On killing gods

I’ve been dipping into a book–on loan from an esoterically inclined "Starbucks friend"–by Thich Nhat Hanh, called "No Fear No Death." It’s a piece of work that soars over my bodily existence, an existence to which–I now know with greater force–that I’m far too partial toward. As it is, this already exposes an error in my understanding of reality. Because the notion that "I exist," is, for a Buddhist, amiss.

But, as altitudinous (and quantum) a notion as this seems, and as much as I want to query some of the concepts in the book, I am at least open to having my Western categories of subject and object softened up.


As well, beneath the orphic flights presented by Thich Nhat Hanh, of which I only spy contrails, there are things within Buddhism that I can easily hum along with. For example, like, Mindfulness Training No. One:

Aware of the suffering created by fanaticism and intolerance, we are determined not to be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. Buddhist teachings are guiding means to help us learn to look deeply and to develop our understanding and compassion. They are not doctrines to fight, kill or die for.

Speaking as a Christian I need to ask how it is that my tradition has entertained, and in some circles, continues to entertain fanaticism and intolerance. How is it that the gospel, which is spirit and light, understanding and compassion, has so often been hammered into shield and spear?

Comparisons are not always odious. And this should be an embarrassment to us Jesus people, but I don’t recall any great Buddhist wars. History holds no Buddhist imperialism, expansionism, or acculturation. There were no Buddhist crusades. Maybe they take their mindfulness training seriously.

The Zen Buddhists have a saying, "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him." That is because the Buddha you meet, at best, will be distorted by an expression of your own aquisitive-desire. In other words, there is no arriving at the arch-concept. Everything we know and hold is provisional.

I can learn from my Buddhist brother. When my Christianity calcifies into theory, when I become doctrinaire in my beliefs, when I’m tempted to defend Christianity through creedal utterances and ideology, then that part of my "Christianity" needs to be killed.

As a Christian, if I meet a god within me that is hard, uncompromising, non-compassionate, absolute, that lacks understanding, is, in a word, idolatrous, I must kill it.

As (Western) Christians we haven’t been good at resisting a grab at an absolute concept of God. In fact we’ve been taught that it’s not only possible to have a categorical concept of God, but that it’s imperative for right faith. But this is nothing other than idol making. And where ever there are idols there is intolerance.

Feuerbach’s deft charge against a dogmatic Christianity, that is, that our "God is simply ourselves thrown up against the sky," is still, too accurate and oh so contemporary. This is the god we must kill.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment

  1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3) is the first of the Ten Commandments. At almost any moment in my life outside of active worship, I’m liable to breaking His commandment. To seek God first and be in constant prayer would be to never break this commandment, help you observe the other nine commandments plus follow all of Jesus’s teachings. And I have a sense that’s where you break free from dogmatism and religion and enter into a relationship with our Saviour.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *