Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Stages of Faith

I was thinking this morning about the idea of a tattoo as a metaphor for Christian understanding. The train of thought began with the much-heard bemoaning that 'young people today don't understand (or demonstrate) commitment'. I think part of that complaint comes from observations about an apparent decrease in those signing up for soldiership and/or wearing Salvation Army uniform (with some notable recent exceptions - Alexis and Sabina!). However, when I consider the commensurate increase in tattoos of faith symbols, then I can see some very long term commitments being demonstrated. But that's not really my point...

I think that for some people, their Christian understanding is something that gets 'tattooed' on them at a relatively early stage of faith development. Though their skin may become wrinkled, they will hold fast to the concepts and frames of that time. I've written before on the subject of Stages of Faith but I want to offer a slightly different metaphor today.

Just a few years after I became a Christian, I also found out that I needed to wear glasses - particularly to see well at night and at longer distances. Since then, I've had several changes of both frames and lenses. I guess I could have stayed with my first pair of glasses but not only would they now be very daggy, but they would no longer fully meet their original purpose as my eyes have changed over the years. In a similar way, our Christian understanding may need to be adapted as our life circumstances and experience shift. The goal is still to try and 'see' Jesus clearly but as our context changes sometimes the old lenses will no longer allow us to do that.

1 comment:

John T. said...

Hello Jason, me again.

A different take on glasses.

For me, spiritual development was a matter of taking off the glasses.

When I first became a christian the church gave me a pair of glasses through which I could take a new fresh look at the world with clarity.

These glasses also brought into focus particular meanings of the bible that could never be found by reading the text without the glasses. For example the glasses brought the notion of trinity into focus, an image that cannot be found in the bible with the naked eye. The glasses brought into focus the sinfulness of sex, again something that the naked eye cannot read in the bible. The glasses focused on a personal messiah that suffered the punishments for the sins I committed, something the naked eye cannot see in the bible.

In fact the whole philosophy and ideology of Christianity that I was presented with and accepted was constructed somewhere else other than the bible. To wear the glasses of christendom gave a totally different image and story of the bible than what a reading with an open heart and open mind reveals from the text.

The glasses are the Roman Creeds, the legacy of the Roman empires. It is the creeds that have been evangelised by the church, not the story of the tribal indigenous Jesus and his resistance to and execution by the Roman empire.

The God described in the Roman Creeds cannot be found in the bible unless the bible is read through the lens of the creeds themselves.

The glasses do not just refract the bible text, they are the lenses through which we look at the whole world and at ourselves. Like the creeds and the bible, the christian ideology creates a template into which we put the rest of the world and ourselves in order to get a clear vision of what it is all about.

The bible talks of being born again. This is a process of throwing off the glasses, I suppose if you did know what glasses were you might say it was scales falling from your eyes. - all the glasses including the glasses of patriarchy, capitalism, middle class comfort, democracy and all the other refractions of reality that we perceive as clear and normal.

This was, for me, the process of spiritual growth. There have been many "ah ha!" moments along the way. Just when I think I've thrown off one set of glasses and believe I "have arrived" another pair of glasses appears on my nose. There has not been a one off process of revelation (although there has been a couple of biggies) but a gradual process of unfolding and discarding illusion.

This process of consciousness change and spiritual healing is, I believe, what the whole bible and especially the story of Jesus is all about. It has nothing to do with the simple adoption of a belief (opinion) in order to be saved.

JT

p.s. I wrote something else about the progressive spirituality movement you might be interested in.
http://unlearningtheproblem.wordpress.com/2010/03/09/is-progressive-spirituality-just-another-middle-class-comfort-religion/