Louis C.K. on Our Neighbor’s Bowl and What “Fair” Is

Louis CK
Writing books is a strange process. When you’re in the middle of creating something this big, it tends to consume your every waking moment in some way. I can’t watch TV or have a conversation with a neighbor without my mind searching the content for narrative or thematic threads to weave into the chapter I’m working on. It can be a little bit maddening, at least for those around us, I expect. But I love it.

One unlikely wonderful source for material as of late for me has been the show “Louie,” by comedian Louis C.K. To say he’s irreverent would be underselling his shock value. He’s a little bit like Trey Parker and Matt Stone of Southparkfame in that he levels the playing field of propriety simply by making nothing off limits. Some might not be able to get past his coarse and occasionally nihilistic approach to life, but I consider him to be nothing short of prophetic in his observations about the human condition.

I’ve been working most recently on a chapter about God’s notion of justice as compared with the human idea about justice, and once again, C.K. provided a wealth of material. I’m watching through the seasons on demand with my wife, Amy, and last night, we watched an episode in which Louie is preparing a special meal for his kids. He has an extra slice of mango left over after making smoothies for his two daughters, and so he offers it to his oldest. Not surprising, the younger daughter takes some issue with this apparent injustice.

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“She got a mango popsicle and I didn’t,” she whines, although the so-called popsicle really just is a slice of fruit speared with a fork. But the fact that her sister got one and she didn’t makes it the most important slice of mango in the world at that moment.

“That’s right,” he says, and continues cooking. Sometimes she gets things you don’t and sometimes, it goes the other way. That’s just how life works.

“But daddy,” she pleads, “it’s not fair!”

“Who said anything about fair?” he asks, a little incredulous. “You were just fine without it until she got it. What’s the problem?”

“It’s just not fair,” she insisted. “If she gets one, I should get one too.”

“Look,” he says, “turning toward her and leaning down to meet her eyes “the only time you need to worry about what’s in your neighbor’s bowl is if you’re checking to make sure they have enough.” then he turns back to the stove and the girl, a little stunned, walks away.

Wow.

Time and again, we see examples in the Bible of God’s “unfair” justice. The story of the Prodigal Son is unfair to the more faithful son who stays behinds and tends to his father’s estate. The vineyard laborers who work for only an hour and get the same wage as those who worked all day seem unfairly compensated when compared with those whose hands are blistered and bleeding from a full day’s labor. Adam and Eve didn’t get what they had coming. The examples go on and on.

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But if Jesus is, in fact, the example to which we look, let’s consider for a moment the point at which he is near death on the cross, abandoned by all who claimed to love him, taunted and tortured by figures of authority, and all because he refused to abandon his message of radical, empire-shaking love that stood firm in the face of any force, fear or hate intent on its destruction.

Talk about unfair.

And in the culminating moment, when Jesus would be justified in calling out in despair about this injustice, condemning those who fell so woefully short, he calls on God to offer them mercy and forgiveness: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

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How is this possible? How can anyone see past such grief and suffering, still fully resting within the embrace of that radical love about which he preached?

It’s not something we’ll ever entirely understand, at least not in this life. This is one of those examples I look to and say that I’m glad God is God and I’m not. I can’t even look at my neighbor’s car/home/job/whatever and not think about myself, let alone keep others at the center of my heart when even they are the ones with hammer and nail in hand.

But it is something toward which we can look, over and again, something toward which we can reorient ourselves when we’ve lost our way once again, something toward which we can take small, tentative steps, day after day, even if we stumble and fall back occasionally along the way.

It is the summit toward which the arc of history bends. It is “Thy kingdom come.” And fortunately for all of us, it’s anything but fair.


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.He is the creator and editor of BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS. Christian has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published in early 2012 called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due DateVisit www.christianpiatt.com, or find him on Twitter or Facebook.

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About the Author

Christian Piatt

Christian PiattChristian 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.He is the creator and editor of BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS. Christian has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published in early 2012 called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date. Visit www.christianpiatt.com, or find him on Twitter or Facebook.View all posts by Christian Piatt →

  • Jonathan

    Christus Victor. Jesus is the Jubilee.

  • otrotierra

    A profound departure from the more politically fashionable gospel of Ayn Rand. Thank you Christian Piatt!

  • Frank

    Yes life is unfair. Over 21,000 innocent unborn children are killed weekly mostly for reasons of convenience. There is nothing fair about that.

    • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

      It seems rather odd to take a post that has little to nothing to do with the abortion debate and shoehorn in the issue. But if you are going to do so, you could at least have the courtesy to represent your opponents fairly. Abortion is significantly more complex than “convenience.”

      • Frank

        97% of all abortion area die to reasons of convenience. When anyone speaks of justice it is perfectly appropriate to point out the most unjust actions and the unwillingness of many Christians to stop the killing. There can be no justice at all while allowing this atrocity.

        So sorry if this truth inconveniences you.

        • Jonathan

          I admire your persistence.

          • Frank

            I am nothing special believe me but someone has to keep getting the truth out in the midst of all this selfishness, so maybe, just maybe, their hearts will soften a bit and come to the realization that Jesus and abortion do not go together in any way, shape or form.

          • Jonathan

            Jesus and many things don’t go together. Maybe others are more empathetic to a different method to abortion abolition, and that seems to be the area in which you are unwilling to compromise.

          • Jonathan

            Prohibitions aren’t effective.

          • Frank

            I am open to anything that we can do to stop abortion but we cannot allow the slaughter while we try and fix it. So prohibition is far from ideal or perfectly effective but making it harder to have an abortion is a necessary critical first step.

          • Jonathan

            Statistically making it harder hasn’t availed much good fruit.

          • Frank

            The number of abortions before Roe v wade – 1972 – 586,760

            After Roe v wade – more than 55 million or 1.375 million/year

            Making harder will bear much fruit and if it does not at least some innocent lives will be saved.

          • Jonathan

            The number of (recorded) abortions before Roe v wade – 1972 – 586,760
            —-
            People will just do it illegally, cause more harm to their bodies, be forced into deeper danger shame and hiding.

          • Jonathan

            Making a law doesn’t change the heart. So even if people obey what fruit would that be? Legalism?

          • Frank

            The fruit would be saved innocent lives. How terribly sad that it is not enough for people like you.

          • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

            This may seem random, but I’m genuinely curious: what’s your stance on capital punishment? And what’s your stance on welfare?

          • Frank

            Overturning Roe v Wade won’t automatically make abortions illegal. It will go back to the states.

            As far as the shame goes, everyone should be ashamed that we allow over 21,000 innocent lives to be killed each week, almost all due to reasons of convenience. And anyone’s who allows an abortion for reasons other than rape, incest or the life of the mother should feel great shame.

          • Drew

            “And anyone who allows an abortion… should feel great shame.” Yes, Frank, you SHOULD feel ashamed of yourself for doing nothing but trolling websites your entire life. It is a great tragedy that you couldn’t get out of your basement and off your computer chair because you liked trolling too much.

          • Jonathan

            Frank, I respect and admire your zeal for on the largest hidden genocide ever. It is beyond tragedy. I’m thankful that you advocate so strongly. I believe you are right, but more than one thing can be true at the same time.

            I just don’t empathize with your method. I think you need to have grace for people who are making decisions that are not easy. And show them respect even if you think they are making the wrong one.

            I have a Christian friend who volunteers a Planned Parenthood. She escorts women inside through the gauntlet of slurs. I admire her so much. She is ministering to Jesus.

          • Jonathan

            I know people on both sides of the fence. I don’t condone abortion myself. But I sense there is something OFF about the extreme “Religious Right” treatment of the issue.
            —-
            I have friends who claim that people misunderstand the “religious right,” that they really aren’t judgmental haters, but then during political season they open their mouths about welfare, abortion, gay marriage, war and I’m like…. wait???? What just happened? Something is off.

          • Drew

            Ah, so you actually believe trolling websites is a substantive way to accomplish your goal. Now I get why you are dedicated. Here’s a piece of advice, Frank – trolling does not accomplish anything.

        • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

          You are a big fan of the word “convenience,” aren’t you? I would be interested to know where you get your statistics from, because the most recent I can find is the 2004 Guttmacher Institute’s study, which allowed for multiple responses: 13% of respondents mentioned health problems for the fetus, and 12% mentioned concerns for the mother’s health. “Convenience” is a blanket term that could mean anything you want it to mean, and could easily include these health concerns, but implies that the decision is made with no more thought than a decision on which clothes to wear for the day.

          I am not asking you to deny the truth. I am asking you to represent the whole truth, rather than masking it. And the whole, inconvenient truth is that abortion is more complex than most people would care to admit. So I, too, am sorry – sorry that complexities are inconvenient for you. And sorry that you feel the need to derail a discussion on how we want what others have to shoehorn in your hate for your brothers and sisters. Yes, hate. When you are unwilling to appreciate the complexities of a debate and instead paint your opponents as monsters, you are hating. And that, too, is an inconvenient truth.

          • Frank

            Keep trying to justify the unjustifiable!

            Social Reasons (given as primary reason)

            – Feels unready for child/responsibility 25%

            - Feels she can’t afford baby 23%

            – Has all the children she wants/Other family responsibilities 19%

            – Relationship problem/Single motherhood 8%

            – Feels she isn’t mature enough 7%

            – Interference with education/career plans 4%

            – Parents/Partner wants abortion<1% – Other reasons<6.5% TOTAL:93%
            (Approx.)
            "Hard Cases" (given as primary reason) – Mother's Health 4%

            – Baby may have health problem 3%

            – Rape or Incest<0.5%

            *Source: Lawrence Finer, et. al, "Reasons U.S. Women Have Abortions: Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives" Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, Vol. 37 No. 3 (Sept., 2005) p. 110.

            S0 yes mostly due to reasons of convenience.

            Poll Fact: An April 2004 Zogby poll found that 56% of Americans support legal abortion in only three or fewer circumstances: when the pregnancy results from rape or incest or when it threatens the life of the mother.

            *Source: Lawrence Finer, et. al, "Reasons U.S. Women Have Abortions: Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives" Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, Vol. 37 No. 3 (Sept., 2005) p. 110.

            • Nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and about four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion.[1] Twenty-two percent of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion.[2]

            • In 2008, 1.21 million abortions were performed, down from 1.31 million in 2000. However, between 2005 and 2008, the long-term decline in abortions stalled. From 1973 through 2008, nearly 50 million legal abortions occurred.[2]

            • Each year, two percent of women aged 15–44 have an abortion. Half have had at least one previous abortion.[2,3]

            • At least half of American women will experience an unintended pregnancy by age 45, and, at current rates, one in 10 women will have an abortion by age 20, one in four by age 30 and three in 10 by age 45.[4,5]

            Source: Guttmacher

          • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

            Oh good, you do have a source. You’re still misrepresenting the information, of course (among other things, labeling all social reasons as “convenience” – and your original 97% seems to include the mother’s health as “convenience”), but it’s a start. How about going beyond Finer’s primary reasons and delving into Guttmacher’s multiple reasons? Because very few people have only one reason for doing anything. And then we can work on treating your opponents as actual people, instead of monsters. Because that would be a fantastic step to take.

          • Drew

            Snommelp, trying to “justify” abortion is not a good approach to take. However, ask Frank what he does to end abortion besides voting once every four years and trolling websites?

          • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

            I’m not trying to justify anything except treating people like people. Still, you’re right, baiting him accomplishes absolutely nothing, and isn’t exactly the Christian response. My apologies.

          • Frank

            Only 3% of all abortions are due to rape, incest and the life of the mother.

            Among the 97% there is no reason good enough to kill an innocent life.

          • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

            Your own statistics disagree with that one, and those only accounted for primary reasons. Why am I feeding the troll?

          • Frank

            Yes feel free to dismiss the truth about these killings so you feel better about yourself.

            Feel free to disregard me as a troll while the unborn children continue to be slaughtered, over 21,000 each week, so you can sleep at night.

            How wonderfully convenient for you.

          • http://twitter.com/CharliesDragon Charlie’s Dragon

            And how fucking convenient of you not to take into consideration that the women having an abortion because she “already has family to take care of” or “doesn’t feel mature enough” is doing it because they know they can’t give the support, love and simple financial aid needed to make a decent human being out of a newborn child. If we say that half of the women putting down “social reasons” actually can’t raise a child properly for different reasons, that makes 48.5% of abortions justified in my eyes. Do you want a ton of kids running around without clothes on their back or a family that can only afford dinner three times a week? It hardly seems like a Christian thing to do, to wish that upon so many children.
            Mind, the 48.5% is a number I pulled out of thin air. Personally I think it should be higher, you probably think it should be lower, but the fact remains that a part, no matter how high, of the people putting down what you think is “social reasons” for an abortion is saving their child a lot of trouble.

          • Frank

            Keep trying to justify the unjustifiable.

            If someone cannot take care of a child then they should avoid actions that create children. Actions have consequences but people seem to want to do what they want to do and consequences be damned, even if its the killing of an innocent life.

            Following Jesus, taking Him seriously and allowing this are incompatible.

    • Drew

      Trolling websites does nothing to stop abortion. When will you live your faith instead of talking about it?

  • Craver-Vii

    Thanks for repeating C.K.’s story. It’s a lesson worth repeating. I wish I could promote this article, and I would, except for the inserted barb right in the midst of the article that I believe is misrepresenting good Christians. Calvinists do not see themselves upholding their particular view or tradition, but the very Scriptures and the glory of God. If the “Neighbor’s Bowl” article stood alone, I would not mind pointing others to it.

    • http://snommelp.tumblr.com/ Snommelp

      I had to look to find this barb… you’re talking about the link to Christian’s other article, yes? I skipped right over it when I read.

    • SamHamilton

      I found that other article in poor taste as well, but for what it’s worth, I don’t think Piatt inserted it in there. RLC probably did. I wish RLC would be more judicious in what they repost from Piatt’s blog here.

  • Drew

    I don’t want to be a troll like Frank and live a miserable existence posting on websites only to copy and paste political slogans all day long, pushing Christ aside for worship of the Republican Party (TM).

    So, while I disagree with Piatt most of the time, I just wanted to stop and say that I thought this was a great article. When you’re not trashing Tebow and Calvinism, Piatt, you write some good stuff. Keep it up.

  • SamHamilton

    Do you all think that it might be better to not respond to Frank in the first place?

    • Frank

      That’s what I say! But you see deep down everyone knows that its an anathema to the Christian faith to allow over 21,000 innocent unborn children to be killed each week most due to reasons of convenience. When faced with this truth someone is either forced to agree and take action or try and defend and justify the indefensible and the unjustifiable. The truth cuts very deep as it should.

      • SamHamilton

        Perhaps you’re right.

  • Mick

    The problem with the social Gospel in the way it is often portrayed in modern politics, it joinns in with Un Christian coalitions , it distorts the message of the Cross. …. Fairness, Piatt speaks to it but missed the point . We all are responsible for Christ being put up on that Cross and the suffering he had to go through . The poor, the rich , the giving , the selfish , we all are pretty pathetic . That is the Gospel Truth . Paul by anyone standards , especially in this day of Salavation through political beliefs was perhaps a role model of Christian Character . He was not boatstful , never told people how to be justified in their dealings but through the acceptance of Christ . Through Christ we get to know him better . The prodigal Son is example of human nature , but looking at it through Christ we rejoice in one more knowing him . Love is a character Trait that is promoted by knowing Christ , through left or rightward political views are just how we believe helps others more . Suggesting Christ promotes one over the other is taking allot upon yourself , in a way your putting Christ back on that cross . If one ever falls to know our Lord because of it , because Christ gets entagled with your politics , you have much to answer for .

  • Simpleboy

    I reckon he should have cut the mango in two, and given a piece to both! But on a more serious note, God calls us to speak out whenever we see injustice; and where our voice is, so too should be our feet, and hands. Walking the walk, not just talking the talk. And that is sort of relevant to the vituperative tirade I read above about abortion (pro and anti). Why don’t we see all the talkers out in the slums and with the poor, helping them and their children, and lifting them out of poverty by giving them lessons in English language, and an education, and other skills, so they can see that they are considered to be human, like us, not just an object for a soap-box ranter. And when you think about it, Jesus empowered and encouraged those same people – the poor, the down-trodden. Not just with words. If he had only talked about it, he wouldn’t have been crucified. So if you see or hear injustice (if you have ears) go and change it – but by giving (ie with a good eye) & helping those in need, not preaching at them. After all, God’s kingdom is here, in glimpses, and some day His will will be done here & everywhere, as it is in heaven.

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