Tuesday, April 4, 2017

E’er Since by Faith I Saw the Stream

one of the things that draws me to buddhism is the teaching of the buddha that one should not accept anything that is contrary to reason or that is not beneficial to all.   this is in contrast to the emphasis on blind faith in many christian traditions.  one often hears something like "God's ways are not our ways, so we must have faith and believe that God has a purpose in allowing, or causing, [something] to happen."  as christians, we are often told that we must place our faith in the bible as the word of God and accept the most absurd claims that it contains, seeking convoluted explanations to reconcile its contradictory teachings.  we are told that we should suspend reason and believe that, since God's mind is so much greater than ours, we must accept what seems unreasonable on faith.

if i had my way, i think i'd throw out all of the bible except the gospel of mark and the epistle of james as the bases for the christian life; the rest would be considered outside the canon.  certainly, there are helpful passages throughout the bible, but there are many books that are helpful to us, like the writings of ralph waldo emerson, but those other "uninspired" books can be taken for what they're worth, while christians are taught that we must uncritically accept every word of the bible as being the inspired word of God.

in buddhism one finds the founder of the religion encouraging a scientific approach to how to live.  gautama suggest that one examine any proposition critically, rejecting that which is unreasonable and not beneficial, and accepting that which proves to be reasonable and beneficial.  he teaches that we should accept nothing, no matter how sacred we are taught that it is, on blind faith.  because something is often repeated and believed by many, because something is found in a sacred book, because something is commonly taught by respected teachers, or because something is a part of long-held tradition is no reason to incorporate that something into our lives and beliefs, the buddha says.  instead, we must carefully observe the effects of a practice and analyze its reasonableness to see if that practice is a valid one.

there are many christian teachings that are incorporated into the tradition of which i am a part that fail to measure up to the buddha's standard, but the one i find most troubling in my advancing years is the teaching that humankind is inherently evil and worthy of God's wrath, that it is only by placing one's faith in the "saving blood" of jesus that one can be spared that wrath.  it seems to me that immeasurable harm has been done by this belief, including using it as justification for the most terrible child abuse, as a reason for terrible wars and persecution, and as grounds for unwarranted discrimination.  yet, i continue as a dissenting member of the tradition, because i find so many loving and lovable people in my community.  there may come a time when those who use the bible and the teachings they arbitrarily deem valid as weapons to so dominate our tradition that i can no longer remain a part of it, a time when i can no longer be a christian with buddhist leanings.  when that time comes, i will become a buddhist raised in a christian tradition, a buddhist who reveres the teachings of jesus rather than a christian who reveres the teachings of the buddha.

may we use our minds to reason and analyze.  may we not be afraid to reject that which is unreasonable and not beneficial.  may we go where the truth leads us.  shalom.

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