Sunday Sermon

The universe has a great sense of irony.

Earlier this weeek, a "Christian" evangelist was out in front of the Wyoming Union here in Laramie (I put that in quotes because I don't think Christ would claim him as one of his own). He was displaying a sign that said "Fear God" and spewing a message of hate and bigotry, complete with a catchy song called "It's Not OK to be Gay". He basically bashed everyone who walked by. My personal favorite was a cute little freshman girl - he told her that she was going to hell because she was made up like a harlot. Apparently eye shadow offends the Lord...

At the same time inside the Union, Tibetan monks were creating a sand mandala for peace and the healing of the world. I scanned the crowd and saw folks I know to be Catholics, Baptists, Mormons, Jews, Buddhists and a half-dozen kinds of Pagans in attendance. The irony wasn't lost on anyone - while chatting with friends after the opening ceremony, I overheard several people around us say that they much preferred the religious message inside the Union to that presented outside.

Although some Christians won't agree with this statement, most evangelicals hold that the world is completely doomed. They see no point in trying to improve this world because their focus is solely on getting out of it and into the next. Their negative, fear-filled message is based on this apocalyptic view, and they feel that the saving of souls is so important that they must get their message out, regardless of who they trample along the way. Those folks who don't agree are sinners, and they are to be opposed ("rebuked") at every turn. It's a case of "Us vs Them" on a grand scale.

I'm not willing to accept that. I don't see this world as doomed, nor do I think that any spiritual "truth" is so important that those who disagree or don't match the paradigm should be crushed for it. While I support the rights of evangelicals to express their views, I also think it's important to stand up for those they so arbitrarily categorize as sinners.

Many other spiritual traditions do just that. The Tibetan monks who constructed the mandala below are representative of one such faith, and there are many other traditions that teach a similar message of unity. As you look at the pictures below, remember that it was constructed by people who believe in the possibility of a better world, for the purpose of healing the divisions between all mankind. It's not "Us vs Them" - it's just "Us."

In the following clip, you can see one of the monks "breaking" the mandala along the eight directions.

This destruction of the beautiful handiwork of the monks is done in observance of the impermanence of all things - a recognition that all things pass away, and the beauty of the moment is what's vital. The sand was swept into small plastic bags and offered to all who observed the ceremony - to help each person take a bit of the intent of the mandala with them.

Go in Peace.


Siipi said...

I agree that preachers like that are wrong, but they give a false idea of Christianity as a whole. I'm a Christian myself. I'm also a practising lesbian. I don't have strong views on sin and hell, and I've never tried to "convert" someone.

Your analysis on those evangelists is probably true, but I didn't like your juxtaposition of Oriental religions vs Christianity. Many Christians practice their faith with similar peace and love. In fact, that's an important part of Christianity. So is helping and loving others. Jesus was ALL about love and acceptance, and that's what the Christian faith is founded on. The personal problems of some evangelists don't reflect that.

womaninbloom said...

Beautiful Art, Beautiful Ceremoney and Beautiful Message.

Linus said...

Your personal version of Christianity is not unique, but it's also not really in line with the pale of orthodoxy. With very few exceptions, Christian denominations embrace the concepts of sin and hell pretty strongly, and very few forms of Christianity fully embrace active homosexuality.

I fail to see what's wrong with juxtaposing one religion against another. It seems to me that the only way a person can really make an informed decision about which tradition they will follow is by comparison.

While I agree that there are Christians that practice their faith with peace and love, they don't seem to be the loud ones. I think that's a problem... especially since the loud ones are so reprehensible.

Modig said...

Man! I need to hang out at the union more often! I am all about monks breaking stuff!

Anonymous said...

I'm with that lady. Aren't you, in your comparing religions, being very devicive and judgemental yourself? There is beauty everywhere and in all faiths. One's task should be to find it, rather than mock it.
I'd much rather people compared between what is good and what is wrong than compare one religion to another. All are one, in a sense.

Linus said...

Am I being divisive when I point out that less than a hundred yards apart on our campus, representatives of one religion were spewing hate while representatives of another religion were working for peace? No - I'm reporting the facts of the day.

Is it divisive to point out that Christianity is apocalyptic and Buddhism isn't? No - it's restating the basic tenets of each religion.

I think Christ was a great guy, but it's no secret that I'm not a fan of Christianity - in fact, I have said before that I feel that Christianity has been the single most destructive force in Western civilization - but in this case, I was comparing the messages and means of expression of two specific groups of religious adherents. If Buddhism comes out looking better to you, maybe that says something about how screwed up the institution of Christianity really is.

As for finding beauty, I am perfectly capable of giving many examples of the beauty of Christ's teachings but I cannot and will not find beauty in judgemental hate mongering, regardless of the cause. If a Buddhist came to preach on campus and spewed venom at everyone who walked by I would take him to task just as readily.

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