Christian Piatt is an author, blogger at Patheos and founder/cohost of the Homebrewed CultureCast podcast, where he focuses on the intersection of faith and popular culture. His latest book, “Leaving A-holiness Behind,” is available now, and his next book, “Surviving the Bible: A Devotional for the Church Year 2018,” will be available November 1, 2017.
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Christian 'Exorcism' Leads to Gay Teen's Suicide
Eric James Borges was teased his entire life for being different. Though he didn’t come out publicly until his sophomore year of college, he recalls emotional and physical abuse as far back as kindergarten for his differences. And though most children undergo some degree of hazing from time to time, the seeming indifference of the adults in his life made matters dramatically worse.
In a video recorded for the “It Gets Better” Project, an LGBT advocacy group focused on offering hope and community to LGBT people on the margins, Borges, 19, recalls being physically assaulted in a full high school classroom while his teacher stood by and watched.
The distressed teen had nowhere to turn at home either. His Christian parents decided to perform a ritual exorcism on him with the hope of “curing” him of his orientation. When that failed, they kicked him out of the house.
Though Borges went on to advocate for LGBT rights through the “It Gets Better” Project and his work with The Trevor Project (a group committed to preventing suicide among LGBT teens), the demons of his past still lingered. Despite finding a community that affirmed and embraced who he was, the damage had already been done.
He killed himself on Jan 11.
On Asperger Syndrome and Broken Hearts
Our son, Mattias, is eight years old. Everyone thinks their kid is special, and in a lot of ways, he’s just a regular kid. He loves fart jokes, enjoys riding his scooter and is obsessed with video games. But we’ve known he was different from a very early age.
Mattias started reading almost as soon as he began to talk. By age four, he could name any musical pitch or chord structure by name that he heard. He memorized his books after only hearing them a couple of times.
He also struggled to make friends, still has frequent bathroom accidents four years later, and he has meltdowns when things don’t go his way that would rival Bobby Knight’s chair-throwing basketball tirades.
But now, he’s finally starting to realize he’s different.
We Need More Cannibals
Lately I’ve been thinking about why it’s important for an organization, be it religious or for-profit, to be more cannibalistic.
In the late 19th century, Kodak emerged as a trailblazing company that ultimately brought photography to the masses. An American-born business, the golden boxes of film became synonymous with family photos and even professional photography.
As a little guy, I had one of their Instamatic cameras, and I remember the eager anticipation of sending of the film and waiting the two weeks or so to get the results back.
Suffice it to say the landscape for film and imaging has changed radically in the meantime.
Now, practically every electronic device we carry has a still picture or video camera embedded in it. And for less than a thousand dollars, a photography enthusiast can buy a camera that not only shoots digital images that rival most professional film renderings; they also can shoot high definition movies and edit the videos on their laptop computers.
It may not surprise many that Kodak has suffered greatly at the hands of this digital revolution. The company has failed to post a profit in many years, and recently filed for bankruptcy.
Attending Your Own Funeral
I’ve been writing this week about inspired vision and embracing radical change even in the face of the death of present systems. But the experience is different when applying the same principles to our own lives. The following is taken from my upcoming memoir, PregMANcy, due out in a few weeks. The setting is about four years ago, when my son, Mattias, decided his latest obsession would be death.
I’ve noticed that Mattias has been more fearful in general lately, which concerns me. Part of it, I think, has to do simply with the fact that he’s smart enough to think through possible scenarios. As I’ve observed with him a number of times before in the last two years, he’s able to process a whole lot more intellectually than he can process emotionally. Eventually, his emotional wisdom should have plenty of opportunity to catch up, but for a four-year-old, any gap in development is more pronounced.
Two years ago, when he was only a year and a half old, Mattias was jumping from the side of the pool into my arms and going underwater. Last summer, he and his cousin spent most of every waking hour in their grandmothers’ pool, diving to the bottom for toys and to do tricks. Now, with floaties on both arms, a mask and a snorkel, it’s all I can to do get him off of the top step in the shallow end.
What the hell happened?
Education for ALL: A “Sweeping, Disruptive Technology”
Earlier this week, I wrote about how nostalgia expressed in contemporary politics points to the privilege of those longing for the “good old days.” In doing so, I stumbled onto a theme I’ve decided to explore throughout the week. Namely, I’m interested in how it is that inspired vision – unconstrained by “what ifs” or fear of change – might break down barriers to opportunity and help overcome systemic privilege that holds some people back from realizing the same potential as others who are more fortunate.
I wrote an article a little while back about the lingering effects of colonial power on institutional education, and how it continues to limit access for those without certain privilege to connect with it. Well, it turns out there are some folks already trying to do something about this, and it’s pretty exciting.
Sebastian Thrun, a professor at Stanford in computer science, worked recently with Google to create a revolutionary self-driving car. As if this wasn’t enough, Thrun went on to develop an idea that would at once shift the educational landscape across the planet.
I Continue to Fail “The Poor”
I’d like to think I’m pretty consistent in my advocacy for the poor. I have worked with numerous poverty-related nonprofits over the years, preached about it and worked on it in church, written about it, and so on. But in general, all of that remains at a large “macro” level. It is a nameless, faceless group known broadly as “the poor,” or worse, it simply becomes an issue.
Sometimes making it more real than that is emotionally overwhelming, if not paralyzing. When I worked in Fort Worth at an AIDS housing facility, seeing the multiple challenges first-hand that some of our residents faced was heartbreaking. In some cases it seemed they had little, if anything, on which to hang a shred of hope. At the Pueblo nonprofit I work with now, we have to turn away more than one thousand people a month when we run out of emergency assistance.
GOP Nostalgia is a Symptom of Privilege
Author Melissa Harris-Perry recently appeared on “The Colbert Report” to speak about her new book, Sister Citizen, which examines a number of stereotypes of African-American women. As he often does, Colbert teed up a common conservative talking point about “going back to he good old days.” Perry’s response kept ringing in my head for days afterward.
She said that there is no time in American history you would want to go back to as a black girl.
The point is simple but compelling. Those in the position of privilege to write history are the ones whose story is most prominently told. So when we talk about going back to some better time, it’s with the lens of that same privilege that we’re looking back.
The fact is that, unless you’re a white, Christian, straight male, there’s little to look back to and say, “Yeah, I was better off back then.”
From Sex to Satan, Some Churches Will Try Anything
This is a touchy subject for me, as I am a strong advocate of bringing cultural criticism and dialogue into the church, and I’m equally supportive of churches having frank forums where they deal with issues of sex and sexuality. But there is a distinct, if not fine, line between stretching a church to be relevant and jumping on the latest trend simply to draw attention to yourself.
Yes, I know religious institutions are collectively flipping out about the decreasing number of attendees and increased number of church closures. The fact is that some churches will do the world more good once closed than they’re doing today. This is not to say they’re doing active harm (though I’m sure some are), but rather that the tireless, copious use of resources – both human and financial – to prop up dying institutions is to point to one’s self rather than toward God. We get hung up on the idea that the former is a necessary means to the latter end, but not necessarily. Like a fallow field, sometimes it’s best to take what is left, turn it into the ground and allow it to be reborn into something entirely new.
Atheism: A Null Hypothesis on God
When I talk about myself in relationship to atheists I often sound like a post-civil-rights white person trying to minimize the gap between myself and another group.
I don’t have anything personally against atheists.
Some of my best friends are atheists.
I even like Ricky Gervais. He’s an atheist, you know.
All of this aside, I have tried in vain over the years to understand atheism. I’ve written about it several times, and whenever I do, I get a bucket of responses from atheists.
Is George Lucas Revealing Hollywood’s Systemic Racism?
I was a Star Wars kid. I was almost six years old when the first movie hit theaters and it blew my mind, as it did the minds of all my friends. We all wanted to grow up either to be Darth Vader or Obiwan Kenobi, depending on your particular bent.
Not for nothing, but I did tear up when Vader finally died. Kenobi just wasn’t as cool.
The Star Wars saga helped define pop culture in many ways throughout my childhood. And so George Lucas, creator of the epic films, was the cinematic god of our youth. And if anyone has juice in Hollywood to get things done, it’s Lucas, who owns Lucasfilms (his own production company). So if there’s a film he wants to get made, it’s going to happen.
Unless the stars of the movie are black, that is.
Sex God: Jesus, Intimacy and Exploitation
Ed Young and his wife, Lisa, have penned a new book called “Sexperiment: 7 Days to Lasting Intimacy with Your Spouse,” which is a sort of how-to guide for couples to rekindle intimacy in their marriage while remaining within the boundaries of biblical virtues, as interpreted by the authors.
First off, I’m glad evangelicals are joining the sexuality discussion. Having helped create a series of books whose first title was focused on faith and sex/sexuality, I believe it’s of great importance that faith leaders speak in open, healthy ways about sexuality, sexual expression, attraction, and so on.
One of the most hyped points made in the book is that it encourages married couples to engage in their own “Sexperiment,” where they commit to having sex each day for a week. The theory is that this will renew physical and emotional intimacy, and also help reduce the urge for things like pornography.
Hey, sex for Jesus sounds like a no-brainer to me. Sign me up!
The Nerd Gospel
I have a number of identifiers on my various venues I write for and on my email signature: heretic, antagonist, father, son, instigator, pop culture junkie, theologian, social media guru, and so on. But one seems to resonate with folks more than any other: GOD NERD.
For some it’s just a funny juxtaposition of words. For others, there is something deeply relate-able in the moniker. Incidentally, the simple fact that I use words like “moniker” make clear the fact that I and a card-carrying, credentialed nerd.