidence against our worthiness. Love and grace are such deceivingly soft words – but they both sting like hell and then go and change the shape of our hearts and make us into something we couldn’t create ourselves to be.
That’s a passage worth reading twice. Overall, I give this book 3 stars.