Nadia Bolz-Weber — Seeing the Underside and Seeing God: Tattoos, Tradition, and Grace
September 5, 2013

She’s the tattooed, Lutheran pastor of the House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, a church where a chocolate fountain, a blessing of the bicycles, and serious liturgy come together. She's a face of the Emerging Church — redefining what church is, with deep reverence for tradition.


57 reflections
read/add yours


Shortened URL

SoundSeen (our multimedia stories)

Under the Tent with Nadia Bolz-Weber (video)

Watch Krista's unedited conversation with a leading voice in the Emerging Church. Live from the Wild Goose Festival in Hot Springs, North Carolina, this interview is a dynamic 90 minutes of discussion about tattoos and tradition, death and resurrection, and redefining what church is.

Pertinent Posts from the On Being Blog

A thoughtful guest essay on Easter not just being about Jesus' resurrection but Mary Magdalene too. Take three minutes to listen and read.

Claiborne looks to the words of Jesus as an opportunity to hear them anew.

A "linguistic resurrection" you ask? Krista’s presentation at the United Nations was featured on! Krista's TEDTalk presents ways in which we can ground + humanize the word "compassion" by using language more fully and by looking to people who exemplify this aspiration. Watch and share what your ideas.

A video that's so heartbreakingly gorgeous and unswerving in its emotional sway, it'll have you pondering your own station in life.

Are churches culpable for contributing to suicides of gay and lesbian youth? A survey from Public Religion Research says most Americans think so, to some degree.

A small group of musicians and singers inject a bit of sunshine into the cold fluorescence with an organized flash mob performing The Beatles classic "Here Comes the Sun." This just may be the best way to kick off this hump day.

Every so often, Krista's interviews should be seen as much as heard. Her conversation with Nadia Bolz-Weber is one of these essential moments.

A saucy explainer to dispel some myths about the emerging movement.

Robert Sapolsky asserts that humans have one trait that best defines and distinguishes us from other species: the ability to hold two contradictory ideas in our head, and yet continue on in the face of it.

About the Image

Nadia Bolz-Weber

Your Comments

Filtered HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><span><div><img><!-->
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Embed content by wrapping a supported URL in [embed] … [/embed].

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.


The unedited version of this conversation was the most accessible for me. Incredible conversation. I will get her book when it comes out. Thank you Krista. Lately It feels like each program is building on your whole body of work.

I have not been able to successfully post the unedited version of this show on my Facebook page.

Trent Gilliss's picture

David, how can I help you with this?

I have posted unedited versions of the show in the past. This time the opportunity to listen or download comes up but I am not able to listen, download or copy. The produced show works fine. Thanks for any help you can give me, David

Trent Gilliss's picture

David, I think I've solved your issue. Please take a look and try this again. If it doesn't, clear your cache first and then open the unedited interview window. Thank you!

This worked Trent. Thank you.

Hi David, Thanks to all - a profound program this morning. Like some others, I cannot get the video to play. I cleared my cache. I get other videos' to play. Am running Mac OS 10.0.6 with Safari browser. Any ideas?

Krista, at the closing of the edited podcast, you invite listeners to watch the video version of Nadia's conversation. I cannot find a link or a list of videos on your site. Can someone tell me where to find it.


Trent Gilliss's picture

Hi Scott. We just finished crunching the video and it's up now. Yay! Here's a link:

Can't access the unedited version either. Would love to hear it when it's available. When I click above where it says 76:32, there is nothing when I hit play.

Trent Gilliss's picture

It should work now, Amy. Please click on the unedited interview link again. If it doesn't, clear your cache first and then open the unedited interview window. Thank you!

I'm having a hard time with the uncut interview. is there a problem with the player, perhaps? thanks for any help you can give.

Trent Gilliss's picture

Lace, it should work for you now. Click on the unedited interview link again. If it doesn't, clear your cache first and then open the unedited interview window. Thank you!

A very interesting, entertaining conversation. But I'll never get the tattoo thing. It is so totally passive. Yes, you make a statement, but surrendering your body irrevocably to do it - that appears to be an even bigger statement.

all we do is surrender our bodies irrevocably to death every minute of our lives.

Wow, Nadia and her Christianity is a taste of tolerance and Alterance of repetitive spirituality. We , in other countries have been down this road for ages... church with arthi (Indian cculture borrowed from Hinduism), I was listening to BBC today, where on heart and Soul they were talking about Malikiitism in north Africa that preaches the Koran, Prophet Mohammads teachings, Medina teachings and then if the answer cannot be found in these, they will look elsewhere.


Thank you both to Kristen and Nadia. This talk really spoke to me. I have not been able to find a church that really speaks to me. I understand that God speaks to us no matter where we are. And to act on that information and what you do with it is a blessing in itself. I call it Lowly listening. There are many ways to pick up on those around us and to favor them with a simple word or kindness is what I have gotten form God. I remember watching MTV one morning and a video came on that showed a teen with a white robe on a skate board moving in and out of people on the board walk. It really struck me that that is what God is asking me to do. I wish we had Nadia here because you are the first person that I have heard that speaks to me and would help me on my journey. But I will listen often and get your book. I hope to hear you maybe someday and your sense of humor is exactly how I have handled things in most instances that are of hardship in my life. I know I am on the right track but you have given my life more meaning. I must have been meant to hear you as my life right now is hard and need to get back on coarse again I need a gentle push to go on. I suffer from depression also. It has lead me threw incredible pain but on the other side a deeper commitment of empathy toward others and a commitment to be kinder to myself. I am lucky enough to have a dog that has helped me through this walk. She seems to understand my mission obviously without any conversation. God got me out of bed this morning to hear you. LOL I NEVER get up and stay up so early in the morning.

I've been following your program since a long time ago when it was "Speaking of Faith". I admire your openness to listen and ponder over a wide range of sources for ideas and viewpoints. I think it is mostly the contrast between your position and Ms. Bolz-Weber that speaks louder than her life and faith viewpoint. This is what constitute the enriching message for this episode. It seems that many people are sprouting "religions" and "churches" to gather as a club of like-minded people excluding those who don't share the same views. Adaptations and accommodations of traditional older believes do not contribute much to the religious human experience. Especially when they are created to serve a "certain" kind of people. I am deceived by the degrading of religion to this club innovation. By the way, that versatility may be the reason why I don't endorse any "religion" or church.

This, being raised Catholic and now a practicing Buddhist, had to be the best thing I have heard on NPR in a VERY LONG TIME! I mean the show and the interview. I have never even heard of the show up until now and I will listen EVERY WEEK now! I get you guys on WHYY and I wish there was more like it! If there are any other shows like this(I already listen to voices in the family) please let me know! I live near Philadelphia PA and if anyone knows of any Sanghas around here PLEASE let me know, I CANT FIND ONE! This woman almost had me in a Church this fact I may still go....just to worship...

If you podcast you have an opportunity to listen to all the show, one by one. The whole is bigger than the sum of it's parts.

The unedited version was incredibly thought provoking for this Catholic, turned Episcopalian. To me, the closing comments about her parents blessing and the importance of a blessing clearly displayed the deep presence of the Spirit in Nadia's heart. If I could ask one question of her, it might simply be, why doesn't she like to cry in public, as the Desert Fathers and Mothers refer to tears as the "work of the Spirit" and she is so willing to ask for forgiveness?
Thank you Krista --- Jean Varnier and Nadia in two of the last three weeks --- amazing!

Nadia is so right in her resistance to attributing "maleness" when we say or read "God" in Christian liturgy. How can the God we pray to be male? I'm at the point where the mere attribution of male nouns/pronouns as/to God feels misleading and wrong-headed. Christians have historically referred to God reflexively as the Father, and of course Jesus was male . . . so the doctrine of the Trinity became male-oriented . .. This issue seems to have been important to the writers of the Old Testament, who developed the famous tetragrammaton YHWH, a way to speak or write God's name in a genderless way. Judaic sources throughout history also used other terms for God, such as Merciful One, Creator, and the Name, as well as the gender-connoting King, Master of the Universe, and Hashem, among others. In Islam, God is never "genderized." Islam holds that Allah is one and unique -- a single indivisible truth that is independent of the created world. My way of dealing with the "male God problem" is to substitute Love writ large whenever a male "God" comes my way -- the great Love I have come to understand that pervades all of creation, and that includes all of us.

This was a profound podcast for me. Thanks for engaging with Nadia Bolz-Weber. As a 40+ year Evangelical believer I found the conversation very encouraging, engaging, entertaining, and profoundly enlightening. I am so excited to see where God is taking the emerging church.

In the Catholic Church there is mystery and certainty at the same time. One of the mistakes of the current time is to think that there are no certainties, no revelation that we can interpret with certainty, not so.

For Catholics, the Church is the community founded and run by Christ ('on this rock I will build my Church'). Our task isn't to create a new church, though I of course encourage the movement toward adoration and prayer to God, but to follow the Church that God has given to us as the instrument of salvation, of the fullness of life which starts even here in this life.

'The house for all sinners and saints' could be a name for the Catholic Church, everyone is welcome.

The Eucharist ... not confected by a Catholic (or Orthodox) priest ... isn't the Eucharist.

This is the same story that we can find in Nietzsche, though his response was to leave Christianity entirely. This person was raised in a Protestant tradition. From a Catholic perspective, there are truths in the Protestant traditions, but they are imperfect and flawed. So the members of these congregations sometimes turn away from them and criticise their flaws. And it comes across as a criticism of Christianity - but it's a criticism of the Protestant tradition, which had flaws, which they were raised in. It's OK to criticize the denomination, but realize that the criticism doesn't hold for Catholicism.

But, interestingly, here is someone it seems who actually believes in God and in Jesus Christ, and in Mary and the Incarnation, wonderful, keep at it. Yes, divine heart transplant - that's the whole idea. 'To reform your mind', 'To put on Christ'. The two hearts, Jesus and Mary.

Still sounds like the liturgy of the Catholic Church. I invite her to the Catholic Church, the fullness of the truth. Try it.

In the round is how monks celebrate the Eucharist. In the Catholic Church everyone participates in the Liturgy, entirely.

Krista Tippett was raised a Southern Baptist - now I see why she is a believer but why she has such trouble with the Catholic Church.

Exactly, that's why the Catholic Church is a church we can be idealistic about - because it is constructed by God, not by man.

Wonderful to see someone on the path to Christ, as we all are.

When one lives with Christ these dark places are healed, we open them up to the light of Christ and He brings light to them.

The Cross - exactly, the complete revelation of God. How amazing that God is so merciful that the Father - who also suffered at the Cross - that the suffering and death of one man was enough to redeem the whole human race, to pay for all the sins of all people of all time.

Exactly, very good, the Cross is the most important event, and you interpret it correctly, not incorrectly in terms of the Father.

Yes, Mary Magdelene was the one told to tell the apostles, in one Gospel account. How it shows God's humility and love. (And doesn't distort Mary Magdelene the way Dan Brown does.)

Your love for the Gospel is inspiring. What they have in common is Christ. The only other more diverse congregation is the Catholic Church, where everyone is welcome. See 'The Journey Home' with Marcus Grodi.

Exactly, the Protestant tradition did just that: made Christianity individual. The Catholic Church has both the individual aspect and the community aspect, both are essential. She is not far from the Catholic Church, if she has enough courage.

I'm unable to view the video, it doesn't play for me, but I have no trouble with the audio. Suggestions?

I can't access the video. I press play and it looks like it's loading but nothing happens. I'm using Chrome - could that be the issue?

For some reason the video of Krista's interview with Nadia Bolz-Weber doesn't seem to be working. Not sure if the problem is on my side or yours.

Thank you Krista & Nadia for this interview! As a Catholic woman in ministry, it is voices like this that keep me grounded and connected to faith in a God that is bigger than any one of us can understand. I especially appreciate what Ms Bolz-Weber says about the creed, and how we overly-individualize faith. I juxtapose the communal nature of faith with the 2011 liturgical changes in the Catholic church – to be Liturgically Correct, it’s no longer “We believe" but “I believe” and that’s always felt weird to me, and I say We anyhow… I got my theology degree in 2005, back in the ‘We’ days, and I’m so glad to have some additional theological grounding for my discomfort.

is there a verse in the OT/NT or any early church writings that indicate woman pastors ?

I cannot begin to describe how affecting this podcast was for me. I grew up in the Church of Christ, am covered in tattoos and have spikey hair. My friends and I, all who have left the church, say the thing we miss most about it was the acapella singing. Although I have known of many liberal open Christians, somehow hearing from a person who grew up like me broke my heart open in a way that no one else could.

Wow. This was amazing to read. Come visit us some time in Denver...we sing all the old C of C hymns!

What a wonderful program....thank you so much. Paula

I have been unable to get the video to work, too.

As for the interview, I found it fascinating. And while I just can't go the chocolate fountain in the baptismal font (enough is enough), I do truly appreciate the sentiment that you need to be deeply rooted in tradition in order to innovate with integrity. I have Nadia's book reserved and look forward to reading more of her story- thanks for the interview!

I would love to see the full video with Nadia but it won't run. I'm using chrome browser on windows 8 & I've tried clearing the cache.
Any other ideas?
Thanks for this great interview !

My first sweetheart from high school then college introduced me to the Lutheran Church. Up to that time my family went to which ever church was closest. This was in 1953. I've been Lutheran Ever since. Now I know why. Kind of. I'm 79 still hoping to make a difference in this word. Now I guess I realize I don't really have to worry about it. Now I'm out shopping for a chocolate Baptismal fount. Until then I'll have to keep on worrying the pastor will drop the baby up and down the aisle after the Baptism. Especially when they are twins. I'll never be the same - now more than before I heard this interview. My sweet heart married a really nice guy, raised a family and lives in God's country North of Mankato, Minnesota. I'm at the other end of Heaven in Michigan. Thanks for the recording.

Hey! I loved listening to the conversation! I was fascinated by the wit and intelligence of both and would follow - happily - each wherever they lead me - because of their faith in humanity. Thank you each for the enlightenment. But there's a 'fly in the ointment'. You can't have an 'inscrutable' god - one that you can live with because his ways are beyond our knowledge - and then drag a 'caring god' into the picture kicking and screaming and give that god credit for taking the cross at the last minute to make our suffering 'bearable'. I loved listening to Nadia Bolz-Weber's embrace of humanity and god, but 'bearable' is a nasty euphemism for abandonment. If it's a 'faith' thing, then fine. I guess you have to find a way to forgive the god you imagine. But don't tell me god is doing the innocent any kind of favor by making himself absent when they need him most. Or, what kind of god is it that manages to 'show up' only after the girls have had acid thrown in their eyes and are blinded for life? So maybe the ancient authors who depicted god as a 'cigar chomping' psychopathic sadist weren't all wrong, or, maybe we can't begin to know him after all. One or the other, but let's keep the depiction honest.

I loved listening to the interview and thought both women were brilliant and witty. I'm a big fan of "On Being", and that's without reservation. But there was a fly in the ointment. God is either 'knowable' or god is not knowable. And I'm fine either way; but it's one way or the other. It's no good to theorize that god is unknowable, and then later in the interview, conjure a caring god who manages to "show up" only after the atrocities are perpetrated, proposing that what god's really doing - behind the scenes where it doesn't seem to be doing humanity any real good - is 'taking up our burden'. Hogwash. God seemed plenty content to let Jesus get whipped and tortured and crucified. And yet Nadia Bolz-Weber would describe Jesus's death on the cross as god's "shining moment"? How so? At what point did god put a stop to it, or switch places? "Helping humanity bear its burdens" seems a nasty euphemism for god's abandonment of the innocent. Just once I'd like to see god take care of the innocent when it would do them some good; like say, before the school-children are tortured and gassed and have acid thrown in their eyes so that they're blinded for life. Maybe the ancient writers who depicted god as a "cigar chomping" psychopathic sadist weren't entirely wrong. They too thought they knew god. And where's god's Bishop anyway?

Like a few others, I can't get the video to run. I have tried with Chrome, Firefox and I.E., and on two different networks.

As a "just-retired" Episcopal priest (incidentally - a Rectrix!) I rejoiced at the honesty, integrity, and vibrant faith evident throughout the interview with Nadia Bolz-Weber. Thank God some people know how not to take themselves too seriously when it comes to "beliefs", to have big heart, to be able to laugh and to cry, to see the holy, to not be afraid to be wrong, and to know that there is a great mystery at the heart of all things. Great work. Thank you.