Nadia Bolz-Weber on Jesus, Recovery & the F-Word | Episode 15

Nadia Bolz-Weber on Jesus, Recovery & the F-Word

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.

Visit Nadia’s website and connect on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Listen to her podcast here.

In This Podcast

Summary

  • 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

Are you ready to find the freedom to be yourself as a beta male? Do you want permission and tools to be your best beta? Are you ready to join the revolution to find strength as a beta? If you want to be comfortable in your skin and be the most authentic beta male, then our free beta revolution course is for you. Sign up for free.

Useful links:

Meet Billy Eldridge

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

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.

 

Thanks for listening!

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Podcast Transcription

[BILLY]:
Welcome to the Beta Male Revolution. This is a podcast for beta males, the people who love them, and the alphas that enjoy their company.

In episode five of our podcast, I run down a list of women who have become heroes of mine. Today, we get to interview one of those individuals. We are honored and humbled at this opportunity. And speaking of humility, going into this interview, I had this idea of this question that was going to propel the interview into the direction we wanted to go, so we could launch into this in-depth discussion about the complexities and beauties of a relationship with Jesus. And, right off the top, when I launched into this question, the guest was like, Huh? I don’t get it, is that a question? And it just kind of fell silent. And so, I had to go into clarifying myself and I thought about taking it out… But it’s all in the beauty and messiness of life, and it launched us into this thing where we had this beautiful conversation, and she led us closer to Jesus in the process, opened our hearts to the beauty of Scripture, and dropped the F-bomb, all in the same podcast. So, I hope you guys enjoy it as much as we did. And we look forward to your feedback. Don’t forget to rate and review and sign up for our E-course. And we just want to build this community where it’s a place where others can have conversations like the one we had today. So, enjoy.

Hey, Beta Male Revolution. Thanks for joining us today. Today on the show, we have Nadia Bolz-Weber. We’re so excited, we’re going to get into some conversations. Brandy and I both grew up in the South, in traditional churches, and have begun to unfold and unpack what that means for us as a couple and for our family, and Nadia has been somebody who’s taken us on that journey, and we’ve found such comfort and her words and her teachings, and it helped us from leaving it all together. So, Nadia, thanks for being with us today. And… why Jesus?

[NADIA]:
And what?

[BRANDY]:
Why Jesus? That’s a great, great question to start with.

[NADIA]:
Is that a question?

[BRANDY]:
I don’t know. I don’t know where he came from with that!

[BILLY]:
Let me clarify myself. Well, for me, when I wanted to walk away from it all, and then I found myself in recovery and this guy with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth in the back of a treatment center in Louisiana, says, you know, you’re gonna have to get a relationship with higher power, and I thought, Oh, goodness, man, I thought I came here for modern psychology, and some deep wisdom, and now they’re telling me what I’ve heard my whole life. But it was something different, it was in a different way. And I tried to get away and I tried to run, but I keep getting drawn back by this Jesus story, and then I hear you speak, and I fall in love all over again. And so, like for you, how did you hang on to it and not walk away?

[BRANDY]:
Great.

[NADIA]:
I did walk away. I mean, I didn’t have anything to do with Christianity for 10 years. Because I just… once I started realizing the difference between what I was told was true and what I was experiencing to be true in the world. I had to leave entirely in order to make sense of any of that for myself. So, I mean, it was a decade of having to be away from the church in order to heal something enough to where I could return to the church. So, when I returned to Christianity, I returned to a form of it that didn’t ask me to separate parts of myself out, it didn’t ask me to bifurcate my life, or to believe what they were telling me rather than what I was experiencing to be true. While I walked away from everything around Christianity, I did not walk away from Jesus. I mean, for whatever reason, that was the thing that I still clung to and loved and claimed as my own. And so, then, subsequently, that became the real focus of my faith moving forward was definitely the, sort of, the mysteries of Christ rather than the teachings of the church.

[BRANDY]:
For me, you’re one of those modern-day thought leaders and truth leaders and truth tellers, and you speak a lot about forgiveness. And when you speak about forgiveness, and telling the truth about ourselves, like Billy said, you get me excited about Jesus, you get me excited about the Holy Spirit, because you see things so differently. But it is a truth. It’s a truth that, for me, I was longing to hear, that my jagged edges are good. And you’re with, you know, all these great thought leaders – Rob Bell, Rachel Held Evans, Richard Rohr – and I wanted to ask you, when you began to deconstruct your faith, like you kind of talked about… what gave you permission to be okay with those jagged edges? And to speak it?

[NADIA]:
Yeah, I think it really did have to do with being in a 12-step program, being in recovery, because, I mean, let’s be honest, like I always say, people are speaking honestly about their lives, and connecting to God and to one another, more frequently in church basements than in church sanctuaries. So, I think, sort of, being in this community, where the only way to, sort of, to thrive, is to look very closely at your character defects, to really have an understanding of the way that you are more often a volunteer than a victim, or the way in which you’ve perpetrated things, you know, just to get total clarity on that. That’s the path to freedom. And being in a room full of people have just messed up, like… nobody ends up there because they’re winning, and no one ends up there because they’re an awesome person who mostly makes good choices. And so, to hear people talk so honestly about their lives and to connect to God and to one another through that made me go, Oh, that’s the real thing. That’s the real thing. And that was the path to actual transformation. I mean, I believe that human transformation is possible, now there’s different language for that, like repentance, forgiveness, salvation, you know, there are different ways of speaking about that. But it’s all, in a way, human transformation. But I saw it there in a way I was not seeing it in traditional Christianity. And so, it just felt like the real thing to me. And so, the ways in which like the 12-step community has informed me as a theologian, as a practical theologian, I don’t even know that I could enumerate those.

[BILLY]:
Yeah. Well, and it’s been the same for me. You know, I got into the 12-step program and, like I said, I was running away from everything, but then it brought me back around, but opened it up in a new way and gave me another lens to see faith through, and gave me a God I could do business with. And, for so long, that was crazy talk. You couldn’t, you know… a God of my own understanding? That’s dangerous. That’s heresy, you know? Because if I define God, I may get it wrong and end up in hell, and, I think, I couldn’t drink enough or do enough drugs to make that make sense. And so, so much of my addiction came from numbing things that didn’t make sense in the circles that were supposed to make sense.

[NADIA]:
Yeah. It’s a very particular form of alienation within ourselves. When we’ve been told, Here, this is the truth. You can’t doubt it. You can’t trust your own feelings. You can’t trust your own heart. You can’t trust your own experience. You just trust what we’re telling you. And then, when these things are in conflict, you’re alienated from yourself in a really bizarre way and, you know, a lot of us end up acting out you know from that space. Now, interestingly enough, I’m not a great liberal either, in the sense that I’m not particularly good at being either thing, because I also talk about, like, sin a lot more than other liberals do. Like, I have what’s called a low anthropology like I have a low opinion of human beings (aside, to Eric: are you going, baby? Okay, bye.) Eric’s leaving.

[BRANDY]:
Bye, Eric!

[BILLY]:
See ya, Eric!

[NADIA]:
(aside, to Eric: they say bye too, baby, okay.) So, I have a low anthropology, meaning I never ever want to underestimate my propensity to fuck things up, you know what I mean? Or to be self-centered, or to be deceiving myself, or to be, you know what I mean? Self-justifying something because I want to, and convincing myself I’m really acting out of virtue, I mean, whatever, you know, I mean, there’s a million ways for that to happen. And so, you know, you don’t hear liberals talking about sin. But there’s a book I read every year called Unapologetic by Francis Spufford, where he defines sin as the human propensity to fuck things up, and I’m like, well, who’s going to be in the back of the room raising their hand going “I resent that implication”? No! We all have it, you know. So, well, I think that we can trust parts of ourselves, I think that there are parts of ourselves that we can’t trust, and that becomes a really interesting thing to manage. You know?

[BRANDY]:
Well, that’s a lot of what you’ve done with your podcasts – we are huge fans of your podcasts – and you do it in a way that you let people come in and talk about huge, huge confessions, and then you offer them this absolution, and you’ve been doing that with your congregation, and you do that when you speak to people, cuz you give them permission to confess something that they’ve been carrying and saying, “I’m as screwed up as the next person”, or maybe “I’m screwed up more”, and it never shocks you. And I’ve noticed on your podcast – and I’ll get to a question at some point – but I’ve noticed on your podcast that you lean into it a little bit, even the toughest confessions, like, you don’t, and not in a way that’s, like, Ooh, you shouldn’t have done that… But you lean into it and say, Well, why did you do that? Have you made an amends to it? And it’s something that we haven’t, as a society, talked about.

[NADIA]:
Yeah, yeah. Look, I’m in this whole thing for the freedom. I want freedom from the bondage of self. I want freedom from the tyranny of my ego. I want freedom from self-deception, you know? I want freedom from having a closed-off heart, you know? I mean, I just, I’m in it for the freedom and so, in a really practical way, where does that really come from, you know? And so often we don’t want to look at the actual truth of things, 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, I think I just don’t, you know, maybe it’s that I am so obsessed with wanting the freedom that I don’t fear the truth quite so much.

[BILLY]:
Oh man. And the freedom is so good, you know, that’s what I learned in recovery. They said, you wanted everything drugs and alcohol had to offer, why wouldn’t you want everything that this way of life has to offer? Why would you just want part of it? Why not go in and get all the freedom that it has to offer? If you’re looking for the big buzz from the world, why not get the big buzz in this way of life that comes from walking free from all the junk that I showed up with? And that’s the way, like, we embrace this irreverent side of life, this darker side that we don’t talk about, and that’s what, you know, listening to you and the way you spoke was so real. And you didn’t mind using curse words and being edgy, and I walked in these neat, clean spaces for my whole life where people weren’t really talking about, it seemed like, anything that really mattered. And so, how are you able to, you know, we’re in the South and this is, like, pushing the envelope. We’re not good conservatives, we’re not good liberals. It’s like, we don’t fit in any camp because we’re not enough of either to fit. How did you get comfortable? Or maybe you’re not comfortable… but how do you do it?

[NADIA]:
Well, I’ve just always had this commitment to be who I am, like, to not pretend I’m somebody I’m not, you know. So, there’s a lot of freedom in that, but then there are some limitations to it as well. You know, I mean, look at the people who give, like, my podcasts, like, one-star reviews because they don’t because of the, you know, they don’t like to hear swear words. I’m like, you know how many Christian podcasts are out there where you are guaranteed to not hear colorful language? Like, you’ll be fine. Clutch your pearls elsewhere, man. Like, it’s so funny to me how powerful petty piety can be.

[BRANDY]:
Oh, that’s so good! I’m writing that down.

[BILLY]:
Hey. You get one-star reviews, we’re currently at 109 all five-stars, so… It that gonna get messed up today?

[NADIA]:
Probably lower… I’m so sorry.

[BILLY]:
Well, our moms and aunts and close friends may one-star us here on out, that listen to this. I was gonna say, I grew up in, I would say, probably conservative Baptist circles, but had a stint in some nondenominational, more charismatic, and I was listening to these guys at a conference I went to and it was like, Rick Joyner, Mike Bickle, Paul Kane, all these big names in the circles then, and they were talking about a new breed of Christianity, using weird language. But, basically, talking about a new kind of Christian that was coming up in the generations to come. And I think they were probably talking about men that look like them and talk like they do. But when I got to recovery, and I started hearing Rachel Held Evans, and you, and these other voices, I thought to myself, I think this is who they were talking about. They didn’t know it. Y’alls voices… and my heroes have become women. And that’s part of Beta Male Revolution, saying that, why, when I thought about heroes, why did they always have to be men? And I hear these powerful voices with powerful stories with empathy and pain and beauty… I’m drawn to that, as a guy, and I want to sit back and listen to more of that. How’s that been in your life, kind of being thrust to the forefront of this movement?

[NADIA]:
Well, there’s a few different things, and one is that… I just got, sort of, the metrics back from the first season of my podcast, and I think 80% of my listeners are women. And I was talking to my producer about that, and he said, I was shocked at that. And I said, Well, I wasn’t. You know, you go to one of my book events, I’d say about 80% of the people who show up to my book events are women. And this dude’s not in the church, and he just looked at me like, Why? And I go, because it is very difficult for men to see women as having any sort of authority or having anything to teach them or say to them, and so, especially in Christian circles, so I find that really interesting. And like, it’s like 80% women, 20% gay men. That’s who my audience it. Misogyny is baked in to so much of our culture in a way that is invisible to us, but once you start seeing it, you’re like, Oh, my gosh, there it is. I mean, just look at how the 2016 election went. Right, like, that we would rather have this man, than have a highly qualified woman, like, say what you will about either one of them… But when that happened to me, I went, that’s about the fact that there is a deep-seated misogyny in this country. And the reason there’s a deep-seated misogyny in this country is because it was established as a Christian country at the beginning. That’s why, I mean, I wrote an op ed in the Washington Post about #MeToo saying it was apocalyptic, it’s just sort of revealing what’s underneath that, it’s not like there was an uptick in sexual harassment, it’s just revealing what’s always been there. But it goes so deep, like the disregard for the value, dignity, and authority of women runs so deeply in our culture, it’s a toxin that runs so deeply. And the reason it runs deeply is the fangs that delivered that particular toxin were in God’s name. So, if you can say something and say, “Oh, hey, it’s not me, it’s God”, that message will run so deeply. And it will be very hard to dig that message out with your own hand. It takes other thinkers, writers, other people, different forms of prayer, I mean, to get that out. Because look, I’m not free from it. I want you to know, there are times, I mean, I never heard a woman pray out loud in front of other people till I was 27. I mean, women couldn’t even be ushers in the church I was raised in. And so, when we turned 12, suddenly we didn’t have female Sunday School teachers, because a 12-year-old boy, that was the age of accountability. A 12-year-old boy had more spiritual authority than a woman in the church I was raised in. And so, there are still times, I’m ashamed to say, when I will see a woman in a clergy collar. And before I can stop the thought, I will be like, “Who does she think she is?” Now, I wear a clergy collar! That is my work uniform! And yet, it’s deep. It’s deep because, if you can convince people that whatever bullshit you’re feeding them is not from you, it’s from God, that’ll go real deep and it’ll get really hard to untangle.

[BRANDY]:
Man, you are speaking it, because that is… Yeah. I feel you on this, and I don’t want to be bitter, I want to be tolerant and understanding and be able to look at people like this and love them…

[NADIA]:
Why? You know what, maybe you need some bitterness for a while, baby. I mean, if you need to be angry and you need to articulate exactly why you’re furious, maybe give yourself a fucking moment.

[BRANDY]:
Well, I hear you speak about, like, freedom and forgiveness

[NADIA]:
Eventually.

[BRANDY]:
Yeah, I want to rage against the machine.

[NADIA]:
Do it!

[BRANDY]:
I feel like when I do, like, what I try to teach my kids is when we rage in a way we’re not heard. So, how do we do it in a place that we’re heard? How do we do it in a culture that they hear me and they don’t think I’m another angry woman that is this you know, no-bra-wearing person which, I don’t want to wear a bra, just to be honest.

[BILLY]:
Me either.

[BRANDY]:
But there’s this way of… I want to be heard in a way that people listen, and not being another angry feminist.

[NADIA]:
You have to allow… we have to allow that fury. There’s a reason it’s there. And so, well, it’s not a great place to stay, it’s a really, really healthy place to be, if you don’t just, sort of, set up shop there. So, I just don’t want people to feel like they have to skip over a process. I mean, there’s a reason that the streets have erupted in the protests that they have erupted in right now. Right? It’s not like you can skip that part of it. So, I mean…

[BRANDY]:
And we’re taught to skip it.

[NADIA]:
I know. That’s right. Because again, you’re socialized to deescalate your own emotions, you know. But maybe that’s not the best thing, you know, all the time, like, I just don’t think that there’s a process with this stuff. And so, you know, when people ask me, why are you still claiming the term Christian? Why are you still attached to the church? I mean, like, I’m so attached to the church that I’m still, even though I work as a public theologian, I’m not in a congregation right now. I am going through all of these processes to get what’s called a letter of call from my bishop’s office as a public theologian. That doesn’t give me a stipend, it doesn’t give me health, it gives me nothing, except to say, I’m still attached to this thing. And so, it’s so important to me, and people are like Why? And I’m like, because scripture and theology and liturgy is too potent to be left in the hands of those who only use it to justify their dominance over another group of people.

[BILLY]:
Could you go into that just a little bit, because I think, from where we’re from, most people would think they’re on the right side of Scripture. One time, when we went to go teach our Sunday school class, Brandy is a much better facilitator than me, much better teacher, when it comes to leading things, and she was going to lead the class and I think they had to go ask permission, and they thought it might be best if I presented with her. And that’s what we were faced with. We’re not there anymore, we’re doing some different things. And so, they probably feel that that’s right and good and justified somehow, but I believe with Jesus in the room, Jesus would have a very different opinion about that whole situation. I’m not a theologian, I can guess, what would it be from a scriptural standpoint? What would Jesus have to say about all this massage?

[NADIA]:
Well, okay, but even just that term ‘from a scriptural standpoint’ is worth unpacking. Because that’s thrown around so much. “What does the Bible say?” The Bible is not a book, it’s a library, first of all, it is a set of books, and it has so many different perspectives. It’s like going to my bookshelf, you know, with all this stuff that’s in there and going, what does this bookshelf have to say about X topic? Well, you know what I mean? And there’s so many different, there are very different views of God in there, there’s different ethics in there that contradict each other, there are histories that contradict each other. So, when people say it’s this sort of monolithic thing, that then has an opinion about whether it’s okay to have sex with your fiancé, you know. The thing with Lutherans – I’m a Lutheran pastor – is that we don’t view scripture in the same way a lot of people do, because there’s so much argument about what it is. Is it infallible? Is it the inspired Word of God? Is everything in there fact, you know? Lutherans care what scripture does, not what it is, you know, like, what does it do? When we read a text, what does that do? Does it convict us of something? Does it enlighten something? Does it offer us a view of who we are and who God is? Does it free us? And so, that’s a view of Scripture. And then, also, Lutherans believe in a canon within the canon. And what that means is that, to us, you know, Martin Luther said that the Bible is the cradle that holds Christ. It’s a cradle that that holds Christ for us. And so, to us, the gospel is the canon within the canon. So, the good news, the freeing news, about who God is, as revealed in Jesus Christ, is the center. And any text that bears that same message is very close to the center. And any text within the Bible that does not bear that message is in an outer ring, in terms of authority. And so, it’s such a different view. So, when people are like, “Well, what do you do with this verse?”, which is some outer ring nonsense, and I’m like, oh, so sorry, I don’t have a dog in that fight. Like, I reject the premise of your question. So, I mean, that’s why, when I say I’m in a different form of Christianity than the one I was raised in, that’s what I mean, you know.

[BILLY]:
Thank you for rejecting the form of my question, and answering it in a way with such truth, and grace, and explanation, that I’m just unraveling stuff as you speak.

[NADIA]:
Well, also, the other thing I just want to say real quick is that I think it’s such good work to go “What is the lens we’re using when we approach scripture?” Everyone has one. To say you don’t have one… there’s no way to not have it. And so, in Rachel Held Evans’ book Inspired, she says, whatever you are looking to find in the Bible, that is what you will find, it is a mirror. It’s our mirror. And so, if you’re looking to find justification for dominating women, you will find it. If you want to look for justification for everyone being equal under the eyes of God, you will find that. Like, whatever lens you’re using, you will find it. So, I think that it says a lot about us, in terms of what we see in the Bible, you know. When I wrote my last book Shameless, I made the case for look, we need to look at where are the teachings of the church causing harm in people’s lives? Does it cause harm to our girls to only use, despite all of the other images in Scripture, to exclusively use the male pronoun when we’re speaking of the Divine. Exclusively. Despite the fact that there are so many different female images for God in the Bible. If we choose to exclusively A) use the male pronoun and B) only have men speaking up front, does that cause harm in the developing psyches of the girls? And if it causes harm, like, if the teachings of the church are harming the spirits and the bodies and the lives of people, we need to rethink those teachings. I mean, we should never be more loyal to a doctrine, or an interpretation of a Bible verse, than we are to people. That’s my ethic when it comes to this.

[BRANDY]:
I don’t have anything profound to say, but I do find Talladega Nights very profound, in the scene where they sit around and they talk about Jesus and, you know, “I prefer my Jesus. He’s got a rock star tuxedo suit on…” But that’s what I think of when you say that about what Rachel Held Evans said, it’s like, what you look for you’ll find and, like, my Jesus is on my side. And when we started this podcast, Billy, I asked him, you know, what is it that we want people to find in this podcast? And his answer was freedom. Just, freedom. And I want to know that the Jesus you speak of, the one I long for, the one I’m in love with, is the one that’s on my side. My feminist, wearing flag of multicolor, Jesus. I want to read the scriptures more when you say that, because I want to get to know that Jesus, and it’s so beautiful to be able to give people permission to say, you will find it and not in that dualistic way of, well if you want to find the scripture about how it is, you know, women shouldn’t be speaking, you will find it, and you will. You’re going to find all those scriptures. But, at the same time, if you’re not looking for that or not arguing that, but we’re looking for what is the message that he sends. And I’m on board with that. I want that.

[NADIA]:
Yeah. Well, I had this thing about Paul, a couple of years ago. And when I realized, professionally, in front of audiences a lot, you know, in the before time I was in front of audiences a lot. I was on 90 airplanes last year, I mean, that’s how much I was in front of people, but I’m doing that in two separate capacities. Sometimes I’m a speaker, and sometimes I’m a preacher. Now, when I’m a speaker, I have some authority to say what I’m saying. I was a church planter. I’m a pretty good cultural critic. I’m a good communicator. I have, you know, a graduate degree in theology, all that stuff. So, I have some authority, but when I’m speaking, it’s mostly my snotty opinion about stuff, honestly, that’s what it is. I have some authority to say those things, and people are very interested in what I have to say, but it’s mostly snotty opinions. When I’m preaching, it’s different. When I’m preaching, what I’m hoping is that there is something in that that is the word. There’s a moment in the sermon where you feel that this is the word. And if you take away my, you know, my cultural/pop culture references and jokes and stuff, you know, there’s something in there that’s the word. And so, these are two different capacities. Now, if somebody got a hold of a transcript from a talk of mine in 300 years, I hope they would not say this is the word. That’s not the word, but some snotty opinions I had about stuff, because I was a church planter and the theology, you know, whatever. But my hope is that, if someone got a hold of a transcript of a sermon of mine in 300 years, that there would still be something within that that made them go, oh, man, this is the word. This is word of the Lord right here, this part right here. And I think Paul was the same. I think there were times when Paul was writing as a speaker. He was a church planter, you know, he had some people who were interested in his opinions about stuff, but a lot of it was just snotty opinions having to do with what was going on at that time. And then other times, you can feel it when you read Paul, there’s some stuff in Romans that takes my breath away. I’m like, that’s the word. And the fact that we are unwilling to discern the difference between these two things, and we just take it all as, you know, God was holding his pen the whole time. No, man. Clearly some of that stuff was snotty opinions at the time.

[BILLY]:
Oh, and for me, I could never say anything like that when I came into the 12-step program and they started talking about a ‘God of my understanding’. That was like, dangerous language for me, based on, I mean, the bulk of my theology and people I looked to probably would have been – I’m just gonna confess – probably John MacArthur and Rush Limbaugh for my first 20 years of life.

[NADIA]:
Wow.

[BILLY]:
That’s all I knew, and then I met this beautiful lady named Brandy, who I married, began to challenge some old ideas. It’s like my instincts were bad. If something didn’t feel right, like, we’re talking about these people in a way that is offensive and doesn’t feel good, but my instincts, I couldn’t trust them. And I came into the 12-step program, and they’re like, well, maybe you can. And I was reading the daily reader today, and there was a little quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson that says, “trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no reason”. I couldn’t really render a reason to continue to believe in Jesus, but instinctually I feel that it’s right and I can’t let go of it. But I also instinctually feel like it’s not good to marginalize people/groups, and put men above women, and that there needs to be a level playing field, too, and those can hold both hold space in my life today, because of the women I’ve listened to.

[NADIA]:
Yeah. Well also, like, maybe that’s just faith, to say, I have this instinct and I can’t really justify it, but, like, it’s there, to believe in Jesus… that that’s actually faith. To say, Oh, no, the seven days of creation is a scientific fact. Why does it have to be scientific? That’s not faith anymore. No, just, the Enlightenment really messed things up for us, in the sense that it took away mystery. And, so this kind of, quote, “faith” that’s completely based in reason, and argument, and proving… that’s not actually faith anymore. That’s not faith. So, that weird thing of, like, I just know this thing, and it’s there, and it’s a mystery, and it’s irrational. And yet… I think like, when people are like, do you think it’s a fact that Jesus was born of a virgin? I’m like, is that a fact? That’s completely unknowable. Is it true? Yeah, man, totally true. But I think so much of Christianity now is like, in order for it to be true, it has to be fact. These are different orders of reality.

[BRANDY]:
And does it matter?

[NADIA]:
I don’t think it does. I mean, look, there are things I believe to be fact, like I believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus. A lot of more progressive Christians, sort of, that’s not where they land, right? They’re like, it’s a metaphor. It’s whatever, you know. They’re like, no, Jesus was just so real. His God consciousness was so powerful that, after he died, it was still with his disciples. I’m like, really? Well then, what’s the whole, like, stick the finger in my side. And, like, remember when Jesus memory was so strong it felt like he grilled fish for us on a beach? I don’t know, I tried to make sense of it. So, there’s things that I believe in, and they do not need to be proven factually in some way or through rational argument for them to be true. They’re so true. The gospel is the most true thing I’ve ever heard in my life. I just, I feel it in my body. I mean, like, I just know somehow that, because of, like, human folly, the things that we think will save us, like exerting dominance over other people, violence, hoarding wealth, all this stuff that we think will protect us and make us feel whole, I kind of know that’s all empty, you know, but that it’s that the first shall be last and the last shall be first. And that love your enemies, and that weird inversion that Jesus brought to the world to show us who God really is, and what freedom really is. Like, it’s the last thing I would choose, but I know it’s true. And the way that that just messes with us, and yet, that’s the path to freedom. Every time I have what we very lightly call a change of heart where I where I stop resenting someone, or I stop feeling jealous of someone, or I have some compassion for someone I used to judge, that’s freedom. That’s a form of salvation, and it’s not the thing I usually go for, right away, on my own, you know? So that whole thing of like, what can you trust in yourself and what can you not? It’s messy. It’s hard work, man. But I just know the gospel is true. I just know.

[BILLY]:
Are you ready to find freedom to be yourself as a beta male? Do you want permission and tools to be your best beta? Are you ready to join the revolution to find your strength as a beta? If you want to be comfortable in your own skin and be the most authentic beta male, then our free beta male revolution course is for you. Sign up for free at betamalerevolution.com/course.

This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, Practice of the Practice, or the guests are providing legal, mental health, or other professional information. If you need a professional, you should find one.

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