Those who grew up in the Catholic church will be familiar with the idea of going to confession, a practice that allows congregation members “unburden their soul” so to speak with a member of the clergy. There is so much power in saying what causes us fear, doubt, guilt, and shame out loud.
While I grew up in the evangelical church and therefore didn’t get the chance to practice confession, I was given the chance to do something similar with Nadia Bolz-Weber. What a gift to be able to sit down with someone who has made a practice of saying out loud the things that have, all too often, been kept in the dark, compounding our sense of fear, hurt, guilt, shame, and most of all loneliness.
A few highlights from the interview include:
- My childhood and the family narratives and practices that led me to write I Kissed Dating Goodbye
- How I went from thinking about my teenage encounters with sexuality as the darkest time in my life to the most natural and foundational.
- The role of regret, forgiveness, honesty, and the courage that it takes to say “I’m sorry” and even to change one’s mind.
- Sharing about what catalyzed my move to Canada.
- Why I asked my publishers to place a stop publication of my book
But the biggest highlight for me was Nadia’s closing blessing. I share it in its entirety here:
“A pastoral blessing for everyone hurt by Josh’s book in particular or purity culture in general.
I want everyone who has been shamed by religion’s messages about your body and your sexuality to know that Genesis tells us that Adam and Eve were naked and unashamed until they listened to a snake. That’s where shame entered the story. Shame has an origin and it isn’t God.
When Adam and Eve were hiding from God in the garden, God was like, “Where are you guys?” and they said “we are hiding because we are ashamed of our nakedness and of afraid of you” God said “Wait. Who told you you were naked?!?” Who told them they were naked? My money’s on the snake.
See, Shame doesn’t come from God’s voice. Shame comes from voices who say they are speaking for God. And that’s different.
So if you are a woman who pledged that you would not have sex – before you even knew who you were or what you really wanted, I want you to know that God didn’t ask you to give God back the sexuality God created you to have. Your sexuality is yours. It never belonged to your father, or your church, or your husband, or your girlfriend. It’s yours and it is to be enjoyed. And I want that knowledge to bless you.
And if you are a man who absorbed the messages of our sexist culture more than you realized and who has shame about the behavior that culture told you was ok I want you to know that it is never too late to be a better man. And if those messages also included ones about a masculine ideal you never met, I want you to know you’ve been lied to and you are glorious just as you are and I want that knowledge to bless you.
And I want queer folks who have been told by the church that their sexuality is offensive to God to know that God is not ashamed of her children. Not only that, but your queerness is a gift we need. Like Phillip needed the Ethiopian Eunuch – only a queer eye could notice something as queer as water in a desert. We need you to show us what we can’t see, and you deserve love and sexual flourishing as muchas anyone does. I want that knowledge to bless you.
I want everyone who has had violence done to their bodies to know that the trauma your body holds can be metabolized into something else, something raised from soil like Jesus himself who showed his hands and his side to his faltering friends and said “peace be with you”. Because God saves us in our bodies, not from our bodies and the I want that knowledge to be a blessing.
So I guess what I am saying is to hell with shame.
Damn the shame about wanting sex or the shame of not really wanting sex at all. Damn the shame about being in a sexless marriage. Damn the shame about pleasure itself. Damn the shame about the harm done to us. And for sure damn all that shame about our bodies. For you carry in your queer, straight, cis, trans, fluid, fat, thin, short, tall, hairy, disabled, beautiful body the very image of your creator who has claimed and named you as their own. That voice is the voice of love. And it is eternal. And no other voice – not society’s, not the church’s, not your family’s – and certainly not the snake – gets to tell you who you are.
To hear the rest of my sacred and healing conversation with Nadia, go anywhere podcasts are hosted. You can access the show notes to this particular episode here: 303 Joshua Harris – Nadia Bolz-Weber (nadiabolzweber.com)