I have a love-hate relationship with Religion… but I am beginning to change my mind, thanks to Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber.
Nadia Bolz-Weber is a pastor who swears like a trucker, is covered with tattoos and was a Wiccan. She is 6’1”and competes in Crossfit. She calls herself the Minister of the Misfits and she wants you to come back to church.
“I find Weber compelling because she is calling you and I back to religion, back to symbol-making, back to confession and forgiveness, and back to faith… because something good happens to us when we are in community.”
Hear My Confession
Bombings, scandals, trust issues, doubt and messy people are some of the reasons that I am not a fan of religion. Faith feels more healthy when I dance with doubt, when I am honest about my own humanity.
I am a Christian and I have baggage: I don’t enjoy messy relationships, expectations (both real and imagined), and vulnerability. I swear, I drink (I enjoy it, but I let someone else do the table dancing) and I am a recovering evangelical. I don’t expect other people to live by my values; my values highlight my issues rather than their issues. I am gloriously fucked up and endeavoring to grow up.
Despite my distaste for religion, I confess that I am drawn to church community. I sense God in spite of the issues that get in the way. Faith is messy, but it is still important. My faith is not an easy one and at times I have almost given up on church. That is, until I heard about Nadia Bolz-Weber.
Weber describes her childhood faith as religious fundamentalism. Her parents loved her, yet they were caught up in the religious behaviorism that marks so many churches.
She left her faith as a teenager but continued to search for community. For a few years, she found a place among some unstable drug addicts. She then experienced a string of bad relationships along with a growing sense of chaos in her life. After nearly a decade she decided that she needed to make a change and began attending AA. While in recovery, she reconnected with her faith.
Her story is pretty normal until you learn that she was a stand up comedian and she doesn’t fit with anything you would expect: She is 6’1,”she does Crossfit, she swears like a trucker and is covered with tattoos. Not surprisingly, she describes herself as Pastor of the Misfits.
She stared The House For All in Denver. It is for people who hate church and who don’t fit in: prostitutes, queers, drug addicts and yes even normal people like stay-at-home-dads and entrepreneurs.
The story of how she found her calling takes place at the intersection of comedy and suicide.
She describes how stand up comedy felt like the only place where she fit in. There she found a community of people like her: academics, queers and recovering alcoholics.
After one of her fellow comedians killed himself, she and her friends felt lost in their grief. No one knew a pastor, and since she believed in God, she was asked to preside. She accepted and it changed her. She realized that the people who attended the funeral don’t have pastor who identifies with them.
Soon she began attending Lutheran seminary and fell in love with the Liturgy so much that she has it tattooed all over body. She knew that she would not fit with most churches. So she decided to start a church for people like she and her friends, the outsiders.
God is Not Mad At You
The House for All is a church for the honest, for the addict and the getting-sober, for the asshole and the recovering-asshole, for those who don’t get along with others and for those who are suspicious of institutions.
It’s a church for real people and Weber gives voice to the fears, the pain and the faith-struggles of her congregation. Her church sounds like a place that Jesus might attend, if he liked going to church.
Her message is simple: God is not mad at you.
Spirituality and Religion: Let’s Be Honest, You and I Are Messy
If you have made it this far into an article about religion, I commend you. These days, religion is a messy topic.
I find Weber compelling because she is calling you and I back to religion, back to symbol-making, back to confession and forgiveness, and back to faith… because something good happens to us when are in community.
Community can be powerful, but churches are full of normal people; people say shit and then things go south. At least, that is my experience. But if God is who he says he is, then that everyday stuff is sacred stuff.
Weber reminds you and I that despite our weaknesses and issues, we still need community. It takes community to be yourself, to pour out your heart, and to experience acceptance and forgiveness. And community can change you.
8 Ways That You Can Go to Church
Weber is calling you and I to take action. She does not want us to join her movement, give her money or move to Denver. She is encouraging people to join a community where they are at and be a force for good.
1.Do something radical: Ask a question, because our questions can change us. Ask your friends what they think about spirituality and church. Ask them what they believe and why. Talk about healthy beliefs.
2. Practice meditation, read sacred books, meditate on music. But don’t do it alone. Invite someone along with you.
3. Reflect: What is the place of faith in your life? In the New Testament, we are reminded that faith, hope and love are the essentials. Faith has been valued by humans since the beginning of time and in nearly every culture. What do you do to nurture faith?
4. If you can find a community that you connect with, join them. If you cannot, her challenge is to make our own gatherings. Meet once a month, eat together and share your life. Then offer up prayers and a blessing.
5. Live on the edge for a while. Go to a church and be on the edge. Fitting in can take time. You may need to live on the edges for a while. That’s okay, I am there too.
6. Attend AA. They are community for the recovering… and most of us are recovering from something.
7. Do some research and find out for yourself.
I highly recommend her book Accidental Saints, which you can find by clicking on the book photo. The book is honest and raw… everything you would expect from a pastor who swears, talks about her bad relationships and her issues with the church. She is honest about how her issues and issues in the church. She reminds us that issues are not proof that faith does not work, issues are proof that we need faith.
“Accidental Saints demonstrates what happens when ordinary people share bread and wine, struggle with scripture together, and tell each other the truth about their real lives.” (From her website)
You can listen to an informative interview that she did with the NPR (National Public Radio), “Lutheran Minister Preaches A Gospel Of Love To Junkies, Drag Queens And Outsiders.”