The Common Good

Blog Posts By Christian Piatt

Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 4 weeks ago
Of course, there’s a part of all of us that loves a winner. There’s a reason why so many people wear the jerseys of their favorite teams or players (way more when that person or team is on top than not, by the way), why we revert to a sort of tribal level of passion — painting our faces, screaming rabidly — and why we practically make a religion out of our sports. At one level, it’s inspiring to see someone achieve what appears to be unattainable. The idea of doing what most Olympians do — or all professional athletes, for that matter — is hard to comprehend. But when we get to witness it, it serves to embolden our faith in humanity a little bit.Yes, we screw up a lot, we fight each other, and we’re warming up the planet at an alarming rate. But once in a while, it’s transcendent to watch someone do something amazing, beautiful, a little bit closer to perfect.
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 4 weeks ago
The following is from a letter by Billy Graham posted recently on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website:"Some years ago, my wife, Ruth, was reading the draft of a book I was writing. When she finished a section describing the terrible downward spiral of our nation’s moral standards and the idolatry of worshiping false gods such as technology and sex, she startled me by exclaiming, “If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”She was probably thinking of a passage in Ezekiel where God tells why He brought those cities to ruin. “Now this was the sin of … Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen” (Ezekiel 16:49–50, NIV).I wonder what Ruth would think of America if she were alive today. In the years since she made that remark, millions of babies have been aborted and our nation seems largely unconcerned. Self-centered indulgence, pride, and a lack of shame over sin are now emblems of the American lifestyle."Yes, there are plenty of examples to support the case Graham is making, but is it fair or accurate to suggest that all points indicate a fundamental moral decay?
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 4 weeks ago
For all you Arabic number snobs, that’s volume 24 of your favorite cringeworthy church signs. Order up!!!Mom, mom, can I PLEEEEASE go to that church Sunday?Pretty sure folks needing a 5X T-shirt aren’t into plain toast.
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 4 weeks ago
Christians toss out blessings like beads at Mardi Gras. They get offered so often and in so many contexts that it’s hard to know what exactly it means. So I thought I’d break down at least some of the kinds of blessings floating around out there.The Post-Sneeze Blessing: This is a weird one, because we don’t bless people for coughing, yawning or any other bodily function. So why sneezing? No one is exactly sure, though some believe it dates back to Pope Gregory in the early first Century AD when the bubonic plague was everywhere in Europe. As the plague got closer to Rome, myth has it that the Pope ordered perpetual blessings around the city. So when someone sneezed, offering them a blessing was like a small insurance policy against the plague.I actually heard a different one growing up that I liked better. There was an old superstition that sneezes were a means the body used to expel evil spirits from within. So once the bad mojo was on the outside, it was incumbent upon others to bless the sneezer, in an effort to keep them from sucking the demons or whatever back in.The Backhanded Blessing: I grew up in Texas, and this was a real favorite in the south. It was generally offered in someone’s absence, and immediately following some kind of gossip or insult. An example might be, “Poor Mabel Jean’s husband has slept with everyone in town except for her, bless her heart.” Apparently the blessing neutralizes the damage of the bad stuff....
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 4 weeks ago
I think we’re terrified of failures for the same reasons we’re scared of death, or any type of palpable ending, for that matter. Failure, at its heart, really is a small death. And who wants to go through that if they don’t have to? I’m not saying that we should set ourselves up intentionally to fail, but I get the sense that, more often than not, the fear of the possibility of failure keeps us from really living well. And really when you think about it, if you never fail, you may never figure out where your limits are. What a boring, uninspiring way to live.So here are some reasons I’ve decided that failure isn’t just inevitable or necessary, but that it’s actually kind of wonderful. 
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 5 weeks ago
Bryan Fischer’s argument comes down to this. We teach kids in school that they’ve evolved from monkeys, and that survival of the fittest (or natural) celebrates the triumph of the strong over the weak. Combine this with loosened sexual teen morality and the public celebration of homosexuality, and you have fertile grounds for animal-like behavior, such as that involving shooter James Holmes.Oh yes, the gay part. Fischer commented about some website (which he does not name) that supposedly was set up in conjunction with the London Summer Olympics to allow gays to  engage in “random, frequent, anonymous” sex, which he calls “one of the characteristics of the homosexual community. It always has been; it always will be.”So in his estimation, because of our sexual moral decay (as supported by the classroom and Olympic illustrations) and his consistent and ongoing attack on the virtues of evolution, James Holmes killed more than a dozen people in a suburban movie theater in Colorado.
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 5 weeks ago
Editor's Note: The following is a question from Christian Piatt's book Banned Questions About Jesus. It is on sale on Amazon Kindle for $2.99 through July 25. Jarrod McKenna: No.Jesus did not come to bring peace but a sword. And we as disciples must wield the same sword Jesus brings, and no other.The question is, what is this sword?What is this sword that heals rather than harms enemies?What is this sword that never collaborates or mirrors the Powers, thereby exposing their addiction to violence?What is this sword that prophetically turns over tables of idolatry and injustice in a judgment that does not harm, hurt, coerce or kill anyone?What is this fire that is ablaze with the very presence of I AM in response to the cries of the oppressed, this fire that does not destroy the bush in which it burns?What is this power that is ablaze on the cross, sucking the oxygen of injustice and violence from creation then causes a cosmic backdraft in the resurrection, setting the world alight with the love that conquers death?
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 5 weeks ago
Thought I’d mix it up a little bit, especially since I’ve seen so many remarkable Christian themed T-shirts. And if you go out and buy one of these after seeing this, even as an ironic statement, so help me…
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 5 weeks ago
I’ve been a fan of Chick-fil-A for a long time. Their food is always great, their service is impeccable (almost to the point of being a little creepy), and the restaurants are squeaky clean.It’s not every day that you can enjoy a fast food restaurant where you actually feel like you’re putting something reasonably good for you in your body. Well, at least not as bad as some.But the point is, I have always liked them. And if I like them, my wife, Amy is practically a Chik-fil-A disciple.We’ve planned meals on the road around their locations. Sure, I’ve known Chik-fil-A was a Christian-based organization with some values that leaned farther right than my own, but I respected their business model and ethic. Plus, I’m used to having fellow Christians to my right.And then I saw this video:
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 5 weeks ago
Like many others, I was shocked to hear this morning about the mass killing in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater at the hands of (according to law enforcement authorities) suspect James Eagan Holmes — a 24-year-old California native and neurosciences graduate student at the Univeristy of Colorado in Denver.Having recently moved from Colorado to Oregon, the Aurora shootings tapped into old feelings as I recalled the Columbine High School killings in 1999. My wife, Amy, was a youth minister at the time, and one of the girls who had previously been a part of her group had helped the Columbine killers buy their guns.Then there was the attack at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. And now this.It got me thinking about what all of the killers have in common, and for that matter, what they seem to have in common with many of the mass murderers at the focus of such tragic stories.
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 5 weeks ago
On the one hand, I’m encouraged when Christians can have more honest, open dialogue about sex and sexuality in the public forum.On the other, I’m more than a little distressed when the matter at hand is about “Biblically-based” sexual submission.For those unfamiliar, there are (at least) two camps in the Christian conversation about gender roles, one of which we can call “egalitarian,” and the other calls itself “complementarian.” The implication of the latter is that, though we are not the same, we males and females fit together in many ways like pieces of a puzzle, one complementing something the other lacks, and  vice-versa.And if the definition of complementarianism stopped there, I would be on board; but in truth it’s a thinly veiled case for women submitting to men. Sorry, but this isn’t complementary; it’s authoritarian.In a recent post, Rachel Held Evans explained the troublesome issues with complementarianism well:…For modern-day Christian patriarchalists (sometimes called complementarians), hierarchal gender relationships are God-ordained, so the essence of masculinity is authority, and essence of femininity is submission. Men always lead and women always follow. There is no sphere unaffected by this hierarchy—not even, it seems, sex.
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 6 weeks ago
No, this is not some new Charlie Kauffman movie that folds in on itself, creating a perpetual feedback loop. I’m serious; Christians love Top 10 Lists. No wonder Moses did only 10 commandments. I noticed this recently when all of the top three most popular articles on the Sojo.net at the time were lists of this kind. So I went back and did a search of my own personal blog archive. Every one of the most popular pieces started with “10 Reasons,” or “Seven Things” or the like. Are Christians obsessed with lists? What’s the deal? I talked to a publisher years ago who told me that the key to a successful theology book was to include something akin to “six easy steps” in the title. I never took them up on that advice, but he knew what he was talking about. So after expending a little grey matter on the issue, I came up with this list of reasons why I think Christians love these kinds of lists: #1. We don’t want to have to think too hard: Now, before you fire up your keyboard and rattle off a protest email, this is a broader truism across our entire culture....
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 6 weeks ago
I was having lunch with another couple in ministry that shared a disturbing story with us. The problem isn’t so much in the uniqueness of the story they told, but rather in how incredibly common it is.The couple had connections to a congregations several hours away that is located in the heart of a thriving urban center. The aging congregation was down to only 40 regular attendees and had released all of their paid staff, opting instead for volunteers to lead worship for them when they could secure them.Meanwhile, they gathered in a building, valued at roughly $9 million, which they could not afford to maintain.This church, like so many others, seeks answers to questions about how to survive in an increasingly secular, disparate, and religiously wary culture. Their hope, like plenty of other churches, is that something or someone will come along to save them, keep the institution going and propel them into the future for another century.Oh, as long as they don’t have to change.
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 6 weeks ago
Thanks to Steve Knight for alerting me to this joke, which has become one of my instant favorites. After all, it combines two things I dig: nerd humor and theology (also nerdy).Yeah, yeah, you may be groaning, but you’re smiling while doing it. Admit it.There’s plenty of chatter lately about the so-called “God Particle,” recently discovered , with some in the scientific field actually calling it the “goddamn particle,” because (at least as I understand it) the discovery opens up the possibility of something without detectable mass actually giving mass to other particles.Kind of like: In the beginning there was nothing, and then…Sound familiar?
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 6 weeks ago
There’s plenty of fodder for sub-par parenting in the Good Book if we want to find it. But based on the examples of Christian parenting I see in more contemporary culture, the things we’d be best to move beyond are a little subtler (sometimes anyway) than the examples above.Consider James Dobson’s (former head of Focus on the Family) writing on raising children. He advocates corporal punishment, placing the male as the “head of the household,” and other advice that makes a guy like me cringe. And interestingly, a lot of the differences I have with traditional (some might say “evangelical”) Christian parenting parallel my differences in how to approach Christian community all together.In that light, here are five habits, often attributed to “Christian parenting” values, that I’d just as soon replace with something new.  
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 7 weeks ago
Rather than mine being a theology of “Jesus died for your sin,” mine is one of “Thy Kingdom come.” That is archaic language, and I find that a little off-putting, yes, but given that it’s from the Lord’s Prayer, attributed to Jesus, I think it’s worth wrestling with. Basically, I share the interpretation of this line of the prayer with many seekers of social justice, like MLK, Walter Rauschenbusch and the like, who believe that the line, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” is an expression of longing, for God’s love to be fully realized, for our inequities and brokenness to be reconciled here on this earth, and not just some day after we die.This is not likely something at which we will entirely arrive in this life, but it is something toward which we should re-orient ourselves daily, in order to seek it out, actively and vocally, in all we do. This, I believe, is Christ’s call to the world.
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 7 weeks ago
This is the final in a four-part series on the overused (and often insensitively employed) phrases that plague the Christian lexicon. Though I felt like I was offering some insight into what to do instead of offering these cliches, some asked for more specificity or clarity. So in that spirit, I thought I’d offer a final list of things to do rather than pop off with these phrases that may mean little or nothing to the recipient, or worse, may cause unintended – but lasting – harm.Read article one in the series here: Ten Cliches Christians Should Never UseRead article two in the series here: Ten More Cliches Christians Should AvoidRead article three in the series here: Nine (Final) Christian Cliches to AvoidNow, Ten Antidotes to Christian Cliches.
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 7 weeks ago
The response to this series of articles has been pretty overwhelming, and generally, very positive. For the handful of folks who label me an apostate, atheist, anti-Christian or what have you for stepping on some rhetorical toes, it’s fine if you feel the need to cast stones. But do bear in mind that, when you do, you are living into a stereotype of Christians as knee-jerk reactionary, judgmental people. Something to consider.And for the hundreds who have written with thanks for helping them feel their pain, alienation, confusion or resistance is heard and understood, thank you.In that spirit, I have compiled a third (and most likely, final) list of Cliches to avoid because, frankly, there were still so many worth noting that have yet to be addressed. Thanks to those who have submitted suggestions for additional lists. And because I’ve had some emails and comments asking for more clarity on what to do or say instead of leaning on these cliches, I’ll offer a closing piece for this series tomorrow about what I’d suggest Christians focus on instead of well-worn rhetorical scripts.Enough prologue. Here are the final nine cliches to strike from the Christian lexicon if we’re interested in reaching people on a deeper, more personal level.
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 7 weeks ago
After writing up my first list of Ten Cliches Christians Should Never Use, some folks wrote me with other suggestions. After simmering on it for a while, I came up with a second list of ten to supplement the first.And as there was some confusions from a handful of fellow Christians about the intent of the articles: these are not intended to tell you to believe or not believe a certain set of things. Christians have a Public Relations problem; that much is self-evident. So in as much as I can respond to that, I want to offer these as advice on how to change the way we approach people about our faith.On to the next ten cliches for Christians to avoid …
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 7 weeks ago
This week, we have a special talk-back version. Several of these signs have responses that are particularly awesome. Check it out.Why come to our church? Because it's AWESOME, that's why!
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 7 weeks ago
We Christians have a remarkable talent for sticking our feet in our mouths. When searching the words most commonly associated with “Christian,” the list ain’t pretty. I think part of this can be attributed to a handful of phrases that, if stricken from our vocabulary, might make us a little more tolerable. Yes, these things may mean something to you, but trust me, non-Christians don’t share your love for these tried-and-true cliches.So in no particular order, here are ten phrases Christians should lose with a quickness.
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 8 weeks ago
Recently, someone asked me to respond (on video) to how I reconciled both love of God and love for country. I struggled with the question, mostly because of the typical baggage that comes along with Christian patriotism, much of which teeters on the verge of jingoism. So I didn’t respond at all.I’m really sensitive to what I call “Christian exceptionalism.” There are those within Christianity that honestly believe America is God’s second Zion, the new Israel, and that we Americans are God’s new chosen people. This, in turn, helps justify everything from flags in worship spaces to the Ten Commandments in the public square, and even pre-emptive acts of aggression against perceived threats around the world.Basically, when you hold yourself up as somehow favored in the eyes of God, it’s easy to hold those you deem as less favored to be somehow “less than,” and to dehumanize all who do not conform to your custom-built ideal of what it means to be “American.”For me, though, such sentiments not only are un-American in the sense that they don’t ascribe to the “liberty and justice for all” ethos; it’s also patently un-Christian.
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 8 weeks ago
I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry, but it’s true. We’re 20 weeks into the Church Sign Epic Fails series and going strong.Always good to pick fights on your church sign.
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 9 weeks ago
Two weeks after we arrived in Portland, Amy (my wife and new senior pastor at First Christian Church in downtown Portland) decided she needed to do something meaningful to express her voice as a person of faith in the community. There already were the folks handing out tracts down on the campus of Portland State University, which is definitely not us. There were plenty of community leaders to meet, hands to shake and even media outlets to connect with so we’d have a better handle on key circles of influence.But none of what was really what we had in mind.The annual Pride fest was taking place that weekend along the banks of the Willamette River, and we knew we should probably go. Folks in our new congregation are in various stages in their journey of discerning where they are with regard to sexual orientation, but overall, it’s an incredibly open and loving place for all people. There are gay singles and couples who attend regularly, and who participate in leadership and other ministries like everyone else. But the fact of the matter is that most people outside the walls of the church don’t know that. And honestly, how will they ever know if we’re not willing to tell them?Better yet, why not show them?
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 9 weeks ago
How do you know when someone has a Prius?Don’t worry; they’ll tell you.We got a Prius about four years ago, and immediately we bought into the hype about milking every gallon of gas for another tenth of a mile. We read the hyper-miler blogs about how to employ the gas and brake pedals most efficiently. We competed against each other for the best MPG. It was nerdy but fun, and we felt like we were doing something at least a little bit socially redeeming.I haven’t seen the research, but I’m convinced that a significant chunk of the Prius’ reputation as a gas miser stems from the way its users are trained to drive it.
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 10 weeks ago
I spoke with Chris Yaw recently, host of an online program called ChurchNext. On it, he has dialogues with a number of church leaders about the current state of organized religion, the changing face of Christianity and what our churches may do to remain (or become) relevant, vital ministries in the world.Here’s a video of our chat. You can also download the whole episode from his website, or catch it as an audio-only MP3.
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 10 weeks ago
Benjamin  Franklin, pointing to the story of Jesus turning water into wine, acknowledges the miracle of the processes of nature itself, taking natural sugars and recombining them into an (ahem) intoxicating elixir that has been a staple of global culture for millennia.And then the religious folks came along and tried to ruin the fun for everyone. Having grown up Baptist, I heard some of my fellow faithful proclaim the evils of demon alcohol, though their warnings seemed to do little to stem folks’ drinking, aside from pushing them to do it more privately. Then I met some Anglican and Jewish friends who appreciated the fruit of the vine around the dinner table. I was shocked – and more than a little intrigued – when I saw kids under the age of 21 taking part in the ritual wine drinking as part of a Jewish Seder meal, and I was in awe when I realized some churches used real wine in their worship services.So which is it? Is alcohol the lynchpin of the decline of civilization, or is it a sacrament, not only to be enjoyed, but to be held up as a gift from the Almighty? 
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 10 weeks ago
I have a confession to make.A while back, I was applying for an editing job with a fairly prominent Christian media company, and in the application process, I was asked to sign a statement of faith. For those unfamiliar, this is a list of things that the organization in question claims to believe, and they ask all who are interested in being a part of it to sign their name, claiming their personal agreement with and belief in the exact same things.Truth be told, I needed the job. So even though I didn’t actually agree with several points in the statement of faith, I signed it. Turns out I didn’t get the job anyway, so I compromised myself for pretty much nothing.I had another organization approach me recently about publishing some of my work. They’ve followed my writing for some time and thought that my content would add something valuable to their community. In most cases, when I give permission to folks to “repost” my stuff, it involves little more than a verbal agreement about what they plan to do with my articles. But this one came with two separate agreements I was asked to sign before moving forward.There, in the middle of both agreements, were the same statements of faith, nearly mirroring word-for-word the one I had disingenuously signed the first time when the job was at stake. But this time, I thought twice about it. I wrote them and explained that, although I’d be happy to work with them, I couldn’t sign their faith doctrine agreement in good conscience.
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 10 weeks ago
Amy and I have been working (translated: watching lazily) our way through the first several seasons of Mad Men. The writing is remarkably subtle, and I was particularly struck by the fact that such a long-standing show could effectively have little or no plot focusing instead on rich character development.For a writer, this is like enjoying a gourmet meal every night.But the cherry on top for me is the sprinkling of anachronisms that apparently made plenty of sense at the time, but which are shockingly out of place now. There was a scene of the main family in the park, and when they’re done, the mother gives the blanket a good flick and leaves all of their trash wherever it falls. There’s also the constant smoking, even around kids and by pregnant wives (the perfect antidote for nausea, apparently), drinking at work and brazenly racist comments as the cultural norm.Hard to believe sometimes that this took place so recently that my parents were teenagers when it took place.
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 10 weeks ago
Are we subjecting our children to a perpetually overstimulating environment? Quite possibly. Are we expecting superhuman results from them at critical points in their development when they may lack the critical judgment skills to resist such monumental pressure? Based on the epidemic now rampant in our high schools and colleges, I’d say yes.I wrote recently about the moral questionability of the student loan system, and further, the culture of pressuring kids into college straight from high school as a necessary rite of passage, regardless of capacity to pay for it or understanding of what they need from it. But beyond urging them to mortgage a large chunk of their futures away, it seems we’re compromising their health and perhaps mental well-being for the sake of some horse race that may or may not actually be real or necessary.What’s worse, it seems we’re harvesting a generation of addicts, placing results ahead of happiness, and certainly ahead of service, community or God.
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 11 weeks ago
I struggle to know how much is enough. I hear about Joseph Kony and the many children he’s exploited as child soldiers. I get angry, discouraged. I write about it, talk to friends about it.And then my life keeps moving and I don’t think about it again for days or weeks.Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, is gunned down on the street. The nation is divided, both outraged about the killing and fearful of the threat to gun rights and laws of self-defense.And then we talk about something else.Today’s issues include the nuns going head-to-head with the Vatican, as well as stories about still more preachers being busted for spousal abuse, or expelled from their jobs because of their sexual orientation.Tomorrow it will be something else.
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 11 weeks ago
Those who wish the see the wall of separation between church and state burned down have a rather colorful – if not exactly truthful – spokesperson on their side these days. Evangelical preacher, founder of “WallBuilders Live” and perennial headline grabber David Barton is known for his “out there” claims, but his most recent is a keeper.Barton is fairly well known for his argument that the notion of separation of church and state is a myth. He, like many fellow conservative Christians, believe that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, and that our founding father intended for this to be a country governed by Christian values, if not specifically Christian leaders.This, by itself, is not particularly outrageous, at least in the sense that his views are not unique to him. But one of the foundational claims he makes to support his advocacy for Christian nation status is his claim that the Constitution of the United States quotes directly from the Bible.Come again?
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 12 weeks ago
There have been lots of news stories lately about student loan forgiveness and the like, and as the holder of serious five-figure graduate student loans, you’d think I’d follow the discussion closely.But to be honest, I haven’t paid much attention for one, possibly cynical, reason; the systems isn’t going to change.I joke sometimes that my dream is to pay off my student loans before I retire, but to be honest, that probably won’t happen. It wouldn’t surprise me if I have them with me the rest of my life.I know, typical twenty-first-century young adult nihilism, right? Maybe. But my monthly payments are already the second largest bill we have next to our mortgage. Still, the payback time line spans many, many decades. I’d like to believe that those in power have the necessary motivation to change things, but here’s why I hold little, if any, hope they ever will.
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 12 weeks ago
It started with a few pieces of construction paper.If you’ve been following my blog at all over the past few months, you know that Amy and I recently moved our family from Southern Colorado, where we planted a church eight years ago, to Portland, Oregon. Though we’re still doing ministry, it’s a completely different kind of work. Now we’re at a 133-year-old church in the heart of the city. The facility is incredible and the history of the church spans generations. But with that comes a good deal more administrative work than either of us is used to.We found a preschool for Zoe right away. In fact, the first day she told us that we needed to leave and let her do her school thing. She’s the kind of kid who blooms wherever she’s planted. Mattias, our eight-year-old son, is a little more complicated. Aside from him having Asperger’s, the schools here don’t get out for a couple of weeks yet. This means not only that he has no other kids his age to play with, but also that the typical summer activities we could enroll him in don’t start until mid-June. The result: he gets to spend some pretty long days with us at the church.Most times, he makes the best of it. He’s figured out how to navigate the labyrinthine halls by scooter, and he has plowed through more cartoons on the iPad than is healthy, I’m sure. But we have to work and we have no other options for him. So far, we’ve all managed.But yesterday afternoon, he’d had enough. He looked up from his chair on the other side of Amy’s desk with tears filling his eyes. “Mom,” he said quietly, “I’m so bored.” There are plenty of adjectives that describe Mattias, but quiet isn’t one of them. So you know when his voice reduces to a whisper, he is really being sincere.Amy came down and stuck her head around the corner into my office. “We’re going across the street to throw paper airplanes in the park, she said. “want to come?”Image by Feng Yu/Shutterstock.
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 12 weeks ago
It seems the Sisters of North America are calling the Vatican out. When criticized by Vatican officials for taking a position too far left of center on a number of social issues, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious responded by calling the Vatican’s criticisms unsubstantiated and flawed.But the rhetoric didn’t stay at the topical level. LCWR president Theresa Kane said (according to a Huffington Post report), "It is a matter of the men in the Vatican still thinking they can control the women. ... They don’t realize that we have moved to another whole point of tremendous equality and mutuality. And that we have much to say about our future and what’s going on.”The Catholic Church, and the Pope in particular, embrace a number of socially redeeming virtues; equality and mutuality between the genders are not two of them.
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 12 weeks ago
It seems that America is on the verge of a zombie apocalypse.First, Ronald Poppo had most of his face eaten off by Rudy Eugene, and now, Alexander Kinyua reportedly killed his roommate, Kujoe Bonsafo Agyei-Kodie and then ate his heart and part of his brain.Is it just coincidence that this spate of violent attacks comes when the county’s fascination with zombies is at its height, or is there a connection?From movies to video games, Zombies are the big ticket these days. The undead top the media charts, gnawing and clawing their way into the forefront of our imaginations. Move over vampires; Zombies are the new black.It’s hard to say if the pop culture popularity has influenced similar copycat killers, or if the zombie craze simply has made us more sensitive to similar real-life stories. Either way, both the fictional tales and actual news items may speak to something going on in our collective imaginations.
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 12 weeks ago
After reading my post about Randy Wolford, the snake-handling pastor, died from a venomous snakebite, fellow God's Politics blogger Tim Suttle sent me a link to his own post on the subject. Suttle’s angle was different, and I found it fascinating.Basically, he contends that the verses in Mark that Wolford and others use to justify handling snakes as an act of worship (among other bizarre practices) should not ever have made it into the Bible to begin with. His article cites what he calls a “nerdy academic journal article” from Bible scholar Robert H. Stein. In it, Stein notes a few reasons why the text in Mark chapter 16 beyond verse 8 should never have been included in the Bible.First, there have been older copies of the manuscripts from which Mark was produced that stop at Mark 16:8. In addition, there’s the historical agreement among scholars that scribes (the guys who copied the texts by hand) did have a propensity for adding to the documents they copied but seldom, if ever, deleted anything. There’s also the fact that ancient scholars whose commentaries on Mark have been found do not mention these verses at all, as well as the agreement among many Biblical scholars that the tone of those verse suggests a different author wrote them.
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 12 weeks ago
Sweet 16 and never been theologically on point.Got some good ones this week. Enjoy. 
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 12 weeks ago
A recent piece on the Huffington Post's Religion page described the death of Pastor Mark Wolford, a Christian minister known for handling venomous snakes during his worship services to demonstrate the power of his faith. The stunt went south, however, after he was bitten on the thigh during worship and died at a hospital not long after.The practice, though rare, is employed in a handful of Christian congregations in response to a literal interpretation of verses 17 and 18 in the 16th chapter of Mark:And these signs will follow those who believe. In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.There are several dangers this story raises, not the least of which, of course, is death by venomous snake bite. Such communities require public displays of faith that are meant to test the resolve of the faithful. And such practices are not restricted to backwoods protestant churches; some Catholics (and others) are enamored with the phenomenon on stigmata, where people exhibit physical signs of crucifixion, such as wounds on their hands or feet.There’s the more obvious danger of putting someone in harm’s way by expecting them to perform a dangerous act to prove their faith. But there’s also the undercurrent of religious one-upsmanship, wherein folks are forever striving to be more daring, graphic or otherwise attention-grabbing. In addition to the potential physical danger, there’s the risk of pressing people to be deceptive in their faith practices, simply to enjoy the validation or admiration they seek, and which is held in such high esteem in these particular circles.
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 13 weeks ago
Most people with some sense of universal human dignity have found the screed Pastor Charles Worley issued against the GLBT community from the pulpit recently repugnant. As a Christian who tires of being lumped together with such hateful, violent voices cloaking themselves within the protection of their faith, I can say with confidence that there is nothing about Worley’s rhetoric that is Christian, as I understand it.But some believe he did more than just smear the image of the Christian faith and denigrate an entire cross-section of the population; some suggest he actually broke the law from the pulpit.Americans United for Separation of Church and State‘s Barry W. Lynn submitted a letter to the Internal Revenue Service arguing that Worley violated his church’s 501(c)3 nonprofit status by interfering in an election while speaking on behalf of his church.
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 13 weeks ago
I’m coming to terms with the realization that I’m a big, fat fake. But at least I’m in good company.Amy’s birthday was last Sunday. We had just arrived in Portland, so we went to a fancy-pants restaurant, situated several hundred feet above the skyline, with a view of the entire surrounding city, the Willamette River and Mount Hood. We shared a bottle of wine, enjoyed outstanding service and indulged on gourmet food to celebrate her ever-growing tenure as an occupant of our planet.The bill for the night was nearly enough to cover groceries for our family for up to two weeks.We could manage it; we knew it was pricey before we got there. And it was fairly easy to justify too. We were making memories. It was an other step in the courtship, helping us fall in love with our new city. We had worked hard over the past eight years, establishing a church in Colorado, struggling to pay bills at times, and we’re now enjoying some material fruits of our labor.What bullshit.Seriously, how does anyone really justify spending that kind of money on one meal? After all, from our vantage point on the 30th floor, I could see scads of people below, standing on street corners, tucked in under sleeping bags and beneath cardboard boxes, walking wearily from one job to the next, hoping to pull together enough to make rent.
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 14 weeks ago
Yes, kids, it’s that time again already. Seems it was only seven days ago when we posted our last batch of weekly church sign epic fails, and here we are again.So let’s get to it: your weekly infusion of bad church signs.Now that's my kinda Jesus (except you'd think the Messiah would go Microbrew, yes?)
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 14 weeks ago
We finally made it to the Oregon Coast yesterday. I took some pictures in the redwood forest that I’ll share soon, but this post isn’t about that.We got in before dinner and were happy to learn that we had a hotel room with an ocean view. Not only that, but it actually is right on the beach. So of course, we decided to sleep with the windows open.It’s one thing to fall asleep to the nature sounds on my iPad; it’s entirely another to drift into an alpha state to the real thing.And then came the noise. It was this periodic buzzing/honking/humming that started sometime in the middle of the night. It sounded like someone snoring through the wall in the next room. Seriously? I drive two thousand miles to sleep next to the ocean and you’re going to keep me awake snoring?
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 15 weeks ago
A home is only a home if it’s lived in. Likewise, a life is only full if it’s broken open and shared. And just like we wouldn’t invite guests over without tidying up, planning a meal and getting ready to accommodate them, part of our own personal spiritual practice must be with the ultimate goal of being vulnerable to others, of loving them recklessly, but with the preparation that affords us the capacity to do so over and over again.That’s part of what this trip is doing for me, I think. It’s funny that we actually left our entire house in Colorado behind, taking only what we could stuff in our little Prius. All of the stuff will catch up eventually, but this time for me has been about preparing a different kind of home.
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 15 weeks ago
No great theological revelations today. No tear-jerking finale. No big mortal lesson. Just another step in a journey of a lifetime. ...We’ve been in San Francisco the last couple of days, which is one of my favorite cities in the world. Driving here definitely hikes my blood pressure, but the sights, culture and food makes up for it.Mostly we’ve continued to walk as much as possible. We’ve covered several miles every day, but my feet are evidence of the change of routine. Several blisters have emerged where there should just be calluses, and my plantar fasciitis decided to rejoin me in my heels after a brief, but welcome, sabbatical. 
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 15 weeks ago
I hear people “brag” on a fairly regular basis about how little sleep they get, how many hours on end they work or how poorly they eat because of the demands of their schedules. Sorry, but this is not something to be proud of; it’s a sickness.It’s no wonder, then, that on the rare occasion we actually slow down long enough to pray, worship, reflect or simply be in the moment, we have no idea how to do it. I watch people in church, and it’s clear from the body language that we don’t know how to slow down. I had a friend back in Texas who was so bad about overworking himself that he’d get sick every single time he took a vacation.Some might argue this is a case for not taking time off in the first place, but that’s ignorant. Just because we can hold off the effects of frantic, disembodied living by pushing harder doesn’t mean we ever outrun the consequences.Taken further, I think that such living is un-Biblical. 
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 15 weeks ago
Amy is incredibly intuitive, and she enjoys a faith that I find sort of mysterious. This extends beyond God to faith in other people too: another quality I tend to lack. When I met her, she was already serving in ministry, while I hadn’t darkened the door of a church in a decade. I got in trouble in church in the first place for doubting and questioning, which seemed to rub up against the more intuitive faith of those in my church at the time.The message I got was that critical thought and faith simply didn’t mix. But in the more “progressive” mainline churches, I found a space in which such challenging questions were welcome. Small wonder, I guess, that some folks view such denominations and churches as fomenting atheism beneath the cloak of Christianity.
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 16 weeks ago
We just passed through Death Valley (insert 23rd Psalm joke here) and we’re about 100 miles from the edge of the world, also known as Los Angeles.As my mind wandered while scanning the dunes and scrub brush, I started thinking back to the stories about my dad when he left home. As soon as he was old enough, he headed west with his mind full of images of the California orange groves. Coming from a small town outside of St. Louis, California might as well have been a world away, but he was resolved to get there, despite no plans for when he got there.The whole point was just to get there. That, and to get away from his life in the Midwest. California still represented an escape from the mundane, a mecca of second chances, an eden of new beginnings…
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 16 weeks ago
I wrote a story a while back about a family in our church back in Pueblo whose baby was due just after we left town. Early in the pregnancy, doctors diagnosed little Avery with HLHS, Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. There was a good chance he’d need surgery in utero or immediately after being born, and there was a formidable chance that he wouldn’t survive the procedure. There was also, of course, a higher than normal risk to Lyndsay, the mother, too.It was hopeful watching the church family rally around the Vigils, praying for them, bringing them meals, visiting and doing what they could to offer support in what I’m sure felt like a time of emotional free-fall. It was also weird to know that, when Avery actually came, we wouldn’t be there.Avery's first day as an oxygen-breathing member of the human race.That day was today.
Posted by Christian Piatt 2 years 16 weeks ago
We headed west toward Las Vegas this morning; chasing daylight toward the coast, leaving the kids in the care of grandma and grandpa.I’ll give you one guess to figure out which one of us had a harder time leaving.Personally, I know they’re safe at the farm, and they’ll have a lot more fun there than they would with us, driving a couple thousand miles over the next two weeks. Of course I’ll miss them, but I’ve also been looking forward to some “grown-up” time for a while. More specifically, this trip is not something most people ever get to do, let alone parents of two young kids.And before we get to Portland and take our positions in the Big Kid Church, this is our chance to be a little bit irresponsible and childish. We can stay up late if we want. I can eat 12 Slim Jims for lunch if the mood strikes— though to be honest, the white stuff you squeeze out of those things turned me off of Slim Jims decades ago.But I could if I wanted.