How can the 12-step program help you to rediscover your faith and get back to Jesus? What are the differences between traditional teachings in the church and modern Christianity? Why can’t you simply justify everything with scripture?
In this podcast episode, Billy and Brandy Eldridge speak with Nadia Bolz-Weber about faith and modern Christianity.
Meet Nadia Bolz-Weber
Nadia Bolz-Weber is the author of three New York Times bestselling memoirs: Pastrix; The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint (2013), Accidental Saints; Finding God in All the Wrong People (2015), and SHAMELESS: A Sexual Reformation. She is the creator and host of the podcast “The Confessional with Nadia Bolz-Weber”.
As an ordained Lutheran pastor (ELCA), she founded the House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado, a quirky congregation which she served for over 10 years. Nadia travels domestically and internationally as a speaker and has been featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, On Being with Krista Tippett, Fresh Air, CNN, and in the Washington Post, Bitch magazine, The New Yorker and The Atlantic. International media coverage includes BBC World Service, The Guardian, and magazine features in Germany, Poland, and Switzerland.
In This Podcast
- Alienation within yourself
- Sin and liberalism
- Confession and freedom
- Being a woman at the forefront of the new Christian movement
- Addressing inequality as a Christian
- The Bible is not a book, it’s a library
- Justifying instinct is faith
Alienation within yourself
When you are told something that you must take as the truth but do not believe it to be true, this creates a conflict. You start to feel as though since it is supposed to be the truth, you are not allowed to doubt it, or to trust your own feelings, or to trust your heart, or to trust your own experience. That conflict often becomes internalized as you start to feel that you are the problem, and you alienate from yourself and often start acting out. This can happen with the traditional teachings in the church, especially surrounding sin, causing you to act out and reject those teachings.
Sin and liberalism
Nadia describes herself as “not a great liberal”, mainly because she talks a lot about sin, which is not something you hear liberals talking about. But the way that Nadia thinks about sin is “the human propensity to f*** things up”, as defined in Unapologetic by Francis Spufford, which could be more applicable now in modern, more liberal times. Everyone has that part of themselves that they don’t fully trust, the part of them that could “f*** things up”, and it’s a more tangible way of describing something that you need to manage than the more traditional understanding of ‘original sin’.
Confession and freedom
So often, we don’t want to look at the actual truth of things, the actual truth of ourselves. But Jesus said, the truth is the thing that sets us free, that’s where the freedom comes from. So, we don’t have to fear it. So, maybe it’s that I am so obsessed with wanting the freedom that I don’t fear the truth quite so much.
The way Nadia creates space for people to be vulnerable and to really be honest about these things is by making it about freedom in a few different forms:
- Freedom from the bondage of self
- Freedom from the tyranny of [your] ego
- Freedom from self-deception
- Freedom from having a closed-off heart
Being able to speak out about the things that you have done and the things that are holding you back from those freedoms is important to Nadia, which is why she digs deep with the guests on her podcast to help them find freedom in their confessions.
Being a woman at the forefront of the new Christian movement
Since the start of Nadia’s more public work, such as book events and her podcast, the vast majority of her audience has been women. She attributes this to the fact that, especially in Christian circles, it is very difficult for men to see women in authority positions and to take them seriously as speakers and teachers.
Misogyny is so deeply rooted in American society and there is prevalent disregard for the value, dignity, and authority of women, which Nadia explains as stemming from the Christian origins of the country. While she was growing up in the church, there were no women ushers, no women leading the congregation in prayer, and women were only Sunday School teachers for the children up till the age of 12 when those children could supposedly be held accountable for their spirituality and joined the main church.
Once she realized the deep-rooted misogyny in how she had been raised in the church, Nadia recognized anger and fury within herself that she uses to fuel her teachings and what she speaks about with others, speaking about women and roles in society that are revolutionary in Christianity. She tries to create a space to talk about the issues and inequality in a constructive way and addressing that anger felt by so many women and minorities.
Addressing inequality as a Christian
Nadia talks about how people ask her how she can still claim the term ‘Christian’ and why she’s still attached to the church, even though she is not part of a congregation right now. She is in the process of becoming a public theologian, which she justifies by explaining that she feels the need and responsibility to be involved and to be a leader in faith, because the teachings and scripture are too powerful to only be taught by those people who use it to justify their dominance over others.
The Bible is not a book, it’s a library
We should never be more loyal to a doctrine or an interpretation of a Bible verse than we are to people.
It is not enough to simply ask “Well, what does the Bible say?” and to use what you find as a be-all and end-all justification or explanation. There are contradicting ethics and contradicting histories within the different books in the Bible, and so it is important and necessary to study the scripture critically and to really understand that complexity. Nadia explains, as a Lutheran pastor, that Lutherans tend to view scripture in a different way to other traditional denominations or branches of Christianity, such that the scripture is used more as a starting point for more critical engagement and discussion than simply taken as canon.
Justifying instinct is faith
Billy explains that he used to think his instincts were bad and that he couldn’t trust them until he went into the 12-step program where he learned that he is allowed to trust those instincts and maybe they weren’t so bad after all. Referencing a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson about trusting instinct regardless of reason, Billy says that that is how he explains his belief and his faith in Jesus – just because he can’t give a reason for why he continues to believe in Jesus does not mean that he should not continue.
If you instinctively feel something to be true or right, then trust that. Nadia explains that that instinctive feeling is actually faith, and how faith can prevail without reason, proof, or scientific evidence.
Books by Nadia-Bolz Weber
Other books mentioned in this episode
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Meet Billy Eldridge
Meet Billy, the resident beta male. For Billy, this is a place to hang out with other beta males and the people who love them. We’re redefining what beta males look like in the world. I have learned to embrace my best beta self, and I can help you to do the same. As a therapist, I understand the need to belong. You belong here. Join the REVOLUTION.
Meet Brandy Eldridge
Hello, Beta friends. I am an alpha personality who is embracing the beta way of life. I feel alive when connected with people, whether that is listening to their stories or learning about their passions. Forget small talk, let’s go deep together. Come to the table and let’s have some life-changing conversations.
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