Jesus Needs a Background Check

As I pulled in to church this morning I saw the sign in this photo across the street in an empty lot.

I’m guessing I don’t have to explain why this creeped me out, but just in case…

Who offers free child care? Why are they motivated to do this? Are they a cult? Pedophiles? Some fringe culture church that can’t see past the weirdness of their offer because of their ideological fanaticism?

Spray paint? Really?

No name, no affiliations listed, no license referenced, nothing. Just trust me; I have some paint and time on my hands, so bring your kids on by!

What bothers me more is that we live in a poor community, and I’m guessing there are some folks who are desperate enough to take them up on their offer. My hope is that the offer is purely one of innocent generosity, and that it’s the cynicism of our culture seeping through me that’s giving me the willies.

But that’s just it; the fact that such an offer is creepy says a lot about us and the world we live in.

I started to wonder how people would react to a guy like Jesus today, some well-meaning wanderer who strolls into town with his entourage and says “Let the little children come to me.”

Umm, yeah. Nothing personal, Jesus, but without a criminal background check, some solid references and a look at your licenses, I think we’ll have to pass.

There’s a part of me that still wants to see the best in all people. But more often than not, that idealism get squashed by some dark secret that was lurking, just below the surface. so are we just more aware of our sickness. more paranoid, or have we really all fallen so far?

I know the evangelical right will howl about the moral decay of our world, but I’m not convinced it was any better in the past. After all, in the not-so-distant past we had public lynchings, rampant public sexism, homophobia (though this is still with us, just more subtle) and so on. I think the difference is that we used to be more homogenous in our subcultures. Few people crossed the lines from one group into the next. Communities were fairly small, closely knit and not particularly fluid. So we knew one another, or at least we felt like we did. Sure, there was still alcoholism, exploitation, rape and murder, but we were usually able to compartmentalize it as something that happens “out there.”

But now there really is no “out there” any more. Granted, we do have some members-only groups and gated communities, but for the most part, our social boundaries have thinned in many respects. There are still distinct differences, but we face one another, good, bad and ugly. And such unpredictability has had more than one effect on our psyche: we’re more open and generally more accepting, but we’re also more suspicious.

I’d like to think that, if Jesus showed up on our doorstep – though it’s arguable that he does every day in the form of my neighbors – I wouldn’t ask for his paperwork. But on the positive side, the fact that his skin color, language, customs and economic status might be different than mine wouldn’t be as much of an issue as it might have been in the past.

I like to think of the suspicions as social growing pains, feeling our way along blindly in the dark, not so sure where the boundaries are any more. Good or bad, it’s our new reality.

But from a parent of two kids, a bit of advice: don’t spray paint a sign for free child care and expect me to show up any time soon. I’m inclined toward a healthy dose of paranoia when it comes to my kids, and although you may be nice folks, your signs are just weird.

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 “Banned Questions About The Bible” and “Banned Questions About Jesus.” 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, or find him on Twitter or Facebook.

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