Is there a disconnect between Jesus and people of the Twenty-first Century West? Well… yes and no. Let me explain. In a recent Vancouver Sun article about religious perspectives in the Vancouver area, Douglas Todd writes about the results of a recent poll where Jesus scored very high as a person who had a positive effect on mankind. So there is a belief out there that no matter who Jesus really was (sage, prophet, Son of God) humanity is better because of him. In the same regard the Buddha was ranked equally as high though. While it is great to see that Jesus is thought well of, I think the equality of the two in our culture speaks about the presence of the disconnect.
This disconnect is not a terrible thing though. In typical Jesus fashion, weakness becomes strength. I am assuming that most people have a basic ankle-deep sort of understanding about various religions in the world and so some of the main tenants of those religions have come to be known about. I would like to take a look at some of the things that I think people are noticing about Christianity and Buddhism specifically.
Some things that stand out because of the equal standing of Jesus and Buddha in this article are:
- Compassion. Both the Dalai Lama and Pope Francis as respective leaders of the two religions demonstrate a commitment to compassion. People respond to the virtuosity of compassion because lots of us have witnessed if not experienced the power of a compassionate act from another.
- Morality or strong character. It appears that people in the West still look and see the importance of taking the moral high road. This is a good thing because Jesus was awesome at this. As Christ followers we have the opportunity to share with others the reason for strong character and why we believe in choosing the high road.
- The insignificance of material things. This is one of the implications about this comparison that I really think is cool. There is an admiration of being free from a consumerist mindset. In essence people understand the gift to humanity that a humble life is, and the immorality of measuring life with possessions.
So here is point of all this. Christians sit as a misunderstood minority on the margins of society, a minority who’s focus is the God who establishes community. Eugene Peterson makes the observation that this identity is a positive because “… a minority people working from the margins has the best chance of being a community capable of penetrating the noncommunity, the mob, the depersonalized, function-defined crowd that is the sociological norm of America.” (Peterson, Pastor, 2012) The disconnect of society from Jesus creates the tension that allows for recognition of change needed. The values that people recognize in various world religions is a way in which God through the Holy Spirit is making people aware of the need for life and community.