Salvation on the Small Screen? 24 Hours of Christian Television (Part 2)

By Nadia Bolz-Weber 10-03-2008

[Continued from part 1] I began to wonder what the TBN folks would think of me, a heavily tattooed Christian progressive from a liturgical denomination. How would people in their theological camp respond to my preaching? Would they think, as I do of them, that I misuse scripture? Would they be offended at the aesthetic in the community I serve? Would they dismiss my years of theological education as silly and unnecessary? When it comes right down to it, so many of my criticisms of TBN could go both ways, and if that's true then could it also be true, despite us both, that God is at work in my community and in (gulp) TBN? Let me just say, this is the last thing I want to be true because I love - seriously, I adore - being right. If I were Julie Andrews, I would be sitting around with a bunch of similarly dressed children singing a song about "raindrops on roses and me being right, other people being wrong and warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favorite things." You get the idea.

Allowing for the possibility that God may be at work in both my community and TBN is not the same as conceding that TBN's theology and methods are sound. When I realized this, it disturbed me, but I haven't been able to shake the idea. I wrote once in a prayer, "Dear God, your work in the world is always done by sinners, or else it would never get done; help us to realize this and practice the grace and forgiveness you ?rst gave us." But when I was talking about sinners in that case, it was just the broken beautiful people like myself and the others in my community, not my theological "other." Rather than fortifying my theological and ecclesiastical entrenchment, the experience of writing this book has strangely done the opposite. While maintaining that the prosperity gospel, the rapture, and Christian Zionism (all TBN fare) are up there with the selling of indulgences and the existence of purgatory as the stinkiest Christian ideas in history, I still must admit that God's redeeming work in the world does not happen only when we get all the theology and method right. As much as I hate to admit it, our theology, even when it's "good" theology (like mine, seriously it's so good; just ask me) does not save me from myself. One of the unexpected results of this project for me personally is that, surprisingly enough, I have developed a new friendship with an evangelical pastor. If you told me a year ago that this would happen, I'd say it would only be a sign of the end times, but there you go. We do not see eye to eye theologically, and likely we never will, but that's not the point.

What my friend and I get by being in relationship is an exposure to that which we do not get from our own traditions, and there is a lot missing on both ends. Sometimes the body of Christ is so busy trying to pretend that our particular form of Christianity is the most faithful, or the most biblical, or the most liberating (I include myself here) that we don't bother taking advantage of each other's traditions to help ?ll the inevitable holes in our own.

Nadia Bolz-WeberNadia Bolz-Weber is a Lutheran vicar living in Denver, Colorado, where she is developing a new emerging church, House for all Sinners and Saints. She blogs at and is the author of Salvation on the Small Screen? 24 Hours of Christian Television.

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