Friday, January 14

Gone to Ceylon

FaithfulAmerica: Rescue or Revival? I got involved with Faithful America during the election; it's a project of the National Council of Churches designed to offer an alternative Christian political agenda. Really struck a nerve with me. Now they've shifted gears into tsunami relief and started up this blog of their interfaith director's work in Sri Lanka. They're asking the essential question:

Today we traveled to a small coastal village near Colombo to visit an orphanage ruined by the wave. On our way we came upon a boy dressed in new jeans and a bright white Yankees t-shirt, and carrying a brand new Bible. (see photos below) We stopped and asked where he was going and he told us, "To the prayer." We learned that there would be some fifty survivors from this fishing village attending the meeting led by an American evangelist. What is interesting -- and this is purely speculation -- but there is a better than average chance that this young man, or at least some of the fifty in attendance, were Buddhists -- at least before tonight. This illustration touches at the heart of the tension between Buddhist leaders and visiting Christian groups, some of which, such as FaithfulAmerica, are here not to evangelize but to help provide relief. There are some who say evangelists are exploiting this nation's bad fortune to gain converts, while some evangelists believe they are doing exactly what their faith commands them to do.

I'm reading Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt right now, appropriately enough, and it reminds me that Buddhists--my dad was one--are generally cleared to take part in other faiths. Buddha is not a god, after all. Important theological nuance.

I attended an NCCC meeting not long after 9-11 while covering a book tour by Paul Findley. The Council on American-Islamic Relations was giving a presentation and CNN was phoning them for "reaction from the Muslim community" interviews. It was an enlightening experience, even though I was never able to sell the article I was writing.

If you know me, you probably are surprised to know that I'm an Xian. Actually, I have big problems with the Nicene Creed and St. Paul. The Sermon on the Mount, the parables of Christ, a sentimental attachment to the Doxology, liberation theology, and The White Goddess are the cornerstones of my personal lite version of the faith. Remember the old comic strip Rick O'Shay? Remember how Hipshot Percussion the gunfighter would always ride out into the wilderness on Sundays to talk to "the Boss"? I always identified with that as a kid. I still like the idea of a town called Conniption where the local bordello is known as the Crystal Pistol (my favorite South of Market dance spot when I lived in San Francisco) ...


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