Top

Reputable Peace

Written by Kimberly Roth : October 7, 2008

tibetGeneral Editor’s Note: Kimberly Roth will be stepping down from her editorial role at Jesus Manifesto. Since April 2008, she has been the editor for submissions for culture and aesthetics, and has contributed 18 articles of her own. Today, we republish my favorite of Kimberly’s articles. Thank you, Kimberly. May God bring you unexpected joy as you continue on your journey.

There has been a cry ringing in my heart over the past few weeks, “Tibet is not free! Tibet is not free!” I hear it on the television, look at the faces in the newspaper, read the stories on the blogs. “Tibet is not free! Tibet is not free!” And I know this much is true.

As a general rule, I am opposed to oppression of any kind. I can sympathize with the protestors around the world crying out against China’s oppression of the Tibetan people. I certainly prefer unanimous vocal outrage and creative interruptions to the alternatives of brute force. The voices ringing out now, the cameras focused on the situation, the stories being documented – this mass outcry against oppression was not around when Europeans were stealing the homeland of the native Americans, or shipping African slaves over to forcibly cultivate that land. “Tibet is not free! Tibet is not free!” It is a cry that can not, in good conscience, be ignored.

Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV)

There’s something about the plight of Tibetan Buddhists that tugs at the hearts and souls of people worldwide. The Dalai Lama is a highly regarded spiritual leader, the reincarnation of the Buddha of Compassion come to serve the Tibetan people. He promotes peace, compassion, non-violence, tolerance and mutual respect, and he appears to live his life in this sphere. It is no wonder people are drawn to him, his religion, his politics and his people.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45 (NIV)

However, there is a flip-side to Tibetan Buddhism. There is work involved, and peace comes with a price. The Tibetan people serve multiple deities, some of whom are full of vengeance. Their religious practices are in part, to appease the deities en route to obtaining enlightenment. Monks create intricately detailed mandalas to house deities and guide meditation. Followers walk the streets of Tibet endlessly spinning prayer wheels in an effort to gain the attention of the Buddha of Compassion. Tibetans perform physical rituals, such as stopping to bow every few steps, in an effort to relieve personal suffering. Street children, widows and crippled men line the streets

Every person whose heart is moved by love and compassion, who deeply and sincerely acts for the benefit of others without concern for fame, profit, social position, or recognition expresses the activity of Chenrezig. (Bokar Rinpoche)

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:7-8 (NIV)

Tibetans are enslaved in a religion where deities are feared and atonement comes through repetitive actions. “Tibet is not free! Tibet is not free!” Followers of Christ, on the other hand, were set free through acceptance of his sacrificial atonement on our behalf and granted the gifts of grace and peace and hope. Tibetans strive for alleviation of suffering. Christians learn to rejoice in their sufferings, or so we are told.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:1-11 (NIV)

Here’s where I get stuck.

Christians have been given the gift of true peace through a relationship with the Son of God. We do not have to do good works to earn our salvation, but through Christ’s sacrifice and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to love other people with God’s love. When we fail to live up to the standard Christ demonstrated for our life, or when those around us mess up, there is still grace… grace that reminds us we are human… grace that reminds us we are loved… grace that picks us up, dusts us off, and encourages us to keep going. It truly is a wondrous faith.

Why, then, is it that the world is not enamored with faith in Christ?

Why is it that the world seems so taken by Tibetan Buddhism?

Why isn’t Christianity the religion of peace?

In the geopolitical sphere, the United States is the most powerful nation in the world. At 85% reported adherents, we have the largest national Christian population in the world. Yet our global reputation of arrogance greed and selfishness proceeds us. The United States represents herself as a Christian nation, and she is judged accordingly.

Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. Ezekiel 16:49 (NIV)

Now, those of us who live in the United States know that many good and giving actions are undertaken by US Americans, and our government, both here and around the world. However, all of these good things are overshadowed in the eyes of many by negative actions and attitudes. We live in the most influential nation in the world, and 85% of us adhere to the teachings of Christ, yet we are unable to live out his principles on a local, national or global level.

“Tibet is not free! Tibet is not free!” I’m afraid, my friends, that neither are we. Our commitment to our national culture supersedes our commitment to our faith. We do not live in an oppressed nation. We do not serve an oppressive God. Yet we allow ourselves to complacently exist in a culture that focuses on self and satisfaction of personal desires.

We have to find ways to stop pursuing a cultural faith and start living the way of Christ.

The world is watching and, so far they are unimpressed.

Kimberly Roth is a co-editor for the Jesus Manifesto. She over-thinks and cares way too much, so she rambles on at www.barefootbohemian.blogspot.com.


If you appreciate articles like this, consider making a donation to help Jesus Manifesto pay the bills.



Print This Article Print This Article

for further reading . . .

Comments

Viewing 43 Comments

    • ^
    • v
    I've heard it said (I'm sure it's attributed to a number of voices) t"hat if God does not eventually destroy the United States, he will have to go back and apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah. "

    Thanks for your balanced look at Tibetan Buddhism as well. I've been blown away by media's glaring bias towards the religion and even the overlooking of the oppressive nature of Buddhism within emerging Christian circles as well. Even though I've often said "that if I wasn't a Christian, I'd be a Buddhist", we have to see the omissions and errors of that system as well. Again, thank you.
    • ^
    • v
    t"hat if God does not eventually destroy the United States, he will have to go back and apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah. "

    this is very very true
    • ^
    • v
    God does not need to apologize for anything...He is God~ We are not....
    • ^
    • v
    (1) If we hide behind God's omniscience and sovereignty to the point that we never wrestle with this life or its apparent injustices, we do little towards being transformed into Christ-likeness.

    (2) I'm not implying that God should literally apologize. You are missing the point. The point is that the U.S. is in just as bad of a spot (or perhaps even worse) as Sodom and Gomorrah. There have actually been studies done on the U.S. when it comes to sexual sins, social injustices, murder, etc... that demonstrate its relationship to those ancient cities. Don't dismiss the point by playing a sovereignty trump card.
    • ^
    • v
    Dead on. Let me add that the introduction and invasion of the Chinese actually brought an equalizing to the country that previously had been rife with the corruptions of power.

    The collection Everything You Know About God Is Wrong from Disinformation has a brilliant article on pre-Chinese occupation Tibet that should be required reading. Yes, there are some wonderful things about having an independent Tibet, but it's not nearly as cut-and-dried of an issue as people make it out to be.

    Besides, how about "Free the Kurds! Create Kurdistan", if we're on this topic...?
    • ^
    • v
    great article. just what i needed to read today. i am getting ready for a youth weekend, in which i am going to talk about compassion, G-d's authority vs. the false authority of the world, and the secret to winning one's life: losing it! this is good stuff for me to meditate on as i move through the posture of really living out these messages for the weekend.
    shalom
    ryan miller
    • ^
    • v
    Mmmm. I've been wondering what a free Tibet would look like - presumably not a democracy.

    On the other hand, people are entitled to be free and to take the costs. When the British said to Gandhi that Indian independence would bring all kinds of problems, he said something like 'ah yes, but then they'll be our problems and not yours'. I'm not sure what he would think of today's India which reveres a statue of a great leader in every town centre yet has forgotten his message and as a system is riddled with corruption.

    I've never seen the attraction of Tibetian Buddhism. Sounds like the usual self-seeking, self-important, self-improvement kind of religion that we see everywhere now, particularly within the church. Maybe that is the attraction - everyone is so connected into the cult of celebrity that they think that the point of life is to be All About Me.
    • ^
    • v
    I just want to say thank you for a brave post. For one who lives outside of the US, your comments about US Christianity are a relief to hear. It's good to hear someone from within the US acknowledge both the blessing and the curse that US-brand faith and foreign policy has been to the rest of the world.
    Perhaps those of us outside of the US have not been grateful enough for the benefits we enjoy as a result of American influence. And perhaps we have not been strong enough in defining faith on our own terms, instead of allowing the American religious right to define it for us.
    It is heartening to see how the religious conversation in the US is deepening and become more nuanced. It is also heartening to see how this is shifting the faith conversation in my own country.
    The truth is - as you say - we are not free. In some nations it is painfully obvious, and in some it is more hidden. If only we can acknowledge this, as you have, and begin to live in the freedom Christ brings - not just for ourselves, but for the sake of the world.
    • ^
    • v
    Awesome :)
    • ^
    • v
    You wrote: "We live in the most influential nation in the world, and 85% of us adhere to the teachings of Christ, yet we are unable to live out his principles on a local, national or global level."

    I suggest that fewer than 2% of Americans actually live by the teachings of Christ; perhaps .05% would be more accurate. If as many as 85% really lived the Gospel of the Kingdom of God that Jesus preached and lived into and out of, we would not be at war; we would not have elderly people and children starving; we would not have 20,000 people or more dying because they cannot have adequate health care; we would not have an economy where the largest export is weaponry and items created for killing people; we would not have an economy where $400 million a day is spent to destroy and kill others; we would not have an economy where th 1% of the population has seen an increase in wealth from $186billion to $816 billion and their combined income is $3.5 trillion while others are standing in line to be fed and finding shelter under bridges and in boxes. This is not a country where actual Christians form more than a small minority, a tiny minority of the population.

    How else could we have allowed out government to commit war crimes paralleled by Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland in 1939 when it invaded both Afghanistan and Iraq? An 85% Christian population. Only in name and I don't call that Christian at all. I call it false to the Gospel and faithful to Caesar.
    • ^
    • v
    Thank you for this post. It was well written and thoughtful. These 3 questions:

    Why, then, is it that the world is not enamored with faith in Christ?

    Why is it that the world seems so taken by Tibetan Buddhism?

    Why isn’t Christianity the religion of peace?

    These are important questions to answer.
    • ^
    • v
    "Why, then, is it that the world is not enamored with faith in Christ?
    Why is it that the world seems so taken by Tibetan Buddhism?"

    My guess:
    1. The world doesn't want the kind of freedom Jesus offers.
    2. Christianity isn't associated with COOL people, or, contrarily, is too closely associated with people who are UNcool. The Tibetan Buddhists may have their beggars hoping for better karma for the next life, but they're not on TV, or don't live next door. All we see is the Dalai Lama - a nice - and mysterious - guy.
    • ^
    • v
    Are you sure you want to judge a religion by its strain of extremists? Do you want to accept that judgement on your own religion?

    Kimberly Roth has mistakenly tried to apply an overly literal reading of Buddhist myths in the way many Christians apply overly literal readings of God’s wrath in the Bible. Buddhists do not earn salvation through “works”. I’m sorry you have that misconception of their faith. Any type of “work” is for the elimination of the suffering in others not your own salvation. Like all religious rituals, they are symbols meant to cultivate character changes. But the transformation is never for your own benefit. The purpose is so that you no longer cause suffering. Rituals help you become a more compassionate being and more capable of relieving the suffering of others.

    Christianity is not the religion of peace because it has become a religion of division. Its point has become the quest to define who is in and who is out. You can’t be a religion of peace when your purpose is inform people they are going to hell and the only way out would be to reject their own religion or they will burn.

    The reason Buddhism is widely revered is because it was founded on principles that allow its practitioners to be free of the literal interpretation of its myths. Its growth is not tied down by pre-modern views of the supernatural world. Buddha was clear about that. Certain sects of their pre-enlightenment ancestors may have invented particular deities and even had them perpetuate vengeance, but Jewish and Christian authors have done the same with our God (read the book of Joshua or listen to an Evangelical pastor talk about atonement).
    • ^
    • v
    That's an interesting take. I don't think Kimberly was trying to describe all streams of Buddhist thought, of which there are many, just like any other religion including Christianity. She is not a Buddhist expert (If you are Kimberly, feel free to correct me). Maybe we should all read up on Buddhism a bit more. We appreciate your take on it and thanks for the corrections where needed.
    • ^
    • v
    I'm not an expert on Buddhism. But I have very well-versed Buddhist friends who tell me that it is a myth to say that Buddhism isn't divided. It is just divided in a different way, given the social and cultural structures it is embedded into. Just like Christianity is divisive because of the social and cultural structures it is embedded into.

    Buddhism is seen as the religion of peace because Buddhism isn't as tied to global imperial movements. It isn't because Buddhists aren't literalists. That is just silly. Every religion has its fundamentalists. And, for the most part, fundamentalists are the majority because it is easier to control fundamentalists.

    In the end, I do believe that Buddha and Jesus have some common points. As a Christian, my vote goes for Jesus. But even from a sort of secularist anthropological perspective, Jesus' teachings focus more on compassion and the Buddha's teachings focus more on wisdom. I firmly and truly believe that the best of Christianity demonstrates compassion even more than the exemplary actions of the Dolly Llama (misspelling intentional).
    • ^
    • v
    Markvans,

    We don't have to vote and declare a winner. I think that is the point. I would suggest voting for Buddha is voting for Jesus. There is only one way, but any metaphors to point the way. It is called self sacrificial love.

    The Buddha's teaching have nothing to do with wisdom accept as a METHOD to gain compassion and through our compassion ending suffering. I feel you've approached what some might see as religious bigotry. I hate to see that.

    I do think the literalism is a key catalyst for problems because it diverts attention away from compassion and toward supernatural power and a preferred status in afterlife.
    • ^
    • v
    I don't see a problem with literalism per se. After all, Amish are literalists as much as, or even more, than conventional fundamentalists. But there literalism leads them to peace and mutual care.

    One can be, in a sense, exclusivistic and yet not a bigot. For me, the issue isn't about who is "in" or who is "out." It is an insecure system that cannot handle having differing, somewhat irreconcilable belief systems at the same table. This is the difference between, as Ken Wilber suggests, postmodernism (which wants to make all religions one pluralist goo of tolerance) and post-postmodernism (which allows completely different belief systems to sit at the table with some respect but without the need to agree).

    I may be a bigot. But it isn't because I look down on other faith or feel like I can't be hospitable to people of all faiths. But because I believe my loyalty and allegiance is to Jesus as the living God-man. And while I can learn from the Buddha, I don't have to believe in him in the religious sense.

    By the way, my "vote for Jesus" comment was tongue-in-cheek...for the most part. But I in a way I believe it stands as a serious comment as well. For me, to say that I can vote for both is a way of making myself the Transcendant One who can choose from all faiths to construct My Own Faith. This is contrary to the teaching of Christ. Jesus isn't merely One who shows us a Way...and that any way we find that Path is ok. Jesus is, himself, the way. Not to an afterlife primarily, but to participation in the Divine. To a complete and holistic relationship with God.
    • ^
    • v