Kerri K: Thank you. Welcome y'all. This is going to be hard for me because I'm going to be doing this.
Nadia B-W: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kerri K: We have a live audience, we're here live at WellSpring with all these folks. Y'all can make some noise so people can know you're here.
Kerri K: We're not lying about it. And I'm here with the amazing Nadia Bolz-Weber to talk about all of the things. And true confession, in the 16 hours since we've known each other, we've spoken about everything under the sun. And I think it's been like one long podcast, so we're going to try and sum it up for you all.
Kerri K: But first, I want to tell you a little bit about CTZN Podcast. We are a society obsessed with personal wellness. We see it in jam-packed yoga studios, crowded gourmet markets, and hipster luxury brands, but many people are struggling to survive much less be well. Citizen is asking the question, how do we show up, respond, and create a culture of well-being that works for everyone? We're not afraid to ask hard questions and have radical conversations about politics and patriarchy, white supremacy and worthiness, and we're talking to some of the most badass and brilliant change-makers like our guest today, Nadia Bolz-Weber.
Kerri K: Nadia is the founding pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, she's the author of The New York Times bestseller Accidental Saints Finding God in All of the Wrong People and a bunch of other books, I think, and you have one coming out called?
Nadia B-W: Shameless: A Sexual Reformation.
Kerri K: Yes. The Washington Post calls her at a tatted up, foul-mouthed champion to people sick of being belittled as not Christian enough for the right or too Jesus-y for the left. I love that. And she is committed to making a spiritual home for junkies, drag queens, outsiders, everyone, which is my kind of church. So welcome, Nadia Bolz-Weber. Let's give her hand.
Nadia B-W: Whoo.
Kerri K: I'm so happy you're here.
Nadia B-W: Yeah, I'm happy to be here.
Kerri K: So, I want to start with just who you were before you were the pastor. How did you get here?
Nadia B-W: Well, I was raised really like fundamentalist Christian and left that tradition when I was 16 for a number of valid reasons. And I ended up having a real issue with chemical dependency. I had a drug and alcohol problem, so when I got sober, they were like, "Look, if you're going to get sober, you got to sort of draw on a power that's greater than yourself." And so it sort of reintroduced me to prayer and to sort of having a relationship with a higher power.
Nadia B-W: And then eventually, I found a form of Christianity that made sense to me, meaning, it gave me a language for what I was experiencing to be true. And I think sometimes religion doesn't do that, it gives you a language for what they tell you you should believe is true rather than giving you language for what you've experienced already to be true. So, for instance, one thing is this idea, I actually have it tattooed on my wrist in Latin which is that we're all simultaneously sinner and saint, like, a hundred percent of both all the time. And I was like, "Well, shit. That explains a lot, like, that ... Okay.
Kerri K: That's me.
Nadia B-W: "Yeah, I get that." Right? So, I was really attracted to Lutheran theology because at the center point, the point of gravity is grace. But most of my friends are not religious. So, a friend of mine who also was sober, and I was a stand-up comic for a number of years before I went to seminary. And he was a comic and he was an academic, and he had been sober for a few years. He really struggled with mental health and lost that struggle, and he ended up committing suicide. His funeral was in The Comedy Works downtown Denver, and it was just packed. But my friends looked at me and they were like, "So, you can do his funeral, right?" And I hadn't been to seminary. I was just the only religious person in my friend group.
Nadia B-W: So, I was giving the eulogy at PJ's funeral. I looked out on the audience and it was academics and queers and comics and recovering alcoholics, and I thought, "Oh, my gosh, they don't have a pastor." And then I went, "Oh shit. I think that's supposed to be me." So, my calling, as we say, is to be a pastor to my people. It's not to be a pastor to the institution of the church even though I'm in that. It was to create a community among people who wouldn't normally show up to church, and I'm included in that group, so ...
Kerri K: I'm going to ask you lots of questions about being spiritually lost because I'm a recovering Catholic. When I left the church and then was seeking spiritual meaning and ground and structure, I went to a priest in my life. I said to him, I said, "I don't know what to do about all of the things within the Catholic religion that I don't agree with. I can't reconcile that." And he said to me, and I'll never forget this, he said, "Just pick and choose what you like and leave the rest." And I was like, "Eww." I just was like, "Ugh." And yet, I imagine that ... I don't think that all religions need to be pure, but how do we reconcile affiliating with a denomination or a theology or a church, a religion and not agreeing with it a hundred percent? I wonder that about you. Do you feel like you're like all in, all in, all in? Or are there questions that you still hold and that's a part of being spiritual?
Nadia B-W: I think different people have different wiring in terms of their ability to stay within a system that has things that create dissonance for them. For some people, the most faithful thing to do is to leave and not have anything to do with it. And for other people, they do have the capacity to remain in a system, and they can think, "Hey, there's not enough wrong with it to leave, but there's just enough wrong with it to stay," and they're going to disrupt while they're there. That's fine, too. But, for me, the thing about being a sort of spiritual refugee from the symbol system that you were raised in is that part of it is still mine, right?
Nadia B-W: So, even though I spent a decade outside of Christianity and there were so many things I despised about my religious upbringing, so much of it was still mine. There are these hymns that will always move me my whole life, and there are prayers that are so deeply meaningful to me still. And there are stories of Jesus I will never let go of, right? And so it's not so much how do I relate to the institution, it's that how do I honor that which is mine still and knowing that it came from a source that also wounded me? So, that dissonance can be hard but, for me, it was liberating to be able to say, "No, there's things that are whole," because what fundamentalism gave me is dualistic thinking. Everything is good or bad, you're either saved or you're lost, your us or you're them.
Nadia B-W: Dualism, what happened was I left the church, but I didn't leave the thinking. I just transferred it to progressive politics. I was the same way in terms of dualistic thinking. I was so angry about my upbringing, and I detailed all the things I hated about it. So easily, they just flowed from my mouth and yet, I was the same person in a different context in terms of being dualistic in my thinking. And the moment I was free from that anger from my upbringing was the moment I could look at my upbringing and see it non-dualistically.
Nadia B-W: When I could look back on my upbringing and not use the dualistic thinking I inherited from it and say, "Oh no, there were beautiful things, there were good things, there were things worth saving, there were good things about me that it gave me." And that doesn't discount the harm that the bad things did me. I think the reason we have a hard time with dualistic thinking when it comes to stuff like that is that we think it's a betrayal of the part of myself that was hurt if I admit that there was anything good. And I don't think that's true.
Kerri K: It's not unlike the contradiction we have to hold about just being alive in the world right now, that we're systemically fucked. And we're good, and we're good at the core, too, at the same time. There's so much bad and broken about us, and yet, we're here. I wonder, is the thing that you're naming, is that grace?
Nadia B-W: For me it is, and grace is this weird thing. We don't really even talk about it that much, but I've really dedicated my whole career to talking about one thing in some weird way. It's that there is this power from which we were created. Why is there even life to begin with? That's grace. Could I have become worthy enough to have taken my first breath before I took it? No way. There's so much that is a gift, and we don't earn it, we just live and respond to it.
Nadia B-W: To me, grace is such a power, but as we were talking about earlier, there's no way to talk about grace if we're unwilling to admit needing it. So, if we can't talk about our shadow side, if we can't talk about the broken parts, we will never experience the real power of grace because we're like, "No, we're fine, we got it from here." You know?
Kerri K: I've heard you say that the church that you were imagining was inspired a lot from the AA system, and I feel like this is like a lot of the kind of grace, the brand of grace that you're talking about.
Nadia B-W: Correct. That's exactly right.
Kerri K: And we were talking earlier about how you can't even walk through the door of Asian American. You don't get to belong or get in if you haven't walk through the fire. Right?
Nadia B-W: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Right.
Kerri K:If why you haven't like, had to contend with your darkness, if you haven't hit rock bottom, which I think is fascinating, right?
Nadia B-W: Oh yeah.
Kerri K: Because most spiritual doorways are like, "If you're good and light and perfect, come in." And yet, the AA doorway is, "You're fucked, welcome."
Nadia B-W:Right. And it's one of the most successful organizations to ever emerge out of the United States of America. A country that is obsessed with status and perfectionism and getting over on other people. And yet, one of the most successful organizations that's ever emerged out of this country is the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. And the way you qualify to be there is by being a failure. But you also ...
Nadia B-W: I'm interested in the real transformation of the human heart. What really does that, what really creates the transformation of the human heart? Not cosmetically but truly. And the only way in my life that that's happened is by being desperately in need of it happening, if that makes sense. It's never come through my intentions or manifestation or positive thinking or whatever.
Nadia B-W: It's come by being completely fucked and then somehow getting free. So that's why I think any system that doesn't take the dark part, the shadow part of humanity seriously has a limited capacity to transform the human heart. And that's why the Twelve Steps has a sort of a track record for actual transformation because it takes ...
Nadia B-W: Francis Spufford wrote a book called Unapologetic. I read it at least once a year, and I know the word sin has been misused and people don't like it and that's totally fine. So he goes, "I'm not going to use that word. I'm going to just use this phrase the human propensity to fuck things up." Who's going to be like, "I don't have that." Right? No, of course. We all have that. Right?
Kerri K: Yeah.
Nadia B-W: And so if you can take that seriously, then I think transformation is possible. But if you don't, if you bypass that part, then it's a cosmetic thing.
Kerri K: And the spiritual part of that, I heard you talk about this yesterday. Because I've done some work around Twelve Steps, and my recovery has been around workaholism and perfectionism. And you said yesterday, "When you get fucked and realize you don't have what you need to save yourself, that's a good thing." And if I'm being honest, I've always struggled with the first step.
Nadia B-W: Yeah. Of course.
Kerri K: I've always struggled with the first step. I remember being like, "I don't know if I buy into this," and the first step is, "I am powerless." Right? And I feel like we're in our culture, especially like in individualism culture, like a culture of individualism, we're taught that we have the power and agency to choose whatever we want. We can change whatever we want. So I was always in conflict with that. Am I powerful or am I powerless? And what is the doorway to the kind of transformation that you're naming?
Nadia B-W: Right. Well, the thing about to admit you're powerless over something is that then you're able to access a power that's not just you, a power greater than yourself. So, to me, it's not depressing to say that I'm broken and can't really fix myself. What's depressing is to say I'm broken, I could fix myself, I just haven't managed to yet. Like, I haven't worked hard enough yet, I haven't made myself worthy enough yet. That's depressing. But if someone says to me, "There's a solution and it's not you," I'm like, "Oh, thank God," because the me shaped solutions have just always created more problems for me.
Nadia B-W: So it's one of the reasons I ... Richard Rohr calls the Twelve Steps America's single yet very important contribution to human spirituality. I'm interested right now in compassion. Now, not in the woohoo, like, "I'm such a nice person because I am really charitable and very warm and considerate thoughts towards people who are super shitty." Not that kind of compassion. I don't care about that, I never have. But what I care about is I look at what is the effect of compassion? Not like why we should have-
Kerri K: The action.
Nadia B-W: Yeah. What happens when somebody is approached with true compassion and how does that move the needle and us accessing our humanity? I mean, you and I have had a couple conversations yesterday about just work around white supremacy and whiteness. And I've had some people in my life who were women of color who were compassionate enough towards me to help me move the needle in terms of accessing my own humanity in a way that just confrontation would make me defensive or make me stop listening. So, I just know their compassion and love towards me has moved that needle.
Nadia B-W: I had a conversation on stage at a ... Oh, my God, forgive the term because it's insufferable, but a thought leaders. So, Lance Armstrong and I had a conversation on stage at the Nantucket Project. And throughout the day, people were like, "Don't go easy on him. Give it to him." And I'm like, "Lance Armstrong literally has never done shit to me. Why would I give it to him? I don't care." And so the first thing I said, my opening thing was, "So, Lance, I see from my notes that you took drugs you weren't supposed to and then you lied about it." "Oh, my God, I did that shit so many times." And I was like, "You raise your hands if you ever took drugs you weren't supposed to and you lied about it." And people were like, "Yeah. Fuck it, I did that."
Nadia B-W: I didn't care what he did or didn't do. I wanted to have compassion towards him as just a human being with a, who had a mom who was 16 when she had him. You know? And it was them against the world and just having curiosity towards him. And I think that having the compassion piece, the reason I can, when I can do it, it's only because I've gone through the fire. And I think it moves the needle in him accessing his own humanity and not being defensive in a way that it just made me super curious right now about how that works.
Kerri K: One of us your mottos for the House of All Sinners and Saints is anti-excellence, pro-participation.
Nadia B-W: Yeah.
Kerri K: In fact, this is what you're modeling for us right now, actually.
Nadia B-W: Because I'm...
Kerri K: But it's also what you did with Lance Armstrong and it's what you were naming that black women in your life have done for you, right?
Nadia B-W: Yeah.
Kerri K: Like we fuck up and we make mistakes and we fall on our face and we fail and we hit rock bottom and-
Nadia B-W: And we're still in it.
Kerri K: And we're still in it.
Nadia B-W: Yeah.
Kerri K: And we're still human. I really think that's countercultural to the culture of white supremacy and performance and productivity and perfectionism. And so, what does that practice look like? What is the experience of being in your church where you can be anti-excellent and pro-participation?
Nadia B-W: Okay. So, just as an example, my congregation, when you walk in, all the little booklets for the liturgy are lined out with all the jobs at the top. The first thing you're asked is, "Do you want to read the gospel or do you want to do the closing prayer or do want to be the assistant-ing minister of the Eucharist or do you want to serve communion?" So you can have never been to a Christian service in your entire life, and the first thing you're asked is, "Would you like to do the Holy things? We trust you with the Holy things just because you showed up."
Nadia B-W: I think a lot of people in communities get that they don't understand the difference between being friendly and being welcoming. So people think they're welcoming when really they're just friendly. What's welcoming is to say, "You don't have to be good at the thing, we just want you to do it anyway." And so it ends up allowing it to be a really non-anxious space. When the excellence piece is off the table, it's non-anxious. Also, we've never started on time, we start when it feels like everyone got there. That's our starting time. It's like within 20 minutes of 5:00, generally. So-
Kerri K: It's like the story of my life. I've never ever I think experienced a non-anxious space.
Nadia B-W: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Kerri K: That sounds so foreign to me.
Nadia B-W: Yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative). Also, as the leader, I have to let go of thinking that the way things are going is a reflection on my value and worthiness. And so if something doesn't go well or if it's super embarrassing, I have to have enough self-awareness to know it's not a reflection on me. And if I can know it's not a reflection on me, I'm not anxious. And as the leader, if I'm not anxious, no one else is anxious.
Kerri K: You were talking about white supremacy, you and I've been talking about whiteness over the last 16 hours of our relationship. The first 16 hours of our relationship.
Nadia B-W: That's right. Correct.
Kerri K: And I've heard you describe it as systemic sin. Can you say more about that?
Nadia B-W: There is an impulse in the human heart that opposes flourishing, and I don't know why that is. But that's what we're talking about with the broken part, the shadow side. That piece of us, when we act out of it in the building of institutions, they are institutions that are really built on human sin. And then along with it becomes the self-justification about why it's okay, which is such a powerful, powerful force, the self-justification about why this is okay, why it's good. I actually think that we're in the most danger of doing the most harm when the thing that we're protecting is the notion that we're good. And so this ...
Nadia B-W: I travel a lot in other countries, and if you're in Western developed countries for any period of time and you're from America, they ask you some questions. They're like, "Oh, my God, we got an American. Ask her the question." And so they are curious because our societies are similar but there are some differences that really are puzzling to them. So, eventually, there are three things they have curiosity about. One is our gun laws. They're like, "Can you explain why you guys have the gun laws that you have?" Because they say, "Okay, here's our gun laws and here's the number of deaths we have in our country from guns. Here are your gun laws and here's the number of deaths you have."
Kerri K: Yeah. They just do the math.
Nadia B-W: Yeah, it's not ideology, it's fucking math. Right?
Kerri K: Yeah.
Nadia B-W:So, they're curious about that. And then they're curious, you could probably guess what that the others are. Mass incarceration and the death penalty. And so, I think having to answer those questions I had to think about that stuff in really particular ways. I'm like, "There is no way to answer that question without talking about white supremacy. There's no way to answer that question without talking about it." Because the origin of the country ... We never had a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, there's never been any kind of repentance. There has been-
Kerri K:... repair or reparation.
Nadia B-W:No. There's been nothing except for self-justification which makes everything worse. And so, we're protecting something. The psyche of our country almost can't stand to actually look at the truth of its origin and so it just keeps building systems to protect us from having to do that.
Kerri K: On the individual level we do that especially in I think faith and wellness communities through spiritual bypass. Same thing.
Nadia B-W: Say more about that.
Kerri K: Well, just the way that we validate and self-justify how to avoid the truth, how to avoid pain, how to seek only feeling good and not feeling bad, how to duck the shadow. All the little strategies, the positive vibes only, all the things that you've been naming.
Nadia B-W: There's no freedom.
Nadia B-W: There's no freedom to be had in that. None.
Kerri K: And there's no truth.
Nadia B-W: Yeah.
Kerri K: And no healing. No liberation I think can come from that pathway. We just stay stuck.
Nadia B-W:In doing pastoral care as a parish pastor for 10 years, the thing I said in pastoral care more than anything in the world was I said, "Just because you're feeling bad doesn't mean something's wrong." That's not a message we hear much. "Oh, I feel bad. I have to fix something." No, it might just be a message you need to listen to. You know? It may mean a change of perspective. Whatever. It might be grace knocking at your door. It might be the fact that you need to actually give up ... Our community, the Lent of 2017, so the first Lent that we had after the election, people talk about giving things up for Lent. Our whole community said, "Fuck it. We're giving up for Lent. We give up for this period, for 40 days, we're going to just give up. We're going to give up all the things we think that are going to fix us, we're going to give up all the ways that we think that we're not already worthy, we're going to give up the conflict in our relationship with our parents." We just were like, "We're just giving up." And it was a spiritual practice just to go, "I give up."
Kerri K: You are a spiritual disruptor. Is that okay that I call you that?
Nadia B-W:Well, I've never heard that term until they put me on a panel that said I was a spiritual disrupter.
Kerri K: You're disrupting spiritual spaces willingly I mean. And I totally resonate with that because I play that role in the wellness space. I like to disrupt and mess things up and stir up consciousness and challenge and question all the things. And I'm curious how you navigate saying the truth or doing the thing in a room that might not be ready for that. How you navigate and do cost analysis around the risks that you take in speaking truth in certain spaces.
Kerri K: I say that because I think as spiritual influencers I think right now in this particular moment, we really need to provoke people to take more risks in their lives. To get out of the comfort zone, to have skin in the game in terms of fighting things like white supremacy and the systems of oppression, for having messy political conversations especially in the culture that we just named where we like to be comfortable and we like to feel good and we like to avoid all of those things. So, I'm just curious how you model that. How do you model risk-taking? Because you do that, right? You're like, "Fuck it," and you kind of say the truth.
Nadia B-W: That just doesn't feel risky to me, to be honest. What feels risky to me is that I made and kept a dentist appointment recently. For me, it was seriously a huge thing. I don't know, saying things that might piss people off in front of bunch of people on stage doesn't feel risky. We're all just wired differently, so it's not bravery, it's just personality, I think. I don't curate a version of myself that I think different groups will feel more comfortable with. Because I'm around so many different kinds of groups, it would be exhausting to do that. I have gone on a rant about the guns and mass incarceration and death penalty is, the foundation of all of it is white supremacy. Speaking in the South. It's going to land where it's going to land, you know?
Kerri K: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Nadia B-W: It's not my job to take care of everybody's feelings and the audience. I have compassion if it's hard for them or if they're reactive to me, but that's about them, it's not about me. I mean, if I took in everybody's reactions about me as being information about myself to myself, I could never leave my apartment.
Kerri K: I think my question is how do we call our congregations up into more bold courageous action in the face of so much suffering?
Nadia B-W: I loved what you guys said on the panel yesterday about it being about I have to call myself up. All I can do is be as honest as I can. That's what I model for people. It's not how to be brave and take action and be right, it's that the Sunday after Charlottesville, a lot of liberal pastors were like, "I hope everyone's preaching against Nazis Sunday." I'm like, "That's a fucking high bar preaching against ... Ooh, you're so brave, you're so prophetic." Right? How about in your sermon listing as many ways as you can fathom that you've benefited from a system of white supremacy in your own personal life? Do that as the preacher. Not call out Nazis.
Kerri K: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Own it.
Nadia B-W: You know what I mean? Own it. And I did. And it was hard. I'm like, "Look, as a former drug user, you know that I'm seven times more likely to have been incarcerated for drug use if I was a black woman than a white woman?" The fuck is that? What do you call that? That I didn't do any time, I mean, my parents ... When my parents die, I will inherit money. You know why? Because they own their home. You know why? They weren't redlined out of it. You know why?
Kerri K:You know why? Because they're white.
Nadia B-W: Exactly. So, what? We fucking earned that? That's not true. And then how do you fight a system that's done nothing but love you back your whole life? You know? I mean, I think as white folks having that conversation and that ...
Nadia B-W: Okay, so, I say horrible things about myself in my books and in my talks. I just admit the worst things that you can't ... And you were like, "I can't believe you told people that." But I don't care because I believe in grace so much it doesn't, it's okay, but I don't do it to be like, "Oh, I'm the worst of sinners." I do it because I want to create a space around me that's safe enough for other people to step into it and admit what that thing is for them. That's all I ever do. And so it's a form of leadership I call, "Screw it, I'll go first."
Kerri K: The dentist.
Nadia B-W: Yeah.
Kerri K: What was that about? Was it about making the time to take care of yourself?
Nadia B-W:No. I hate the-
Kerri K: You just hate the dentist.
Nadia B-W: No. I just have a couple of things that cause me deep anxiety. I can stand in front of tens of thousands of people and not break a sweat, but I can't drive in the mountains because it just makes me-
Kerri K: You live in Denver.
Nadia B-W:I understand that. I'm from Colorado, but driving in the mountains is ... I mean, I have horrible anxiety. So, you know, we all have things that are hard for us.
Kerri K: And the dentist is hard for you.
Nadia B-W: I don't like the dentist. I can't breathe.
Kerri K: It's kind of up there for me, too, if I'm being honest.
Nadia B-W: What?
Kerri K: It's kind of up there for me, too, if I'm being honest.
Nadia B-W: Is it? I feel like I can't breathe. Anyway.
Kerri K: Okay. Let's get back on track.
Nadia B-W: I know.
Kerri K: What do you tell people who are disillusioned about this political moment? what's the spiritual meaning behind this fucked up moment we're in in America?
Nadia B-W: It's apocalyptic. What I mean by that is that in Greek, the word apocalypse means to see what's underneath, to be revealed. So, there's not a sudden uptick in racism that we're now seeing or sexual harassment, it's that the corner has been peeled up and it's being revealed what's underneath. And so think that-
Kerri K: Just to some of us because it's been revealed to many of us for hundreds of years.
Nadia B-W: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But I think now people who ... The whole system colludes to keep you ... If you're the one benefiting from it, the entire system colludes to keep you blind to the system. It's the matrix, and so now people are asking the question, "What's the matrix," you know? So, I feel like there's some hope in that. I do think of it spiritually but in a almost more conservative way in the sense that there are powers and principalities at play with all of this. It feels like we live under a beast and the beast has to be fed first fruits. And the profit margins for the 1%, that's us always feeding the beast and never being able to question why that's happening. The systems of white supremacy, that has to do with power and principalities. To me, there is a spiritual element to this that I think is really important to understand and to see how seductive it is and how we've been seduced by things.
Kerri K: And indoctrinated.
Nadia B-W: Completely.
Kerri K: Completely indoctrinated.
Nadia B-W: Also, I think one of the things that's very dangerous right now is to go, "Look how bad the Trump supporters are?" Because I think that it's very tempting to take all of my xenophobia that's in me and to easily thrust it on them because they're so clearly worse and to be grateful almost because now, I don't have to look at my shit because theirs smells worse. That's a classic scapegoat move, you know?
Kerri K: Yeah.
Nadia B-W: This is what happened with ... Remember Brian Williams the newscaster?
Kerri K: Yep.
Nadia B-W: This is what happened with him. We loved people like Brian Williams. You know why? You know what happened? He did not falsify a news account, he exaggerated a personal story which we've all done. And when I exaggerate a personal story, it creates an icky feeling in me. And so what happens is those icky feeling build up and I got to do something with them. So, Brian William comes along, and I'm like, "How dare he?" And I get to take all my icky shit and just put it on him.
Kerri K: reject it.
Nadia B-W: And then kill him, you know? I mean, that's what it ... Rachel Dolezal, it's like, "I never have to look at any of my cultural appropriation because she's so clearly worse. I'm so grateful." You know?
Nadia B-W: So I think that the danger is to look at this moment and to just thrust all of it on them as the problem and then never have to look at my own shit.
Kerri K: It's funny because right after the 2016 election I was going around and doing house parties, and everybody was reckoning with their one Trump cousin. Like, "My cousin who voted, and I didn't talk to him and I should have. And now I feel like I have to have a conversation and understand. Now's the time." And literally, everybody was reckoning with that. And after a couple of these sessions, I finally said, "I want you to make a list of all of those really bad people in your life. How many there are." And people would make a list, and it would be like one person, two people. And then I was like, "And now I want you to make a list of all of the people closest to you who have gone back to sleep." It was like 40 people. And it made me feel like proximity is powerful. It's so ...
Kerri K: Because there's a bypass in point over there and deal with this shit over there, the bad stuff that's worse than mine, but even in addition to the way in which we need to deal with our own shit, like the people who are closest to us, it's like we have the hardest time dealing with that. Dealing with family members, talking about these issues across the dinner table, taking responsibility for friends who have totally checked out and just don't even participate at all. How do we bring them along do you think?
Nadia B-W:I mean, all I have are just my own stories of having somebody else bring me along, right?
Kerri K: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Nadia B-W: That's all I have. I don't feel like ... I'm a beginner with this stuff and so I think being honest about being a beginner and the things that I ... The things I know now that I didn't know one year ago about certain issues and kind of almost the humiliation of that, like, how could I have not even thought of that? I think just telling ... For me, I just try and tell those stories because hoping it's an invitational for other people. Honestly, just reading memoir, it has been really powerful for me in terms of-
Kerri K: Other people's memoir?
Nadia B-W: Yeah. There's an amazing book that a girlfriend of mine wrote. I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness.
Kerri K: Oh yeah.
Nadia B-W: Austin Channing Brown.
Kerri K: Yes, yes.
Nadia B-W: She's in my-
Kerri K: Oh.
Nadia B-W: We all have matching tattoos. It's not a cult. I feel like it's super important to say that.
Kerri K: I have that book.
Nadia B-W: Do you?
Kerri K: Yeah.
Nadia B-W: You have Austin's book?
Kerri K: Yeah.
Nadia B-W: So, things like that. Reading those books and going, "Oh wow, I never ..." There's so many things I never have to think about, and it's so easy to go my whole life and never think about it.
Kerri K: Well, and that feels like grace, too. Actually into the, "I have no fucking ... I don't know." Even the more I do this work of unpacking my own whiteness and understanding systems that I've never had to see because they've been invisible to me as a white woman, every nugget of learning and aha and awakening, it's almost more revealing that I have so much more to learn. And this is going to be a lifetime for me of unlearning so that I can learn the thing, the truth that's being revealed as you said per the apocalypse.
Nadia B-W: That's right. But I think there's a way in which the system of whiteness hides our own souls from us that ... I think you guys addressed a little bit yesterday but ... There's some hope there, too. That there's actually more for us that's real that we have also been kept from in the system and a richness to life. So I think there's some promise there, too.
Kerri K: Is it that we need to understand that everyone is suffering at the hands of the power and principalities?
Nadia B-W: The beast, yeah.
Kerri K: And that our liberation is bound up? We actually all have to get free together?
Nadia B-W: Correct. That's...
Kerri K: In different ways but ...
Nadia B-W: Yeah. It's….
Kerri K: As you choose to live into these questions and do the shadow work, right?
Nadia B-W: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kerri K: It's like we choose that, right? I'm going to continue to lean into that part of myself.
Kerri K: I saw on your Instagram yesterday. Can I say this? What did it say on your Instagram that like, sometimes I love myself-
Nadia B-W: I know I said ... I put up, I love myself, but some days I wish I could stab my personality in the throat.
Kerri K: And I so resonate with that because I feel that. I have brief moments of self-love but most of the time, I'm either judging perfecting, which I think is a version of that, and hating on myself.
Nadia B-W:I just get angry about everything. My first reaction to everything is fuck you. Now, I almost never stay there, but I almost always start there. And so navigating a life where I'm constantly reacting against stuff and feeling like I have to preserve myself, I have to defend, I have to fight for myself to protect. It's exhausting.
Kerri K: It's so funny because mine is fuck me. But it's like ... And I'm asking this because as we ... For those of us who are choosing to be in these hard conversations and to lean in and to do this work and to see the things that we haven't wanted to see for so long, and to take responsibility and to raise our hand and be like, "I did that." and to fall on the sword, you know? How do we do that and simultaneously hold grace? And simultaneously have self-love and simultaneously take care of ourselves? What does that look like?
Nadia B-W: I think it's just like committed to the idea that there is more, there is more for us than the thing we're trying to protect right now. Right? I have to be aware of when am I ... Al I'm really doing is trying to protect a cherished idea about myself. When I'm doing that, I'm actually short-selling myself. And I feel like what I'm doing is protecting and preserving myself and I'm not.
Kerri K: The grace in not knowing, the grace in being wrong.
Nadia B-W: There's more.
Kerri K: The grace in failing.
Nadia B-W: Absolutely. There's more. There's more. There's more to be had than what we think we're grasping for.
Kerri K: It's funny, we talked about this last night, but to me, that gets at like ... Our limited understanding of what's possible is actually holding us back. We just don't know. And what would it look like to imagine beyond? Imagine beyond the incremental surface, like little adjustments that we make to our awareness or to our lifestyle or how we're engaging in the world?
Kerri K: In the panel that we had yesterday we talked about breaking the table and imagining what's next. That's so much more beautiful and complex than the thing that we know now.
Nadia B-W: Yeah. I think there's more. I just think there's more.
Kerri K: It's a perfect segue into question and answer.
Nadia B-W: Oh yeah.
Kerri K: So, here's how this is going to go y'all. We have a mic, and we want to invite questions if you have them. And we'll include it in the podcast, but there might be some awkward pauses so that we can wait for your voice to be on the mic and you can be actually heard through the podcast. Sound good? Who has a question? And will you say your name, please?
Amanda Jones: Sure. My name is Amanda Jones. I have a question. I am a lapsed Catholic and one who raised my children Catholic. And now I'm starting to come to the realization that there's so much more to life than what I was raised as. And as I think about the first 16 years of raising my children, I'm asking your perspective on how do I undo a lot of the things that I raised my children to be and to think now that I've had so much more of this sort of awakening?
Nadia B-W: I don't think you can undo it. I think that ... I believe anything's redeemable though. So there might be something really powerful and redemptive to you going, "I think I might have gotten that wrong." So much more so than if you had gotten it right from the beginning. Do you know what I mean? Modeling, I mean, I made a lot of mistakes raising my kids, but I can say this, that they ... My children heard me say, "That wasn't okay, and I'm sorry and will you forgive me?" And to me, I think it taught them more than me getting everything right and never having to say that, yeah.
Kerri K: Question.
Mary Ellen Hall: Hi. I'm Mary Ellen Hall. It's great to be here. I have been in sobriety for three years, and I'm struggling with my daughter who is involved in this huge marijuana dab pen situation. I come from a long line of family members who are not addicts or not anything. I am the first one in my family.
Nadia B-W: Congratulations.
Mary Ellen Hall: yeah, so ...
Nadia B-W: Groundbreaker.
Mary Ellen Hall: Because of that, my daughter is now striking that pattern, and I'm struggling with the blame for that. Hence, so she's living with her dad currently, and now, she's been out of school for two weeks and no one's telling me why. So, I have a feeling that she might be somewhere because before if I wanted to get her help, it was, "Well, her problem is because of you, so if you want to get her help you pay for it." And I had no family support, so I'm trying to figure out how do I deal with that shame of like ... How do I help her when she's not involved in my life because her problems are because of me?
Nadia B-W: Yeah. I think it's really important to understand the difference between blame and involvement. I doubt that you are to blame for whatever is happening in her life. She has her own path, her own wiring through a lot of factors actually in her life you had nothing to do with. But you might have had an involvement, and the involvement to me at least invites us into remaining involved and taking some responsibility, right? But blame doesn't do much. And yet, in our culture we're obsessed with blame. It's because we actually believe in free will too much I think in this country and that actually so much of what we do and what happens in our lives is determined by so many different factors and influences. But we want to know who to blame. We want to take full credit when something goes right and then we want to take full credit if shit doesn't go right. Or we want somebody else to have full blame, right?
Nadia B-W: But the thing is is that everything that happens is influenced by so many different factors, and I think that allows for some grace as well to go, "You're not to blame." I don't think having blame and then feeling shame for that actually is effective or helpful for anyone, not for you, not for her. But to go, "Yeah, I had an involvement," and that means I'm going to keep involved, I'm going to keep the door open, I'm going to make an invitation. I'm going to model something. Those can be enough for when that person's ready because she has her own path. You can't determine it.
Kerri K: It makes me feel like ... Because you talked about being redeemed and redemption. Lot of people are talking about redemption, especially these days. And how redemption is really only possible in relationship and blame cuts relationship off, right?
Nadia B-W: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kerri K: But involvement is still in relationship, and there's a pathway to reconciliation and redemption there. And who knows what that looks like? But at least it's possible. Whereas blame and shame I feel like is the block.
Nadia B-W: Right. Oh yeah. Just stops. Yeah.
Kerri K: Question.
Anne-Marie Fela: My name is Anne-Marie and I was drawn to your books. I can't exactly remember how I first got turned on to them, but I've been doing a lot of shadow work and a lot of other things. The Idea of Forgiveness, that's what it was. I saw a MAKERS video about how to forgive assholes and the word assholes is what made me click.
Nadia B-W: Clickbait.
Anne-Marie Fela: Yeah. All the curse clickbait. And somehow, the way that the language you used that forgiveness is a big giant pair of bolt cutters and cutting a chain that ties you to this person has wounded you empowered me in a way that I always felt that forgiveness was required me to be weak somehow.
Nadia B-W: Yeah, that's exactly right.
Anne-Marie Fela: And I wanted to just read more and listen to more about just hear your language. And I guess my question is, I am also a recovering Catholic, did not raise my kids that way, and I think what a lot of us reject is dogma is shame, guilt, punishment. I love the idea that God has a giant surveillance system. That's something you've put [inaudible 00:51:10]. And so there was a part of me, it struck me as ... why does religion, where does ... It's almost like you could say all the same things that you said and not bring Jesus into it at all, and it would still be a hugely powerful message. And so part of me, at least initially, was saying, "I love everything she's saying, but I don't need the Jesus stuff." It can come from ... It sounds like ...
Anne-Marie Fela: As often as not, I almost feel like you're saying what you started off this podcast as saying it was a way to contextualize the truth I already felt was there. But I'd love for you to say more about that because part of me wants to reject needing a higher power to have this institutionalized name. You know, Jesus I associate with Catholicism, with an institution. But I haven't stopped reading, and I haven't stopped listening, but I'm just curious because I feel like it would be equally as powerful without that association but clearly, you believe the opposite. And I would just love to hear more about that.
Nadia B-W: I think Jesus was a huge spiritual disruptor. I mean, you know, of course, he's been sort of domesticated for institutional reasons. But he touched the impure and he healed the sick and he touched lepers and he ate with all the wrong people and he hung out with sex workers and he pissed-off the religious authorities. I mean, he's my dude, you know?
Nadia B-W: I love your question, and I guess all I can say in response is I have the same question right now because I handed my parish off to the next generation of leaders in July, so I'm not in my parish. I'm just working as a public theologian, and I have this feeling like there's so much within Christian thought that could be really transformative for people that are never going to intellectually assent to the same theological propositions I do. I believe all the crazy shit about Jesus. I'm like, "Oh, yeah. Virgin birth, miracles, raised from the dead. I'm all in." I don't know why, I just fucking believe it. But I'm uninterested whether other people believe it. It doesn't matter to me.
Nadia B-W: And so I guess all I know is that I feel like I'm trying to find this path to sort of articulate the perennial wisdom that's available to all people that's really in Christian thought. And people can't get to it or they don't even know it's there because it's so packaged in so many layers of institutional bullshit. So I'm trying to go, "Oh, my God., there's so much here. Just forget that other stuff," you know? And also, the church isn't doing great right now. I mean, at least the mainline Protestant church. The Catholic church, they're struggling, right? I mean, membership's dwindling, it's aging, there's a way in which church as we know it is going by the wayside in certain traditions.
Nadia B-W: And yet, I think people are still going to gather in the name of God and talk about the night Jesus was betrayed and give each other pieces of bread and say it's his body and blood and it's for forgiveness of sins and tell stories and sing songs and pray. I think people will just always do that. To me, that's what Christianity is. That's the core of it, not all the rest of it. So, I'm not really worried about the church dying because I think there are going to be crazy people who believes all the shit like I do and we're going to do these weird things and still do them.
Nadia B-W: So, you don't have to believe in this stuff and do those practices to access the perennial wisdom and the tradition. Also, any part of it that you or ... I mean, there's stuff that's yours if you were raised in it, and maybe just find the things you do cherish. Maybe you're still secretly into Mary or whatever. You know what I mean? It's okay to have these things and to reclaim them and to love them again is like actually heals some of the religious wounds that we walk around with I think.
Kerri K: Can I share something just because this is really alive for me since I've been in conversation with you over the last 16 hours?
Nadia B-W: It's almost 17 now.
Kerri K: I know. The first 17 hours.
Nadia B-W: The first 17.
Kerri K: I just feel like your question resonates with me and my own spiritual crisis is what I will call it. My impulse is to reject institutionalized religion the same way in which my impulse was to reject AA because I was like, "I don't get this. I am powerless shit." And yesterday and today, I think I'm wondering if it is more spiritual to reject or to actually hold the question of is there more for me here? And not only is there more but can I actually exist in the messiness of it? In the contradictions for me? Can I sit in the mess and be in it and hold capacity for the whole of it and I reckon with it constantly versus I'm not into that, I'm into that. Which feels more binary thinking.
Nadia B-W: Yeah.
Kerri K: And more monolithic, right? So I'm holding that question for myself around ... And I think it brings up questions for me when I think about the religious idols of like, "Why don't I trust them? Why don't I trust them?" So anyway, I just wanted to name that like, I'm really in a contemplation since we've been talking around what is that? What is that like clear rejection for me? And is that a true? Is there more spiritual capacity and depth and juiciness in actually leaning into the question and being curious.
Nadia B-W:I also think there's a lot of power in redefining and re-tradition-ing it and rethinking rather than just rejecting. So I do that. I will sit with a biblical text a lot because I'm like, "Look, that stuff is too potent to leave it to the people who are going to use it just to justify their positions of dominance." It's so rich and there's so many ways to look at it and to repurpose and redefine what that is. So, to me, I like that move rather than just reject because it keeps me in the game in a way that annoys the people in power.
Kerri K: It's adaptive like nature. It's actually natural.
Nadia B-W: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Kerri K: We have time for one more question. Anybody. Hold that thought. Let's just see if there's someone else. Yeah. Anybody? Anybody feeling called to ask a question or share something?
Allison Murphy: Hi, my name's Allison Murphy, and my question for you is can you share a little bit about your own personal practice? What does what does it look like for you day to day as you're learning and reflecting and processing and engaging? How do you practice self-care and continue to step up?
Nadia B-W: I do have a yoga practice that's in a personal way really important to me in sort of like keeping me in the moment and in my body that I'm really grateful for. I put a premium on my personal relationships, so I spend time on the phone every day with my group. We call each other The Hedge of Protection. So there's a group of 12 women who are scattered across the country, very diverse group. Well, and one gay Chinese guy. But we're really, we made a decision a few years ago to love each other. It really was a decision to be completely for each other and to think if something's good for one of us, it's good for all of us, and if something's hard for one of us, it's hard for all of us. So we bury each other's burdens and share each other's joys, and I stay connected to them every day. So, I'm on the phone every day with people who I love which is a, that's a big part of my life.
Nadia B-W: I've been trying to read more. I'd say that's part of my practice. And I spend a lot of time alone. I eat food made out of food but not in a super strict way. I also ate chocolate cheesecake last night. I mean, I guess different things like that end up being really important to me. I don't have a community right now, so publicly, I do a lot of Q&A in my talks. And so I travel every week as a speaker. And I've been saying publicly I'm actually really lonely. I mean, I'm in an amazing relationship with somebody I'm very in love with so not in that way, but I mean when you leave the church that you served, and I'm ordained in a Lutheran church, you're not allowed to be part of that church anymore. And so the community I spent 10 years building I don't get to be a part of anymore. And I'm sort of going, "Where do people find community?"
Nadia B-W: Literally I was on meetup.com a couple weeks ago thinking, "Maybe there's like a book club in my neighborhood." I don't know how to connect. You know? So I think it puts me with a lot of other people. I think a lot of people don't know where to find community. And so, in a way, even though it's uncomfortable, I'm grateful to be having that experience because it makes me relate to what I think a lot of people experience. I don't know what's going to come of that, but ...
Kerri K: I'm really looking forward to like the re-imagination and the reinvention of what church might look like outside of the brick-and-mortar. I mean, since you're there, since you're like a floating pastor now. I'm curious how that's going to emerge. Kind of the visual of the floating pastor. But how that's going to emerge-
Kerri K: ... for you, and I think as someone who feels spiritually homeless, I'm curious about that. What does that look like to be a part of something that's more permeable and welcoming and radically welcoming in the way that you named. And as that emerges for you, I want to know about it. I want to be a part of that congregation.
Nadia B-W: I miss seeing the same people every week. And it doesn't even have to be those people. I mean, I think it's really hard for me to grow spiritually if I'm not annoyed by being around the same ... I'm not kidding. To love people you find annoying.
Kerri K: That's right. Proximal.
Nadia B-W: I mean, that's been a huge part of my spiritual life has been the lessons I've learned by being around people who I wouldn't choose out of a catalog, too. Truly. Yeah.
Kerri K: And to stay.
Nadia B-W: And to stay.
Kerri K: And to stay.
Nadia B-W: Yeah.
Kerri K: Well, I am so grateful for you.
Nadia B-W: Yeah. Thank you.
Kerri K: I'm so grateful for the first 17 hours of our relationship, and I can't wait for the next 50 years.
Nadia B-W: I agree, I agree.
Kerri K: On every podcast, we give the audience a call to action because we believe that it's not enough to have lip service, we actually need to practice what we are preaching, and I think you are the perfect embodiment of that. So what do you want to tell our listeners to do or who do you want to tell them to be? What's a message you want to give them?
Nadia B-W: I actually do think it's important to read the personal narratives of people who live in a different social location than you. So I think finding a memoir that is from somebody who is very different than yourself, it's just this invitation to realize what you don't know. It's been really instructive for me.
Kerri K: I love that. That's perfect. Thank you, Nadia Bolz-Weber.
Nadia B-W: Yeah, my pleasure.
Kerri K: Like I said, and I think a lot of people here might agree with me, wherever you go or whatever emerges in this new church of whatever, whatever the fuck. Maybe that's the new name because I know you love that word. The church of whatever the fuck.
Nadia B-W: yeah, I'll take ...
Kerri K: Keep us updated because I think there's an opportunity and a craving and a yearning to be a part of something like that.
Nadia B-W: Yeah. Actually, can I say something really quick?
Kerri K: Yeah.
Nadia B-W: We were talking a lot about the negative aspects of the institution of the church. I feel like it's important for people to hear me say something which is that my bishop is one of the best man I know on this planet. I've known him a long time, and he is issuing me an official letter of call from his office to be a public theologian. To do what literally I'm doing right now is supported by my bishop. He wants me to be doing this and having this conversation, so I just think it's important to say nothing's ever only one thing. You know?
Kerri K: Yeah. I love that. A perfect ending to an awesome conversation.
Kerri K: You can follow Nadia Bolz-Weber at nadiabolzweber.com. Do you have any social media things you want to say? What your Twitter handle is or your Insta feed which clearly we've already heard is...
Nadia B-W: Instagram is sarcasticlutheran.
Kerri K: Do you tweet? Are you a tweeter?
Nadia B-W: Yeah, sarcasticlutheran.
Kerri K: Also.
Nadia B-W: Uh-huh (affirmative). Yeah.
Kerri K: Across the bar sarcasticlutheran.
Nadia B-W: Yeah.
Kerri K: All right. Special thanks to our producer, Trevor and DJ Drez for the amazing soundtrack. You can check out his music at djdrez.com. And thank you you all for being here today and for listening. You can stay in the know and engaged by subscribing to our weekly newsletter WELLREAD at ctznwell.org. CTZN Podcast is community inspired and crowdsourced. That's how we keep it real. Join our community on Patreon for as little as $1 per month so that we can keep doing the work of curating content that matters for citizens who care. And don't forget to rate us on iTunes and share the love by telling everybody. Do y'all hear that? Rate us on iTunes, write a ... What is it called? A review? Write a review about this conversation and say really cool things about Nadia and I and then tell all of your friends because that's how we keep going, yeah?
Kerri K:Thank you all, thank you WellSpring, thank you Nadia. Thank you all.
Speaker: And that's a wrap.