Nadia Bolz-Weber | The 2019 MAKERS Conference
Nadia Bolz-Weber, public theologian, on harnessing the power of your anxiety from the 2019 #MAKERSConference at Monarch Beach Resort.
- Please welcome Nadia Bolz-Weber. [MUSIC PLAYING] NADIA BOLZ-WEBER: The problem with that video going viral is I was in the Sea-Tac Airport a couple of weeks ago, and this dude's like, you're the forgiveness pastor. And I was like, oh, no, no. I'm like the, is shitty at forgiveness but is desperate pastor. Super sorry for the confusion. [LAUGHTER] It was bold. It was a bold move for MAKERS to do that whole "Have a Little Faith" series, since as we know, religion, you know, historically has been a source of so much misogyny that so much of us have suffered from. When, as a newly ordained clergy woman, I first started blogging, these conservative Christian bloggers would attack me and write shit about me on their blogs. And they wouldn't use my title, Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber, because they didn't think girls could be pastors. Now, there are a million reasons I shouldn't be a pastor, but being a girl's literally not one of them. So instead, they called me-- they made up a term of insult. They called me Pastrix Nadia Boltz-Weber, which sounded kind of dirty. And so I titled my first memoir, "Pastrix," which became a New York Times bestseller. So if you're keeping score at home, I won that round. [APPLAUSE] Just saying. But it taught me the power of, like, reclaiming things that have hurt us, and using those things to heal us. And religion is potent stuff. And yeah, it's been the source of so much harm. I can't deny that. But I really think that scripture and theology are actually far too potent to be left in the hands of those who would use it to justify their dominance over another group of people. These things, in the right hands, can and should be used for good. At the end of the video you just saw, I quoted a short verse from John's Gospel, so it made me think, what other texts in the Bible could be used for good and not for harm? So here's a little peek, live, of one of the many sermons from season two of "Have a Little Faith" that will debut today at makers.com. Ready? It starts with some verses from Luke's Gospel, and they're super weird. It goes like this. In the 15th year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor over Judea, and Herod was the ruler of Galilee, and during the high priest of these dudes that were the high priests, the word of God didn't come to a damn one of them. The word of God came to this weird guy named John in the Wilderness, which is just another story. So I've been wondering, what did it feel like 2,000 years ago to be ruled by Emperor Tiberius? Like, what did it feel like to be under the domination of Pontius Pilate? We know little of, like, the interior lives of people who lived in Judea at the time. But I wonder if, to the people in Judea at the time, the power of the men who were named in these opening verses felt inescapable. I asked my parishioners a similar question once. I asked them, who or what in the world seems so powerful that it feels like it's inescapable? Like, it feels like it's in charge. And their answers kind of destroyed me. Their answers were things like, my depression, and not feeling good enough, and body image issues, and debt, and abuse, and white supremacy. Also appearing on the list of powerful forces that cannot be overcome were potato chips, and Oreos, which I feel like is fair. [LAUGHTER] But I was struck by how many of them consistently mentioned anxiety. I know that at different times in my own life, there were forces around me that felt so powerful, it felt like they were in control, like my addiction, and my unhealthy relationships, and my horrible boss, and my own depression. And these things felt like emperors, like tyrants. And the anxiety that they created in me felt inescapable. So I don't know about you, but I find myself in the midst of the powers and principalities of this world, and I find myself in the chaos of a country that's in ideological lockdown. And in the midst of such anxiety, I'm desperate for hope-- I mean real hope, not platitudes or cheerful sentiment. I need something to feel more powerful than the forces that rage around me. And to be perfectly honest, even though I'm a pastor, sometimes my anxiety makes prayer difficult. So if you, too, are anxious and can't pray, maybe we can all take a note from the priest who once suggested that maybe we can pray for the conversion of our anxiety. Because he said, when anxiety is converted, you know what it becomes? It becomes hope. And I couldn't think of a better thing to preach to you. If you have anxiety now, it just means you are almost hopeful. You're, like-- you're, like, super close. [LAUGHTER] So here's a word for the conversion of our anxiety. Here is the thing that pushes me that tiny distance between my own anxiety and actual hope. It's when I realized this. You know that list of emperors, and rulers, and power brokers who were so feared and powerful at that time in Luke's Gospel? You know what? The only reason anyone knows their names-- the only reason these tiny, so-called powerful men are even remembered at all, 2,000 years later, the only reason anyone even says their names, is as a footnote to Jesus, a homeless dude who hung out with fishermen and sex workers, and said we should give our money away and forgive our enemies. So can you imagine what a blow it would be to Pontius Pilate's ego if he knew that? So my prayer, when I don't know what to pray, is super simple. I just name every single thing in person that seems so powerful as to feel inescapable-- rulers, tyrants, societal forces. I name them, and then I just go, footnote. I mean, seriously. Pontius Pilate? He's a footnote. Your bully from middle school? Footnote. Your depression? Footnote. Your shitty boss? Footnote. Pathetic narcissists of every variety? Footnote. Don't mistake me. All those things are very real. And the harm that they have on us and on the world is also real. But to me, the whole point of having faith-- the whole point of believing in a power greater than ourselves in any way, like in any variety that works for you personally, is that it allows us to believe in a bigger story than the one we tell ourselves, a bigger story than the one shouted on cable news, a bigger story than the one being shouted inside our own heads. In my own anxiety, I can only see a few feet in front of me, and the world feels like it's closing in on me. But the bigger picture-- in the bigger picture, I defiantly believe that forgiveness is more powerful than resentment, and that compassion is more powerful than judgment, and that love is always more powerful than fear. [APPLAUSE] [MUSIC PLAYING]