Thursday, February 02, 2012

Carpet & Chairs

Not long ago, I was reading pastor Chuck Smith's autobiography entitled "Chuck Smith, A Memoir of Grace, as told to Chuck Smith Jr." The book is not that lengthy, and it has turned out to be very interesting on several levels. Recently, Smith publicly announced that he has been diagnosed with lung cancer. So he is facing a very serious challenge.†

But in connection with his book, what I want to mention here is a particular urban legend that has been around through the years, and which still might get circulated on the Internet in some form. This concerns the reasons why Smith decided many years ago to leave the Foursquare denomination, in which he had been a minister since graduating from LIFE Bible college around 1945.

I have heard various versions regarding what happened. But in my neck of the woods, the legend went something like this: At the Foursquare church where Chuck was pastor, he decided to have the carpet replaced with something of another color. The church board objected to this, and being miffed by their opposition Chuck decided to exit the Foursquare denomination. Another variation had the dispute being about the color of the upholstery in the pews. And still another said that the disagreement concerned the arrangement of some chairs in the sanctuary.

However, in his autobiography, Smith explains in some detail, especially in chapter six, the various reasons for his increasing disenchantment with the Foursquare denomination and where its leadership was taking things at the time, all of which eventually led to Smith deciding to pursue an independent course in a non-denominational setting. It turns out that the reasons he gave in his autobiography had totally nothing to do with the carpets, upholstery, or chairs.

In chapter eight, there is a mention of the disagreement about chair arrangement, but the actual context there had absolutely nothing to do with the Foursquare denomination. For by the time of that particular incident, Smith had already left that denomination. But Smith does talk about this incident as one of the reasons why he decided to leave the particular non-denominational church in Corona, California, which he was pastoring at the time, and to move on, eventually ending up in Costa Mesa. I recommend the book, if anything because it clears up this particular detail about events.

So it turns out that the actual situation wasn't at all how the urban myths have portrayed it. And there have been other more sinister variations of the story. In fact, by googling the Internet, you are guaranteed to dredge up a mishmash of absurdities, distortions, and outright lies being circulated nowadays about Chuck Smith. But that goes without saying, for this situation applies equally to nearly any personality who might have been in the public eye for some reason. The Internet is a great tool for propagating myths and legends and falsifications about people, living or dead.

For just one example, please see John Derbyshire's interesting article "Wiki Wars" about his personal experience dealing with Wikipedia. As he succinctly puts it, "Ninety percent of what you read about people in the public prints and forums is malicious lies. Any adult who does not know that should stop reading and take up fishing."

On another point, recently in one news item about Chuck's cancer diagnosis, the reporter calls him the "the father of the Jesus People Revolution in Southern California." I personally think the word "father" is a bit of an exaggeration on the reporter's part, as if Chuck had originated events entirely by himself. That Chuck guided them in a major way is indisputable. Perhaps it would be more accurate to describe him as "one of the many helmsmen." Chuck's autobiography didn't provide as many details as I would have liked about what happened during that time period. But the primary intent of his autobiography was to explain how the various events in his life prior to that had gone into preparing him for what was to come.

† [Update] Chuck passed away in the early morning of October 3rd, 2013.