Book Review – Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz-Weber

by Mark Votava

accidentalsaintsI love this book Accidental Saints by Nadia-Bolz Weber! The thing that I like about this book is the vulnerability and honesty that is very apparent in the stories and struggles of this author. She expects to find God in all the wrong people who go unnoticed and are marginalized. But there is profound wisdom in the forgotten people of our world.

This book will wake you up to a new paradigm of acceptance, where judgment is replaced with love and truth is not separated from honesty. Nadia-Bolz Weber likes to tell it like it is even if she looks bad in the process. I particularly loved her take on comparing what happened to both Peter and Judas at the end of Jesus’ life. She poses the question that maybe we aren’t so different from either of them.

The book is best summed up by her imagining what Beatitudes Jesus might say to us today in the twenty-first century world of ours. I love the compassion, empathy, and love expressed by these words. I find this a beautiful way to end the book!

“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 they who have nothing to offer… Blessed are the poor in spirt… Blessed are they for whom death is not an abstraction. Blessed are they who have buried their loved ones, for whom tears could fill an ocean. Blessed are they who have loved enough to know what loss feels like… Blessed are they who don’t have the luxury of taking things for granted anymore. 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 those who mourn. 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 loves only the winners. Blessed are the forgotten. Blessed are the closeted. Blessed are the unemployed, the unimpressive, the underrepresented… Blessed are the wrongly accused, the ones who never catch a break, the ones for whom life is hard, for Jesus chose to surround himself with people like them. Blessed are those without documentation. 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 those who make terrible business decisions for the sake of people. Blessed are the burned-out social workers and the overworked teachers and the pro bono case takers… Blessed are they who hear that they are forgiven. Blessed is everyone who has forgiven me when I didn’t deserve it. Blessed are the merciful, for they totally get it.”  

  • The last shall be first, and the first shall be last

“But when Jesus again and again says things like the last shall be first, and the first shall be last, and the poor are blessed, and the rich are cursed, and that prostitutes make great dinner guests, it makes me wonder if our need for pure black-and-white categories is not true religion but maybe actually sin…”

  • Through the things we don’t expect

“That’s how God works sometimes. Not through the things we are prepared for but through the things we don’t expect.”

  • The ordinary things right in front of us

“…the holy things we need for healing and sustenance are almost always the same as the ordinary things right in front of us.”

  • Wherever we go

“…there really is nowhere you can hide from human bullshit, since we just bring it with us wherever we go.”

  • Trying not to need others

“After years of therapy and twelve-step work, I’ve finally realized that trying not to need others isn’t about strength and independence; it’s about fear. To allow myself to need someone else is to put myself in a position to be betrayed or made to look weak…”

  • Love and suffering

“God is always present in love and suffering…”

  • A fear of really being known

“I often think that the effort we put into trying to pretend something about us is true – that we are less than we are or more than we are or that one aspect of ourselves is the whole story – is based in a fear of being really known, of being truly seen, as we actually are. Perhaps we each have a wound, a vulnerable place that we have to protect in order to survive. And yet sometimes we overcompensate so much for the things we are trying to hide that no one ever suspects the truth… and then we are left in the true aloneness of never really being known.”

  • Risking an openness

“Sometimes I wonder if that is what faith is: risking an openness to something bigger than ourselves…”

  • We get to believe in each other

“And this is it. This is the life we get here on earth. We get to give away what we receive. We get to believe in each other. We get to forgive and be forgiven. We get to love imperfectly. And we never know what effect it will have for years to come. And all of it… all of it is completely worth it.”

  • The best shitty feeling in the world

“And receiving grace is basically the best shitty feeling in the world. I don’t want to need it. Preferably I could just do it all and be it all and never mess up. That may be what I would prefer, but it is never what I need. I need to be broken apart and put back into a different shape by that merging of things human and divine, which is really screwing up and receiving grace and love and forgiveness rather than receiving what I really deserve. I need the very thing that I will do everything I can to avoid needing.”

What quote do you like the best? Have you read Accidental Saints?

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