Skip to content

Planning the Demise of Buddhism

June 26, 2008

This was left as a Comment on my previous post by Ned, I thought I’d just post it here so that Ned gets a say, and my post on Rugger matches and Thora is not sandwitched with a post on Buddhism, or rather the other way around, as I respect the religion more than rugger, all though I follow that too like a religion.

I don’t think Sri Lanka, is as bad as they say it is, and is more of the case in the world in general. After all the Bhikku’s in Sri Lanka have fought against this kind of thing, including and the Late Soma Thero. But it still could be used as an eye-opener for what could happen to Sri Lanka, specially since now a days many bhikkus have being taken for granted (in certain cases the downfall was brought about by themselves, joining in political movements and other activities). In any case, this clearly shows the importance of the Sangha as a part of the “Thrivida Rathnaya” for the survival of Buddhism. Another fact is that, Buddhism are taught to tolerate and be patient with other religions, there by opening up a door, to be abused and taken advantge of.

Anyways, enough of my rant, read the article for your self and make up your mind. The comments section is always open for your views.

—————————————————————————————————————

Planning the Demise of Buddhism

Peoples of the Buddhist World by Paul Hattaway, Piquant Editions, Carlisle, 2004.

Reviewed by Allen Carr

Some Western drug companies spend millions of dollars developing and marketing a new drug only to have the health authorities later discover that it has dangerous side-effects and then ban it. Needing to recover their investment and unable to sell their drug in the West some of these companies try to market their dangerous products in the Third World where public awareness of health issues is low and indifferent governments can be brought off. Some might say that Christianity is a bit like this.

Having lost much of their following in the West, churches are now beginning to look for opportunities elsewhere. Of course the Islamic world is out of the question. Even the most optimistic evangelist knows that the chance of spreading the Gospel amongst Muslims is nil. The obvious targets are Africa, India and the Buddhist countries of Asia. There are now several evangelical organizations dedicated just to evangelizing Buddhists. The Asia Pacific Institute of Buddhist Studies in the Philippines offers missionaries in depth courses in Buddhist doctrine, the languages of Buddhist countries and the sociology of various Buddhist communities – the better to know the enemy.

The Central Asia Fellowship is geared specifically to spreading the Gospel amongst Tibetans. The Overseas Missionary Fellowship is ‘an acknowledged authority on Buddhism’ and ‘is available to conduct training sessions and seminars, give presentations and speak on how Christians can work effectively in the Buddhist world.’ The Sonrise Centre for Buddhist Studies and the South Asia Network are both online communities providing missionaries with detailed, accurate and up to date information useful for evangelizing Buddhists. Make no mistake, these are not small ad-hock groups. They are large, well-financed, superbly run organizations staffed by highly motivated and totally dedicated people and they are in it for the long haul.

A book called “Peoples of the Buddhist World” has recently been published by one of the leaders of this new evangelical assault on Buddhism. The book’s 453 pages offer missionaries and interested Christians a complete profile of 316 Buddhist ethnic and linguistic groups in Asia, from the Nyenpa of central Bhutan to the Kui of northern Cambodia, from the Buriats of the Russian Far East to the Sinhalese of Sri Lanka.

There is a detailed breakdown of the size of each group, how many call themselves Buddhists and how many actually know and practice it, which languages they speak, their strengths and how to overcome them, their weaknesses and how to take advantage of them, an overview of their history, their culture and the best ways to evangelize them.

The book is filled with fascinating and beautiful color photos of all of these peoples, many of them little-known. It makes one very sad to think that these gentle, smiling, innocent folk are in now in the sights of worldly-wise missionaries determined to undermine their faith and destroy their ancient cultures. However, Hattaway book is also interesting for the lurid glimpse it gives into the bizarre mentality and the equally bizarre theology of the evangelical Christians. In the preface Hattaway asks, “Does it break God’s heart today that hundreds of millions of Buddhists are marching to hell with little or no gospel witness? Does it break the Savior’s heart that millions worship lifeless idols instead of the true, glorious Heavenly Father?”

No wonder the evangelicals are always so angry and defensive, so self-conscious and full of nervous energy. Every day they live with the contradictory belief that their God is full of love and yet throws people into eternal hell-fire, even people who have never heard of him. That must be a real strain. Like a man who has to continually pump air into a leaking balloon to keep it inflated, they have to keep insisting that Buddhism is just an empty worthless idolatry when they know very well that this is not true. That must be a real strain too. Throughout his book Hattaway repeats all the old lies, slanders and half-truths that missionaries peddled in the 19th century but which mainline Christians gave up on a hundred years ago.

Hattaway claims that Buddhists, like other non-Christians, are leading empty meaningless lives and are actually just waiting to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Not surprisingly, the statistics he presents to his readers do not always bare this out. He shows that some Buddhist groups have been subjected to quite intense evangelization for years and yet have chosen to keep their faith. For example 32% of Kyerung of Nepal have heard the Gospel but ‘few have understood the heart of the message.’ Hattaway tells us that ‘the American Baptists worked in the Tovyan area (of Burma) for many decades, but most of the converts they made were among the Karen people. They found the Tovyan people ‘slow to respond to the gospel – a pattern that continues to this day.’ Dedicated and self-sacrificing missionaries have labored in Thailand for over 140 years but have made only miniscule numbers of converts. According to Hattaway there are 2000 foreign missionaries operating in Chiangmai – more than
the actual number of Christians in the city.

It is hearting to know that amongst evangelicals Thailand has been dubbed ‘the graveyard of missionaries.’ Twenty one percent of Lao Ga people have been evangelized but ‘Christianity has yet to make any impact on this people group.’ Forty two percent of the Lemo have been told about Jesus but their ‘strong belief in Buddhism and their isolated cultural mindset have prevented them from accepting the Gospel.’ Of course Hattaway’s ‘isolated cultural mindset’ prevents him from even considering that these people might have decided not to become Christians because Buddhism gives them the emotional, intellectual and spiritual sustenance they need. So he has to explain why so many Buddhists remain what he calls ‘resistant peoples’ some other way. To him it is because of fear (p.217), intellectual laziness (p.149), greed and blindness (p.172) and or course ‘demonic opposition’ (p.190). Another cause is delusion, as for example amongst the Palaung of northern Burma, who are so completely
deluded that ‘they believe they have the truth in Buddhism'(p.217).

Of course, Hattaway is also crafty enough to know that the stability and cultural integrity of traditional Buddhist societies is a major hindrance to their evangelization. Civil wars such as in Sri Lanka and Cambodia are literally a god-send for the missionaries. Hatthaway calls the disruption and displacement of the Loba people of Nepal by several huge floods ‘a God-given opportunity’ (p.168). Like blowflies to a dying animal evangelical missionaries swarm around communities in need so they can win converts while disguising their efforts as ‘aid work’ and ‘humanitarian relief.’

Unfortunately, many genuine and decent Christians in the West, unaware of this hidden agenda, give money to World Vision and similar organizations that use aid as a conversion technique. But while many Buddhists have rejected the missionaries’ message others have succumbed to it. Thirty one percent of the Tamangs of Nepal have now become Christians. The first missionaries arrived in Mongolia in 1990 and within a few years they had made thousands of converts, mainly among the young. This phenomenal growth has now slowed considerably but the number of evangelical agencies operating within the country has grown enormously and there are still almost no books on Buddhism in Mongolian.

In China today Christianity is growing so fast that they can hardly build the churches quick enough to hold all the new converts. The gentle hill tribes people of Thailand and Laos are falling prey to the missionaries one by one. These and the numerous other successes are not just because the missionaries have been so unscrupulous and persistent but because Buddhists have been so indifferent, so slow to see the danger and even more slow to respond to it in any effective manner.

In Thailand millions are spent on glittering ceremonies, huge Buddha statues and gold leaf for covering stupas but almost nothing on Buddhist literature, religious education and social services for the hill tribes. Another ‘God-given opportunity’ for the missionaries is the general lackadaisical attitude within the much of the Sangha. In one of the most revealing (about the mentality of both missionaries and the bhikkhus) and troubling parts of this book is Bryan Lurry’s account of the four months he stayed in a monastery in the Shan states in north-eastern Burma. He was there to assess the prospects of converting Buddhist bhikkhus and he went away full of optimism. I fear that his optimism was not entirely misplaced. The abbot where Lurry stayed allowed him to teach the bhikkhus English (using the Bible as a text of course), show a film on the life of Christ and later even conduct regular Bible classes for the bhikkhus. Uninformed Western Buddhists might laud this as yet another
example of Buddhist tolerance, albeit misplaced tolerance. I suspect that it was actually due to ignorance and to that indifference to everything that does not rock the boat or contravene traditional patterns of behavior that is so prevalent in much of the Sangha.

As a part of his strategy to understand their thinking, Lurry asked his ‘friends’ a series of questions. To the question ‘What is the most difficult Buddhist teaching to follow?’ some bhikkhus answered not eating after noon, not being able to drink alcohol and one said to attain nirvana. To the question ‘If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?’ The replies included to be stronger, taller, to change the shape of the nose and to have more pale skin. When asked why they had joined the monastery not one of the bhikkhus mentioned an interest in the Dhamma, in meditation or in the religious life in general. As is usual in much of the Buddhist world they had probably ordained simply because it is the tradition to do so. When Lurry asked the bhikkhus if they would ever disrobe for any reason ‘my students expressed their desire to leave the temple in order to be soldiers in the Shan Independence army…They did not see a contradiction in the fact that, as monks, they
are literally not supposed to kill a mosquito, much less another human being.’ Lurry admits that he was really surprised that so few of the replies he got suggested any deep knowledge of Buddhism or an apparent genuine religiosity.

Having lived in Thai monasteries for eight years I am sad to say that none of the bhikkhus’ replies surprised me in the least. All too often today the Buddhist monastic life consists of little more than rote learning, unthinking acceptance of traditional beliefs, an endless round of mind-numbing rituals, going to danas and having long naps. Fortunately, many Buddhist communities are holding out against missionary efforts but with poor religious education and little leadership from a sedate Sangha how long will they continue to be able to continue to do so? Something has to be done and it has to be done soon.

Another old missionary calumny repeated throughout Hattaway’s book is that Buddhists live in constant terror of devils and demons. This accusation is rather amusing coming from the evangelical Christians who see almost everything they don’t like as the machinations of Satan and his minions. Lurry says of his experience, ‘I must admit that the temples intimidated me. I saw many items that discouraged me from entering. At some temples, fierce-looking statues of creatures with long fangs and sharp claws guard the entrance. Guarding the main hall of many temples are two large statues of dragons with multiple heads on either side of the staircase…If such images were on the outside of the temple, what would I find on the inside? I half imagined that these creatures would somehow come to life and attempt to harm me’ (p.234).

I can understand how simple, often illiterate hill tribesmen in the backblocks of Burma could be frightened of malevolent spirits. But Mr. Lurry is a graduate of the University of North Texas and he is frightened of bits of painted cement and plaster used to decorate Buddhist temples. How easy it is to scare evangelical Christians!

Nine pages in Peoples of the Buddhist World are devoted to the Sinhalese, the native people of Sri Lanka, long a target of missionary endeavors. Despite nearly 500 years of close contact with Christianity only 4% of Sinhalese are Christian and this is despite periods when their religion was severely disadvantaged and even actively persecuted. It both perplexes and infuriates the evangelists that they have had so little success in this staunchly Buddhist island.

Since the late 1950’s the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka has tacitly accepted its minority status and for the most part adapted a live and let live attitude towards Buddhism. It has continued its conversion efforts but in a low-key and respectful way. But starting in the 1990’s evangelical organizations have literally swamped Sri Lanka and they have a ‘no quarter asked for, none given’ attitude. So far most of their converts have been amongst Catholics, to the consternation of the Catholic Church, but of course the real target is the Buddhists. Buddhist bhikkhus are calling on the government to enact laws against conversion. But is this really the best solution?

It is quite understandable that the Sinhalese do not like their religion being referred to as ‘Satanic devil worship’ especially by foreigners, which is what most of the missionaries in the country are. Some years ago a deeply respected Sinhalese bhikkhu died and there was a veritable outpouring of grief among the Buddhist public. At the very time of this bhikkhu’s funeral the leader of a house church in an outer suburb of Colombo, let off fireworks, the usual way people express delight or celebration in Sri Lanka. Naturally, the Buddhists around this church were deeply offended and although no violence occurred some very angry words were exchanged. I happened to witness the locals’ confrontation with this church leader. He insisted that his crackers had nothing to do with the bhikkhu’s funeral but was unable to give a convincing reason why he had ignited them. Throughout his encounter with his neighbors he was brazen, unapologetic about his actions and dismissive of the peoples’
hurt feelings. I can only say that he gave me the distinct impression that he would have welcomed being manhandled or beaten so that he could claim for himself the title that evangelicals so long to have – that of martyr for their Lord.

Hattaway’s book highlights incidents of violence against Christians in Sri Lanka and elsewhere which have unfortunately started to become all too common. Of course, what he fails to mention is that it is only the evangelicals, not Catholics or mainline Christians, who attract such negative reactions. And of course he fails to mention why people sometimes get so angry at the evangelicals. The fact is that it is their bad-mannered pushiness and their complete insensitivity to the religious feelings of others that is the cause of such violence. This is not to excuse the violence but only to explain why it happens.

It is also true that some of the more extreme evangelists even sometimes deliberately provoke confrontations. I have two evangelical tracts from Sri Lanka – one insists that villages must become ‘a battlefield for souls’ and the other says that Christians must ‘confront the unsaved, yes even forcibly confront them, and compel them to make a decision.’ And it is not just Buddhists who are offended by the evangelicals’ rude aggressive behavior. A Chinese Thai born-again Christian once informed me that the Pope is actually ‘the prostitute of the Anti-Christ’ and showed me the Bible passage that proved it. I could only laugh at his half-baked hermeneutics. But how would a devout Catholic have felt being told such a thing?

The section on Sri Lanka in Hattaway’s book is written by Tilak Rupasinghe and Vijaya Karunaratna, two well-known evangelical preachers. They gleefully highlight Sri Lanka’s many woes – civil war, high suicide rate, corruption, insurrection – and of course present this as just more evidence that Buddhism is false. Then they make the bold claim, ‘In Christ there can be healing from the wounds of injustice, oppression and ethnic hatred…In Christ there can be hope for the redemption of the nation, its land, its language, its culture and its people.’ This is a seductive promise and one that some people might be willing to listen to. But of course it is the same old spurious and empty promise missionaries have always made in the lands they try to evangelize; ‘What a mess your country is in! Your gods have failed. Accept Jesus Christ and everything will be wonderful.’

But does Christianity really do a better job of solving social problems? The evidence that it does is very thin. Christianity failed miserably to bring peace to northern Ireland, in fact, it was the main cause of the problem. Germany’s long tradition of Catholicism and Protestantism did not prevent Nazism taking root there. South Africa’s Dutch Reformed Church was an ardent supporter of apartheid and all its oppression and cruelty. The prevalence of evangelical Christianity in the southern United States, the so-called ‘Bible Belt,’ has not prevented it being the poorest and most racist part of that country. And the racial segregation in the south is never more obvious than on Sunday morning when black and white people still go to separate churches; ‘Hallelujha and praise the Lord but worship him in your own church!’

Hattaway’s book is or at least should be a wake-up call for we Buddhists. Unless we reform the Sangha, better organize ourselves and make more of an effort to both know and apply our religion the Light of Asia may be snuffed out.

Amazon Link to the Book and CD, which is more interesting.

Advertisements
16 Comments leave one →
  1. pawa ilam permalink
    June 26, 2008 12:06 pm

    Very well explained. If Budhism disappears, the ghosts will remain.

  2. Acro permalink
    June 26, 2008 1:02 pm

    Couldnt Agree more with the piece…well explained..

  3. kalusudda permalink
    June 26, 2008 1:32 pm

    Buddhism will not disappear, fear not. But what is known as Buddhism in SL probably will. The process started when priests became politicians.

  4. Nihal permalink
    June 26, 2008 1:53 pm

    “Nine pages in Peoples of the Buddhist World are devoted to the Sinhalese, the native people of Sri Lanka, long a target of missionary endeavors. Despite nearly 500 years of close contact with Christianity only 4% of Sinhalese are Christian and this is despite periods when their religion was severely disadvantaged and even actively persecuted. It both perplexes and infuriates the evangelists that they have had so little success in this staunchly Buddhist island.”

    No wonder Sri Lanka has been swamped with so many Christian evangelical groups hell bent on converting Buddhists. It never ceases to amaze me how these ‘pastors’ purposely and knowingly create religious tension through their activities and then claim to be the victims.

    kalusudda, I wouldn’t just blame the monks, lay Buddhists in Sri Lanka are themselves such lax Buddhists who can’t even follow the five precepts – even the easiest one which is not to consume alcohol. But everytime they attend a dane or go to the the temple they will devoutly say “suramerayamajja pamadatthana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami.” For many Sri Lankan Buddhists, going to the temple once in a blue moon and engaging in rituals is considered being a “good Buddhist.” Being a practicing Buddhist requires a lot more hard work than that. In contrast, look at the Muslims, the prohibition on alcohol is mentioned just ONCE in a little corner of the Quran and yet they follow it to the dot. They are so into their religion that Christian evangelists find it hard to convert them with their stories.

    However, that there are plenty of lax Buddhist monks and lay Buddhists doesnt excuse the behaviour and attitude of Christian evangelists. Their worldview is so skewed its frightening. I just dont understand why they cannot accept the fact that other religions may be vaild paths to ‘salvation.’ I just hope that there won’t be any burnings of Harry Potter books and demands to teach creationism as a science in our schools like what is happening in that hotbed of Christian fundamentalism – the good ol USA.

  5. June 26, 2008 3:27 pm

    Chritian evangelicals are cunts. We’ve already established that, there’s nothing new about it!

    However this whole excerpt making it’s rounds on the blogs (it was left as a comment on my blog too!) and the tone of it all has a very ‘call to arms’ feel to it, and it’s a tad sinister!

  6. June 26, 2008 3:28 pm

    Obviously I meant to say ‘Christian’. Damn typos!

  7. Sie.Kathieravelu permalink
    June 26, 2008 3:43 pm

    Buddhism is said to be a philosophy and not a religion as such. I hve not studied the teachings of Lord Buddha, born as a Hindu and most proably died as a Hindu. So there should ot be any reason for a follower of the teachings of Lord Buddha to hurt the feelings of any Hindu.

    In Sri Lanka nearly all the Buddhists are Sinhalese and nearly all the Hindus are Tamils. Nearly all Sri Lankans are religious minded. So it is possible to bring about a better understanding between the Buddhists and Hindus through their religion to the language. In the language sector too there are many similarities. Even in the cultural sector it is very much similar. So what polarises them to this extent of having many a violent death every day.

    It is GREED for power and money which is despiced by all religions.

    What is the use of the billions of ruppees if you cannot find serenity while you are alive and salvation on death.

    Will our so-called religious leaders ponder on this thought to bring serenity and salvation to the people of this country – the bountiful Sri Lanka – to create the Gem of the World from the Tear drop of the Indian Ocean.

  8. Deshan permalink
    June 26, 2008 3:46 pm

    “the tone of it all has a very ‘call to arms’ feel to it”

    You’re kidding right? The only call to arms bits I see in the review are the quotes from Hattaway’s book. The whole review ends with “Unless we reform the Sangha, better organize ourselves and make more of an effort to both know and apply our religion the Light of Asia may be snuffed out.” Does that sound like a “call to arms” to you? Because it sounds like introspection to me. You sound just like those Christians who scream “persecution” when someone merely points out their bigotry or resists their proselytism.

    If anything, it’s Hattaway’s book that seems like a call to arms; to all the eager “Christian soldiers Marching As To War.” Apparently according to Christian doctrine Buddhists (and of course the Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Sikhs, Taoists, Jews and every other non-Christian community) are somehow destined to burn in hell for eternity. I guess I won’t be taking any winter clothes with me along to my deathbed.

    Also I don’t think anyone should use the word “cunts” to describe anyone. Especially when it comes to religion. Everyone, including the most hardcore Christian evangelists deserve our respect too even if we don’t agree with their ways.

  9. June 26, 2008 6:50 pm

    I have to put my two cents in to this.

    I respect Rugger more than religion. I know Rugger is a violent game, but it is not even remotely violent as religion.

    Converting Buddhists in to Christians, I don’t think is much of an issue. If one can believe God or Red Riding Hood is true and world is flat and 5000 years old, then philosophy won’t be there favorite subject. So let them follow literature instead. I think even Buddha himself didn’t bother to teach Buddhism to everyone. Some people are not capable of grasp Buddhism.

    But we have more dangerous problem in Sri Lanka. They are not converting Buddhists in to Christians. They are converting Buddhism in to Christianity and they are really good at it. Intentionally or unintentionally Nazi ideologists like Henry Olcott started this movement and they shaped Buddhism in to just another religion like Christianity. They knew Buddhism sucks as a religion. It is not organized. It does not have military power. It does not have finical power. It is easy to destroy Buddhism as a religion than a philosophy. They made flags (Where Flags fit inside Dharma), worst of all they started so call Buddhist schools. Now we come a point, monks do jobs, and collect taxes and send people to prison or pass legislation. And parallel to that, not only Christian theories, they even promote Christian culture too. Now we have to dress like the bible say, marry like the bible says, even have haircuts as the bible says. Just look at how our so calls Buddhists are so paranoid about homosexuals. Result of all that is, our Values are now base on Christianity and the bible, instead Buddhism. The best part of it is, they get the monks to do it. They are brilliant. The next stage is quite simple. It started already.

    Nihal,
    I think if one have to work hard to be a Buddhist, he is most probably doing something wrong. 🙂

  10. June 26, 2008 7:08 pm

    Have to agree with Darwin, though I would say any kind of evangelists are cunts….the only time its ok to try and change another persons system of beliefs is if that system hurts other people (like female circumcision as part of a ‘culture’).

  11. Peace Rules permalink
    June 27, 2008 1:46 pm

    My solution? Translate into other languages and mass print the following book (which was written by a Sri Lankan Christian who converted to Buddhism and was annoyed with the way Buddhists were being evangelized) and distribute it around the Buddhist world. The book is called “A Buddhist Critique of Christianity” by A.L De Silva and can be accessed at http://tinyurl.com/5hnwa5 An updated version from 2007 can be found at http://www.divshare.com/download/3297612-51a

    A gist of the book:

    The purpose of this book is threefold. Firstly it aims to critically examine Christianity and thereby highlight the logical, philosophical and ethical problems in Christian dogma. In doing this I hope to be able to provide Buddhists with facts which they can use when Christians attempt to evangelize them. This book should make such encounters more fair, and hopefully also make it more likely that Buddhists will remain Buddhists. As it is, many Buddhists know little of their own religion and nothing about Christianity – which makes it difficult for them to answer the questions Christians ask or to rebut the claims they make.

    The second aim of this book is to help any Christians who might read it to understand why some people are not, and never will be, Christians. Hopefully, this understanding will help them to develop an acceptance of and thereby genuine friendship with Buddhists, rather than relating to them only as potential converts. In order to do this, I have raised as many difficult questions as possible and not a few home truths. If it appears sometimes that I have been hard on Christianity, I hope this will not be interpreted as being motivated by malice. I was a Christian for many years and I still retain a fond regard, and even admiration, for some aspects of Christianity. For me, Jesus’ teachings were an important step in my becoming a Buddhist and I think I am a better Buddhist as a result. However when Christians claim, as many do with such insistence, that their religion alone is true, then they must be prepared to answer doubts which others might express about their religion.

    The third aim of this book is to awaken in Buddhists a deeper appreciation for their own religion. In some Asian countries Buddhism is thought of an out-of-date superstition while Christianity is seen as a religion which has all the answers. As these countries become more Westernized, Christianity with its “modern” image begins to look increasingly attractive. I think this book will amply demonstrate that Buddhism is able to ask questions of Christianity which it has great difficulties in answering, and at the same time to offer explanations to life’s puzzles which make Christian explanations look rather puerile.

    Some Buddhists may object to a book like this, believing that such a gentle and tolerant religion as Buddhism should refrain from criticizing other religions. This is certainly not what the Buddha himself taught. In the Mahaparinibbana Sutta he said that his disciples should be able to “Teach the Dhamma, declare it, establish it, expound it, analyse it, make it clear, and be able by means of the Dhamma to refute false teachings that have arisen. “Subjecting a point of view to careful scrutiny and criticism has an important part to play in helping to winnow truth from falsehood, so that we can be in a better position to choose between “the two and sixty contending sects. ” Criticism of another religion only becomes inappropriate when it is based on a deliberate misrepresentation of that religion, or when it descends into an exercise in ridicule and name-calling. I hope I have avoided doing this.

  12. Vinu permalink
    June 27, 2008 7:43 pm

    I didn’t write the following but I thought it’s pertinent…

    A Buddhist’s Guide to Evangelical Christianity

    About six months ago there was a knock on my door and I opened it to find two evangelical Christians there. I knew they were evangelicals because they had that fake friendly smile on their faces, which all evangelicals have when they are trying to convert someone.

    This was the third time that month that evangelists had come knocking on my door and disturbing me so I decided to teach them a lesson. ‘Good morning’ they said. ‘Good morning’ I replied.

    ‘Have you heard about the Lord Jesus Christ’? they asked. ‘I know something about him but I am a Buddhist and I’m not really interested in knowing more’ I said. But like all evangelists, they took no notice of my wishes and proceeded to talk about their beliefs.

    So I said, ‘I don’t think you are qualified to speak to me about Jesus’. They looked very astonished and asked, ‘Why not’? ‘Because’, I said, ‘you have no faith’. ‘Our faith in Jesus is as strong as a rock’ they insisted. ‘I don’t think it is’ I said with a smile.

    ‘Please open your Bible and read the Gospel of Mark, chapter 16, verse 16, 17 and 18’ I said and while they flicked through their Bibles I went quickly inside and came out again. One of them found the passage and I asked him to read it out loud. It said, ‘He who believes and is baptized will be saved but he who does not believe shall be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe in my name. They shall cast out devils, they shall speak in tongues, they will handle snakes and if they drink poison it will not hurt them and they will lay hands on the sick and they will recover’.

    When he finished I said, ‘In that passage Jesus says that if you have real faith you will be able to drink poison and not die’. I took a bottle of Lankem from behind my back, held it up and said, ‘Here is some poison. Demonstrate to me the strength of your faith and I will listen to anything you have to say about Jesus’.

    You should have seen the looks on their faces! They didn’t know what to say. ‘What’s the problem’? I asked. ‘Is your faith not strong enough’? They hesitated for a few moments and then one of them replied, ‘The Bible also says that we must not test God’. ‘I’m not testing God’, I said, ‘I’m testing you. You love to witness for Jesus and now is your big opportunity’. Finally one of then said, ‘We will go and speak to our pastor about this matter and come back and see you. ‘I’ll be waiting for you’ I said as they scurried away. Of course they never came back again.

    Here is a bit of advice. Keep a copy of this Bible reference and a bottle of Lankem ready and every time the evangelists come to your door to harass you give them this test. You might like to have a polanga ready as well.

  13. July 7, 2008 9:01 pm

    Must get a polonga…

  14. Rajiv permalink
    July 8, 2008 12:57 pm

    ‘Harvesting Souls for God’ and Religious Harmony

    Harendra De Silva

    The review by Allen Carr of Paul Hattaway’s Christian Evangelist publication ‘Peoples of the Buddhist World’ should be an eye opener to Sri Lankans of all religious persuasions. During the past few years, certain misguided Sri Lankan Christians wrote to the papers declaring the innocence of Evangelical Christians, but this book quite clearly demonstrates the weakness of their claims about the Evangelical agenda. To its credit the Catholic Church in the island has condemned the way the fundamentalists go about their proselytism, but sections of Sri Lanka’s Christian community continue to deny that there is a problem with the worldview of Christian evangelists that is not conducive towards inter-religious harmony in a multi religious country such as Sri Lanka.

    What is clear is that Christian evangelists in Sri Lanka and indeed the rest of the world are not interested in dialogue or coexistence. What they desire is to ensure the demise other religions, whether it be Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam or Judaism and their replacement with Christianity. Currently in Sri Lanka there are numerous Christian evangelical groups working to “harvest souls for God.” They are represented by the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL). This umbrella group is actively working to convert not only Buddhists, but Hindus and Muslims as well. The Tamils of the upcountry and those in refugee camps, and the Muslims of Puttalam as well as the Malay community are the main minority non-Christian groups targeted for conversion.

    The NCEASL must realise that the aggressive and unethical activities of various Christian missionary groups in the island have caused religious tension in areas where previously people of different religions had been living in peace. It must also realise that using poverty, destitution, war and natural disasters as tools for conversion goes against accepted norms of decency and morality. As much as freedom of religion is to be cherished and upheld, it does not include the freedom to refer to other religions in a derogatory manner, divide villages along religious lines and create religious conflict. Such acts are not in the welfare of the Sri Lankan people or the Sri Lankan nation.

    Religious harmony requires a healthy respect for others and their freedom to live in a society without religious coercion. It requires a recognition of the fact that whilst we may not agree with other belief systems, they may be equally valid paths to the divine. When one group aggressively targets others for conversion, for “harvesting souls,” and characterizes their relationship with other traditions as a “spiritual battle” the very foundation of religious harmony is destroyed.

    The National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka needs to re-examine how its member organisations go about spreading the Gospel in Sri Lanka, a country where memories of Christian oppression during the colonial period still remain in the national psyche. The two largest non-Christian traditions in the island, Buddhism and Hinduism, were severely oppressed for close to 500 years at the hands of over zealous Christians with temples destroyed, believers and clergy killed and prohibitions on the practice of Buddhism and Hinduism in areas where Christians ruled. The Muslim community were also not spared as their mosques were demolished and their population expelled from Christian areas to other parts of the island. Many Sri Lankans are worried over the possible return of that aggressive and iconoclastic brand of Christianity that seeks to oppress and destroy rather than coexist in peace and harmony.

  15. Rajiv permalink
    July 9, 2008 3:00 pm

    We are posting this flashback article partly in response to an essay referred to us this morning entitled ‘Harvesting Souls for God’ and Religious Harmony. In it, Sri Lankan professor and social activist Harendra de Silva decries the “aggressive and unethical” approach taken by western evangelicals in his home country. Concerning their tendency, in the words of Allen Carr from his Planning the Demise of Buddhism, to “gleefully highlight Sri Lanka’s many woes – civil war, high suicide rate, corruption, insurrection – and of course present this as just more evidence that Buddhism is false,” de Silva makes the point that “using poverty, destitution, war and natural disasters as tools for conversion goes against accepted norms of decency and morality.” This is certainly true.

    And what’s even worse than simply USING such woes as conversion tools is ACTIVELY WORKING to bring them upon a region or group in order to create “opportunities” for “harvesting souls”. Or for expediting the arrival of the End Times.

    Which brings us to the war in Iraq.

    In the 2006 essay below, Charles Marsh lays out statements made by some prominent and highly influential American evangelicals during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Some of these guys seem downright giddy at the prospect war in the Middle East.

    For instance, Marsh refers to “an article carried by the [Southern Baptist] convention’s Baptist Press news service, [in which] a missionary wrote that ‘American foreign policy and military might have opened an opportunity for the Gospel in the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.'”

    Evangelical giants “Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham, and Marvin Olasky, the editor of the conservative World magazine and a former advisor to Bush on faith-based policy, echoed these sentiments, claiming that the American invasion of Iraq would create exciting new prospects for proselytizing Muslims.”

    And on the literary front, “Tim LaHaye, the co-author of the hugely popular ‘Left Behind’ series, spoke of Iraq as ‘a focal point of end-time events,’ whose special role in the earth’s final days will become clear after invasion, conquest and reconstruction.” It goes on.

    I am by no means anti-Christian. But considering how prevalent this type of Christian presence has become in the world, it is easy to understand Mahatma Gandhi’s view that “Christianity became disfigured when it went to the West.”

    http://www.americanbuddhist.net/flashback-wayward-christian-soldiers

  16. John permalink
    August 24, 2008 3:31 pm

    Fundamentalism spreads itself through emotional appeals and unscrupulous tactics rather than by reason, and targets primarily the young and uneducated, as they have the lowest resistance to conversion efforts. In fact, Fundamentalist Christian teachings follow the same principles as brainwashing.

    Brainwashing is a domination technique employed by less scrupulous governments and individuals to gain control over people, by eroding away at the ego and destroying free will, replacing it with a belief structure that renders one succeptable to commands. The ego is first destroyed by repeatedly and forcefully informing the subject of one’s guilt for some exaggerated or imaginary crime, and of one’s overall inferiority. Fundamentalist Christians routinely teach this lesson to new converts through the doctrine of Original Sin, holding the person responsible for the mythical crimes that took place in the Garden of Eden, and repeatedly reiterating to the person how he or she is reprehensible and imperfect in the eyes of God, and worthy only of damnation.

    Brainwashing techniques require offering the person at the point of a broken will a single exit–one must identify with a heroic lead figure who will deliver that person back to grace. In the case of Fundamentalism, that heroic figure is Jesus Christ. The actual history of Jesus and whatever sort of lessons or intent he had in mind are essentially irrelevant to Fundamentalism today. They have created an image of Christ that is immutable and irrefutable, even by rational biblical scholars willing to question Fundamentalist dogma. It is this imaginary Christ, not the actual historical person, who is put forward as one’s “salvation” from an otherwise infinitely horrific damnation.

    The images of Hell are particularly frightening to young children, who have little experience and skill with skepticism or logic, who will most readily convert through these brainwashing techniques. What is most reprehensible about the Fundamentalists within Christianity is that they are well aware of this fact, and that they choose to act on it with full intention even though they themselves are likely motivated by their own indoctrination. They feel it is better to rob people of free will than to allow them to choose to go to Hell.

    The spread of viral philosophies is a threat to more peaceful ones. The trend that more aggressive philosophies win and gain ground creates a selective evolutionary advantage that perpetuates war and hostility.

    The role that Fundamentalism has played in human history for motivating war and destruction is well documented, and has repeatedly worked against human life and vitality on tribal, national, and even global levels. The solution is obvious; the followers of more peaceful philosophies must make an active stand against the spread of their aggressive competition. It is not sufficient to believe passively; Fundamentalists believe in active recruitment, and will seed the notions of war and destruction into others.

    Our duty must be to warn others of the truth of what they represent. We must innoculate them beforehand with the wisdom of objectivity and education. People aware of human history and of the opportunities to believe in other possibilities will be less likely to adopt the notion that there is a God who mandates participation in “spiritual warfare.” The uneducated by comparison readily adopt Fundamentalism, which plays to the emotions through its fear tactics.

    There is little we can do at this point to protect children from Fundemantalism, but through awareness and education, more people become aware of the problem and less vulnerable towards buying into Fundamentalist rhetoric. With knowledge and education, people have a better chance of seeing the hypocritic ironies shared between the radical terrorists who corrupt Islam and the fanatics who pervert similarly Christianity. Awareness of the problem is paramount towards ending the problem.

    Resisting Fundamentalism is worthwhile, because doing so brings us closer to ending future wars, persecution, violations of fundamental human rights, and loss of irreplacable history.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: