Category: Blogroll


Hi all:

I have moved my blog to my new website at www.christianpiatt.com. You can link to the blog directly from the home page, and there is an RSS feed you can pick up if you would like to subscribe.

Thanks for following, and hope to greet you at the new site!

Peace,
Christian Piatt

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Can people of faith cheer for death?
Smells Like Sprit
By Christian Piatt
(Originally published in PULP)

Ding, dong, the wicked witch is dead. Or something like that.

News spread like a Pueblo West brushfire that Osama Bin Laden, America’s longtime Public Enemy Number One, had been killed in a firefight with Delta Force and Navy SEAL soldiers earlier in May. I wrestled with mixed feelings as I heard President Obama break the news late that Sunday evening, relieved that the manhunt was finally over, but also disturbed by the fatal outcome.

Then I jumped online to chat it up with my fellow Facebookers to see what the pulse of my peers was. The feelings spanned the spectrum, from dismay that our government world embark on secret assassination missions in foreign territory to outright jubilation that the Bad Guy finally got his due.

The latter sentiment really bothered me, though, especially when it came from folks I knew considered themselves to be people of faith. To celebrate the killing of anyone – ever – seems contrary to the tenet that we see (or at least seek to see) God in all of creation. To cheer the killing of Osama Bin Laden seemed to me an effort to draw a line in the sand between the so-called “sheep” and “goats,” thus ensuring we’re on the side of the righteous.

Are we so sure, though? I’m not saying in any way that the horrendous acts of September 11th, 2001 are justified by any human or divine sense of justice: at least I hope not. But how sure are we that our hands are without similar blemish? And ultimately, how can there ever be peace when the transaction of justice is “blood for blood?”

I guess it raises the question of whether what we are seeking is peace, or our own sense of justice. And when we ascribe what we claim as right and wrong as divinely justified, well, how is that different from what Bin Laden did in the first place?

The whole thing causes me to think back to a story I once read in an August 8th, 2008 post on the Christianity Today website about theologian and author Dietrich Bonheoffer and his opposition to Adolf Hitler. The article says the following about Bonheoffer:

“To this point he had been a pacifist, and he had tried to oppose the Nazis through religious action and moral persuasion. Now he signed up with the German secret service (to serve as a double agent—while traveling to church conferences over Europe, he was supposed to be collecting information about the places he visited, but he was, instead, trying to help Jews escape Nazi oppression). Bonheoffer also became a part of a plot to overthrow, and later to assassinate, Hitler.”

Bonheoffer later was hanged along with other Jewish sympathizers before he could participate in any assassination attempt. But Bonheoffer himself acknowledges the hypocrisy of trying to kill another human being, no matter their evils, in the name of a faith that ultimately calls for peace and reconciliation.

It was in his humanity, not in his faith, that he found the compulsion to kill Hitler. All the while he recognized the discrepancy with what he claimed as his beliefs, yet felt helpless to resort to any, less violent, solution.

In the pop culture sphere, I think of the scene in Star Wars when Luke Skywalker chops off Darth Vader’s hand with his light saber, only to look down and realize his own hand had become that of his enemy.

How, after all, do we respond like our enemy without becoming that which we hate? Is it even possible?

The answer to that, as I’ve said in columns past, is above my pay grade. But suffice it to say that Proverbs 24, Verse 17, sums up my feelings about how we’re called to react to such a killing;

Don’t rejoice when your enemy falls. Don’t let your heart be glad when he is overthrown.

This podcast explores the first question presented in the forthcoming book, BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE: Can I be a Christian if I don’t believe the Bible is perfect, handed down directly from God to humanity without error?

To receive a 40% discount on pre-orders of both upcoming Banned Questions books, visit http://www.chalicepress.com, keyword search “Banned Questions” and at checkout, enter the promotional code “BANNEDQB” when prompted.

CLICK HERE FOR THE PODCAST

Peace,
Christian

You can check out the article online and more about this great magazine at www.sojo.net

Can I Get A Witness?

Split Ticket: Independent Faith in a Time of Partisan Politics, edited by Amy Gopp, Christian Piatt, Brandon Gilvin. Chalice Press.
Reviewed Jess O. Hale Jr.

In the U.S. it seems almost every policy matter gets entangled in a war of partisan politics from which little emerges, too often only a shadow of what is needed. Just look at the results of health-care reform, immigration, and climate/energy initiatives.

With anger from the tea parties — and to a lesser extent the left — challenging both Republican and Democratic politicians, political ferment bewilders and frustrates many citizens of Christian faith who seek the welfare of the city in which they dwell. We do not find a deliberative democracy. Instead, people speaking out of a faith perspective to issues of national importance, such as health reform, are frequently vilified as partisan, even if those outside the partisan and media echo chambers would consider their participation quite tepid.

To speak to this poisoned atmosphere, Split Ticket’s Amy Gopp and her fellow editors have assembled several often powerful essays from faithfully committed 20- and 30-somethings. They sketch a response from younger voices to the challenge of living faithfully as Christians in a broadly conceived politics in American society. As a 50-something in public service, I found this effort to be both powerful and encouraging.

From a progressive yet distinctly nonpartisan perspective, the editors have brought together essays covering a spectrum of policy issues — including health care, gay marriage, immigration, human trafficking, and abortion. Their concerns of method touch on the morality of voting, the theology of empire, and the role of clergy in policy advocacy. In these essays, evangelicals and theological liberals make a common cause seeking faithful politics. Marches, liturgy, legislator visits, and many of the other tools of community and political organizing naturally give expression to these efforts. Men, women, Asians, Latinos, African Americans, gay and straight people — they are all part of this conversation.

Although geared for young adults and a popular audience, the voice of rank and file lay folks regrettably does not find a significant place (oh, for a William Stringfellow!), as the contributors are mostly seminary-trained clergy. Also, I yearned for the honest reflections of at least one young public servant or politician.

A few chapters stand out. Amy Gopp writes of her experience with an interfaith choir in Bosnia, wrenchingly showing us that Christians must embody the practices of peace, reconciliation, and justice that will allow a politics of shared community. Kharma Amos laments the lack of connections that many activists make between “their issue” and the broader spectrum of justice issues, yet curiously she does not seem to contemplate that coalitions within political parties are one way of making those connections. Former lobbyist Kat Banakis makes real the notion behind the Greek word politeuomai as “live out your political life,” because politics matters as a part of the prayer and work of Christians. In “Exodus,” Brandon Gilvin poetically captures the tragedy of trafficking.

Making clear the necessity of a faithful Christian witness to the politics of our time, Split Ticket argues for one that naturally flows out of the embrace of both God’s love and justice. It expresses an independent faith for our partisan times — but it fails to go the last mile to discuss the prudent politics that employs negotiation to bring in at least half a loaf. In the civil rights movement, the black church brought along other people of faith and joined politicians who practiced their craft to enact laws that brought some real fruit of justice to American society. Today, politicians will still have to exercise their craft — but can our faithful witness bring forth a similarly fruitful politics in our more partisan times?

Perhaps Split Ticket’s voices are willing to leave the political end game to the working out of God’s wisdom. However, while effectiveness is not the final word on our work in God’s eyes, a polis where there will not be infants that live but a few days (Isaiah 65:20) is God’s kingdom. For the hope of that polis, I look forward to where the political witness of Gopp and her compatriots takes us.

Jess O. Hale Jr. is an attorney who attends Eastwood Christian Church in Nashville, Tennessee.

Dig the video I created for Phillips Theological Seminary on the seminary experience condensed into less than 4 minutes. Groovy stop-motion and original score.

Here’s a new nonprofit I’m working that endeavors to place AEDs in every public school and other public building nationwide, and also to provide CPR training to help save lives.

http://www.refresheverything.com/theviafoundation

Please take a minute to register your vote and to pass this along to your list of friends. Also, please consider posting this to your facebook page, blog, etc to help spread the word.

Thanks!
Christian

I just posted my new podcast, “Time, Death and the Brain”

http://christianpiatt.podbean.com

Let me know what you think.

Peace,
Christian

Smells Like Spirit
Is faith hiding in the closet?
By Christian Piatt
(Originally published in PULP)

For a long time in American history, it’s been relatively taboo to admit you’re an atheist, or even an agnostic. In some ways, the bias favoring people of faith still holds. Imagine an atheist candidate for president trying to get nominated, much less elected, and the storm of controversy that would surround it.

Though some positions of political power may be out of reach for those who claim no faith, it has become more acceptable in recent years to admit agnosticism or even atheism. In fact, there’s even a bit of counter-culture hipness to confessing it.

While the relaxation of social strictures that allow people to speak freely about their faith – or lack of it – has opened up public dialogue in arguably healthy ways, the pendulum also has swung the other way, at least a bit. In a recent article on Salon.com, Ada Calhoun writes about an experience where a friend of hers caught her dressed up on the street on a Sunday morning, joking with her that she must be headed to church. She laughed it off and sheepishly continued on her way to Catholic Mass, too embarrassed to admit it to her friend.

“I’m not cheating on my husband, committing crimes or doing drugs,” says Calhoun. “But those are battles my cosmopolitan, progressive friends would understand. To them, my situation is far more sinister: I am the bane of their youth, the boogeyman of their politics, the very thing they left their small towns to escape. I am a Christian.”

Part of this is likely a normal social cycle, back and forth along the spectrum of the sacred and secular. However, Christianity in particular carries sufficient weight for the embarrassment these reticent faithful exhibit.

“Who wants to be lumped in with all the other Christians,” asks Calhoun, “especially the ones you see on TV protesting gay marriage, giving money to charlatans, and letting priests molest children? Andy Warhol went to Mass every Sunday, but not even his closest friends knew he was a devout Catholic until his death. I get that.”

So do I. As one who is seen both in our local community and in larger literary circles as a figurehead for postmodern Christianity, I spend as much time and energy responding to these negative connotations attached to my faith as I do speaking positively about what a community of faithful, committed to causes of service, compassion and social justice, can do to make the world a better place.

It’s important to understand how far and wide this disaffection for organized religion runs. There are huge groups of people who, though they study and practice the teachings of Jesus, choose not to call themselves Christians because of the baggage attached to the term. Instead, they prefer the term “Christ followers,” both because it is less encumbered with negativity, and also because it speaks of what they do, rather than define what group to which they belong.

There are lots of books on the subject too, such as “un-Christian,” by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, or “They Like Jesus but Not the Church,” by Dan Kimball. One common sentiment throughout these texts is that the image of God, or more specifically, Jesus, should not suffer because of the crap that humans do in their name.

Not surprisingly, there’s a healthy amount of blowback from the institution of church as well. While some faith communities see the writing on the wall and seek to learn from history’s lessons, others are building defenses still higher, lobbing verbal salvos from the other side.

Authors like Peter Rollins, who wrote “The Orthodox Heretic “and “How (Not) to Speak of God,” among others, have been labeled as brazen heretics, masquerading as Christ followers simply to further the mythical goal of reducing church to rubble.

Meanwhile, people like Ada Calhoun skulk in the shadows to practice their faith, worried that being associated with those with whom she strongly disagrees will be a social albatross around her neck. Though it will take much time and no small amount of effort, it’s my hope that Christians once again earn the respect and appreciation of the public, and that Calhoun and her peers can come out of the closet and be proud to openly call themselves “Christian.”

If you’re in Southern Colorado, do not miss the fundraiser going on at the State Fairgrounds (Creative Arts Center) Sunday, Feb. 28th from noon to 7pm.

There’s no fee for admission, but all donations go to Week of Compassion for Haiti relief. Seven bands will play, and there will be great food and a silent auction. We’re expecting upwards of 700 to 1000 people, so get there early for a good spot.

Seven bands & tons of food Sunday, Feb 28, noon to 7pm

No admission to enter. Donations all go to Haiti relief through Week of Compassion.

So, I’ve been working on this book about postmodern male identity for some time called BE A MAN, and Brandon, a colleague of mine, passed along the text of a recent Dockers ad campaign they’ve labeled the “Man-ifesto.” Here’s the ad content:

Once upon a time, men wore the pants, and wore them well. Women rarely had to open doors and little old ladies never crossed the street alone. Men took charge because that’s what they did. But somewhere along the way, the world decided it no longer needed men. Disco by disco, latte by foamy non-fat latte, men were stripped of their khakis and left stranded on the road between boyhood and androgyny. But today, there are questions our genderless society has no answers for. The world sits idly by as cities crumble, children misbehave and those little old ladies remain on one side of the street. For the first time since bad guys, we need heroes. We need grown-ups. We need men to put down the plastic fork, step away from the salad bar and untie the world from the tracks of complacency. It’s time to get your hands dirty. It’s time to answer the call of manhood. It’s time to wear the pants.

And here’s a revised version/response from a blogger known as Heartless Doll, which I think kinda rules:

Once upon a time, men didn’t have anyone questioning their shit. They wanted to be congratulated for opening doors and walking across streets. Men were in charge because they kept everyone else down. But somewhere along the way, women wised up and were like, these dudes are fucking assholes and we’d like some freedom and autonomy now, please. Somehow, dance music and delicious coffee made it so that men couldn’t wear the official pants of middle management, left stranded on the road between ageism and misogyny. But today, there are questions scholars, feminists and other people who speak truth to power would like some answers to. The world does not sit idly by as activists fight against the actual evils of the world while some pants company complains about coffee. For the first time since bad guys, we realized that the heroes were often the bad guys. We need grown-ups who don’t whine about dance music. We need men to not be ushered into oppressive gender roles and to eat salad if they want to, and ladies, too. It’s time for everyone to get their hands dirty. It’s time to answer the call of gender equality. It’s time to wear whatever the fuck you want.