I was invited to lead a discussion recently on wonderful book that melds the beliefs of Christians, Jews, Buddhist and Hindus. A book that mirrors many of my thoughts, views, faith and beliefs. Attending this discussion were about forty very educated and slightly older people of the Christian persuasion and one self-proclaimed atheists.
Seventy-five percent of the people read the book prior to our gathering. A week before our meeting I began receiving emails from “concerned” members that this book was not “Christian enough” and that I should probably focus on the “God and Jesus” parts and skip over the rest. There was even concern that the “God and Jesus” parts were not conventional enough. I called the point person, the lady that asked me to lead the discussion and shared some of the concerns I had received. Her suggestion, follow your heart.
We had a lively and productive conversation. For many it was their first exposure to both the Buddhist and Hindu faiths. This gathering also provided me with the opportunity to verbalize my own faith journey. It is something that I have written about extensively and have shared with my family but in the VERY conservative state and community that I live in is not a topic that makes most people comfortable. The unfamiliar can be a scary place for some.
At the conclusion of our function people began coming up to thank me but I noticed one older gentleman holding back, obviously waiting for the others to disperse. As the crowd thinned he approached and asked me “Are you a Christian?”. I smiled at him and said “That depends on what your definition of a Christian is”. Without missing a beat he recited a line that I am sure he could have said in his sleep, “You accept that the only path to salvation comes through the belief and acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour”. I smiled again and said if that is your belief for all of mankind, for all people of faith, then no I am not a Christian by your definition or based on your set of beliefs.
Now I didn’t know this guy from Adam’s house cat but as he started to bow-up on me (quite the sight I might add given that I was 20 years younger, a foot taller, and 100 pounds heavier) I gave him my email address and told him I would love to buy him a cup of coffee and hear more about his faith journey. As I suspected, I never heard from him.
I have a very simple philosophy, if your faith and beliefs or even your non-faith and non-beliefs make you a more caring, compassionate, accepting and loving individual to everyone and everything then I am happy to share this planet with you. On the other hand if your faith makes you judgemental, and hateful to those of us who don’t share your convictions well as Jesus said “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
“People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.” -Dalai Lama XIV