Wednesday, August 31, 2011

God, Faith and Invisible Eyewear by Rich Chaffins

This month started with a story about friendship and we wrap it up with an offering from my best friend. In addition to being an adoring husband, devoted father, talented guitarist, skilled luthier, on-call editor, and bottomless blog post suggester, Rich is also a fantastic writer. I love my virtual village, but I get by because of my real life friends and I could not be happier to share Rich's words with you today. Thanks bestie.

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Growing up in a Christian home can be a great thing, and in my experience, it was. I was raised by my paternal grandparents, two of the best people I’ve ever known,  from around 3rd grade til I graduated high school. As I went away to college, I left their home with many things in tow:  a love of small-town life; lessons learned from years of going to church, as well as the kindness and love I saw my grandparents demonstrate every day; a total lack of knowledge about housecleaning, budgeting, and generally living life on my own; a kickin’ stereo with which to blast Metallica, Nirvana and Pearl Jam; a couple of guitars, also to blast Metallica, Nirvana and Pearl Jam; and lastly, some glasses - one pair for my face and a pair of glasses I didn’t know I had.

'dark glasses' photo (c) 2007, David Bleasdale - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
These glasses were pretty unobtrusive… fashioned by my experience, with lens prescriptions called in by my family, the pastors in our church, and the televangelists that we watched every week. They only showed up when I was reading the Bible, or praying, or talking spiritual matters with other people. Didn’t even notice them, quite honestly.

Looking through them, I saw things as I was supposed to see them:
  • God was love, unless you didn’t have a “personal relationship” with Him through Jesus. If you weren’t one of us, hope you like it hot.
  • In the Old Testament, God liked the Israelites; everyone else could take a running jump.
  • 6 days of creation meant 6 24-hour periods, and the earth was 6,000 years old.
  • Heaven is somewhere else, and the purpose of the Christian’s life was to secure a ticket there someday. Once you did, relax. Mission accomplished.
  • Oh, yeah, and God? He’s a white, American flag-waving Republican.
I carried these specs with me, unknowingly, well into adulthood. Through marriage, then children, then turning the ripe old age of 30. Even a few years past that. It was easy. When I met people that had different spiritual views than I had, I felt sorry for them, because they didn’t know The Truth ™. I dismissed their worldview out of hand. Did it matter if they were raised in a different Christian tradition than me? Nope. That was the wrong one. Poor them. How about if they were, God forbid, raised in a different religion than me? Shun them, the whole heathen lot.

You may have noticed I’m writing in the past tense. So. When did I notice I had them on, you ask? On a trip back from a gig. Just riding in the passenger seat, talking, and there they were.

I had known Alise for a while. She and her husband Jason had started attending the church I work at, and Alise got involved in our music ministry. Being the guy that’s in charge of the musicians/bands, I really appreciated both her talent and her very generous availability. She unnerved me when she wasn’t at the piano, however. She had an Obama bumper sticker on her van (there was talk that he might be the Antichrist, after all). She was quite liberal in her worldview, and not shy about talking about it. Ever. Like, not even a little bit.
   
Wait…if you do feel like that, shouldn’t you hide it? It’s not how Christians™ look at things!

Fast forward a few months, and she’s playing keyboards in my cover band, as well. We usually ride to gigs together, because she’s the new person, and nervous, and I want to make her feel welcome. Over the course of a few gigs, we get to be really good friends. Then one day, we’re besties. This is a person I’ve decided is a closer friend than anyone besides my wife, someone who I respect and love to hang out with.

There’s just this thing about her view of God.

I decided that I just couldn’t let this be a block to our friendship, one of those locked-off rooms that we don’t talk about. I knew I couldn’t dismiss her ideas, just because they were different. This was a friend, a GREAT friend, and as such, she wasn’t one of the nameless, faceless masses…you know, them.

So I asked her view on creation. And listened. It was hard. I wanted to shut it out, to cover my ears. But I listened, asked more questions…and noticed that second set of lenses I was looking through.

It’s been a process, certainly.  One thing that’s helped is learning that those lenses are pretty common. We all have them, to one degree or another. Ever notice that every group who has ever talked about there only being one way to look at God says it’s their way?  Telling, isn’t it?

Now my study of the Bible is looking at questions that have been occurring to me lately. Things like:
  • Since God puts everyone where and when He wants, what happens to the people He put in Muslim countries? Did He purposefully put them in a place where all likelihood suggests they will not, by our definition, spend eternity with Him?
  • If God picks only the people He wants, why does He create “throwaway people”, and they all burn in Hell eternally for the crime of not being chosen?
  • Why, in Revelation, is there a gate that’s always open in the New Jerusalem? Wouldn’t that suggest an invitation to outsiders?
  • Why are references to Hell in the Bible talking about trash dumps outside the city walls of Jerusalem?
So, I’m looking for answers…and trying to wear as few lenses as possible.

Have you ever removed any invisible glasses? Who or what revealed them to you? What kinds of questions are you asking today?

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Rich Chaffins is a guy with too much to do at any given nanosecond. He lives in the 304 with his lovely wife Misty, and their sons Nick, 10, and Wes, 5. Besides his family, his life is all about the fine art of guitar: playing them, teaching them, and building them. In addition to all THAT, he's also Assistant Music Director at his church. Get to know him and his lame sense of humor on Twitter.  








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