Killing the Dogma

killing buddhaIn a Zen koan that is attributed to the 9th century Buddhist master Lin Chi, it is said if a Buddhist meets the Buddha on the road, he or she should kill him.  Other versions of this story take place with a conversation where the master is teaching the student a valuable lesson.  What lesson is it?  The master teaches his student that whatever conceptions one has of the Buddha, they are wrong and as a result they impede the path to enlightenment.  If the practitioner’s mind is wrapped around a particular view of Buddha and his teachings, then all other possibilities become impossibilities.  This is no different in the Christian church when we consider the person of Jesus.

In a church that is united under one central figure I am constantly baffled by how dividing Jesus is.  I obviously do not think that Jesus intentionally created division in what would become the Christian church, but the beliefs that we hold result in division.  If we view Jesus as the savior of the world who was God in human form and hold that any other view is condemnable, then we miss out on the possibility of Jesus being a mystic who was deeply in touch with God.  We say that it is our goal as Christians to be Christ-like, but when we attempt this by embodying the love and compassion that Jesus had, we are accused of turning Jesus in to a mere principle.  In doing so, we are accused of removing the hope that Jesus brought as “true God of true God”.  (Admittedly, if we make Jesus in to a simple revolutionary or a radical mystic, we miss out on the beauty and other possibilities of who Jesus was or could have been.)

Where though, I ask, is the hope for the common person if we lose sight of Jesus as a mystic deeply in touch with God?  If Jesus was God, then what was so exceptional about his relationship with God?  We are left then with only waiting in anticipation for this God-man to return and redeem the fallen world and save us from ourselves.  If, however, Jesus was a human who got so in touch with God so as to have divine knowledge revealed to him, then there is hope that we too can have such a connection with God.  If Jesus was a mystic who was awakened to the fact that God dwells within humankind and the possibility exists to be in touch with that God and embody the God-like, ultimate good traits of love, compassion, and respect, then the kingdom of God can be made real right here among us.  Jesus himself said that “the kingdom of God is within you” and “the kingdom of God is among you”.  How heretical is it, then, to think that Jesus was trying to tell us something quite profound here – namely that we, too, can commune with God and bring hope to reality as a result of this interaction with the divine?

Many have criticized those like H. Richard Niebuhr who opined that we cannot possibly know all truth and that truth is subjective.  Theologians such as John Howard Yoder accuse such people of not committing to the true meaning of the gospel.  But what if Jesus really was human and yet somehow divine?  Would that just be too much of an uncomfortable mystery that we feel the need to explain away?  Many of us do adhere to belief in the trinity, after all.  What can be more confusing than this age-old attempt at putting our intellectual tension at ease?  What would it look like to admit that none of us have all of the answers?  What might we be missing out on to state that Jesus must have been one particular “thing” and those who do not accept this are in grave danger?  Jesus?  A mystery?  Maybe we can get some more insight by doing what he did and exploring other views of who he was instead of arguing that we already have all the answers.  What a concept . . .  As we enter the Advent season, the time is ripe for such discussions.

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