I'm reading The Naked Buddha: a demythologised account of the man and his teaching by Eric Harrison. The author has been a committed Buddhist for 25 years and a meditation teacher for more than 40 years.
He explains why Buddhism grows very very slowly, and why Westerners turn away. He's refreshingly honest:
...my approach is to highlight the good as I see it (which can be very, very good) and point out the bad (which can be quite awful).
This honesty—so rare it's almost unthinkable—stimulated me to think about what I love and hate about Christianity. And why I walked out of church in the 70s and virtually never went back. I'm not highlighting the good and the bad objectively: this is strictly personal.
What I love about Christianity
- My Dad, a vicar and a battler
- God is love (the message we got from our Dad)
- Worship, being consciously grateful
- Values of kindness, service to others, and generosity
- Peaceful meditation and food for thought
- Inspiring ministers: good, brave, wise people
- Jesus: a human being
- "Life is real, now: make your own heaven"
- Aesthetics: music, stained glass, flowers
- Poetry: the King James Bible and Book of Common Prayer
- Ritual and chanting
- Myth and metaphor
- Adventurous theology
- The City Mission.
What I loathe about Christianity or at least some factions
Some of what repels me, like the first item, is not intrinsically bad: it simply doesn't suit me at all. Some is all in my own mind. And some is genuinely bad, bad, bad.
I know people who help to create wonderful church communities and they belong there and improve the world. But I walked out one Sunday when it struck me that only 5 of the 400-odd people in the church would have the slightest understanding of my own position. (The 5 included the minister, bless him!) In every service I had been mentally translating the words into a more compatible theology.
Then I caught feminism and the translation job became impossible. Frankly, I didn't belong in a church.
Gradually feminism began to soften church misogyny. But it was far too late for me. I can't stand:
- Being part of an artificially constructed community
- Boring, false, or foolish ministers
- Persistent masculinity and paternalism
- Too much guilt
- Persistent anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-other attitudes
- Exclusivity: this is the right way and the only way
- Wealth and control and greed
- A sense of pointlessness.
Well, let it go. Growing older, I can see the big picture. I think...
Photo: The Jesus Place at Gobind Sadan, Delhi