I’m in a coffee shop and there are cool white people. Sure, I’m a white people too, but there’re white people and there’re white people and some white people are kinda whiter than others and I’ve been annoyed by certain kindsa white people for some time – I call them “white people”. They can frequently be found in coffee shops, they listen to NPR and they feel pretty good about themselves. Feh.
I’ve got Called to Lead – God’s Call, Your Vocation and I’m looking at the writing prompts for chapter two – “The Vocation of Rostered Ministers”. The Rev. Paul Baglyos assumes a lot – like that my early experiences of hearing the Good News were positive or meaningful. They weren’t. I grew up with Christianity and I learned it the same way I learned English – by osmosis – and it wasn’t especially joyful or anything like that. When I was all fuct up on drugs’n’stuff, I thought of Christianity as some bullshit that the elites used to control the masses so we didn’t burn them in their mansions. After I got sober, I gradually came to think of Christianity as one way, among many, to have a relationship with the Divine Mystery, unfortunately contaminated by those who claimed it. I pretty much figured that Christianity was so polluted by bigotry, homophobia, misogyny, greed and general hatefulness that it couldn’t really serve the purpose for which it was intended and that it would to go the way of Jainism or Zoroastrianism – religions that still have a few devoted followers here and there, but aren’t influential in the world. I thought Jesus was a good guy and I never had any problem with any of his teachings – basically, I agreed with Gandhi – “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians”, though there’s no definite evidence he actually said that. Christians seemed a lot like the white people I don’t enjoy being around, but find myself in the same room with because I want coffee and wifi.
“What makes it easier or more difficult for you to believe the proclamation of others?”, asks the Rev. Paul Baglyos. And my answer is “The others.” I got no problem with the Scriptures – I even like Paul, because he’s so blatantly human, in a totally fucked up way. Real life Christians, though, generally fall into two categories – A) self-righteous assholes who think they’re taking some kinda martyr-stand because they hate queers; and B) vacuous Pollyanna’s, grinning like simps and oh-so-bubbly because everything is just ducky when Jesus is your bestie. No, fuck you very much.
I am blatantly prejudiced against Christians and I still have to remind myself that I am one. It’s a mixed-up blessing. I heard a piece of an interview with Chris Rock one time, where he said “I like people who have had life punch them in the face” and I really got that – obviously damaged people are easier to put up with. The Jesus I find in the Gospels was a lot friendlier to losers and fuck-ups than to people who had their shit together.
The big name in Lutheranism right now is Nadia Bolz-Weber. She’s the public face – six feet tall, tattooed, mouth like a sailor, sexy and damaged in all the right ways, alcoholic, repressed childhood, woman in a man’s world. She’s got the rags-to-redeemed street cred and she’s pretty hot. I was bowled over when I first heard her on some ecumenical podcast and I gotta give her props – she was one of the people who made me think about Lutheranism. And I gotta admit that she’s starting to bug me a bit. It’s not all jealousy – she got sober younger, got ordained, published some books and all the Lutheran ladies think she’s the bee’s knees – but there’s some o’ that there. I’ve always kinda assumed that success in the world is evidence of some kinda sell-out – that’s the way I’ve always seen it in the music world. Every band I ever liked that got big and popular turned to pop pablum soon after – or were destroyed. That fact that Bolz-Weber is famous(ish) puts me on edge. Her latest book is about sexuality – there’s a headline, “Nadia Bolz-Weber Says There’s No Shame In Consuming “Ethically Sourced” Porn”, which gets my hackles right up – then I track down and read the interview that the headline was pointing to and I pretty much agree with everything she says. (https://outinjersey.net/nadia-bolz-weber-does-ministry-differently/) It’s bothersome. Definitely has to do with how gushy people get about how awesome Pastor Nadia is – I hate it when people get gushy. Emotional displays are icky. Porn is icky – “ethically sourced” or not.
“Are there certain factors or circumstances that help you to believe the speech and words of others regarding the good news? Are there certain factors or circumstances that hinder you or make you less likely to believe the speech and words of others regarding the good news?”
Right now, this cheesy, millennial wimp-rock is not helping anything, but I can’t think of anything that especially affects my ability to hear the good news. The problem I have is that I’m being held back by the way things work in the world. I really wanna be in seminary right fucking now, getting schooled up on how to deliver the Mass to loathsome sinners who have been punched in the face by life, but instead I’m in this fuckin’ white people coffee joint hearin’ Bon Iver or whatever fuckin’ lameass hipster this is, sloggin’ through this fuckin’ discernment guide by the Rev. Paul Baglyos, who apparently thinks that everybody who wants to be a Lutheran Pastor was stamped out from the same cookie cutter. None of this shit is relevant to me. The only reason I’m doing this is the local Pastor is too fuckin’ busy to return my emails about getting together and figuring out whether or not I’ma havta get a Bachelor’s Degree in Some Token Bullshit before I can get into the fuckin’ seminary so I can spend four years learning about social hierarchies in the first century AD or whatever, so I can get my black shirt and dog collar and start actually doing the shit God called me to do. It’s annoying as fuck and I’m having a bit of trouble with it because I am not a patient person, none of this shit is supported by Scripture, which is the gold standard Martin Luther referred to, and now Nadia Bolz-Weber is saying that jerking off is cool as long as the porn is “ethically sourced” which sounds like you get grass-fed, free-range porn stars to respectfully fuck using non-GMO lube or some shit. The fuck is that? At some point, meeting people where they are just becomes pandering and I’m gonna go ahead and opine that when preachers start telling people that porn is cool as long as it isn’t actively promoting degrading or illegal sex, the line has been crossed, even if the person saying that just happens to be real cool right at this moment. For fuck’s sake. How ’bout “ethically sourced” heroin? Is that okay, too?
Gah. I gotta figure some shit out. And I gotta go someplace where this shitty music isn’t playing.
Okay. I’m someplace else now and I ate some food. And I went to the public library and checked out Pastor Nadia’s second book, Accidental Saints and read some of it and it’s pretty decent. I agree with her theology and she’s a passable writer. Be fucked if I’m gonna start watching bio-degradable, cage-free Scheisse porn. (I understand her point and yeah, she’s almost right, but masturbation without shame just strikes me as mutually exclusive – like those beer ads that say “Enjoy responsibly”.) Bolz-Weber is very probably somebody I’d get along with okay if we were someplace I could smoke, even though she does that annoying up-talk thing – maybe not. She’s like cocaine and I’m like meth, if that makes any sense.
I will give myself credit for this – I’m willing to struggle with my identity as a Christian. I understand completely the Lutheran emphasis on grace and I completely agree with Luther’s last words, “We are beggars. This is true.” I am quite grateful that I have been redeemed and relieved of the responsibility of doing it myself. Still, I don’t know how I’m s’posed to behave and loving all these white people is a bit outta my range. But I’m working on it.