Grace is this incredible power in the world
September 8, 2013 6:18 AM   Subscribe

""Pastrix" is a demeaning term used to refer to female ministers by certain Christians who believe in male-only pastoral ministry. But Denver-based Lutheran Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, a tattooed yet traditional liturgist, has reclaimed it as a title for her brand of faith. “It was an insult, and anytime you can reclaim an insult as a good thing, you win,” says Bolz-Weber." posted by Brandon Blatcher (23 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
(...and the top announcement on her church website at the moment is for the Blessing Of The Bicycles, which sounds like a lovely tradition.)
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 7:45 AM on September 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


These people are silly. Everybody knows the feminine of pastor is "pastoress".
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 7:54 AM on September 8, 2013


Patheos.com: Let’s start with the title: Pastrix. Where did that come from? Were there other titles in the running?

Bolz-Weber: h, that’s the term that some rather unimaginative and hateful Christians who don’t think women should be ordained have given me and other female pastors. Pretty much any time you can take an insult and claim it as your own, you win. What I really wanted to call the book, was God’s Bitch, and they wouldn’t go for it. Weird, huh?


Well, looks like I've got to make a road-trip to Denver to attend her church....
posted by magstheaxe at 7:59 AM on September 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


What I really wanted to call the book, was God’s Bitch, and they wouldn’t go for it. Weird, huh?

No one ever gave Dominicans crap about it....
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:07 AM on September 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I heard this on the radio this morning and found it mostly appealing. I liked what she had to say about innovation being more genuine if it starts from tradition. I liked her focus on honesty and admitting to error, and the idea that authority is stronger if it's built on real trust, which includes being open about your shortcomings. I thought what she had to say on the importance of community and that participation is more important than perfection was spot-on. Since I'm not religious, I generally tried to understand the god/jesus stuff as metaphorical, and a lot of the time that made sense.

I think what I found most appealing wasn't so much the stuff I personally related to, but just the idea that churches in general will change with the times, and allow for the kind of communal, humorous, casual style worship that she was espousing. She said something about stopping "cultural commuting", where people do one thing saturday night, and another sunday morning, and their church self is a whole different "self" than who they are the rest of the week. That's an ancient problem with Western self-identity, so for me it wasn't so much just about this one church, but a strain of anti-compartmentalization that I hope is spreading in any cultural context.
posted by mdn at 8:13 AM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Grace is this incredible power in the world that I feel like a lot of time goes unrecognized. We call it luck, or coincidence, or medical science. .... I really believe that grace and the power of forgiveness, and giving things and getting things that aren’t earned, and the way in which all of our fuck-ups are never the final word and somehow can be redeemed … that is such a powerful force in the world and I see it all around me all the time.

What a load of self-delusional rubbish - seriously. So "coincidence" is a powerful force in the world? You mean besides oh say, obscene wealth and actual social/political power?
posted by mary8nne at 8:30 AM on September 8, 2013


I think she's aware of actual social/political power, having been stepped on by it and come out strong.

Is it weird that my strongest association to the -ix suffix is dominatrix? The concept doesn't at all apply in this context, but it's one of the very few non-archaic uses of the suffix still used in ordinary language. If I believed that women should by nature be subordinate to men that's not a role I'd want to be calling to mind.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:06 AM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


What a load of self-delusional rubbish - seriously. So "coincidence" is a powerful force in the world? You mean besides oh say, obscene wealth and actual social/political power?

Huh, as an atheist I still have a soft spot for the Christian left, because I think that the religious experience people have may actually be real at least on the emotional level. And it's hard to construct a mental framework on the fundamental unfairness of life and deal with the fact that our brains demand a narrative. That's a curse even worse than hindsight regret- and we carry it along with hope. Both are fundamentally irrational- we're all going to die, you can't fix all people's problems, and most of us are powerless to do more than be kind, sometimes, when we don't trip over our own selfishness.

You can certainly point to imbalanced power structures, but we don't create the world when we are born, we're dropped into a system that has existed so long it defies human memory- we don't know a time before inequality or pain was a thing we had to deal with, collectively, as a species. Serendipity is basically all we've got, often key to us lucky enough to be able to be good people.

If people are capable of perceiving a god, and use that feeling constructively, the point is not, for me to piss on their dreams but negotiate within my own morality system for something that helps us all. I can't help that I'm missing the divine, and I'm not sure I mind if people strive towards a non-existent higher ideal under a system of belief that takes into account human frailty.

People, after all, simply create the gods that are reflections of themselves. I don't find atheists like myself any less inclined to rubbish and cruelty than the faithful either.


Is it weird that my strongest association to the -ix suffix is dominatrix?


It's precisely it- the suffix is used, all too often, to call to attention the eccentricity of a woman doing it. Dominatrix is not even a title female sexual dominants generally want for themselves unless we are doing sex work and the word doesn't even engender a woman with real power, but a sex symbol. Hence "Pastorix" is like the crack about the dog walking on its hind legs being like a woman preaching- remarkable not for the skill but the act that it is happening at all. That's why she's reclaiming it.
posted by Phalene at 9:15 AM on September 8, 2013 [28 favorites]


Is it weird that my strongest association to the -ix suffix is dominatrix?

No. I flashed on the same thing. I also felt it an odd term for the haters to use, since the -ix suffix is generally used to connote a certain lever of mastery and proficiency in a given activity, at least in my experience. Traditionally, haters have used -ess for their derogatory slurs (i.e. Negress, Jewess)
posted by Thorzdad at 9:21 AM on September 8, 2013


justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow, my guess is that it's meant to elicit that thought, and that being dominant has a negative connotation in this context.
I met Nadia years ago, not knowing she was a "big thing". She was a female pastor with tattoos; that's not at all as out of the ordinary in some places as it is in others. She's also with the ELCA, which has tended toward the progressive while still professing a literal, divine Christ for some time.
posted by monkeymadness at 9:21 AM on September 8, 2013


I was slow on the draw (dang phone keyboards!) and Phalene said it far better.
posted by monkeymadness at 9:25 AM on September 8, 2013


What a load of self-delusional rubbish - seriously. So "coincidence" is a powerful force in the world? You mean besides oh say, obscene wealth and actual social/political power?

I think maybe the greater point is in the "all of our fuck-ups are never the final word and somehow can be redeemed," which is certainly not self-delusional. The "Grace" is in not knowing how you'll be reminded of this when you're at your lowest. To call grace a force is to compare it less to the "force of electromagnetism" than, perhaps, the "force of charisma."
posted by GameDesignerBen at 9:28 AM on September 8, 2013


I don't think "pastrix" was coined with "dominatrix" in mind so much as words like "aviatrix" or "oratrix." We no longer use those words because it's no longer considered extraordinary for a woman to fly an airplane or give a speech. Nadia is making the point that just because you do choose to call a female pilot an aviatrix it doesn't mean she can't fly the plane.
posted by localroger at 9:32 AM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, there's a big difference between the concepts of "grace" on the one hand and "privilege" or "power" on the other.

For starters, grace is not about getting your way in the outside world. It's about finding ways to work on your own salvation — or, if you don't like the word "salvation," about finding the insight and courage you need to straighten out your own personal interior bullshit. In a way, it's not far from the way 12-steppers talk about "moments of clarity."

Winning the lottery is not a manifestation of grace. Landing a cushy job is not a manifestation of grace. (This is not just my idiosyncratic use of the word, either. Even devout theist mainstream Christians who genuinely believe that financial success can be a literal blessing from God would not, as I understand it, use the word "grace" there.)

Realizing in your own head that there are changes you need to make in your life, and having the courage and willpower to make them — that's the sort of good fortune that people who use the word "grace" are talking about.

As a lefty atheist in a historically Christian tradition, "grace" is one of the few bits of Christian theology that I have any use for. There's a lot that the church has said and done in the past to support the rich and powerful, and a lot of theological concepts that get used to reinforce the shitty unfair status quo. But there's something genuinely radical about saying, you know, "Sometimes people who have been genuinely shitty and fucked up in the past are granted the ability to get it together and start being less shitty. It's not because they deserved it. It's not because they earned it. But it's still a good thing — for them and for everyone else around them. Let's be really grateful that that happens, and let's try to create situations in which it will happen more often — but let's also acknowledge that we can't force it to happen."
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 9:35 AM on September 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


traditionally, haters have used -ess for their derogatory slurs (i.e. Negress, Jewess)

Neither of those words was originally a "derogatory slur," though. "Jewess" just meant "female Jew." If there were negative associations with the word they rode along with whatever negative associations were already associated with being female or being Jewish. It has never really been clear to me that gendered terms in themselves are necessarily a product of sexist beliefs. I know, for example, that there's a feminist opposition to the word "actress" in the theater and film community, but it has never seemed to me that most people think "actress" is a secondary term to "actor" or that you call women actors "actresses" to mark how amazing it is that a woman should even think of engaging in such work.
posted by yoink at 9:43 AM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Another reason for choosing -ix over -ess for a dorogatory sneer is that priestess is a real word.
posted by localroger at 9:52 AM on September 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


Another reason for not going with -ix is that pastrix sounds like a reference to Asterix, most likely some Roman plot to suggest the staunchest defender of the last remnant of a free Gaul is over the hill.
posted by biffa at 10:55 AM on September 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


What a load of self-delusional rubbish - seriously. So "coincidence" is a powerful force in the world? You mean besides oh say, obscene wealth and actual social/political power?

I've known Nadia since high school; I can assure you she's well aware of issues of wealth inequality and social and political power, and has been for decades.

She does great work (her ministry is especially attuned to LGBTQ issues), and I'm delighted that her voice and others among the religious left are getting a wider hearing. If you're in Denver and so inclined, I really do recommend checking out HFASS (and this coming from a hard agnostic-with-Buddhist leanings).
posted by scody at 11:01 AM on September 8, 2013


> that there's a feminist opposition to the word "actress" in the theater and film community

Feminist? I haven't heard someone use the term "actress" within the theatre community in 20 years. Though I imagine it might be different outside New York City, I never heard it in any of the other places I've hung out with the Profession.

If you read older books, you see words like paintress, sculptress, poetess... People wouldn't even laugh at you today if you said paintress, they just wouldn't know what you meant. Why should anyone say, "Actress"?

I have to say that the ix ending brings "fellatrix" to mind, but then that was always one of my favorite words...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:12 AM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of the words of Tim Minchin, "only a ginger can call another ginger 'ginger'".
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:40 PM on September 8, 2013


Feminist? I haven't heard someone use the term "actress" within the theatre community in 20 years.

By "feminist" I didn't mean "ooga booga loony feminazi nutters." The opposition to the word "actress" in the theater community was a feminist one--it wasn't just the language spontaneously drifting. It was an argument that all "actors"--male and female--deserved to be taken equally seriously as practitioners of their craft. You are exaggerating, too, to suggest you've heard nobody in the theatre community use the word in 20 years, unless you mean no one involved in, say, the Tony awards, which still gives awards for "actors" and "actresses," is part of the "theater community."

I can understand the motives of those who originally made the argument for a gender-neutral term ("we're all actors, dammit!"), but I think it was one of those arguments that was actually unconsciously rooted in the sexism if the environment that spawned it. It is only in a world in which women's work is devalued relative to men's that "actress" seems like a secondary or lesser status than "actor." In a non-sexist world, it's not at all clear to me that we would naturally tend to a state in which all professional labels were gender-neutral.
posted by yoink at 3:50 PM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Huh. Speaking as a Christian and regardless of my own POV on women in the pulpit, her approach of embracing the term originally intended as an insult is friggin brilliant, and ironically so for a Christian. Because that's where the word Christian comes from. self link, fyi
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:48 PM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry, meant to include some of the text from the link:

Do you know what "Christian" means? I've been amazed in my life how many people I've come across, who in fact call themselves "Christian," who actually can't convey to me the very basic meaning of the word. Allow me to tell you about it.

It comes from the Greek word "Christianos" which means "follower of Christ." Its not a name that the Christians originally gave themselves, in fact it was most likely used as a mocking name for the early followers of Christ by the secular community in Antioch. Eventually, though, in true forgiving and Christ-like fashion, the early followers came to take this term on as their standard, essentially embracing their outcast status from the society of their day.

posted by allkindsoftime at 10:50 PM on September 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


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