Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People

Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong PeopleAccidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People, by Nadia Bolz-Weber

I read this back in June, before going to Holden Village in July and getting to listen to Pr. Nadia several times that week. It was the second time I'd heard her speak, and I soaked up every opportunity to learn from her.

One of the fun memories of that week was listening to her read her completely raw draft of the book she's working on right now--about sex and the church. Simply put, she is a brilliant and colorful writer. She was all full of apologies that it had not yet gone through an editor, but it was a real privilege to hear her read from her first draft (which did NOT seem draft quality).

I enjoyed Accidental Saints as I always get a great deal out of Pr. Nadia's writing. She makes me see things in new ways.

But I am always a little stunned by how honest she is, and at times I think she's a bit too honest. For example, one story in Accidental Saints is about a man in her church who she just wasn't crazy about--he was hard to love. It was only after he died that she realized her mistake. In one of her talks at Holden Village, she spoke dismissively about someone who had applied to be the pastor at her church (she is unable to be a full-time pastor now that she's also an author and speaker). The Lutheran world is a small one, and I couldn't help but wonder how people related to these individuals would feel if they heard or read her words.

I am of the type who believes it's better to be kind than to always be brutally honest. Sometimes when I read memoirs or essays like this book (Anne Lamott is another author who comes to mind), I realize that I wouldn't want to be friends with the author. I don't think I could trust my authentic self with them. Pr. Nadia also has extremely strong opinions (for example, about church music), and I don't always agree with them. I imagine that some people in her church are more than a bit intimidated by her and might not feel comfortable speaking up.

With that said, Pr. Nadia is brilliant and fascinating. I love the way she pushes the envelope with her potty mouth and out-of-the-box thinking. This book is worth a read. 

And especially the last chapter--her modern Beatitudes--which brought me to tears. Here it is:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the agnostics. Blessed are they who doubt. Those who aren’t sure, who can still be surprised. Blessed are they who are spiritually impoverished and therefore not so certain about everything that they no longer take in new information. Blessed are those who have nothing to offer. Blessed are they for whom nothing seems to be working. Blessed are the preschoolers who cut in line at communion. Blessed are the poor in spirit. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.Blessed are they for whom death is not an abstraction. Blessed are they who have buried their loved ones, for whom tears are as real as an ocean. Blessed are they who have loved enough to know what loss feels like. Blessed are the mothers of the miscarried. Blessed are they who don’t have the luxury of taking things for granted any more. Blessed are they who can’t fall apart because they have to keep it together for everyone else. Blessed are the motherless, the alone, the ones from whom so much has been taken. Blessed are those who “still aren’t over it yet.” Blessed are they who laughed again when for so long they thought they never would. Blessed are those who mourn. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 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 losers and the babies and the parts of ourselves that are so small. The parts of ourselves that don’t want to make eye contact with a world that only loves the winners. Blessed are the forgotten. Blessed are the closeted. Blessed are the unemployed, the unimpressive, the underrepresented. Blessed are the teens who have to figure out ways to hide the new cuts on their arms. Blessed are the meek. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the wrongly accused, the ones who never catch a break, the ones for whom life is hard – for they are those with whom Jesus chose to surround himself. Blessed are those without documentation. Blessed are the ones without lobbyists. Blessed are foster kids and trophy kids and special ed kids and every other kid who just wants to feel safe and loved and never does. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are they who know there has to be more than this. Because they are right.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are those who make terrible business decisions for the sake of people. Blessed are the burnt-out social workers and the over worked teachers and the pro-bono case takers. Blessed are the kids who step between the bullies and the weak. Blessed are they who delete hateful, homophobic comments off their friend’s Facebook page. Blessed are the ones who have received such real grace that they are no longer in the position of ever deciding who the “deserving poor” are. Blessed is everyone who has ever forgiven me when I didn’t deserve it. Blessed are the merciful for they totally get it.

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