Regardless of what you may/may not have heard, if you still haven’t looked into Pastrix, by Nadia Bolz-Weber, you’re sorely missing out. Despite the easier annotations enameled to the Denver-based Lutheran priest–the tats, the sailor’s mouth, the checkered past, the progressive politics–she’s also got some interesting (and old school) things to say about Jesus, and his violent intervention into the lives of an obstinate, self-oriented people. By default, Nadia names Nadia as sinner-in-chief in this category, as the avoider of truth, who stubbornly defies truth in order to “seen” as something–good, smart, changed, radical, funny. In her chapter on identity, entitled “Demons and Snow Angels”, she calls this the work of the spiritual warfare, the pervasive persuasions we often feel to redefine ourselves. This, she says, runs contrary to God’s picture of identity:

MI0002525466The Word that had most recently come from the mouth of God was, “This is my beloved in whom I am well pleased.” Identity. It’s always God’s first move. Before we do anything wrong and before we do anything right, God has named and claimed us as God’s own. But almost immediately, other things try to tell us who we are and to whom we belong: capitalism, the weight-loss industrial complex, our parents, kids at school–they all have a go at telling us who we are. But only God can do that. Everything else is temptation. Maybe demons are defined as anything other than God that tries to tell us who we are. And maybe, just moments after Jesus’ baptism, when the devil says to him, “If you are the Son of God…” he does so because he knows that Jesus is vulnerable to temptation precisely to the degree that he is insecure about his identity and mistrusts his relationship with God.

So if God’s first move is to give us our identity, then the devil’s first move is to throw that identity into question. Identity is like the tip of a spool of thread, which when pulled, can unwind the whole thing.

For far too long, I believe that how (my old church) saw me, or how my family saw me, or how society saw me, was the same as how God saw me. But I began to realize something that is painfully obvious on the surface, but something that almost all of us are blind to: Our identity has nothing to do with how we are perceived by others. But it’s still tempting to believe. I mean, if Jesus was vulnerable to temptation, the rest of us certainly are, whether it be temptation to self-loathing or self-aggrandizement, depression or pride, self-destruction or self-indulgence. We are tempted to doubt our innate value precisely to the degree that we are insecure about our identity from, and our relationship to, God.

…The precision with which the devil or evil or darkness (whatever you want to call it) worms into our own lives is breathtaking. It’s like a tailor-made radioactive isotope calling into question our identity as children of God. And nowhere are we more prone to encroaching darkness than when we are stepping into the light: sudden discouragement in the midst of healthy decisions, a toxic thought or a particular temptation.

So, knowing these people in front of me, I made the following suggestion to my church: Take a note from Martin Luther’s playbook and defiantly shout back at this darkness, “I am baptized.”