A Reader recently wrote:
I am thankful for your insights into Buddhism. The faith gives me many important insights in creating “win-win” relationships with others. Still, one characteristic about your podcast bothers me.
Many of your listener comments insult the Christian faith or those who practice it. While it would be unfair for me to expect you to leave out part of what they sent in, I would be delighted to hear you encourage your listeners to work through their hard feelings toward Christians and Christianity. I recognize growing up in a household where not being of a faith the family insists the young follow would not be easy. Still, empathy for Christian concerns about Buddhists or whomever going to hell, for example, is a step on the path towards peace.
You’re absolutely right about the anti-Christian sentiment of some of the commenters. Phrases like “breaking the chains…” and so forth are, if not offensive, at least heavily prejudiced. There was one letter that was so hostile that I had to heavily edit the thing to make it usable here.
I personally haven’t intentionally been hostile, but I’m probably not innocent either. I end up getting three or four ‚ÄúYou’re going to Hell for this!‚Äù emails every week; I don’t get them in my personal or business email accounts, only the one for THIS site. Christians mean well, most of them at least, but sometimes their zeal works against them and builds resentment and ill will. It’s hard not to let that get to you sometimes.
I think that being in such a minority (Buddhists in America) tends to encourage us to build up defensive barriers and an “us versus them” attitude in many cases. And it is not unusual to see actual hostility aimed from Christians towards anything different. That sounds like a real test of Buddhist compassion and loving-kindness, right?
I was one of ‚Äúthem‚Äù for many years, and I didn’t feel like a bad guy back then; somehow I suspect they don’t feel like the villains either. Nowadays, I look back and wonder, ‚Äúwhat was I thinking!‚Äù with incredulity. Here in the West, we’ve been exposed to Christianity pretty heavily all our lives, even if we weren’t raised with it. Those of us who adopted Buddhism later in life do tend to see it as an ‚Äúescape.‚Äù But I also realize that it all made sense to me back then, and Christians (for the most part) really do have your best interests in mind. Be patient and forgiving with them.
Also be aware that if you present your case carefully, you can still win over Christians, at least the ones who are open to listening. There are many Christians, priests and pastors included, who meditate and agree with the basic tenets of Buddhism and even teach meditation to their congregations. They don’t have to give up Jesus or the Bible in order to benefit from the teachings of Buddha; we could learn a few things from the words of Jesus too‚Äîgood advice is always good advice, regardless of what people have added over the centuries. In many cases, if you just explain what it is that you believe, carefully and in plain English, and you might be surprised at how accepting they can be. Many Westerners have no idea what Buddhism is really all about; use every opportunity to explain!