Archive for October, 2008
Water doesn’t grow on trees
by Christian Piatt
Recently, presidential candidate John McCain wooed Colorado voters by suggesting that the water sharing agreement made between Colorado and six other states back in the 1920’s be renegotiated.
As much as we love giving away our natural resources for little or nothing in return, Mister McCain, this is likely to go over about as well as a fart in a church pew.
Senator Ken Salazar said that such a renegotiation would happen over his dead body, which seems an incredibly uneven writing surface upon which to try to sign agreements. But we appreciate the offer, Senator. Should it come to that, a table should do just fine, and if we need your body, maybe you can just hold really still.
Before we get too passionate about rejecting Senator McCain’s idea outright, let’s think about the potential upside. Granted, water doesn’t grow on trees: as we all know, it’s painstaking assembled in water factories. So perhaps there’s a burgeoning industry for us here. I mean, after all, we can just make more.
But it’s going to cost you, Senator.
We’re not going to put the sweat and blood of our highly-skilled water manufacturers at your beck and call without a price. Since water is considered a natural limited resource though I hardly see how anything that falls from the sky can bee seen as limited maybe we should work out a trade.
With regard to
My first instinct with
I’m sure folks will worry that such an arrangement will dry up our rural territories and put our cities into crisis mode, battling each other like the tribes of Braveheart for every last drop. But think about how cool we’ll be with all that new stuff. There’s a price to pay for awesomeness; what’s a little thirst by comparison?
Whats in a name?
Ive taken a lot of crap for my name in my life.
Hey, your names Christian. Are you a Christian, Christian?
Hey, can we call you Buddha instead?
Save it. Ive heard them all before. Theyre not funny, either.
I get even more grief when people find out my middle name is Damien.
Dude, are your parents, like, devil worshippers?
Wow, isnt that a contradiction or something?
Yes, you nailed me; Im a walking, talking, devil-worshipping contradiction in nomenclature. Now, go get a life.
Never mind that the movie The Omen, which gave the name Damien such a bad rap, came out in 1976, and I was born in 1971. While I appreciate the suggestion that maybe Im less than thirty-two years old, a cursory glance at my graying whiskers and ever-retreating hairline suggests otherwise. So no, I was not named after the demon-child of the seventies cult movie who made his nanny dangle herself from the family estates second-story by a rope.
The actual origin of my middle name, I think, is much more interesting.
My first name is easy enough to figure out. My mom, who was raised Southern Baptist, liked the idea of setting me on the path of her faith of origin from the beginning. That part is clear-cut.
As for my middle name, my mom was actually reading the book The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty while pregnant with me, and liked the name of the priest, father Damien Karras. Hes the guy who ultimately saves the little girl from possession by taking the evil spirit on himself, then hurling himself down a flight of stairs to his death.
Much better, right?
Why she decided that reading a book about a demon-possessed child while gestating her first and ultimately, only child was a good idea is beyond me. Youll have to ask her about that one. But suffice it to say that my name has preceded me my whole life, and has led to many theological discussions, both wanted and unwanted.
I joke that, because my mom is Baptist and my dad is atheist, it makes perfect sense that Im a raging commie-liberal member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). By my own estimation, Im not really a raging commie-liberal, despite the howls from far-right letter writers Ive received over the years. But I do think that Christianity and arguably, organized religion in general could benefit from some spokespeople who dont necessarily resonate with the Pat Robertsons, James Dobsons or even the Joel Osteens of the world.
We Christians arent all that weird.
Beyond this, there are lots of voices outside the Christian mainstream who either get stereotyped into a freakish, monolithic cartoon of themselves by modern culture, or who simply get drowned out of the theological conversation entirely.
Im a Christian, primarily as a result of family culture and personal choice. Ive also studied Buddhism, Confucianism, Aristotelian metaphysics, a dash of Judaism and even some Pagan practices here and there. On the whole, Ive found something to enlighten me and broaden my understanding of the divine in all of them.
I admit a bias up-front about theology, given that my own understanding even about other faiths gets filtered through my own personal experience, whether I want it to or not. But its my hope that in this new experiment with a Spirituality Section in PULP, well create a space for a respectful and enlightening exchange of ideas.
Though Ill continue my own regular column here, well also have guest columnists as we are able, hopefully from an array of faith backgrounds. Id even welcome thoughtful contributions from those who arent quite sure what they believe.
In addition, well try to continue a Question-and-Answer section, where we welcome you to submit any questions you might have about religion, faith, spirituality and the like. We may not have the answer, but well try to find one for you.
Theres always a combination of excitement and anxiety around a new project like this. There will be those who will oppose the very idea of having a section like this in an independent free paper and thats okay. Im used to angry letters. There are others who are open to the ideas of others on matters metaphysical, even if or hopefully especially if they dont share the same views.
Its not so much my hope that well all end up agreeing about anything, but rather that we all find something in this experience that weve not encountered before.
It seems I was destined since birth to wrestle with matters of faith. Come on in and join the fray. Well struggle through this mystery we call life together.
Christian Piatt is the author of MySpace to Sacred Space and Lost: A Search for Meaning. He is the music minister for Milagro Christian Chruch and is the Lifestyle Editor for PULP. Contact Christian at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is another recurring piece I started in PULP, intended to help answer questions people have about faith. This appeared in the October issue.
A forum for questions about belief
Is Halloween a religious holiday?
Halloween originated from the Celtic Pagan celebration known as Samhain, so yes, it is a religious holiday. Samhain is a fall harvest festival in the Celtic tradition and is often considered the mark of the Gaelic New Year. Later, Pope Gregory III moved an existing Christian holiday All Saints Day from the middle of May to November first. This was done with many holidays, including Christmas and Easter, to coincide with Pagan holidays with the hope of luring them toward Christianity.
Though adopted by Christian culture, the Pagan notion that Halloween bridged the gap between the worlds of the living and dead lingered, which explains the images of ghosts and goblins that we still see today. The idea of trick-or-treating is primarily a North American phenomenon, observed only sparsely elsewhere.
Where did the idea of believing in only one god come from?
Though many assume the idea of belief in a single god, which is called monotheism, arose from the so-called Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, others argue that monotheism existed as far back as ancient
Monotheism should not be confused with monism, however, which does not distinguish between a physical and spiritual world, or pantheism, which contends that the universe itself is divine.
What is the most popular religion in the world?
Christianity boasts the most adherents with more than 2 billion people. Islam is a close second with 1.5 billion, and secularists, agnostics and atheists collectively comprise just over 1 billion folks. The smallest “major” religion is Scientology with 500,000 members worldwide, bested by Rastafarianism with 600,000 and Neo-Paganism with one million.
My wife, Amy, got ordained about four years ago, and straight out of seminary, we planted a new church together in Pueblo, Colorado. Even when she interviewed for the job with the local team putting the plans together, they talked about how great it would be to bring her on board, especially since they would get me as a bonus.
It gave me at least a small taste of what pastors spouses probably have endured for decades. The pastors wife has, for so long, been seen as a perpetual volunteer who does everything for the church, but for no pay. Its almost a given, in more traditional circles, that a new minister comes with a partner who will pick up a lot of ancillary jobs that are set aside specifically for that spouses role.
My uncle is a pastor, and his wife performs many of the traditional duties in the various churches where they have served. Amys dad is a minister, and so was her grandfather, great-grandfather, and so on, each with faithful women at their sides who have facilitated their ministerial vision.
Amy, however, is the first ordained woman in her family, which also means Im the first male pastors spouse. This, however, is not an anomaly in mainline churches. The number of women attending seminary is growing every year. With the rapid attrition of retiring ministers reaching critical levels, even those congregations who once cringed at the idea of a female pastor now must at least consider the possibility if they are going to survive in the twenty-first century.
But this also means there are going to be more men in the role of pastors spouse. In some cases, like ours, the husband is involved, but just not in the ways the church generally expects the traditional wife to participate. I preach now and then, lead worship, and help with youth; but I have my own life, my own career, and my own vision of what church should look likegaspindependent of Amy.
At best, churches are having to get used to these changing roles. Worst case, the husband is not involved at all, or, if he is, its only as a congregant rather than as a leader. The days of a two-for-one deal when hiring the prototypical male pastor are quickly fading into the history books, and if were going to survive as a relevant faith movement, its incumbent upon us to figure out new ways to be church.
One thing that is different about Amys and my approach to ministry is the egalitarian nature of our work together. Though she is ordained and Im not, and although shes paid and Im not, we dont perceive her role in the church as any more important than mine. Just like our approach to parenting, we are less interested in hierarchy and clearly defined roles and more intent on finding a way to share responsibility.
A tremendous advantage we have in developing this sort of model is that I work from home as a writer, so I set my own schedule. Unlike many other working spouses, I can help out with youth camps, mission trips, and other mid-week projects. Many male spouses, however, dont have that luxury, and sometimes the last thing they want to do with their few hours of free time every week is spend more time at church.
I do believe, however, that the way were building this new church in southern Colorado is portentous of things to come. As many of us recognize, the old institution-centric models of churches are increasingly difficult to sustain, and church as we know it will look radically different in coming decades, if it is to survive. One challenge within this new model of church is that, with less of an emphasis on the hierarchic structure of religious institutions, there are fewer resources dedicated to full-time staff persons.
If this new way of doing church takes hold, you will see more and more bi-vocational ministers, which has its benefits and drawbacks. On the positive side, a minister with other sources of income can spend his or her time at church focusing on growing the mission of the faith community, rather than focusing as much on survival. The downside, of course, is that he or she doesnt have nearly the same amount of time or energy to invest, which means other part-time staff or volunteers have to pick up the slack.
Heres where our model of building a church as a team actually works well. Were fortunate with my flexible schedule that Amy can work for the church full time. But if I was in a traditional job and the church had to pay someone to do everything that I do, they couldnt at this point, because were still small. However, if we had to, the church could break up Amys and my responsibilities into two positions, managed by two spouses or a pair of bi-vocational part-time ministers, accepting as part of the deal that there would not necessarily be a single person on call at all times for the congregations personal needs.
Were still feeling our way in this new church thing, and so far, its worked for us. Sure, I get the jokes now and then, but theyre fewer than they used to be. Amy still has the occasional visitor who walks out when she stands up behind the pulpit to speak, so its not all wine and roses for her either. But weve decided that, whatever path this calling takes, were in it together. Neither one of us could do it without the other, and that sense of interdependence actually makes the hard times easier to manage, knowing were not going through them alone.
Christian Piatt is the author of MySpace to Sacred Space: God for a New Generation, and Lost: A Search for Meaning, and he is a columnist for various newspapers, magazines, and websites on the topics of theology and popular culture. He is the founder and president of www.MyWordTree.com and serves as co-founder of Milagro Christian Church in Pueblo, Colorado, with his wife, Amy. For more information about Christian, visit www.christianpiatt.com.
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