Sometimes social media, for all the trouble it causes and all the time it sucks, can bring real inspiration and even be a transmitter of grace. I am grateful to have encountered Nadia Bolz-Weber, an extraordinary Lutheran minister and founding pastor of the House for All Sinners and Saints church, in a video on Facebook. I hope it’s OK with her that I transcribed her stunning distillation of Christianity:
Blessed are the agnostics.
Blessed are they who doubt,
those who aren’t sure,
those who can still be surprised.
Blessed are those who have nothing to offer.
Blessed are they for whom death is not an abstraction.
Blessed are they who have buried their loved ones,
for whom tears could fill an ocean.
Blessed are they who have loved enough
to know what loss feels like.
Blessed are they who don’t have the luxury
of taking things for granted anymore.
Blessed are they who can’t fall apart,
because they have to keep it together for everyone else.
Blessed are those who still aren’t over it yet.
Blessed are those who mourn.
Blessed are those who no one else notices,
the kids who sit alone at middle school lunch tables,
the laundry guys at the hospital, the sex workers,
and the night-shift street sweepers.
Blessed are the forgotten,
blessed are the closeted,
blessed are the unemployed,
Blessed are the wrongly accused,
the ones who never catch a break,
the ones for whom life is hard,
for Jesus chose to surround himself
with people like them.
Blessed are those without documentation.
Blessed are the ones without lobbyists.
Blessed are those who make terrible business decisions
for the sake of people.
Blessed are the burned-out social workers
and the overworked teachers
and the pro-bono case takers.
Blessed are the kind-hearted NFL players
and the fundraising trophy wives.
And blessed are the kids who step
between the bullies and the weak.
Blessed is everyone who has ever forgiven me
when I didn’t deserve it.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they totally get it.
You are of heaven, and Jesus blesses you.
(Line breaks and punctuation are my best guesses.)
After the tears ran their course and I could see again, I looked at the comments on her presentation. (You know what a bad idea that usually is.) And yes, there were those who had to let everyone know how much more theological knowledge and biblical scholarship they had at their disposal than this trained and ordained minister, who they instantly labeled as a heretic. There was even a heated argument about some translations of the Bible being valid and others being heretical. Way to totally miss the point, folks.
What I found particularly shocking— even though I rather expected it to come up— was the view that God will not forgive everyone, only some who deserve it. I’ve seen it before, but I’ve never gotten used to it. A God who withholds love is a very weird God for a religion whose adherents like to say “God is love.”
Some even said that it’s incorrect to say that we are not supposed to judge others, that indeed we should and it’s biblical to do so. But one doesn’t need to have a great deal of scriptural knowledge to remember “Judge not lest ye be judged.”
It surprises me to realize that the rather stodgy and ordinary Catholic parish I belonged to as a child somehow didn’t infect me with the controlling, judgmental spirit exhibited by so many folks who claim to be Christians. I might have expected Catholicism to be far to the more rigid side of the spectrum of denominations, but it often seems to be relatively open. Not always, but often. At any rate, I don’t think it’s only in recent years that I got the idea that Jesus’ teaching is more like Pastrix (her term) Nadia’s words and less like judgment and shaming and inflexible rules that no one can really follow.
The Jesus that Nadia allies herself with seems like the one I’ve met, the one you heard about here if you were around to read this a year ago: https://elenedom.wordpress.com/2017/06/21/you-know-my-heart/
Maybe that’s the Jesus you know too. The one who championed the poor and marginalized while criticizing the rich and self-satisfied. How can inclusion and forgiveness be heretical for Christians?
I wrote in that post: “Perhaps the people I am complaining about have tapped into a pervasive field of fear and judgment, just as I connected with a field of love and acceptance. I would suppose that it is absolutely real to them. I know where I would rather live, and I know which is more likely to generate a world that is better for all of us.”
And now I have to go and work on tolerance myself:
Blessed are those who sincerely read their holy books
even when they ignore the parts they don’t like,
for they are trying to make sense of a crazy world.
Blessed are all of us with our preconceived notions.
Blessed are those who hurt so much inside,
believing themselves to be flawed,
that they must constantly point out the flaws of others.
Blessed are the judgmental,
who find themselves to be unworthy.
Blessed are the spiritually immature,
who rely on being told what to think,
for they will grow up eventually.
Blessed are they who see evil everywhere,
because in their way they are trying to be good.
And blessed are all those who love anyway,
no matter what, without question, without ceasing.