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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Russian Band’s Punk Protest Prayer: Prophecy or Blasphemy?
The all-female Russian punk band whose name shall not be mentioned (kind of like Voldemort in Harry Potter) was arrested following an uninvited “punk prayer” of protest against Russian president Vladimir Putin and his iron-fisted grip on the forthcoming election. Their boisterous prayer-performance was offered to the Virgin Mary at the altar of a Russian Orthodox church. They’ve been serving five months in jail since the event, and on Friday were sentenced to two years — time served credited against the sentence.
On the surface, I appreciate the demonstration. One could argue that even Jesus engaged in rather shocking prophetic displays inside temple walls to make a powerful point. And I appreciate that the band members were willing to go to jail (not a surprise they got arrested, really) for what they believe. On one level, it’s exactly the kind of thing that the punk ethos is all about: shocking people into awareness about the injustices around them, stirring people to action.
Resources for SNAP Food Stamp Challenge
After putting out there that we’re going to do the SNAP Challenge August 20-26th (living on the budgeted equivalent of food stamps for a week for meals), some folks came forward with some really helpful resources. Even if you’re not on public assistance and not planning to take part in the challenge, these are useful tools to help anyone on a budget plan for some good, nutritious meals.
Here’s a video clip on meal prep with only food bought on the food stamp budget, along with the list of groceries the chef bought on the budget: Mario’s Food Stamp Challenge Grocery List
Here are dozens of recipes from Harvesters Food Network you can do on a food-stamp-equivalent budget, complete with nutrition information for each meal: Harvesters Food Network SNAP Recipes
Planning for Poverty: The SNAP Challenge
I’ve said before that privilege often is invisible until you don’t have it. So in that light, I’m doing a little experiment in a few days with our family, and I encourage you to join in.
A lot of us never know what it’s like to try and live below the poverty line, and I tend to think the statements we hear about the poor that lack sensitivity for their situation point to this. It’s easy to say things like, “people on public assistance are lazy” (in fact, 47 percent of SNAP recipients are under 18; a majority of the remaining recipients have other income from work, and this doesn’t account for seniors and those who are disabled) and that food stamps are a “free ride” that are so attractive, it keeps people from wanting to work and get off of the assistance.
So let’s find out just how easy it is.
“SNAP” stands for “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,” which is the new name for food stamps. Basically, families receive $4 a day per family member to cover food costs, so the SNAP challenge is pretty simple (in theory, at least): Live on the same amount with your family for a week.
Church Sign Epic Fails: Faith vs. Reason Throwdown
I’m not going to have time to post this tomorrow, so enjoy your Church Sign Epic Fails a little early this week! Today, we have a face-off between faith and reason, as some seem to feel like having both coexist is a physical impossibility. So with a few others thrown in for a little spice, enjoy this cage match between faith and reason.
Let’s get ready to grumble!!!!!
Flash Mob Ministry: A New Model for Instant Church
Right there, in the middle of piles of fried chicken and biscuits, campers broke out in song, complete with choreography. Suffice it to say it’s simple enough and cumulative in its themes so that pretty much anyone can get the idea within a verse or two.
We keep talking about the changing face of church and how ministry is going to look different going forward; what if this is it? Not that I expect this is “the” model for how to do church from here forward, but there’s something to this “flash mob” concept, breaking out spontaneously into something that draws others in, right here, right now, where we are.
But we might get weird looks. We might even get in trouble.
Sikh Calls for Peace Echo Amish Shooting Response
Like most people, I was deeply troubled by news of another mass shooting, this time at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., not far from Milwaukee. On the heels of the tragic massacre in Aurora, Colo., this seemed all the more savage to me, given that it took place in a house of worship.
Maybe it’s because my wife and I work in a church and are aware of such vulnerabilities every day, but my first reaction is defensiveness. I want to raise my guard, double-check the locks and do whatever I can to ensure our safety. It’s the response that makes the most sense, after all.
Or is it?
Jesus Phelps: Why Miracles Aren’t Enough
Michael Phelps was accomplishing things no one in recorded history has ever done before. I can’t explain or really comprehend how he can do it. And although he did them, I attribute his physiology and gifts to God. So is what he does in the Olympics a miracle?
It almost seems that we worship him as if they were miraculous acts. We literally put him up on a pedestal and adore him, much like how people adored Jesus. And just like with Jesus, these amazing feats, whether or not they are literally miraculous acts, are simply not enough. The fall will inevitably come.
If they were, Jesus wouldn’t have been abandoned at his most vulnerable moment. Some will argue that he saved the biggest and best for last, raising from the dead, which finally put all of his doubters in their place. Really? Then why are our numbers, at least in the Western World, in such precipitous decline?
Are the Culture Wars Real? A Case for Heresy
Growing up, I heard things at camp and in youth group about how “the world” thought and acted one way, and how “we” were not like that. In fact the world, it seemed, was intent on unraveling everything I valued as good and true, leaving me with a smoldering pile of ideals and beliefs, all dead at the point of a secular sword. It was our job as Christians not only to defend against this frontal attack, but also to fight back in an effort to win souls for the Kingdom.
It was an epic battle, now in its beginning stages, but that would play out as depicted in the fantastical, horrifically violent pages within the Book of Revelation. The end is near; which side will you be on?
The Christianity of my youth was much like the Temple Mount in Jerusalem — a shining jewel high on a hill, beset on all sides by forces intent solely on its destruction. And our mission, as stewards of the faith, was to preserve and maintain the faith, protecting it at all costs. This, I would later learn, was the theological heart of what I now know as the Culture War. And some within the walls of the temple might argue I’ve abandoned the cause, or perhaps switched sides all together.
God Loves Losers: Reflections on the Olympics
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.
Billy Graham: Punish America or Apologize to Sodom & Gomorrah
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?
Church Sign Epic Fails, Vol XXIV
What Christians Mean When They Bless You
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....
Five Reasons Why Failure is Awesome
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.
Bryan Fischer: Blame Darwin, Liberals, Gays for Aurora Shooting
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.
Was Jesus a Pacifist?
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?
Church Sign Epic Fails, Christian T-Shirt Edition
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:
What Makes a White, Middle-Class Man Kill?
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.
Let's Talk About (Complementary) Sex
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.
Top 10 Reasons Why Christians Like Top 10 Lists about Christians
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....