Archive for July, 2011


Sometimes I can’t decide if I’m a bleeding-heart Democrat, a Libertarian or an Anarchist at heart. Depends on the day of the week and how much fiber I had for breakfast, I guess.

On the one hand, I feel morally compelled by my faith to advocate for social support programs that help the poor or marginalized. I’ve been a vocal advocate for single-payer universal health care and for so-called “welfare” programs. I’ve also been a member of the ACLU and I’ve spoken out for the rights of people to do, believe or say things I find reprehensible.

So what the hell am I?

When I look to the Bible for guidance, I find many cases where we are called, not just as individuals, but also as a community, to care for those with less than us. So this seems to be an argument for a more left-leaning, almost Socialist kind of system.

But then I consider things like the teachings of John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg, who point out that it was the creation of coinage that led to the relative enslavement of so many from the Biblical era. Whereas people had lived as subsistence laborers and had bartered for what they needed, the introduction of money allowed governments to control – and therefore, tax – everything from the land to the fish in the seas and lakes.

I also look at the institutional church and convenient marriages that have led to theocracy, genocide, mass persecution and oppression of millions, even to this day, in the name of God. Maybe, I wonder, we’d be better off if the whole thing was dismembered, piece by piece, until we were back to what we started with: a movement consisting of passionate studiers and preachers of the ways of Jesus. No budgets, no staff, no power over others.

In my Utopian imagination, groups like the Church (big “C”) nonprofits, families and individuals would fulfill all of the needs of their sisters and brothers, thus eliminating the needs for such government-run social safety nets. But again, this is just a dream. After all, the counter to this Democratic system of governance is our capitalist economic system that depends on self-interest, greed and excessive consumption.

So what’s the answer? More government? Less government? No government? And the same goes for the church. Are we doing more harm than good?

We can ponder and worry over these kinds of things to the point that we end up paralyzed by it all, but that’s not what we’re called to as Christians. Even Jesus acted or spoke, and then changed course as his eyes were opened to a greater reality (see the story about Jesus calling the Canaanite woman a dog). Fred Craddock actually said something recently in a sermon that helped me sort this out for myself. I know, leave it to Fred to lay some heavy thing on your in his trademark, “aww shucks” way.

Fred was preaching about Jubilee, the time in the Jewish calendar when all debts were to be forgiven. He suggests that this probably never actually happened. So why bother talking about it? Are we making empty promises to string along those shackled with indebtedness?

The notion of Jubilee actually is a necessary hope for us to maintain, Fred says, much like my image of a society that is mutually nurturing enough that we have no more need for nonprofits or government support services. It’s that ideal, whether attainable or not in reality, that draws us forward toward the place where we need to end up.

It’s the same sort of hope that undergirds liberation theology, and that is woven into the words “Thy Kingdom come” in the Lord’s Prayer. Is God’s love fully realized in the world? In some ways yes; in others, not yet. Are government, the institutional church or private nonprofits the silver bullet we seek, or just another cog in an opportunistic, soulless machine?

Well, yeah.

If we maintain that hope of Jubilee, whatever form that takes in our God-inspired imaginations, then the tools we use to strive toward that goal are less important than the aspiration itself. For now, I’ll keep voting, and I intend to keep on paying my taxes, but the day I breathe a sigh of relief and begin to believe that I’ve divested myself of personal responsibility because any of these institutions are taking care of it, I afford them the power to become something much worse.

Christian Piatt is an author, editor, speaker, musician and spoken word artist. He co-founded Milagro Christian Church in Pueblo, Colorado with his wife, Rev. Amy Piatt, in 2004.

Christian is the creator and editor of the BANNED QUESTIONS book series, which include BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS. He co-created and co-edits the “WTF: Where’s the Faith?” young adult series with Chalice Press, and he has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published in early 2012 called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date.

For more information about Christian, visit www.christianpiatt.com, or find him on Twitter or Facebook.

I could tell when I was putting Mattias, who is seven, to bed the bother night that I was about to get handed more than the typical bedtime conversation. He had that look on his face like he was about to fire me. For a second, I actually was worried that I was in trouble.

Then I remembered; I’m the dad. Right.

“Dad,” he said, not looking up at me, “I’m not sure I believe this whole thing about God making everything in the universe.”

“Okay,” I said, “what are you not sure about?”

“Well, it just doesn’t make sense to me that this guy was sitting up there somewhere and just decided to make a universe all of a sudden.”

“I get that,” I said. “I would have a hard time with that idea too.”

“What do you mean, dad?”

“Some people picture God as this sort of giant person sitting on a throne in the sky, but that image just doesn’t work for me.”

“Me either,” he said. “I mean, there’s not even any oxygen up there. Why would a person live up there with no air?’

“For me,” I said, “God is less person-like and more like a source. Like a place where all the energy and matter and love we ever need comes from.”

“A source?” He looked confused.

“Have you talked at all about the Big Bang in school?’ I asked.

“Sort of,” he said.

“Well,” I said, “a lot of people believe that a really long time ago, everything in the universe was squished down into this one tiny, super-hot, super sense spot. Then, for a reason no one really understands, everything just burst out, kind of like a flower popping up out of a tiny seed, and that’s when everything got started.”

“Huh,” he studied the floor. “So where did all the stuff come from? And what made it all pop out and become the universe?”

“You answer that,” I said, “and you’ll be set for life. But for me, that’s where I see God.”

We agreed to hit the library for some books on the Big Bang. I’m less concerned about giving him water-tight answers than I am going along with him as we follow this mystery down the rabbit hole together. For me, that’s the stuff that life is made of.

Christian Piatt is an author, editor, speaker, musician and spoken word artist. He co-founded Milagro Christian Church in Pueblo, Colorado with his wife, Rev. Amy Piatt, in 2004. Christian is the creator and editor of the Banned Questions book series, which include Banned Questions About the Bible and Banned Questions About Jesus. He co-created and co-edits the “WTF: Where’s the Faith?” young adult series with Chalice Press, and he has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published in early 2012 called Pregmancy: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date. For more information about Christian, visit http://www.christianpiatt.com, or find him on Twitter or Facebook.

Un-American in the name of Jesus?
By Christian Piatt
(Originally printed in PULP)

I used to go to a lot of basketball games with my dad in Dallas. We have both been enthusiastic Mavericks fans for almost three decades, so you can imagine how excited I was when they won their first NBA championship this year.

YES!

Anyhow, before each game they go through the typical ritual of playing the Star Spangled Banner, and I would always stand up, face the flag and put my hand over my heart. But then a new announcer one year asked people to “please rise to honor God and America with the singing of our National Anthem.”

“That’s messed up,” I said.

“What?” said my dad, “They do the same thing every game.”

“Yeah but this new guy says that the Star Spangled Banner honors God,” I said, “but there’s nothing in the verse they sing at the games about God anywhere. It has nothing to do with God.”

My dad grumbled something about my lack of patriotism and turned back toward the flag. But ever since, that moment has stood out in my mind as a perfect example of one of my biggest annoyances with American culture: our tendency to comingle a Christian identity with national patriotism.

So I was particularly interested to hear that Goshen College, a relatively small Mennonite school in Indiana, had decided to no longer play the National Anthem before any sporting events sponsored by the college. The reasoning, offered in a public statement issued by the college, was as follows:

“Historically, playing the national anthem has not been among Goshen College’s practices because of our Christ-centered core value of compassionate peacemaking seeming to be in conflict with the anthem’s militaristic language.”

Unsurprisingly, the decision caused a ruckus, especially once news outlets such as Fox Radio got hold of it. But even local city councilmen decried the move, suggesting that those in charge were violating “the American way,” and should relocate to somewhere like Cuba or Iran for a while until they learned to appreciate what they have here at home.

I posted a link to this news story on my Facebook page and asked people to respond. Following are a handful of comments from the many I received:

“It’s such a hard issue because the song is both a symbol and a song … I agree with the college that it isn’t a very Christian tune. It is about war. However, to ban it is, I fear, short-sighted. The song is a symbol of American unity. To ban it risks saying ‘we don’t want to be a part of the nation.’ I’m not sure that’s what they want to say.” (From a lawyer)

“I support the ban, the choice and the school’s right to make their own decision independent of the city council or any other political body.” (From a minister)

Ashley Quinn: “I wonder where the whole tradition of the anthem at sporting events started anyways. Probably something to do with the whole combative, competitive nature of many sports. I don’t think it makes any sense for a group of people devoted to peacemaking to sing it before they do anything.” (From a bartender)

Carl Gregg: “For anyone who watched the Super Bowl, there is a breathtaking mix of sports, nationalism, and military imagery. Ultimately, Christianity is trans-national, seeking to build the Beloved Community irrespective of national borders. The school is making one small step against the massive idolatry that is ubiquitous in our society of putting biological family and nation before God.” (From another minister)

“In the article I noticed people calling this anti-American. I don’t see it that way at all. Americans are at our very best when we are tolerant of others. You know, that whole ‘land of the free’ verse.” (From a retired Marine)

I’ll gladly concede that my circle for friends doesn’t represent the full socio-political spectrum, but I found the comments generally encouraging. For most of my life, it’s been sold to me that being a good Christian also meant supporting our country, wars, death penalty and all. But I think we’d be doing both our faith and our patriotism a favor if we made clear in our own minds that not everyone who is a Christian, as grateful as we may be for the freedom we’re afforded here, agrees morally with how we got here.

Christian is the creator and editor of the BANNED QUESTIONS book series, which include BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS. He co-created and co-edits the “WTF: Where’s the Faith?” young adult series with Chalice Press, and he has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published in early 2012 called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date.

For more information about Christian, visit www.christianpiatt.com, or find him on Twitter or Facebook.

Here’s the article about a series this congregation is doing with BANNED QUESTIONS, culminating with a discussion I’ll join in at their church in Springfield next Wednesday, the 27th.

Check it out! Might give you some ideas of what you can be doing too.

Banned Questions series set for July 20th & 27th at Brentwood All of us have questions, we just aren’t always sure we can bring them up in church. Here at Brentwood, we want to change that. Based on a new series of books by Chalice Press (including one that Phil contributed to), we are providing a forum where you can ask questions you’ve often wondered, but weren’t sure you were allowed to ask, especially in church. –On Wednesday, July 20th, at 6:30 p.m., we will have a panel of religious scholars and/or m … Read More

via Brentwood Christian Church

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