Monday, August 25, 2008

Bridges or Barriers

I was camping for the last several days with some old friends from my previous employer. I go to the Adirondacks every August with this gang and we hike mountains together. This was our 24th year, and in this time we have grown to know each other quite well, in spite of the fact that to a large part we only see each other once a year.

So one conversation I wanted to talk about was with a friend who is a Buddhist. He married a Japanese woman, but I don't know if his conversion was before or after meeting her. I guess for today it doesn't matter.

I was prompted by a radio story about the meeting Rick Warren had with Barack Obama and John McCain. This well-publicized meeting took place at Saddleback Church on August 16th. I heard Rick Warren and his wife Kay talking about their faith, and their approach to social change. The part I liked was regarding the spread of AIDS. They talked about three approaches to limit the spread of this terrible disease: save sex for marriage, remain faithful once married, and the use of condoms. They were not going to budge on their personal morality that requires them to preach that premarital sex and adultery are wrong. But, they also recognize that many many people are suffering from AIDS, and the distribution of condoms would seriously effect the spread. Reducing suffering is, to them, much more important that sitting in their Ivory Tower and preaching morality. I was very impressed and happy that these very influential evangelical Christians were placing the teachings of Jesus above their personal political agendas.

So, back to the conversation with my Buddhist friend. After discussing the Warrens story and its implications, we were able to conclude that the overall goals of these very distinct religions overlap significantly. Just like Rick and Kay Warren, why can't Christians work with Buddhists or Muslims, or anyone really, who wants the same goals? Why do we have to always beat them over the head with the Bible, and refuse cooperation until they accept Jesus as Lord and Savior?

OK, before you get too upset, I understand that ultimately we need to do our best to share the Gospel. But does this have to preclude working with unsaved individuals, especially those of different faiths? And can we please separate our political agendas from the work to help those in need? I just can't see Jesus saying to a little child with AIDS "I can't help you since your mother engaged in sex outside of marriage."

Thanks for listening. Probably there will more on this later.


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