Tuesday, June 21, 2011

40 Minutes with a Buddhist

As I walked through a large wholesale-club today, a vendor offered me a sample of free food. As I accepted the morsel, the man, Jack, asked me what my shirt meant. At that time, I had just left Vacation Bible School and was wearing a t-shirt with the letters VBS on the front. I explained to Jack what VBS meant and asked him if he went to church. He said he was Buddhist and did not attend a church. I politely asked how he came to believe in Buddhism, and he proceeded to talk for the next twenty or so minutes about his three tours of service as a Marine in Vietnam. He believed what we did to them was horrendous. Personally involved in the killing of men, women, children, and pets in several villages, he was horrified by what he had done. But every time he returned to the same village, the people seemed to be fine and happy, despite the atrocities (his words) committed against them. Believing their joy must come from a religion, he began to study their faith and came to believe and follow Buddhism.
After multiple questions I found that he believed the following items: 1. The ultimate goal of all of man is compassion. 2. There is an ultimate and singular truth. 3. All of mankind is gone astray and is evil (he chuckled, women are okay though). 4. Buddha was not a god and never claimed to be. 5. If a god existed it would make sense that he would create a being to live forever and that is why we are reincarnated. 6. Jesus was a Zen master. 7. Jesus was not God and never claimed to be God. 8. The Bible is simply a compilation of what Buddha had already said six hundred years prior to the birth of Jesus.  
It was intriguing and truly a pleasure to listen to Jack for forty minutes. I cannot begin to imagine the depths of evil he witnessed firsthand during a difficult war. I applaud him for seeking truth in a violent time. Jack was well-informed about why he believed what he believed and it was clear he had spent many hours reading relevant material.
Sadly, Jack was able to answer questions about Buddhism far better than many Christians are able to defend the hope that is within them. Worse, the God of the Bible commands for all adherents to study and be ready to defend their faith (I Peter 3:15), Buddhism does not. Are you prepared to ask someone like Jack pertinent questions? Are you capable of intelligently responding to the claims of a Buddhist, Mormon, etc.? If you are not, what will you do different tomorrow to get ready for a close encounter with a Buddhist vendor at your local grocery store?