I saw a poster in a local Starbucks earlier this year saying that there would be a reading group on this book. After reading that this book intended to respond to “the caustic, fear-riddled and religiously inspired messages about sex that have fed our shame,” I thought I should read and provide an alternative viewpoint to the reading group.
Alas, my schedule and busyness precluded my participation. I recently finished the book and would offer a few thoughts:
Shameless: A Sexual Reformation by Nadia Bolz-Weber
First, the author has clearly been hurt both by the church and in family and marriage. Second, this book from a former pastor is abhorrently absent of scripture to justify or explain her views. I was prepared to critique or respond to her misinterpretation of biblical teaching, but there’s so little reference to it in this book, that it was unnecessary.
Second, everything sexual seems to be fair game, according to this pastor (she was still serving as a pastor when she wrote the book). As long as its not with children or that it doesn’t hurt someone seems to be her only parameters?
Unfortunately, she deems things “holy” that welcome full self-expression. She doesn’t seem to grasp that holiness means something other than being our ideal self. True biblical holiness is rooted in God’s character and is something given by God through Christ, not something attained by us in our pursuit of personal happiness in our sexual identity.
Third, her book is simply a collection of stories. While she’s a GREAT writer, it lacks substance. Each chapter seems to advocate a rejection of biblical orthodoxy simply because of how someone has “felt” or the experiences they have had. She consistently points to her own past experiences and has nothing good to say about church, youth groups, the purity movement or abstinence before marriage (she claims it’s repressive and scientifically harmful).
The book jacket says she’s a former pastor. The book itself was written when she was a pastor. I don’t know the details, but in the end, she says she’s tired of being labeled a sinner and a heretic. We are all the former and saved by Jesus’ grace. We don’t have to be the latter. This profanity-laced, angry book lashes out at the church and orthodox teachings about sexuality and love and restraint. In the end, it adds nothing to a wholesome dialogue nor a helpful path forward with those whom we disagree on this issue.
I can’t recommend it to anyone, even though her writing is riveting. My overall assessment is that she has drifted far afield of God’s design for our sexuality as revealed in scripture and has attempted to forge a way based solely on self-fulfillment, embracing vast changes to traditional understandings of sexual activity and identity. It’s not so much “Shame-less” as it should be shameful to wantonly thumb her nose at Christian ethics, morality and the beauty of sexuality within God’s design and desire.