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Shameless

A Sexual Reformation

By Nadia Bolz-Weber
12-minute read
Audio available
Shameless by Nadia Bolz-Weber

Shameless (2019) explores how the church’s view of sex and sexuality as sinful has guilted and shamed its congregants. Through personal stories and those shared with her by members of her church, the author demonstrates the harmful effects of the church’s teachings. She offers a new, inclusive way of approaching sexuality and ensuring fulfilling sex lives for everyone.

  • Christians struggling to reconcile their sexuality with their faith
  • People with an interest in theology
  • Anyone interested in the role of religion in a changing world

Nadia Bolz-Weber is a public theologian, an ordained Lutheran pastor, and the founder of the House for All Sinners and Saints – a church in Denver, Colorado. She speaks frequently about issues of spirituality and faith and has been featured by the Washington Post, the New Yorker, CNN and the BBC. Bolz-Weber is also the author of two New York Times bestsellers, Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of A Sinner & Saint and Accidental Saints: Finding God In All The Wrong People.

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Shameless

A Sexual Reformation

By Nadia Bolz-Weber
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
Shameless by Nadia Bolz-Weber
Synopsis

Shameless (2019) explores how the church’s view of sex and sexuality as sinful has guilted and shamed its congregants. Through personal stories and those shared with her by members of her church, the author demonstrates the harmful effects of the church’s teachings. She offers a new, inclusive way of approaching sexuality and ensuring fulfilling sex lives for everyone.

Key idea 1 of 7

The church’s teachings about sexuality exclude many people and force them to deny integral parts of themselves.

Picture this: a school rolls out a fancy new uniform, and all the students are told that they have to wear it. 

But there’s a problem. The uniform only comes in one size – a size the school deems good and right. But for many schoolchildren it’s not a good fit. It’s too big for some of them; for others, it’s too small. These children have to choose between wearing the uncomfortable uniform or getting in trouble if they don’t. Doesn’t seem fair, does it? 

Well, in the author’s opinion, something similar plays out in the church when it comes to sexuality.

The key message here is: The church’s teachings about sexuality exclude many people and force them to deny integral parts of themselves.

It’s no secret that the church has very specific ideas about what’s right and what’s wrong when it comes to sexuality. It teaches that only heterosexual Christian men and women who are married to each other should have sex. But there are many Christians who can’t tick all the requisite boxes: heterosexual, cisgender, happily married. Maybe they’re not married. Maybe they’re gay or trans – or don’t identify with prescribed gender roles.

Like the school kids and their ill-fitting uniforms, Christians who don’t see themselves in the church’s teachings about sexuality must force a fit or face the consequences. 

Often, they follow the church’s plan, which prevents them from having fulfilling sex lives. The author, a Lutheran pastor, came across many examples of this in her own congregation. She met young couples who, even after marriage, couldn’t shake the idea that sex was sinful and lesbians who hid their sexuality, believing there was something wrong with them.

These people, and many others like them, have been hurt by the church’s restrictive teachings. The author proposes that the teachings be revised so that they prioritize people instead of causing them harm. She’s certainly not the first person in her church to take this approach. Martin Luther, the founder of the Lutheran church, had a similar philosophy. He believed that the pressure the church put on people to do things – like fast or go on pilgrimages – did more harm than good. 

Just as Martin Luther disregarded certain teachings for the sake of his congregation, the author believes that a new approach to sexuality has the power to heal people from the sexual shame they’ve experienced in the church. 

In the following blinks, we’ll explore how the church has, in many ways, made sexuality synonymous with shame.

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