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Buddhist Follower of Jesus?

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : April 24, 2008

I have a friend who considers himself a “Buddhist follower of Jesus.” Orrin is a monk of sorts…shaved head and all…but of a progressive sort.

I firmly believe that he loves Jesus (the person…not just the idea) more than the average Christian. I suspect that many Christians don’t so much love Jesus as they love what he can do for them.

At one time in my life I would have said that being a Christian is all about two things: 1) Having a conversion experience and 2) believing the right things. This sort of basic understanding of Christian can easily foster a loveless relationship with Jesus Christ. And, strangely enough, can allow you to be considered a “believer of Jesus” without it being assumed that you should also be a “follower of Jesus.” In some circles, it is considered bad-theology to assume that a Christian necessarily MUST be a follower of Jesus. That, after all, is legalism. Nevermind that Jesus’ consistent message was something like “Hey, the Kingdom’s here…so follow me.”

Given my previous understanding of Christianity, my friend Orrin would be “out.” But, interestingly enough, you can be a greedy televangelist, a warmonger president, an apathetic church-goer, or a legalistic non-smoking or-drinking or-movie-watching or-dancing zealot and still be assumed, from an evangelical perspective, to be “in.”

But is being “in Christ” really about a conversion experience and right doctrine?

On the flip side, is it sufficient to say that if you appreciate Jesus and follow his example that you are “in?”

In a recent article, Brian McLaren is quoted as saying: “There are increasing numbers of Muslim followers of Jesus and Hindu followers of Jesus, and they do not want to be identified with the Christian religion…” I like how this insight recognizes that one can follow Jesus authentically without buying into a pre-packaged belief system. It is safe to assume that when the disciples were traveling with Jesus that they were, technically speaking, heretics. I doubt that they understood Jesus’ divinity, affirmed the Trinity, or recognized the universality of the Church.

Why is it that we never start where Jesus did? Instead of inviting people to become followers with us in the way of Jesus, why do we make “discipleship” about doctrinal adherence? And why do we assume that we should always push for a conversion?

What I don’t like about Brian’s quote is that it could easily encourage people to disregard Christianity or validate Hinduism or Islam (or Buddhism). But these systems aren’t the same. And I don’t even believe their cores are the same (except with, perhaps, Buddhism and Hinduism). It is also a bit fishy when folks think they can remain fundamentally within their existing paradigm and then incorporate Jesus into that paradigm. We all know that adding Jesus into our lives as-is often means that Jesus becomes the posterboy for our pre-existing values, virtues, and convictions. One doesn’t need to embrace everything about Christianity to be a follower of Jesus. But at the same time, one cannot remain as they are and be a follower of Jesus.

So, where is the balance? How do we resist the sort of thinking that equates Christianity with a conversion experience and right doctrine while, at the same time, resist the sort of thinking that equates following Jesus with adopting an ethical system (usually focusing on those ethics that we already like about Jesus)?

For that matter, what should it look like to “make disciples” in a way that affirms both the doxis and the praxis of Jesus?

Mark Van Steenwyk is the editor of JesusManifesto.com. He is a Mennonite pastor (Missio Dei in Minneapolis), writer, speaker, and grassroots educator. He lives in South Minneapolis with his wife (Amy), son (Jonas) and some of their friends.


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    The Bible (and Jesus himself) can be helpful here.

    Jesus told his followers clearly, in Matthew 28:18-20, "18And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

    This seems to be a pretty clear call for correct doctrine and a public confession. In fact, this verse alone speaks to Christ's divinity, the Trinity and the Universality of the Church. I think the disciples understood more than you are giving them credit for...
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    Sure, but that's the end of Matthew. It took the disciples three years to get there...I could say more, but I want others to jump into this before I start pontificating.
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    Fair enough. I do believe Jesus is clearly making a distinction between *their* discipleship (which we can agree was wholly unique in history) and how disciples would be made in the future.

    Curious to hear the discussion.
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    Joseph of Antioch wrote:

    "There is a zen priest at a well known meditation center here in northern california who has been connecting with Mark Scandrette & Reimagine in SF. (He was a Jesus freak in the 70's)."

    I am he.

    I have been in residential Zen training for fifteen years. I have been an ordained Zen Priest for ten.

    I was involved in the Jesus movement in the 70"s for three years. I left it because I could no longer believe the particular version of "right doctrine" that was being espoused, i.e, that people who did not believe precisely the things that we believe about Christ will burn in hell eternally.

    Not long a go, while driving back from visiting my best friend who 25 years ago founded a lay Franciscan community to serve the poor, a strong, irresistibly compelling feeling arose in me.

    "I really miss hanging out with Jesus."

    The really compelling part of this experience was the feeling of an actual relationship with an actual person that I actually had long ago, and that this person was in a sense trying to get back in touch with me.

    So here I am-a Zen Priest follower of Jesus.



    Recently, while speaking to a group of college students that my friend Mark Scandrette asked me to speak to, I found myself spontaneously saying, "I am his now. if ever I come to feel that being a Zen priest is incompatible with following Him, I would stop being a priest in a heartbeat."

    I hadn't planned on saying that. It just popped out of my mouth. So far He seems OK with my remaining a Zen priest. in fact, my experience as a priest seems to have something positive to offer to my good friends in the emergent community here in the bay area.

    Various issues have been raised in this thread, such as right doctrine, conversion, right practice, things like this.

    Let me say a few things I feel about some of these.

    In terms of right doctrine: "My thoughts are not your thoughts, saith the Lord." I believe it is the hight of human arrogance to presume that our tiny little intellects, with their tiny little concepts, can do justice to God's nature and Love. Therefore, how one actually lives is what matters, not the doctrinal affiliation one espouses. Where is the love?

    Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.
    Many will say to Me on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?" And then I will declare to them, "I never knew you. Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness."

    But what is the will of the father? What is "orthopraxy?"

    A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A founding pastor of a megachurch, complete with food court happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a high powered televangelist, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Hindu/Moslem/Budhist as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn in Jericho and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'

    "Which of these three do you think was engaged in "orthopraxy?"

    As for conversion:

    It takes nine months to be born of water, from conception to birth. it may take a lifetime to be born of the Spirit. I would like to say that "no longer do I live, but Christ lives in me," but I am not there yet. To reduce conversion to one cathartic peak experience trivializes discipleship. His love is infinite. Growing into his love is bottomless. Metanoia is a process, not an event.

    I will leave it at this for now.

    Reverend Ricky
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    Thanks for dropping by Reverend Ricky. I love your response. It really frames this issue in a way that I think Jesus would frame it.
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    great post; great questions! and i think you're leading the right direction at the end--or at least the direction i find myself drawn to.

    Jesus is the center of our identity as his followers--the place where belief and practice occur together, the place where both doxis and praxis originate from. it seems that the practice-side of things is what any of us best relate too (at least recently). we get that Jesus healed peoples bodies and fed their stomachs and preached a message that was fully politically and economically on the side of the down and out. we deeply appreciate the fact the new testament presents a picture of church as a community that cares for each other and its society in these physical, practical ways--ways that followed Jesus' giving up himself to his Father, to others, and to the cross. we get that.

    but Jesus is also the source of our most radical doxological commitments. this works at a couple of levels. first, we are hanging onto some very particular historical claims, about who Jesus was, what he did, etc. that's a necessary starting point, and something that our worship and our theology is utterly un-Jesus-following without. on a second level, if we're following Jesus, then we're taking on Jesus' God as ours. we're identifying ourselves with his basic way of understanding the world, God's way of interacting with it, his appraisal of societal structures, etc. if we're following him, we're concerning ourselves with the coming of a very particular kingdom and a particular God who reigns in it.

    so, can a buddhist or a hindu be a Jesus-follower? yeah, but it's going to change their whole way of being, their whole way of understanding themselves and their world. and they won't be a very good buddhist or hindu after that. just like a middleclass guy from the states can be a Jesus-follower--he just won't be a very good middleclass guy from the states anymore...
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    maybe he'd be a better middleclass guy from the states
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    Great post. I'm just reading Kierkegaard, whose big thing was that we have Christendom but largely no Christianity because our religious structures prevent us from taking the gospels seriously and applying them to our lives.

    Which makes sense to me. Christ works through the church - but maybe that is often 'in spite of' rather than 'because of'. So, knowing what I do about the dumbing medicinal effect of religion, I'm fairly sceptical of other religious types claiming to follow Jesus in other ways. I suspect that might just mean 'I'm a Hindu but when convenient I trot out something nice-sounding I once heard about Jesus of Nazareth'. I'd be very surprised if that isn't what is happening - because I've seen it so often happen in church.

    Maybe there are two things going on - maybe there are genuine hidden followers of Christ who are forced by circumstance to keep something of their 'mother faith', I really hope so. And maybe there are others who say these things because they think it sounds cool. To me as an outsider, there seems to be something very contradictory between these faiths and the way of Christ.

    I dunno - just offering a suggestion.
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    Great post, man. I was a bit worried about what I was reading until your clarification at the end.

    In Habermas & Licona's "The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus" they make a pretty good point when introducing the minimal facts approach to sharing the gospel message. They used an illustration from comedian Emo Philips talking about two men on a bridge, one of which is contemplating suicide...

    I said, "Are you a Christian or a Jew or a Hindu or what?"
    He said, "A Christian."
    I said, "Small world! Me too. Protestant or Catholic or Greek Orthodox?"
    He said, "Protestant."
    I said, "Me too! What franchise?"
    He said, "Baptist."
    I said, "Me too!" Norther Baptist or Southern Baptist?"
    He said, "Northern Baptist."
    I said, "Me too! Norther Conservative Baptist or Norther Liberal Baptist?"
    He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist."
    I said, "Me too! Northern Conservative Fundamentalists Baptist, Great Lakes Region, or Norther Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist, Eastern Region?"
    He said, "Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist, Great Lakes Region."
    I said, "Me too! Norther Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist, Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist, Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?"
    He said, "Norther Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist, Great Lakes Region Council of 1912."
    I SCREAMED, "Die, heretic!" and pushed him over.

    "On the one hand, are we presenting too large a package of doctrines and practices for nonbelievers to accept in order to become a Christian? Are we sharing the gospel and...how they must be baptized by immersion?...how they must speak in tongues?...how they must read only a certain version of the Bible?...how they must look for the pre-Tribulation return of Christ?...how they must believe the earth is only six thousand years old?...how they must accept the five points of Calvinism?...how they must pay a tithe to the local church? On the other hand, isn't the gospel a crucial subject?...For now, we will define it as the good news of the deity, death, and resurrection of Jesus--Jesus is God; Jesus died for me; and Jesus is alive" (The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, 44)

    while I think this applies at least a little bit to the conversation at hand, we're talking about a guy who claims to follow Christ AND Buddhism. I think the idea of a Buddhist follower of Christ is absurd. It sounds to me like he isn't really a follower of Christ, but only certain things Christ taught. See, I don't think it is mainly us getting caught up in all the doctrinal mess, but him. He's choosing certain "teachings" of Jesus over and above certain others. If he even accepts the resurrection...then he is very confused individual in that he is a walking self-contradiction.

    anyway...

    in Him,
    >>zack
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    How different really is the idea that one can be a Christian Buddhist from the idea that one can be Christian American (not in the passive "I live on the American continent sense, but more in the flag waving sense)? I'm open to the idea that if the latter is possible than the former is at least tenable.
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    While many will be tempted to dismiss your question, I find it VERY compelling. If we recognize that the state/religion distinction is a modern construct, then we can find that any sort of Jesus+________ is in, some way, syncretistic. So-called Constantinianism (Jesus+Rome) is as much of a syncretistic move as when my friend claims to be a follower of Jesus. I wish Graham Old were listening in...I wonder if he wouldn't want to argue that Christianity is, already, syncretistic.

    Certainly not all syncretisms are equal...but are certainly worthy of comparison.
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    I think we have to be careful to distinguish between proper "contextualization" grounded in the doctrine of the Incarnation and outright "syncretism" whereby we swap core practices and beliefs in an effort to co-op or blend in to another system. In my opinion, I'm not sure one can be a Buddhist Follower of Jesus without butchering both. It's one thing to contextualize the good news of Jesus (including his life and his more cosmological works) in Buddhist culture. But it's another to meld the two systems of thought into one in order to claim both--this is where the faddishness of it all comes into play.
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    Depending on who's talking, different fusions are more palatable or encouraged. My landlord is all about Jesus, in a greater Hindu all are God concept. You listen to him talk on a variety of subjects and he's far more astute and closer to Christ's teachings than (again) many Christians I've talked to. Doesn't make his theology Christian; it's a cart/horse thing, and when there is a challenge or potential conflict, which one gives?

    In my humble opinion, this is the litmus test for whether one is following Christ within a given context or following Christ regardless; how do you handle conflict between the two beliefs systems? If 90% of your beliefs are in common, but on the 10% you cede to Buddhism (or Hinduism, or Americanism, or _______) than you are Christ-influenced but not a Christ-follower.

    Of course the nature and claims of unity/conflict are all subject the the myriad of theological tributaries that have split off the main. Just to, yanni, keep things interesting.
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    "If 90% of your beliefs are in common, but on the 10% you cede to Buddhism (or Hinduism, or Americanism, or _______) than you are Christ-influenced but not a Christ-follower."

    I think you've stated it perfectly.
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    90% of which beliefs? This raises some questions. What of our existing Christianity is actually Christian? What part of the Christian belief system is centered on Christ? And what part isn't?

    It is easy for us all to conclude that two different religions are difficult to reconcile. But what about Christianity and a political ideology? What about Christianity and other systems of thought? Insofar as it is centered on Christ, Christianity is as much a political system as it is a religious system...in fact, it is a holistic system that transcends religion.
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    My point is that you can find apt comparisons between almost any two systems of thought if you try hard enough. But finding points in common is different from finding agreement between.

    The key phrase you gave is "Centered on Christ" and that is as well my point; when one chooses revolution over Christ, or enlightenment over Christ, or theological correctness over Christ, or comfort over Christ, you are making the choice between two systems of thought/action, and the one that is not Christ-following is winning.

    I cannot see how this behaviour, in any context, can be deemed 'Christ-ian'.

    There is room for a great variety of thought and behaviour within the bounds of 'subjecting all to Christ', but it by definition excludes any idea or behaviour that would set itself above Christ.

    Wow, that almost made sense to me. Scary.
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    what of our existing Christianity is actually Christian?

    If we compare the fruit of our lives with the standard of the gospel, almost none of it. This is the problem - so few of us actually live the sacrificial life we are called to.
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    That's a really good point.
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    Great post. My favorite book of all time gets so deep into that question. Check out Greg Boyd's "The Myth of a Christian Nation" if you haven't already.
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    7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ 24 will enter into the kingdom of heaven – only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 7:22 On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons and do 25 many powerful deeds?’ 7:23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!’ 26
    7:24 “Everyone 27 who hears these words of mine and does them is like...

    Matthew 25:31–46 (NRSV):
    31 ‘When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and He will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at His right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40 And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,* you did it to me.”’
    41 ‘Then He will say to those at His left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” 44 Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” 45 Then He will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’


    All of these well-worn quotations are my way of saying...I get the feeling the heavy, heavy emphasis is on caring for your fellow human beings vs. getting the math right. But as far as the mix goes, I'd say that "that which you will not distance yourself from is your religion." If the two ever seem to conflict, especially with respect to your obligations toward fellow human beings, does your friends Buddhism have the final say over his Christianity, or vice versa?
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    As I mentioned in a previous thread, I don’t believe I could have become christian if I had not first been a buddhist. There were aspects of the buddhist worldview I never really bought into, such as reincarnation & karma. But I got a lot out of buddhist practice. Many could become better christians from being exposed to buddhist practices involving the mind & emotions.

    To paraphrase Hans Kung: a buddhist may honor or revere Jesus, but only when the life, teachings, death, & resurrection of Jesus Christ become authoritative for him can he be said to be a follower of Jesus.

    My intial motivation for checking out eastern christianity was syncretic. I had the idea of taking up a spiritual practice from the christian tradition such as the Jesus prayer or centering prayer without taking on any specific beliefs or trappings of christianity. I read the gospels when I was in my early 20’s & was deeply moved by Jesus, but I’ve never had any interest in conventional american christianity. (I grew up in the bible belt). As I began attending orthodox churches & reading orthodox mystical theology, it became very clear to me that a true christian spiritual practice could only happen in relationship to Jesus & the church. To my great surprise & bewilderment, I found I really wanted this relationship. Over approximately 2 years I studied & pondered until I was ready to make a commitment to Jesus Christ & join the orthodox church. When I was in the process of converting I came across the following quote from the martyred russian orthodox priest Father Alexander Men.

    " It seems to me that everything that is valuable in christianity is valuable only because it is from Christ. What is not from Christ could belong as well to islam or buddhism.
    Every religion is a path towards God, a conjecture about God, a human approach to God. It is a vector pointing upwards from below. But the coming of Christ is the answer, a vector coming from heaven towards us. On the one hand, an event situated in history, on the other hand, something quite outside history. That's why christianity is unique, because Christ is unique. "

    I don't see my involvement with buddhism as something to regret or repent of. There are many people who have been burned or disillusioned by christianity, turned to buddhism in search of some kind of coherent spiritual practice, & like your friend eventually turn back to Christ. There is a zen priest at a well known meditation center here in northern california who has been connecting with Mark Scandrette & Reimagine in SF. (He was a Jesus freak in the 70's). I know of another zen practitioner of 30 years who does not have a christian background, but who prays the psalms daily, lectures on the works of Dionysius the Areopagite, & publicly advocates prayer as an important spiritual practice. I know of yet another zen teacher who left buddhism & joined the catholic church amidst great scandal after being befriended & inspired by a woman who is a catholic contemplative. Things being what they are, I dare say there are probably a lot of buddhist-christian hybrids out there. And I hope that those who try to follow Christ can find ways to reach out to them in friendship.

    peace
    joseph
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    joseph, i appreciate you. that's really cool. i'm not a buddhist, and never have been, but i appreciate the things from Buddhism that you learned. i've been slumping my shoulders hoping a mindfulness and care for other people would sprout out of this christianity i've been adopted into...still slumped and waiting, hoping people will discuss and care at the same time.

    mark, i hope orrin gave approval for this post before everyone strapped his sensitive inner-being down and scrutinized him through their micro-religio-scopes. but this is such a good discussion for self-discovery and revelation of reality. i'm glad it's happening.

    mark if you write a post about judaism, i might be able to supplement more. maybe in a few years i'll be more apt to help excavate the truths buried beneath the stomping feet of modern christians, celebrating their creation of god.

    salaam
    nathan
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    I met a girl in Kenya in a Hindu who was raised in Hindu family and has since become a Christian. She still considers herself Hindu, that is a Hindu Christian, as she would describe herself. She explained how small our view of God is if we think He only exists within our limited "Christian" context. Also, we talked about when she prays at the temple alongside her family who are not Christians. They are both praying- she is praying to God, and who are her parents praying to? Does not God hear all? How much errant understanding of God must there be before he doesn't hear the prayer anymore? interesting.
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    "But is being “in Christ” really about a conversion experience and right doctrine?"

    Actually, I would say it is. The problem is that we have come to understand conversion as either being a one time religious event like an altar call, or intellectual assent to a particular set of doctrines. These things may be part of the conversion process, but authentic conversion is much more; it is repentance. My dictionary defines conversion as "a spiritual and moral change attending a change of belief from what is false or worldly to what is true or godly." This is authentic conversion. Being in Christ is about conversion and right doctrine; it is also about knowing the Risen Jesus Christ and experiencing His power in a community of believers. Unfortunately here in Laodicea we have dumbed down doctrine and practice. Bad doctrine leads to sin and sin, unchecked, leads to bad doctrine and even heresy.

    A Buddhist is one who follows Gautama Buddha and a Christian is one who follows Jesus Christ.
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    I'm probably expressing my catholic (not Roman) side here in saying this...

    I understand your struggle here in contemplating these things, I've been thinking about these things too. It seems that more often than not Jesus is calling us more to an orthopraxis rather than an orthodoxis. Jesus is intimately more concerned with our actions than theological particulars. At the same time, however, it is precisely this Jesus out from whom the entire experience of the Church originates.

    Christian theology and orthodoxy were not born in a vacuum, they weren't abstracts merely tacked on by a bunch of old guys in a room simply to try and make up funny words like "homoousia". I think this is perhaps one of the most important things to keep in mind when we consider this, that it is precisely the Jesus who calls us to right action and as Lord and Rabbi calls those who would follow Him into community. And it is right there in the community that follows after her Rabbi that we see the evolving and unfolding theology as disciples of the Master seek to articulate in their own devotion and praxis what it means to call Jesus Lord.

    It is within community, centered around and following Jesus, that orthodoxy ultimately evolves, and continually evolves as the Faithful are forced to engage new challenges.

    But discipleship always takes place in community, not in isolation; faith happens in tradition, not with private vision.

    As inclusive as I like to think I am--and as far as the "Salvation Equation" goes, I'm pretty danged inclusive. But I see being a follower, a disciple, a Christian as something specific. A Buddhist can be an admirer of Jesus, even a lover of Jesus, and that's great, for the Lord Himself has told us, "Whoever is not against us is for us." But I think we need to keep in mind that being a follower involves the koinonia of the community--Christ's Ecclesia, His Body, the "holy, catholic and apostolic Church". It means coming together to break bread at the Table, to participate with Him in the Mystery of Baptism, to engage in the mystery of worship where there is Word and Sacrament. Where there is Gospel. Where there is Confession. Where there is Communion.

    We should be more than willing to welcome all who would come to come and sit with us at the Table, for our Lord Himself excluded none, but Himself went into the homes of prostitutes and tax collectors so that they might share a meal with Him. I think that's part of the beauty of the Eucharist.

    But still, being a follower, so it seems to me, involves entering into the Communion, that fellowship of faith and life that forms the nucleus of Christian living all centered around, dependent upon, and rooted deep within the Person of Jesus Christ our Lord.

    Just some thoughts from a fairly Catholic-minded Evangelical Protestant brother. :)
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    Can I unpack that a little?

    You've mentioned the Eucharist and Baptism. Two of the most divisive theological differences in Christianity. But the Eucharist was a meal (do this whenever you eat it) and baptism is more about the sacrifice of heart than right action.

    You've mentioned Word and Sacrament. But what is sacred to the believer? Everything. What is Word to the believer? The love of God written on the walls of the broken heart. Where is the gospel if it is not written on working hands and broken hearts?

    I am an anarchist. I don't believe in these structures, which are human constructions. Sure, it is cosy to be with other christians and we all need support and encouragement. But we've turned a religion of mud and dirt and the sidestreet into a highly stylised religious dance. Which is ok (and given that we are liturgical people, almost inevitable), but the tragedy is that so often we think that is all there is.
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    So when you say you don't believe in human constructions such as Baptism or the Eucharist, does that mean you actively oppose them or that you refrain from them out of conscience? Or does it mean that you see them as human created mediations but still participate in them? Do you believe there is some unmediated way to the sacrifice of heart & love of God, such as the idealized way protestants view conversion experiences & the scriptures?

    When I joined the Orthodox church I was seeking a form of christianity as close to the roots as I could find. The Orthodox church is an institution & subject to all the flaws of any human organization. I don't idealize the institution itself. What I revere about the orthodox church is the way it's rich liturgical & sacramental traditions support my poor attempts to live the message of Jesus. I respect the way our priest & bishop embody their love of God in Christ. Our priest served in Lebanon during most of the civil war & traveled to different churches at great personal peril to himself. His son has told me that the orthodox christians were one of the few factions in Lebanon who did not have a militia.

    If you delve into the Old Testament it is obvious that the Israelites valued liturgical richness & beauty. It is also apparent that the prophets denounced the tendency to emphasize this to the neglect of loving ones neighbor, or respecting & caring for those less fortunate than oneself. I have no illusions that liturgy & sacrament cannot be used as a means of manipulation by those in power, or become empty rituals, engaged by those whose hearts are unchanged. But I also have no illusion that smashing icons in itself leads to some position of clarity or truth. There were some bloody crusades led by the reformers during the times of Luther, Calvin & Cramner.

    I prefer the idea put forth by Fr Alexander Shmemann that the sacraments are not magical little rituals unto themselves, but reflections of the process of the members of the church striving to live sacramentally, that is, in communion with God & one another.

    peace
    joseph - radical iconodule
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    Hi Joseph,

    I am struggling to understand what should be my reaction to these things. I feel that they are important - yet unimportant, and somehow we have missed the greater part of their purpose.

    I'm not sure what you mean about an 'unmediated way' so I'm not sure how to answer.

    I hear what you are saying - but my position is basically that church is of less importance than we normally think. It should sit at the side, informing, challenging and encouraging us, but should not be central. For me, the things you describe are not a help but a distraction.
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    Christianity is primarily about a mediated relationship with God. Through Christ, certainly. But even through the Body. Church IS central...but perhaps not in the way we usually experience and understand church. But Church is the embodiment of Christ in the world. We experience Christ in and through one another. That is what being a nation of priests is all about: expressing Christ through the Holy Spirit and bringing one another to Christ.

    One of my big beefs with anarchist thought is that it tends towards a highly unmediated, individualism that discounts essential ideas like interdependence, mutual submission, the distribution of charisms, and shared confession. It is, in a very real sense, impossible to experience the fullness of Christ outside of the church.
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    Hi Mark - I'd still appreciate someone explaining mediated/unmediated so I can be sure of what you're saying.

    I know it isn't much of an answer, but I want to be in an environment of interdependance, mutual submission, probably distribution of the charisms (I don't know what that is) and shared confession. I don't get that in church, because every church I have ever attended has only really been interested in itself. These things are important because they enable me to do the things God wants me to do, I think they have little value in themselves.

    Jesus says that the way to godliness is to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbour as ourselves - and infact loving our neighbour is loving God. And whilst there is plenty of work God needs to do inside church, the problem is that we become so fixated with our own problems that we rarely get around to serving those around us in the sacrificial way we are called to.
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    I guess I mean "mediated" in the sense that I recognize that I experience God through interdependence, mutual submission, and distribution of charisms (that is a fancy word for spiritual gifts), and confession. I don't believe I can have nearly as full of an experience of God on my own. In other words, mediated means that being "in Christ" is primarily a communal condition and secondarily an individual one. Or, at the very least, it would mean that the communal nature of our faith is indispensable and necessary.

    It sucks that so few people have really gotten this stuff in the church. The phrase "every church I have ever attended has only really been interested in itself" is a sad one. It reveals the double crappiness of most churches: 1) that they are things to attend rather than communities that experience a way of life together, and that 2) they are usually focused on their own survival and neglecting what God is doing in the world.

    I'd like to think that my community is working against these shortcomings. Oddly, few people seem really interested in the sort of awkward and challenging life required to actually live out the kingdom. Most people just want to come visit us on Sundays and then usually don't come back. Our Sunday gatherings aren't very entertaining and they aren't usually comfortable.
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    Yep, and the great sadness is that so few churches recognise what is happening. Just yesterday I was in a service full of liturgy, candles and costumes (which I was struggling hard to ignore) and the preacher's sermon was about how his mission was to get 'bums on seats' - as if getting people to engage with this form of Christianity, which is almost totally impenetrable for anyone outside of the clan, was tantamount to seeing them in glory.

    But the kingdom is here, not something that happens to us when we die.

    I'd say there is a good chance we'd have more Christians if we closed all the churches on Sundays.
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    Exactly. The Church is not so much institution--though institution is still a big part of it--as it is community. It's our communion, our koinonial relationship together, in and with one another, as we are together in Christ that constitutes our ecclesiastical identity--an identity, I might add, that we receive in our Baptism (I recognize that this is simply my high sacramentology showing through here)--and it is precisely as a community that is together that we exist in the world.

    In a sense I see the Church not as an organism "within the world" but as God's apocalyptic interruption into the world whereby we see (through a glass dimly) the eschaton breaking into the world right here, right now. This is, simply put, the Kingdom of God.

    If at the end of the world swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks than that is precisely the kind of eschatological world in which the Church now properly resides. We are a people, as St. Justin says, "who no longer know the art of war", we have already beaten our swords into plowshares, because even though we are in the world, we are in no way part of it.

    It is in the Church where we find Christ, it is through the Church that God has chosen to continually bring about that evangelical mission of Christ to proclaim the nearness of the Kingdom is still being made known.

    In this way, I truly believe, being a Christian is actually much more radically counter-cultural and revolutionary than anything plain ol' anarchism can offer. Anarchism can't offer us the the Divine Life of God imparted to us through the Spirit in our fellowship together as the Body-Church.

    It really is Christarchy.

    Iesous Christos Kurios.
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    Well, again you're using a pile of language I don't understand.

    First, Church is the ultimate institution. Second, I recognise those who follow Christ as 'the church' not the small groups who meet in small buildings around town. And I don't believe that Church (sic) is the way that 'God has chosen to continually bring about the evangelical mission of Christ', because there is no obligation on God to use anyone or anybody. If the people remain silent, the rocks will cry out.

    Too often Church of all denominations act as a kind of Borg (a la Star Trek), sucking in individuals and spitting out smiling, shiny people packaged with all the right theology, 'worshipping' in the right place at the right time with the right words - yet never ever actually getting to the point where Christianity becomes anything more than an exercise in Me Worship. I don't believe in that stuff.

    As the daily liturgy reminds me, using Mark's words in the 'Jesus Manifesto' the sign of the 'spirit being upon us' is that we 'release the captives'. If it aint doing that, it aint church, period. We'd do better not even pretending that we have anything to do with the God-man Jesus of Nazareth.
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    Thanks buddy I appreciate it.
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    Funny,
    When leaving a comment here the posting mechanism alerts me to my status saying that I-i am unverified. (if you have questions please contact me at pratt.orrin@gmail.com and let me know you've posted a question here.
    The next few paragraphs I added as background about me, since well I am a bit narcissistic and “aghh’ em,” I am being scrutinized by folks who really have no idea who I-i “Orrin,” is.
    ...just an aside, I-i was raised by two Christian parents loving and wonderful people who met teaching in a bible school in MO,— yes they are ordained folks—and yes I-i had bible lessons every night with my folks, and at church, and at bible camp, and at summer day camp, etc..., and for the beginning of my life I-i wanted to be a minister of God. I-i wanted to be a pastor or a music minister like our friend Greg. But somehow over time I-i grew to become wearier and less accepting of practicing Christians for what appeared to be non-Christ like worldviews at least from my youthful perspective. [though these disapproving eyes see to be accompanied by many Christians in the Emergent church as far as I-i can tell] And after a decade of recalcitrant behavior personally describing myself at the time as an existential neo-nihilistic, pathological narcissist steeped in deconstructionism and romanticism I-i ended up after a semester at Oxford living in a castle 25 miles southeast of Oxfordshire in Ipsden Village at Braziers Park Castle wherein I-i groomed the land working on the organic farm and singing with the Lute player there. And since then I feel as though All three eyes: the eye of flesh, the eye of mind, and the (E-e)ye of contemplation all together as the Eye of Spirit are cyclically opening and closing in and out of my awareness but gradually staying open in longer cycles. Hence the “honorable/dishonorable?,” mentions of me here today.)
    I-i have read without disingenuous regard (yes I-i do now and then enjoy the patterns of redundancy; quite enjoyable at times) each and every posting here and I-i must say that I-i am honored to have received such attention.

    The minds and hearts of each and all posters seem be to well at work seeking (T-t)ruth in forms ranging a spectrum of at least a rational and insofar as a select few of you perhaps even a post rational memes of interpretations from which to draw conclusions on your spirited journeys.
    I-I am not interested in discussing to much of my usual mumbo-jumbo if you've spoken to me in the past you may recognize or recall such topics as; phylogenetic, and ontogenic, development in contexts not limited to any particular quadrant of perspectives divided and /or accompanied by or level or line type or state. This is first because I-i haven't been asked but, also because the quadlibet event that has and still is occurring herein seems to be mostly consisting of anthropologically indoctrinated personal preference(s) of the individuals taking part within the debate—as well as the cohesive glue of socio-political and techno-economic sublimation of incredibly complex and subtle beings. Beside the point, the domain of the word Spirit or Spiritual is by the nature of language defined within and around semiotics involving the pragmatics, semantics, and syntactics through general uses of signs and symbolic abstractions but, (and more importantly) each set or subset is transcended and integrated into your false identity (your id, ego, meme, vmem, stage, type, etc...) and these id's are constantly enveloped within and through the involution of Spirit. (Spirit is often defined as Ground or Nature of all things manifest and unmanifest, or the highest stage of any developmental line, or as a specific line of development. However confusing it may seem to any of us each of these terms are partial and therefore incomplete but they are all partially right and thus can be helpful in disclosing (T-t)ruth as can the partial truths of every-thing!)

    And while it may be ineffably hard to stomach because we’d like to believe that we individuations (Orrin, Mark, Sagely, Xristocharis, Cochs, Jared, Nathan, Joseph, DC, Zach, Hewhocutsdown, Michael, Luke, Joet, Maria, and Adam) are qualified and capable candidates to wield and express the Way the Truth and the Light, does our arrogance have to be such a deafening sound? God/Spirit, is unqualifiable, uncharachterizable and while it is important to discuss the esoteric and exoteric domains of (T-t)ruth there is nothing we can say that is ultimately Right this is reserved for silence in the mouth of God—form the lips God to our ears, from the one-song the uni-verse, to the one dance of divinity.

    The facts are facts and tantamounts amount to facts, so why are these things discussed? (Parenthetically speaking, if the bible or any other spiritual text from any wisdom tradition is simply the right path legalistically, then why are we concerned enough to have this conversation? Wouldn’t this seem more than a bit silly!? [okay not just my part but, all of ours ] I-i think and feel, that deep down in the depths of our individuated and collective esoteric conciseness and conscience we know that we are not the opposite of Love. You are not the opposite of Love. We are not the opposite of Love. it are not the opposite of Love. And it’s are not the opposite of Love. )

    (Sure I’d love to indulge the validity of conflation or the proper integration of or post post Christianity and post post Buddhism or post post atheism on the cutting edge of integral methodological pluralism further and farther transcended by the subtle, casual, and non-dual, or respond to each and every question and argument or syllogism raised here but, after sitting here I recall a koan I-i mentioned to Mark once. "The entire bull crashes through the window and the tail does not. Why?”
    my answer is this.
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    It's 6 a.m. so please forgive any and all grammatical or spelling errors.
    thanks :)
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    OK. Anyone like to explain some of that to me (a bear of little brain)?
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    Religious faith is like solving a particular math problem. Some solutions are closer to the correct answer than others, but there is only one correct answer. All religions contain truth more or less to varying degrees and in this we Christians can find common ground with other faiths. Nevertheless, there is only one true answer, Jesus Christ.
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    I really like that koan. It's great to hear from you Orrin, after catching you last saturday at the Saul Williams gig.

    I'll be straight up; I wish there was a checklist. Truth is great but it' messy and there is such a palette of responses to choose from that it is hard to draw borders.

    Orthodoxy is not static. I do not know a single person, even the most hardcore and devout who has not seen their orthodoxy evolve over time. In addition, I do not know a single person who does not believe or a live a 'personal heresy'; something that, if pressed, can't really be justified to fit into their worldview, yet they believe and act on it anyway.

    With that said, there needs to be some common ground to build community from. This doesn't mean nothing good can come from those 'outside the circle'; Jesus' approach to non-followers 'saving the lost' was that if they weren't against him they were for him, and I think this approach can apply very beautifully today (working towards a peace with much of Islam, for example). Nevertheless there must be some baseline belief/action (doxis/praxis) that marks Christ-followers from non-Christ-followers.

    I say must not to say that it must be correct, but that I cannot envision another way that makes any modicum of sense to me.

    What is this baseline? Well, now that gets tricky. As far as I can tell it involves:
    a) belief that Jesus existed, is Lord, and was raised from the dead (Romans 10:9-10)
    b) repentance (a turning away or rejection of the parts of life that do not fit this new path; we cannot bring everything about us prior to conversion with us and still follow)
    c) accept the sacrifice (take up your cross as it's phrased)
    d) accept the mission (living in the 'kingdom of God', making disciples, etc)

    But then, very few of these are concrete moments in time; even repentance, the most singular event, can occur for different contexts over time as one grows.

    Maybe Aaron Weiss had it right:
    "Tell them it's movements, movement, the movement of hope"

    So I guess this comes down to a rephrasing of my (admittedly dualist) perspective: movement towards Christ, from whatever point, would be more progressive than movement away.
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    "yes I-i do now and then enjoy the patterns of redundancy; quite enjoyable at times"

    You weren't kidding. You are quite the redundant fellow aren't you?

    "God/Spirit, is unqualifiable, uncharachterizable and while it is important to discuss the esoteric and exoteric domains of (T-t)ruth there is nothing we can say that is ultimately Right this is reserved for silence in the mouth of God—form the lips God to our ears, from the one-song the uni-verse, to the one dance of divinity."

    What an odd thing to say, especially, "there is nothing we can say that is ultimately Right." Isn't it a bit self-contradictory of you to claim that it is right that we can't say anything that is ultimately right?

    "God/Spirit, is unqualifiable, uncharachterizable"

    Perhaps this doesn't apply here, but...

    "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form..." Col. 2:9

    BTW: I don't believe we are the opposite of Love. We are "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Ps. 139:14) "in the image of God" (Gen. 1:26-27) who IS Himself Love (1 John 4:8).

    We were created to be loving, it is just that so many of us choose to exercise our God given free-will to not do so.

    in Love,
    >>zack
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    There is no easy answer to the questions posed here and I'm not so sure that that God even desires for us to know the answers. The answers lie deep down inside our own hearts. Deeper than even we are aware of ourselves. There is no salvation in sacrements and rituals. And, there is no salvation in works. God is mainly interested in the deep underlying reasons for why we do what we do. The bible makes mention of those who have His word written on their hearts even though they are not consciously aware of Him. It also speaks of those who call themselves His and do great miracles in His name being separated to the side of the goats. Jesus rebuked the Pharises for their legalistic attitudes towards serving God. Salvation is not a "math question". That would reflect pure legalism. Salvation comes from our hearts. And only God truly knows what is written in there. Why do you think that we are so strongly cautioned against judging others. We are not fit to decide who is "in" and who is "out". We cannot even be aware of everything going on in our own hearts, let alone someone elses.
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    Hi Mark,

    I'm not sure I've got anything of any value to add. However, I have to confess that - without meaning to belittle anyone's views - I actually find it hard to believe that some people still think and act as if Christianity is "the right religion."

    Cochs, I found this comment intriguing:

    'A Buddhist is one who follows Gautama Buddha and a Christian is one who follows Jesus Christ.'

    Is it accurate that Buddhists think of themselves as followers of The Buddha? I've also got to say that I know far, far too many Christians who don't strike me as followers of Jesus. So, I'm not sure that approaching questions like this in terms of the major world religions really sheds that much light.
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    Just quickly,
    though if cornered and asked to qualify my doxis/praxis pragmatism in this culture in this society I-i may eventually say I-i am a Buddhist follower of Christ however I-i am a Bodhisattva the Ethno/Scocio-centrism prerequisite to that path leads me to stay on what feel more comfortable ground of being for me. I-Am all things in Christ. Who am not to be you or Buddha or your grandmother and so on et al.... ? Who am I-I to not speak wisdom and compassion? Who am I-i not?

    So here where we always already are Orrin is not a Buddhist or a Christian but a Body of all things God given and Mind of all things God given and here in the present I will sweep another season through my lungs right here with Christ with Buddha with Mark and with with all of you.
    Love has no opposite.

    I'll leave you with some fun and appropriately inappropriate lyrcs

    Sugar Bullets
    by Stuart Davis

    all i ever wanted was
    to get laid in a haunted house
    all i ever wanted was
    to punch out mickey mouse
    all i ever wanted was
    breath mints and cigarettes
    all i ever wanted was
    one blonde and one brunette, so
    pull that pistol, tease that trigger
    make that missile blow up bigger
    sugar bullets
    shoot off my
    sugar bullets
    shoot off, shoot off
    all i ever wanted was
    buddha without buddhism
    all i ever wanted was
    jesus christ without the christians
    all i ever wanted was
    peace and love without the pot smoke
    all i ever wanted was
    porno flicks without the plot, so
    pull that pistol, tease that trigger
    make that missile blow up bigger
    sugar bullets,
    shoot of my
    sugar bullets
    shoot off, shoot off
    baby
    sweet stigmatas stain the mattress
    aren’t we
    skin pinatas stuffed with plasma?
    aren’t we
    kundalini meets karate
    knock me out of my own body
    (chorus)
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    Uh..... O.K.

    Well anyway, its nice to meet You-you Orrin. You sure did learn a lot of really big words ;-). I'll try to keep up with your posts here but maybe you could dumb it down a little, at least for me.

    Well, at least this last post of yours was easier to me to follow than your earlier post.
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    Orrin. You crack me up, dude. :) Thanks for dropping by and helping us move beyond ethno-centrism into postmodernism (and hopefully, eventually, into post-post-modernism). ;)
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    I agree - so what does it actually mean to be a follower of Christ?
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    That is the question. And there isn't a quick and easy answer. That is why we need to reject simplistic answers like: "Believe this one page list of truths, pray this particular prayer, and then avoid this one page list of sins."
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    I think it means to live the life of sacrifice. Something I am not doing - and in a very real sense am not really prepared to do.
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    Your question is somewhat baffling. A Christian is someone who follows Christ, or at least is moving toward Christ; a Buddhist is someone who follows Buddha or at least heading in that direction. Whether or not Buddhists think of themselves as followers of Buddha is irrelevant to me. I think Merriam Websters has a very adequate definition of Buddhist.
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    Yeah, that's true in a very literal sense, Casey (cochs), but we know that lots of folks claim to follow Jesus and it seems apparent that they are either not really FOLLOWING Jesus or aren't following JESUS.

    I don't know enough about Buddhism and its various sects to say how much one can authentically pursue both paths. It SEEMS as though there is only so-much overlap. I suspect that one can be an authentic disciple of Jesus and still learn some good things from Buddha...but only to a certain extent.

    Some have argued that since Buddhism predates Christianity, one can follow Jesus as a sort of "completed Buddhist." In other words, to start with Buddha, but end with Jesus. This an approach some missionaries take. In this view, every religion has a analogous relationship to Jesus that Judaism has. Christians believe that Jesus completes Judaism...that he is its fulfillment.

    Some questions for thought (keep in mind that I'm raising these issues to foster meaningful conversation, not to make any particular claims about Buddhism or Christianity): If a Buddhist were to recognize that Jesus is greater than Buddha, and began to follow Jesus as someone who still revered Buddha, at what point would they cease to be a Buddhist and become a Christian? Or would they remain a Buddhist follower of Jesus? Or perhaps a Christian who respects Buddha? Does that Buddhist need to renounce Buddha in order to become a Christian. Could they, perhaps, give Buddha the same honor that the Apostle Paul or Peter or John would have given Moses or Abraham or David?
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    "...but we know that lots of folks claim to follow Jesus and it seems apparent that they are either not really FOLLOWING Jesus or aren't following JESUS."

    That's precisely the point of my comment. What a person says they are is irrelevant to me and frankly isn't really my business. "Ultimately every knee shall bend and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." There is a great quote attributed to Francis of Assisi. "Whatever a man is in God's sight that's all he is anothing more." I can call myself whatever I want, but that doesn't make it true.
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    Well said!
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    In my understanding, a Buddhist could also be a Christian, but as a Christian, we really don't have the same latitude to worship other gods. Buddhism doesn't reject other religions. As it was explained to me, Buddhism views other religions sort of like fish swimming in a stream. All the fish are swimming in the same direction and eventually they all get to the same destination. Buddhism views itself AS the stream that all the fish (other religions) are swimming in.

    As an amusing side note to this, I once explained this to a KJV only bible pounding southern baptist and it scared the hell out of him.
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    Admittedly, I have not read all the comments. Thus, my comment ushers forth exclusively from the original post (which, admittedly, I read somewhat hastily :) ha! oh the precarious position I already am in). Nonetheless, the content of this post seems somewhat discordant with much of the other material here at JM. I'm primarily thinking about how the post deals with what it means to be a follower of Jesus in a way that seems to suggest it is possible to follow Jesus without being made part of the people God is calling to himself in fulfillment of the OT promises to Israel. That is to say, "following Christ" is not an individual endeavor, but the pattern of the life of the church, the "new anthropos (humanity)," the new creation.

    You ask: "How do we resist the sort of thinking that equates Christianity with a conversion experience and right doctrine while, at the same time, resist the sort of thinking that equates following Jesus with adopting an ethical system (usually focusing on those ethics that we already like about Jesus)?"

    It seems to me that this question functions with "conversion" or "following Jesus" as individualistic conceptions, which is perhaps why it is difficult to adjudicate it. Furthermore, I think its problematic to presume that right doctrine and following Jesus ethically can be divided.

    I think your caveat about McLaren's quote is necessary, and probably should be pushed even deeper. His quote, I think, reflects why some have accused the Emerging Church of merely repackaging Protestant Liberalism.

    Ok, to put it starkly: how do we maintain the socio-political nature of the Gospel along with the idea that one can adequately "follow Jesus" outside of the context of the church?
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    Despite your 'hasty reading' I think you're hit one of the main questions; particularly with the understanding that living Christianity often requires community, how does that jive?
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    Ben...I suppose I could have fleshed things out further. I don't ever assume that being a disciple happens outside of community. Discipleship must always be understood in the context of us being a family of called-out ones. So, if my question seems to imply individualism, then it is due to sloppy writing rather than intent.

    While Orrin probably doesn't consider himself a formal part of our church...he has certainly, in some ways, been a regular part of our community. He's broken bread with us, engaged in deep conversation regarding faith with us, and served along side us. And in all of that the common bonds have been friendship and a shared love for Jesus. The understanding of what that love for Jesus...and who Jesus was and is...isn't necessarily the same. But I think that there is something pure about the way Orrin has been a part of our community that I don't want to invalidate because he doesn't embrace Christianity. Nor does that mean that I think that everything in Christianity is up for grabs. For me, following Jesus is more of a vector than it is a bounded set. In other words, it is more important that one is moving towards Christ than it is that someone gives intellectual ascent to certain beliefs about Christ (especially those unstated beliefs embedded in Christianity that are actually antithetical to the teachings of Christ).

    And so, to answer your question: "How do we maintain the socio-political [and religious and economic etc] nature of the Gospel along with the idea that one can adequately follow Jesus outside the context of the church?"

    My quick and dirty answer: "We can't." And the fact that people think that you can is a sign of our being infected with that spiritual disease called modernism.

    Some may bristle at this seemingly Catholic conviction that there is "no salvation outside of the church." But to me it is all in how one understands "salvation" and "church." To me, salvation isn't an "in or out" sort of issue as much as it is a matter of whether or not we are experiencing the life of Christ. And church is that collection of humanity that experiences the Spirit together in the way of Christ. Bells and smells flow out of that...they don't constitute the church.
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    word!
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    I have been pondering some questions Marks asks in the comments.

    "What of our existing Christianity is actually Christian? What part of the Christian belief system is centered on Christ? And what part isn't?
    It is easy for us all to conclude that two different religions are difficult to reconcile. But what about Christianity and a political ideology? What about Christianity and other systems of thought? Insofar as it is centered on Christ, Christianity is as much a political system as it is a religious system...in fact, it is a holistic system that transcends religion."

    I have a funny little book called The Lost Sutras of Jesus. In 1900, a chinese monk was restoring paintings made in a buddhist cave temple when he came across a hidden chamber that contained 50,000 ancient, mostly buddhist books, manuscripts, & paintings. Among them were a few documents that were written by a syriac bishop from persia who travelled to china in the seventh century. They were his attempt to render the gospel into the chinese idiom. They are strange & beautiful, using concepts like karma & read like the tao of Jesus. But the beatitudes & other teachings of Jesus are clearly there. A form of chinese christianity arose from this effort that was known as the luminous religion. It was suppressed during a wave of political/cultural xenophobia in the eleventh century that also tried to suppress buddhism, (thus the hiding place for all the manuscripts). Buddhism survived in china, but the luminous religion did not. Were these true chistians? (For more info on the subject, try doing a web search on jesus sutras)

    Bede Griffiths was an english benedictine monk of some 20 years who traveled to india, took the orange robes & life of a wandering hindu sannyasi. He eventually founded Shantivanam Ashram where he created a form of christianity that is by all appearances hindu. Fr Bede was known in india as a christian guru. The sannyassins of Shantivanam practice pujas or devotional rituals & hatha yoga, as well as baptism & the eucharist. The ashram also serves the poor in the surrounding villages. Was Fr Bede a true christian? Are the monks who follow this way true followers of Christ? (For more info, do a web search on bede griffiths, & on shantivanam. Check out any photos of the ashram you might come across)

    Raimon Panikkar is the son of a spanish roman catholic mother & an indian hindu father. After he was ordained a roman catholic priest he traveled to india & began to study indian philosophy & religion. He has produced a large body of work on interreligious study & dialogue, & considers himself both hindu & christian. Is Fr Raimon a true follower of christ.? A good example of his work can be found here:
    http://www.crosscurrents.org/panikkar.htm

    Just a little extra spice for the stew. :-)

    peace
    joseph
    • ^
    • v
    i am a person becoming more and more emotionally aware. i feel the church can be a beautiful thing. i also feel completely unchallenged by church. (well, if i gave a #&$^ about big words it would probably be a challenge.) but unfortunately i can attend church and put in vulnerable parts of myself day after day week after week and nothing comes of it. nobody has the balls to really dig in to each other and find and appreciate those characteristics of God that i believe are in everyone. i'm not complaining, mostly because i feel like i'm on a right track for once so i'm not about to drop church and seclude myself just because i feel a little lonely. i just want to know why the left side of my head hurts after church and not the right side.

    secondly, what is jesus' role my life? i feel i have deeply seen two sides of christianity through a handful of people and i desperately want to integrate them. on one side there are people completely devoted to emulating jesus. they feel in their sole the love and care that jesus shared. they want justice and hope and peace for the world! then there is an almost extinct group who have spent their entire lives in normalcy, unworried by any callings for justice and peace, but following in humble obedience to every word that jesus spoke. this group is very attuned to the "spiritual real." they are literally in contact in a way that they are informed of happenings that humans should not be able to know before hand. no, not crazy psychic. but yes, it'll give you goosebumps when they look you in the eye and know what you've done wrong or where they'll need to be to help in God's will. spooks the crap out of me.

    i would love to be apart of both of these groups. yet i feel my vocabulary isn't quite big...no...extensive enough for the jesus carers and my heart isn't quite ready for years of repentance to join the holy spirit squad.

    have any of you noticed these groups in your lives? are you apart of either? can you rationalize why or why not?
    • ^
    • v
    Rabbi,
    Though it seems that the intensity of your characterization is genuine it may be well served to introduce this idea to you.

    The Star of David is a precious gem when seen/interpreted as a symbol of Christ-Consciousness.

    When seen as the integration of masculine and feminine, of wisdom and compassion, at ascending and descending currents of ebb and flow, knowing and being, etc…, the Star of David is a key to unlock the mind of Christ. None of these dualistic concepts are complete without their counterpart; none of them are valid without each other but when combined the sum of the each part is transcended and included as one new and more complete, higher, wider, deeper Love.
    The reason that I said in my second post that I didn’t want to go on in exquisite rational syllogistic senses about my practice, or the divine, is because there is nothing I can say that will do. Sure once a language is defined and shared between community members in reference to the divine we can have sets and subsets praxis and falibalistic sequences of interpreting the depths of ones own development in clarity but, that still is far from perfect in scale, sensitivity and capacity to express the Real outside of incredibly partial mention.

    To be and to know divorced from one another is to not. Not, one or the other, both or neither. But, to be and to know in both agency and communion, (married, integrated not fused) is to be the safe harbor of action and inaction of surrender to uncertainty—to be a light, a beacon not just a mirror of truth, but a fountain of Love—a safe harbor of liberation within and without.
    This Thinking and Feeling means to be Christ; this thinking and feeling you must use your head and your heart. To ignore one and favor the other is to pathologically move in narcissism, fear deception arrogance (ignorance) etc…

    It is so, the words of God are written in the hearts and minds of all—it is before and beyond the relative and absolute. That which holds Big Mind and Big Heart.

    Saul Williams
    I can recite the grass on the hill and memorize the moon
    I know the cloudforms of love by heart
    and have brought tears to the eye of a storm
    and my memory banks vaults of forests and amazon river banks
    and i've screamed them into sunsets that echo in earthquakes
    shadows have been my spotlight as I monologue the night and dialogue with days
    soliloquies of wind and breeze applauded by sun rays
    we put language in zoos to observe caged thought
    and tossed peanuts and p-funk at intellect
    and motherfuckers think these are metaphors
    i speak what I see
    all words and worlds are metaphors of me
    my life was authored by the moon
    footprints written in soil
    the fountain pen of martian men
    novelling human toil
    and yes, the soil speaks highly of me
    but earth seeds root me poet-tree
    now, maybe i'm too serious
    too little here to matter
    though i'm riddled with the reason of the sun
    i stand up comets with the audience of lungs
    this body of laughter is it with me or at me?
    hue more or less though gender's mute
    and the punch line has this lifeline at it's root
    i'm a star this life's the suburbs, I commute
    • ^
    • v
    I'm not sure I'm really understanding, but aren't you implying that Jesus is a concept rather than a person? And more than that - aren't you saying it is a concept that lies buried deep within the person, waiting to be found?

    Seems kinda... impersonal
    • ^
    • v
    i'm a ninteen-year old, artisticly minded, emotionally based, modern day academic failure. consider audience.
    • ^
    • v
    Those who are "in" are not justified by loving their neighbor," they are justified by faith in Jesus Christ. Orthopraxy is the nice house people see above the ground, but orthodoxy is the foundation on which the house is built. Without a firm foundation, the house will not be strong, and without orthodoxy, the orthopraxy is not sustainable.
    • ^
    • v
    The Ground We Share: Everyday Practice, Buddhist and Christian ---Robert Aitken and David Steindl-Rast
    Total Liberation: Zen Spirituality and the Social Dimension---Ruben L. Habito
    Lord Teach us to Pray: Christian Zen and the Inner Eye of Love---William Johnston
    The Mirror Mind: Zen-Christian Dialogue---William Johnston
    Zen and the Birds of Appetite---Thomas Merton
    A Taste of Water: Christianity Through Taoist-Buddhist Eyes---Chwen Jiuan Lee and Thomas G. Hand
    The Silence of God: The Answer of the Buddha---Raimundo Panikkar
    Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit---Robert E. Kennedy
    Living Buddha, Living Christ---Thich Nhat Hanh
    Silence---Shusaku Endo
    Awareness - The Perils and Opportunities of Reality---Anthony deMello
    Thoughts on the East---Thomas Merton
    • ^
    • v
    'It takes nine months to be born of water, from conception to birth. it may take a lifetime to be born of the Spirit.'

    What a wonderful line! Thanks, Ricky.

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