“Whether we realize it or not, we often find ways to alleviate feelings of existential aloneness through the seeking of unity…Food, entertainment, success, sex, relationships, busyness, gossip — there are plenty of ways to divert our attention from the unavoidable, terrifying aloneness of human existence,” (Bolz-Web, Nadia, 21).
Sex has long been a taboo subject in the church, but pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber calls for a reformation of it in Shameless. Inspired by Martin Luther, Bolz-Weber listens and shares experiences from her own life as well as those of her parishioners while also looking into biblical text to normalize sex, sexuality, sexual orientation and gender identity that many church folk need to heal the harm the church has caused.
While I was reading this book, I would often place it facedown so the cover was hidden. I’d read in my room and place the book flat against my bed so the title couldn’t be read, or I’d hide it altogether under my blankets. So needless to say, I have a lot to work on with my own feelings of shame that come up just from reading a book about sexual reformation. It’s silly to admit to this at all, to the lengths I went through to hide the fact that I was reading a book that spoke of changing the way the church views sex. But I anticipated reacting this way, which is why Shameless was such an important book for me to read.
I was raised Catholic, different from Nadia Bolz-Weber’s own upbringing, but every form of Christianity has its similarities and purity culture. So I related with a lot of the sections about purity culture, the lack of sexual education given to youth, the endless metaphors for virtue (I had the candle one, as well as a used tissue one which was fun), the pressure of an abstinence/chastity filled life before marriage and how toxic that learning was. I thought Bolz-Weber brought so much insight and change into this line of thinking, of taking the Bible’s, “Be fruitful and multiply” as a promotion of sex rather than a promotion of populating the world.
Bolz-Weber gives voices from her parishioners who identify as cis, straight, trans, queer to give a wide variety of how the church’s teachings have affected how they view sex, themselves, and the shame that often accompanied how they viewed these things. I thought these conversations were important to have and I loved how Bolz-Weber used simple, accessible language to convey what she was speaking about to her readers. I think she did an excellent job using scripture, as well as articles, books, and other sources to convey her arguments. I do wish it remained on this topic though, there’s a few chapters in the middle that dwell away from the point of sexual reformation, and while I understand how they relate I would have preferred it consistent. I also don’t think the conclusion really encapsulated all that Bolz-Weber was trying to say.
That being said, I really enjoyed Shameless and think the book is a very good starting point for a sexual reformation in the church. I hope this topic continues being discussed in more ways to come because it’s an important one to talk about that has affected many parishioners.
Publication: January 29th 2019
Publisher: Convergent Books
Pages: 200 pages (Hardcover)
Genre: Non-Fiction, Theology, Religion, Sexuality
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤⛤
Nothing gives church folk anxiety quite like the subject of sex. And that’s why in Shameless, Pastor Nadia sets out to reclaim the conversation for a new generation. In the spirit of Martin Luther, Bolz-Weber calls for a reformation of the way believers understand and express their sexuality. To make her case, Bolz-Weber draws on experiences from her own life as well as her parishoners’, then puts them side by side with biblical narrative and theology to explore what the church has taught and about sex, and the harm that has often come as a result. Along the way, Bolz-Weber reexamines patriarchy, gender, and sexual orientation with candor but also with hope–because, as she writes, “I believe that the Gospel can heal the pain that even the church has caused.