my grandma, tattoos, and drinking with my pastor





I have many opinions. I have many beliefs. I know many facts. So do you.

Many of my opinions are stupid.

Many of my beliefs have changed and will change.

Many of the facts I think I know for sure, as it will turn out, will be dead wrong. 

The trouble is, I do not know which opinions, beliefs, and facts I have wrong, and neither do you.   So we must listen to and consider other people and their points of view.

“You need to eat 6-11 servings a day of pasta and bread every day.  Its good for you, trust me, oh, and you better clean your plate!”  That’s the message I got from my family, school, and TV as a kid, and certainly, it was with good intentions on their part.  Most of us now know better, but it is still hard for me not to think that way when I eat.  I am unlearning deeply engrained (pardon the pun) cultural modes of thinking on this particular subject.

My grandmother, MeMe, has always strongly opposed tattoos. She says they are  “tacky” and for “criminals”. She holds this conviction deeply, because in her generation it was exactly criminals and “people with bad families” who had tattoos.  Since this was a common view, responsible people who may have appreciated tattoo art avoided them so as not to be seen in this light.  She could have never imagined her grandson and his friends would ever be all tatted up (especially Devin Shelton, who she has a granny crush on and always remarks on his beautiful teeth).   It’s easier to see now, that tattoos themselves are not bad, nor cause criminal activity, but previously the two were inherently connected.  Even MeMe, at 92 is able to unlearn in order to love people and more deeply understand truth.

Often, in conservative and small towns, alcohol use is confined to sketchy, dark, dirty bars with no windows and reckless rebellious teens.  Although the Bible is clear that it is not a sin to consume alcohol, its reasonable why people steer others away from it.  The problem is that as time goes on it becomes about the alcohol, not the hearts of the people and the truths of scripture.  In my culture in Seattle, it is common, if not very regular, that I meet with pastors, church members, and non-Christian in bars.  While I was leading worship at church one Sunday, our new lead pastor told me “we should go drink some beer together” and we did between the 4pm and 7pm services.  I was greatly blessed by his invitation and his willingness to engage with me.  It said something different than,  “As your pastor and spiritual authority, let me pray for you” It said, “I’m a real dude and would like to get to know you.”  I know this would not fly in many churches, and I do understand why, however, it is worth constantly re-evaluating our manmade rules and being willing to unlearn some of what we have may have inherited or wrongly arrived at.

Biblical truths, Jesus’ words, and God’s commands are often intertwined with moralism, legalism, and religion in that very same way.  This blog is about examining what we learn from our families, traditions, cultures, and religions, and evaluating it in light of the unchanging Word of God, the Bible.  We trust Jesus over our families, over our culture, and even over our religious traditions.  In other words, we unlearn in order that we may learn and grow in our understanding of truth and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

You can see in our previous posts and inevitably will see going forward, that some people will combat this line of thinking with clear cut, unloving, self-defensive, bolstered positions, that leave no room for discussion. (Unfortunately this more often comes from the ones that claim to know Jesus).  These comments and attitudes will always be red flags for self-righteousness and insecurity, but since the Gospel brings light, we are glad to receive these responses, as it exposes the heart of their authors.

We believe though humility and willingness to both be wrong and admit it, that we can create a unique level playing field and opportunity for both those of us who know Jesus and those who do not know Jesus to participate together.  If you are afraid of other’s views being heard then you do not trust Jesus. Jesus is real and HE will prove it, not you.  Our job IS to engage with other people, not shut them down.


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