Blessed Are the Misfits, for the Rest of Us Anitra Parmele 5 Dec 2017 Warning: If modern church culture makes perfect sense to you and you always fit in seamlessly, don’t read this. Christian radio host Brant Hansen is under no illusions that his latest, Blessed Are the Misfits, is for everyone. He’s just convinced that who it is for are ready for some good news. And we are. Misfits is for all of us who are not particularly extroverted, confident, or even happy. Those of us who wonder if God didn’t mean us when putting together all those promises. Those of us haunted by the question of whether there really is a seat at the table for us. But we would expect no less from a book by our tell-it-like-it-is, even-if-the-emperor-is-naked, accordion-playing, toast-fixating friend known as Brant Hansen. During our recent interview, Brant talks about life, his latest project, and your seat at the table. AP – In Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better, you persuaded us being offended and holding on to our anger was off the table. (Despite the daily commute on I-95). Now it seems like your goal is to convince us God would shout our names first and with great joy if He was picking teams (even though we’re used to standing there until the bitter end). Am I the only one who has to read what you write five times before I can really start to believe it? BH – Ha! Yes, I do write about hard-to-believe things. That’s a great point. Maybe I write hard-to-believe things because I’m struggling with them myself. I just need to get it on paper, these implications of the gospel. AP – You could almost hear the collective exhale as we read: “The absence of feeling is not the absence of love.” I want to believe it, but it’s almost too good to be true. Why are you so confident that feelings are not a required indicator of God’s existence or the fact that He has chosen to be in relationship with me? BH – We presume feelings must be a huge part of our spiritual lives, but that idea simply isn’t biblical. We hear it all the time in certain churches or Christian cultural settings, like, “I can just feel God’s loving arms around me,” or some of the lyrics to Christian songs, and it becomes an expectation: This is what a relationship with God must look like! …but that can be deadly. So many people do not experience those feelings, or get emotional during worship services, or “hear God’s audible voice,” and they can suspect that it’s because something’s wrong with them, or maybe God doesn’t even exist. The truth is if we trust in Christ, He is with us, always, and that doesn’t come with a caveat. He’s there, whether we feel Him or not. AP – You write about the rejection that the kids you meet through the ministry of Cure International face because of twisted limbs or cleft palates or hydrocephalus. They are often considered overlooked by God or even cursed. What would you say to those of us who fear that our personality, circumstances or lack of warm feelings reflect that God has overlooked or even cursed us? BH – First, I’d tell you I’m right with you. That’s why I start the book the way I do: I’ve never really experienced the warm, close feelings with God others describe. But I’d remind you that those feelings are not what God’s looking for in scripture. What He’s looking for, what He’s longing for, is my humbled, obedient self. And I can obey, whether I get warm feelings or not. And make no mistake, this is a very real kind of love. I experience it in marriage when my wife does something kind for me, even when she’s not feeling anything romantic. She does it because she loves me. For some people, this whole discussion is bothersome. I try to warn people about that before they read the book. For others – many analytical types, introverts, people like me on the autism spectrum – this is fantastic news. It means we can still give God what He wants. He hasn’t abandoned us at all. Feelings come and go. They’re not the basis for our relationship with God. That’s great news. The truth is the truth is the truth, whether I feel it or not. AP – I try to avoid doing things that I am not good at – like praying – but you are very insistent that there is value in a ten-second prayer. Explain some of your reasoning. BH – Most definitely. I did a little poll on twitter and asked people about prayer. “How quickly do you find your mind drifting?” I got 900 responses. The most common answer? Less than a minute. People associate – as they always have – long public prayers with righteousness. But I find it interesting that when Jesus prayed in public, he said, “Do it like this…” and he prayed a prayer that takes all of 25 seconds. That’s it! So I want to pop the idea that everyone else is so righteous, and that we’re the only ones with our minds drifting. God is so kind, so tender, that He understands our flitting and flittering minds. Even ten seconds can do a lot: It reminds us who we are, and who God is, and plugs us back into reality. It’s a gesture of humility, and God listens to us, and He can affect change. And prayer is obedience, plain and simple. Sometimes, our ten-second prayers wind up going a little longer, too. If we wait for the perfect half-hour to pray, it often just doesn’t happen at all. AP – Is it possible that your book offers hope, inclusion and truth to cool, gregarious, funny, loud and popular people? I’m wondering if maybe there is a special fear and/or yearning in those who “should” be living the dream but just aren’t? BH – Nope. No hope for them. Kidding! Seriously, I think this book is going to be very, very reassuring for anyone who wants to follow Christ but is wondering, “Why doesn’t God talk out loud to me? Where is He? Where are the feelings? What’s wrong with me?” I’m sure that will be some outgoing, “cool” people, too. As an Aspie (someone with Asperger’s Syndrome) I don’t, you know, “understand” cool people, but I can still try to love them. I think there’s a deep yearning in all of us for closeness with God, and for those who really want Him, they’re going to have that. But right now, the wedding hasn’t happened. We’re betrothed. We’re waiting, and we sense something isn’t complete yet. I think that’s understandable, and it’s part of living in the meantime, before we are home with Him. Connect with your community at MisfitBook.com and the BrantHansenPage on Facebook Anitra Parmele is a freelance writer in South Florida and regular contributor to the Good News. 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