Archive for October, 2008

Zoe Marie Piatt video in utero

Friday, October 17th, 2008

NewSpin Column – October PULP

Wednesday, October 15th, 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 California, we’ll gladly trade you our water for Hollywood. At first, I thought it might be a good idea to annex the whole town as part of Colorado, but really, we just want the money and the free tickets to all the movie premiers.

Utah, you can get your share in exchange for one-third of your mineral rights and Brigham Young University. I don’t really know what we’ll do with it yet, but it’ll sure be interesting to gain access to an institution with so many Mormons packed into one place.

My first instinct with Arizona was to shut them out, because we don’t really need any more saguaros or old people. But then I remembered that the Arizona Diamondbacks are in the Rockies‘ division. If they trade us the D-backs for water, we can dismantle the team, clearing the way for the Rockies to top their division once again.

New Mexico, we’ll trade you Bill Richardson for a few thousand acre-feet, and we’ll throw Douglas Bruce and Tom Tancredo. They’re not doing much other than annoying us lately anyway.

Nevada wasn’t in the original deal, but they’ve gotten way cooler since 1922. Maybe we can squeeze them in. They won’t likely want to part with Vegas, seeing as how it’s their main stream of income. Fine, but we get the Bunny Ranch. Just make sure it’s been checked out and is totally clean first.

Wyoming: sorry, you’re screwed. Drink more Ovaltine.

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?

What’s in a name? – October PULP

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

What’s in a name?


I’ve taken a lot of crap for my name in my life.


“Hey, your name’s Christian. Are you a Christian, Christian?”


“Hey, can we call you Buddha instead?”


Save it. I’ve heard them all before. They’re 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, isn’t that a contradiction or something?”


Yes, you nailed me; I’m 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 I’m 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 estate’s 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. He’s 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. You’ll 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 I’m a raging commie-liberal member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). By my own estimation, I’m not really a raging commie-liberal, despite the howls from far-right letter writers I’ve received over the years. But I do think that Christianity – and arguably, organized religion in general – could benefit from some spokespeople who don’t necessarily resonate with the Pat Robertsons, James Dobsons or even the Joel Osteens of the world.


We Christians aren’t 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.


I’m a Christian, primarily as a result of family culture and personal choice. I’ve also studied Buddhism, Confucianism, Aristotelian metaphysics, a dash of Judaism and even some Pagan practices here and there. On the whole, I’ve 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 it’s my hope that in this new experiment with a Spirituality Section in PULP, we’ll create a space for a respectful and enlightening exchange of ideas.


Though I’ll continue my own regular column here, we’ll also have guest columnists as we are able, hopefully from an array of faith backgrounds. I’d even welcome thoughtful contributions from those who aren’t quite sure what they believe.


In addition, we’ll 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 we’ll try to find one for you.


There’s 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 that’s okay. I’m 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 don’t share the same views.


It’s not so much my hope that we’ll all end up agreeing about anything, but rather that we all find something in this experience that we’ve not encountered before.


It seems I was destined since birth to wrestle with matters of faith. Come on in and join the fray. We’ll 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

Faith 2.0 – October PULP

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

This is another recurring piece I started in PULP, intended to help answer questions people have about faith. This appeared in the October issue.

Faith 2.0

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 Egypt. The pharaoh Akhenaten was said to have destroyed images of deities worshipped prior to his reign, establishing the god Aten as the sole figurehead for Egyptian worship. Zoroastrianism also is credited sometimes as the first monotheistic faith, which had varying degrees of influence on the Abrahamic traditions, depending on which scholar you ask.

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.

Tales of a Male “Preacher’s Wife”

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

This was the most recent piece of mine published on the Cokesbury Worship Connection site. If you want to link to the original article, click here.

By Christian Piatt

I’ve heard enough “preacher’s wife” jokes to last me a lifetime. No, I don’t cook a mean casserole. No, I don’t know how to knit. And no, I absolutely will not join the handbell choir.

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 pastor’s wife has, for so long, been seen as a perpetual volunteer who does everything for the church, but for no pay. It’s 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 spouse’s role.

My uncle is a pastor, and his wife performs many of the traditional duties in the various churches where they have served. Amy’s 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 I’m the first male pastor’s 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 pastor’s 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 like—gasp—independent 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, it’s 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 we’re going to survive as a relevant faith movement, it’s incumbent upon us to figure out new ways to be church.

One thing that is different about Amy’s and my approach to ministry is the egalitarian nature of our work together. Though she is ordained and I’m not, and although she’s paid and I’m not, we don’t 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, don’t 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 we’re 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 doesn’t 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.

Here’s where our model of building a church as a team actually works well. We’re 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 couldn’t at this point, because we’re still small. However, if we had to, the church could break up Amy’s 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 congregation’s personal needs.

We’re still feeling our way in this new church thing, and so far, it’s worked for us. Sure, I get the jokes now and then, but they’re 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 it’s not all wine and roses for her either. But we’ve decided that, whatever path this calling takes, we’re 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 we’re 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 and serves as co-founder of Milagro Christian Church in Pueblo, Colorado, with his wife, Amy. For more information about Christian, visit

Pueblo, Colorado: Center of the Political Universe?

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

Though most may not agree with me, I’m inclined to argue that Pueblo, Colorado, our city of 100,000 in southern Colorado, could very well become the epicenter of political attention in coming weeks.

Though we’re not on the radar of many pundits and reporters, we are getting a lot more attention these days. Senator Barack Obama spoke recently to a rally of 14,000 at the fairgrounds here, and Senator McCain is slated to speak at the university campus on Friday. Just yesterday, I heard Pueblo mentioned twice on National Public Radio. I’d also bet that Obama will make a second trip here before the polls close in November.

So, why might a small town like Pueblo help decide the presidential election?

There are a few reasons. First of all, we are about equal parts Latino and Anglo in our community. It’s been increasingly reported in the past couple of weeks that Latinos may be the determining factor in this election: the so-called swing vote everyone covets. So if you can pinpoint the swing voters in the swing states, you’re obviously going to give more attention to them.

Though there are many states identified as swing states, Colorado is one of the closer races so far. It’s one where, although we have trended democratic for local and legislative races, we also have gone Republican quite often for president. Denver is a mixed bag, while Colorado Springs is strongly conservative. Boulder and Fort Collins, our biggest college towns, lean liberal. Then you have Pueblo, which although registered Democrats outnumber Republicans two-to-one, these are generally more socially moderate to conservative blue collar democrats, who cross party lines based .. issues and personalities.

We also have to consider what happened in Pueblo in the Democratic primaries earlier this year. Although Colorado overall went two-to-one for Obama over Hillary Clinton, the reverse was true in Pueblo. Even though Obama has offices all over town here, he lost handily in Pueblo County to Hillary, and there are plenty of former Hillary supporters who are still disgruntled and looking for a political home.

Another thing that makes us important is reflected by one of the slogans by which our city is known: “Home of Heroes.” we have four living Medal of Honor recipients living here, which is remarkable for the size of our town. This reflects the strong history of military service here, and so issues such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan provide an opportunity for McCain to find kindred spirits among Democrats who might swing his way on foreign policy issues.

Finally, there’s the matter of Pueblo economics. We have a pervasively working-class community that reflects in many ways the prototypical values of “Main Street” that so many politicians are talking about. We have a mix of rural and blue collar labor jobs here, and as manufacturing is – or at least has been – a key factor in our country’s economic strength, one has to look no further than Pueblo to see how working class voters will respond to proposed policy decisions.

Only time will tell if my theory of Pueblo becoming the next Iowa – or, God forbid, the next Dade County – will be proven. But there are plenty of reasons why this relatively laid back and strangely anonymous city along I-25 a hundred miles south of Denver may make headlines come November.

I say let’s bask in the limelight, brief as it may be, while it lasts.