I am speaking to a group this week at my church. This group meets monthly to discuss faith-based books. The book I have chosen to discuss is a melding of many religions and traditions which is to say, a lot like my beliefs.
One of the older members of this reading group, most are older, I am one of the few “youngsters”, grabbed me Sunday before Church. This fine Christian lady has been a member of our Church for 50 years. She and her family are and have been one of the many rocks, foundations our Church has built and grown on top of.
She had just finished the book I am going to cover and she is concerned. There aren’t enough references to God or Jesus and, it at least to her, to many about Buddha. I reminded her that this group discusses books about theology and theology included all matters of beliefs beyond just Christianity.
Now I am a big guy, over six feet tall, and 240 pounds. This matriarch of my Church comes up to a little above of belt buckle and maybe weighs 70 pounds soaking wet but she puffed up and reminded me that I would be giving my “talk” in a Christian Church, a Church she had been a member of for 50 years, I knew that, longer than I have, yes 20 years longer. As she continued to talk and I continued to smile and nod she had one more question, probably the question she wanted to ask from the beginning; “Does this book reflect your religious views?”
Now, the smart-ass in me would have responded “You will just have to wait until Monday night to find out” but even though she is old, frail and short she could bring me to my knees with one hard hit to the shin with her walking-cane. I decided, despite her powerful standing in the Church I would just tell her the truth, yes this book does reflect my diverse religious views. Her next question was predictable; “So you aren’t a Christian?” I explained, as gently as possible that in the traditional sense and how I am sure she defined a “Christian” that no, I don’t use the label “Christian” to describe my set of beliefs. She didn’t appreciate the word “label”.
So she wondered, why had I been a member of “her” Church for such a longtime then? My answer was very simple, “Because of people like you”. I told her as I have gotten older I believe my faith has grown, as my religious beliefs have expanded and become more fluid. I support the missions of “her” Church, to provide love, grace, and care to everyone. We don’t do it because Jesus tells us to do it, we do it because it is the right way to treat Gods creatures and creation.
I had softened her up. After a short pause and an exhale, I guess she was tired of being puffed-up, she wanted to know if I wasn’t a “Christian” was I a Buddhist? I told her I didn’t need a label to describe my beliefs. There was that ugly word again, but if she wanted a word I would use to describe my views I would say “Wonder”. Wonder keeps me seeking. Wonder keeps me engaged. Wonder makes me, well, wonder. For me, people who think their faith provides them with all the answers simply aren’t asking the right questions.
I have questions but the one thing I don’t question, the one thing I am sure of is that I want to be part of a community of caring, and loving people. People who don’t judge others based on their skin color, their economic situation, what country they hail from, or their sexuality. I found that community 30 plus years ago. I raised my family in that community. I have been cared for, comforted and nurtured in that community, and honestly I don’t care what you call it but I call it love.
“If you can, help others; if you cannot do that, at least do not harm them.” – Dalai Lama