What’s in a name? – October PULP

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 cpiatt@milagrocc.org.

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