Sunday, September 26, 2004

the prophet gotama?

Yesterday evening, I was invited to dinner at the house of one of my very close Christian friends, who I will call Vicky. Vicky is off to uni in a short while, and she was having some family friends over for a meal and games before she left home. Anyway, we had got through 'Cranium' and 'Taboo' before we started on our final game, 'Who's in the Bag?'. In this game, the player has to draw, out of a bag, cards bearing the names of famous people and then they must describe this person to the other members on their team. Not all that different from the final round of TV quiz show 'They Think It's All Over'.

It is Vicky's turn. She pulls out a card and begins to describe it to us:
"Okay, he's a famous boxer... erm, long time ago... he... er... ooh! His first name is who Buddhists follow!"
"Er... Buddha?"
"Okay, Siddhartha Gotama? The Dalai Lama? A bodhisattva? A guru?"
"No, no, c'mon, you know..."
PING! Times up.
"Oh, guys. It was Mohammed Ali!"

Amusing, but also rather worrying. You see I know that Vicky is an evangelical, who believes in the supremacy of the Christian revelation and salvation through Christ alone. That is her choice of belief, and I respect that. What concerns me is the complete ignorance that most Christians have about other faiths and yet so many of them are more than willing to call them the religions of Satan or the worship of false gods. I don't usually have a go at people's ignorance, mainly because I'm quite ignorant myself, and there is no shame to be had in admitting that you don't know something. I did not feel embarassed, for example, when in the same game I tried to convince my team mates that Daniel Defoe was an actor (and I'm meant to be doing English Literature at university!). However, when Christians say that their religion holds the only truth they may well do so without any experience of other faiths. That is like saying that Steven Spielberg is the best director in the world when you have only ever seen Jaws, Jurassic Park and ET. But if you saw every other movie ever made, and then still said that Steven Spielberg was the best director in the world, you would at least be in a better position to make that judgement.

Christians (and indeed Muslims, Buddhists, atheists and everyone else) need to make a concerted effort to understand one another before they make any judgements about 'false religion'. I personally found it very difficult to walk around the great Hindu temples of India and not appreciate the value of their faith. I found myself thinking the words of St Peter in Acts 11:17: "So if God gave them the same gift he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, then who was I to think that I could oppose God?"

I'm really sorry Andy, but that's one of the funniest things I've read in a long time and I'm killing myself here with laughter.

Having said that, before I went to uni, growing up in Northern Ireland where we have 2 religions (protestant and catholic), my own knowledge of world religions was dire to say the least. It was only when I went to uni and met Muslims and Buddhists etc that I learned what other people believed, and even then, it took a few years before I really began to respect and learn from others.

There's hope for everyone :)

There is indeed hope for everyone. When the prophet Muhammed first started giving his recitations from the revelations he recieved, he got in a real muddle with his religious figures. Abraham, Jesus, Moses, all got mixed in different times and places. It took encounters with certain mutually sympathetic Jewish figures in his area to help him appreciate the importance of difference and narrative with those he was bringing up before others...
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