I traveled to a few Christian churches today for possible collaboration for a local food drive. Prior to the three meetings I attended, we had several prayers, but I neither felt the love or joy of Christ himself. While I have told no one that I am Buddhist, many were upset they were collaborating with a non-traditional Christian, someone who did not openly practice the faith or regularly attend church.
Upon hearing their concerns, I am reminded of the Reverend David Benke, Lutheran Minister:
Twelve days after the September 11 attacks, David Benke followed Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu clerics to the podium of a Yankee Stadium event to honor the missing and the dead. Benke asked attendees to join hands and pray with him “on this field of dreams turned into God’s house of prayer.” He prayed “in the precious name of Jesus” and sat down.
Twenty-one pastors and churches charged Benke, president of the church’s Atlantic District, with six sets of ecclesiastical violations, including syncretism (mixing religions), unionism (worshiping with non-LCMS Christian clergy), and violating the Bible’s commandment against worship of other gods. Wallace Schulz, synod second vice-president, investigated the charges and suspended Benke, pastor of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Brooklyn.
Benke: “When I shared the podium with representatives of all the major faiths and prayed, that prayer became the center of a major controversy. The very next day, I began to get messages filled with hate. They were messages not from people outside of my tradition, but from within my tradition. And they were messages that nailed me to the floor, frankly, emotionally. They just said, “You were wrong to be there. You never should have gone to Yankee Stadium. You are a heretic. You have dishonored your faith.” One man said genuine terrorism was me. He said, “Planes crash and people die. Nothing big about that.” Genuine terrorism was me giving that prayer.”
We do not see the signs of spiritual development in a matter of moments. We cannot see the spiritual developments within weeks or months. Sometimes, it takes years. Spiritual development is evident by what a person does. Some see a difference between Paul (salvation is by faith alone) and James (salvation is by faith plus works). Paul dogmatically says that justification is by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), while James appears to be saying that justification is by faith plus works.
The problem most people do not see is that everything is interdependent upon each other. We are very interdependent upon others. Without a cloud, there is no rain. Without the rain, plants cannot grow, without plants, we would not have paper, medicine, beauty and harmony. Many of us have breathed the same air as Christ and Buddha. Many have walked the same stretches of road Dr. Martin Luther King walked. We have seen the same sky, the same moon and the same stars as many of our ancestors.
What Benke did was very Christ-like, just as Dr. Martin Luther King when he nominated Thích Nhất Hạnh for the Nobel Peace Prize:
“Here is an apostle of peace and non-violence, cruelly separated from his own people while they are oppressed by a vicious war which has grown to threaten the sanity and security of the entire world.
Because no honor is more respected than the Nobel Peace Prize, conferring the Prize on Nhat Hanh would itself be a most generous act of peace. It would remind all nations that men of good will stand ready to lead warring elements out of an abyss of hatred and destruction. It would re-awaken men to the teaching of beauty and love found in peace. It would help to revive hopes for a new order of justice and harmony.”
Regardless of what you think, we are all interconnected.