I Want A Religion That is So “Devastatingly Beautiful It Can Break Your Heart” (Or Why I’m Angry at Nadia Bolz-Weber Today)

candleToday I’m raw. Weary. Just plain bitchy.

Today there is no rooting in God’s love and centering in glowing light.

Today there is self-indulgent whining, lots of blaming, and lots of chocolate chip cookies. Mmmm. Warm chocolate chip cookies. They are the only thing that are calming me down.

I complain to a friend that I’m just “off”. She wonders if maybe God is just shaking things up a bit. Asking me to go deeper. Revealing more.

I sigh. Does everything always have to come back to Jesus?

It’s either than or you, Marla says with a shrug.

We both know I’d rather it be Him. So I take a deep breath and I say the welcome prayer again, as if for the first time:

Welcome. Welcome. Welcome feelings of discomfort and anger and sadness.  I breathe. Welcome. 

Then I sit with them for a while, these old friends: the bitterness and barely-covered rage. I sit.  I breathe. I pray:

I let go of the desire for security, affection, control. I let go of the desire to change these feelings…these feelings…

And I ask God to show me what I’m so angry about. Why I’m so on edge. Because it’s not the normal things. It’s not the filth and the mess and the shoving matches or the “accidental” painting of the family-room rug. It’s not loneliness or sadness. It’s not the darkness, at least not the darkness that I’m used to.

Today I’m angry in ways I haven’t been in a long time.

Today I’m angry that I can’t stop asking whoever will listen why I can’t find a church that believes in the physical and mystical and salvific power of a risen God named JESUS and his unending, unrelenting GRACE in the same place that women are equal and LGBTQI people are welcome and loved and embraced. Where we are ALL embraced, for exactly who we are: the sinner, the stranger, the broken, the lost.

Today I’m angry at Nadia Bolz-Weber and her beautiful new book Pastrix. I’m angry at her hope and angry that the way she pushes me. I’m angry over the bold, breath-taking truth she tells. As the Washington Post summarized, “Her message: Forget what you’ve been told about the golden rule — God doesn’t love you more if you do good things, or if you believe certain things. God, she argues, offers you grace regardless of who you are or what you do. Christianity, Bolz-Weber preaches, has nothing to do with rules; it is the process of things constantly dying and then being made new. Those things, she says, might be the alcoholic who emerges into sobriety, some false narrative we have about ourselves, religious institutions that no longer inspire…“This isn’t supposed to be the Elks Club with the Eucharist,” Bolz-Weber said in a taxi ride before her Austin talk. Religion should be “something that’s so devastatingly beautiful it can break your heart.

Because I want a religion that is something so devastatingly beautiful it can break my heart. And up until now, I’ve wanted it so bad that I’ve been willing to pretend that I have one. Up until now, I’ve been willing to just walk around in my Jesus-bubble and deny that “the church” is BROKEN BROKEN BROKEN just like me and that it is WRONG to pretend otherwise. But I’m not willing to pretend anymore.

Up until now I’ve swallowed the belief that if I don’t draw the same conclusions about who’s in and who’s out then I must  love Jesus less. I must understand scripture less. I must believe less. I must be, in the eyes of God, less. But I’m not willing to be less anymore. 

And it makes me angry. All of it. 

Because I just want to show up on Sunday and told that I’m a fuck-up and that Jesus loves me anyway. That he died for me and was resurrected for me and will come again for me anyway. That I can’t earn my way into heaven or work my way out of hell. That there’s nothing I can do to make God love me more or make him love me less. That I can try harder, do more, give more, and that I’ll be a beloved heir to the kingdom of God just the same.

I just want to show up, slide into the pew as I am, and hear that God’s in the business of killing and remaking in ways so beautiful and unimaginable you can’t even begin to understand, and even if you’ve died and been reborn a few times this year, that there’s surely more to come if you ask for it because God loves that shit so much he’ll keep doing it until he comes back for us and ends all this insanity this side of heaven.

And I want hear the peace of Christ that passes all understanding, that the forgiveness and unconditional love that is bigger and greater and scarier than anything we measly humans are capable of, goes for my LGBTQI friends (if I have any left after the way I’ve carried on over the past ten years), all of my enemies (whoever they are), and anyone else that I forgot that keeps getting left out of lists like this, too.

But apparently that’s asking too much.

And I’m not sure what to do about it. It’s not like I want to spend the rest of my life, with my elbows up, pushing through the Christian mob shouting, “Jesus loves you, all of you, just as you are,” while the mob is screaming, “GO TO HELL, WOMAN, WHERE YOU BELONG.” And I’m not sure even if I did. After all, only 50 people regularly read this blog.

But, I can’t just keeping throwing up my hands and saying, “Oh well, I looked for a church THAT ACTUALLY REPRESENTS WHAT I THINK AND BELIEVE and couldn’t find one so I’ll just choose EQUALITY over GOSPEL or GOSPEL over EQUALITY.”

Not anymore.

I just can’t do that anymore. Even if I have no idea what to do next.

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