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Buddhist Christianity

Erik Cooper —  March 10, 2010 — 3 Comments

Like most of humanity, I watched the globally anticipated Tiger Woods apology press conference a few short weeks ago.  Never in history had a sports icon demanded such non-athletic attention (Wall Street trading actually slowed notably during his 14-minute statement!).  Unbelievable.

Many of you may have been surprised to hear Tiger’s Buddhist profession and his admission that he’d lost his way as it pertained to his faith.  But through a little research and a few conversations with people much smarter than me (those aren’t usually too hard to find), I’ve uncovered something:

I am a Christian that sometimes lives like a Buddhist.

Yep.  You can unsubscribe now, or you can hang with me (I’m hoping to eradicate some potential heresy, not promote it).  You just may find some of yourself in this, too.

By it’s own admission, Buddhism seeks to eradicate want, to achieve nirvana through freedom from all appetites. According to Buddhism, the only way to live well is to kill desire (and Tiger Woods has some misguided impulses he undoubtedly would like to bury).

As a Believer in Christ, I completely understand that perspective.  At my core, I’m broken and sinful. My motivations are self-oriented, and my life prone to inexplicable evil (I hope I never lose sight of that reality). But Jesus didn’t come just to kill my sin, He came to resurrect in me a new life.

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” -Galatians 2:20 NLT

Some Christians are half-dead. Like Buddhists, they become focused solely on the eradication of their desires, and they never truly embrace the gift of resurrected life that Christ offers.  Efforts center on control and quickly spiral into a cesspool of religious death.  These people become like walking zombies, spiritual corpses with only a grotesque illusion of life.

Jesus didn’t come to suppress your desires, He came to redeem them. Yes, He calls us to die (“My old self has been crucified with Christ”).  But through that death He offers us life (“It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me”).

Real life.  His life.

Does your life reflect a focus on death or life?  Jesus didn’t stay in the tomb. I don’t want to live there either.

I’m honored to participate in the “blog tour” for Mark Batterson’s new book, PRIMAL.  My review of his challenging new book is below.  Check it out (the post and the book).

As far as I know, there is no such thing as “C.A.” (Churchies Anonymous), but maybe there should be. There are undoubtedly a lot of you like me who were raised in the subculture of the Western Evangelical American Church.  You know, that subtle, religious dance, where Christianity is defined by a set of behavioral standards and consistent Sunday attendance.

And while I really do cherish the way I was raised, I often wonder how much of my understanding of God was shaped merely by a set of cultural norms rather than a true and personal encounter with Jesus Christ. Many days I feel like I’m still waking up.

Thatprimal‘s why I love Mark Batterson’s new book PRIMAL: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity. This book takes dead aim at humanity’s uncanny ability to over-complicate God. To trade in the freedom of Christ for the layers of religiosity He actually came to unravel, all in our vain attempts to find Him in the first place.  In PRIMAL, Mark gets back to the simple essence of what it means to love God.

Mark is a “churchie” like me.  Raised in it, married into it, studied it, built it.  But he’s a church “insider” that’s not satisfied with simply preserving the status quo. Mark’s not afraid of the hard questions, yet he asks them with such dignity and class you feel like he’s giving you a high five while he’s really kicking your butt. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“The temptation is to ask this question: what’s wrong with this generation? But that is the wrong question. The right question is this: what’s wrong with the church?

“As we grow in our love relationship with God, we begin to empathize with God.  We feel what He feels.

“It seems to me that we have spiritualized the American Dream or materialized the gospel.”

“When we lose our sense of wonder, what we really lose is our soul.  Our lack of wonder is really a lack of love.

“I’m afraid we’ve unintentionally fostered a subtle form of spiritual codependency in our churches.  It’ is easy to let others take responsibility for what should be our responsibility.”

“Too many of us try to understand truth in the static state.  We want to understand it without doing anything about it, but it doesn’t work that way. You want to understand it?  Then obey it.”

“The truth is that most of us are already educated way beyond the level of our obedience.  We learn more and do less, thinking all the while that we’re growing spiritually.

“Which do you love more: your dream or God?

“This book is an invitation to be part of something that is bigger than you, more important than you, and longer lasting than you.  It’s an invitation to be part of the next reformation.

PRIMAL reads quickly and is compiled in powerful, poignant, yet small, almost blog-like chunks. In fact, this book really seems to be further development of many of Mark’s posts from the last few years.  It reflects an honest passion for Christ beyond just being a church leader (as well as an obvious fascination for scientific thought and studies).

I highly recommend it as a first read for 2010. It’s a great book for anyone, but it found a special connection with me as a church “insider” constantly looking to escape the complicated layers that religious culture has quietly coated me with over the years.  If you want something real, search for something primal.

Check it out. Let me know what you think.