24 January 2011

Can we learn from others?

Christian theologian Paul Knitter was in Korea at the New Year, and … well, let me quote him:

The unexpected circumstances had to do with fundamentalist Korean Christians who over recent months have invaded Buddhist temples in Seoul and Daegu in an effort to exorcize the “demonic powers” there and proclaim the eventual triumph of Christianity.

So in the midst of this turmoil, a septuagenarian Christian scholar from New York arrives to talk about the value and need of Buddhist-Christian dialogue and to speak about his recent book Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian. To talk about dialogue in the midst of such conflict had the semblance of urging relaxation in the midst of an earthquake. Still quaking, the Chogye Order of Korean Seon (Zen) Buddhists held to their invitation and asked this foreign Christian to come and talk.


The core of our conversations crystallized, I believe, in three different events. On two different New Year’s celebrations (Jan 1 and 4), I was asked to follow the official Dharma talk of Jinje-sunim and address packed audiences of Buddhist lay people. One of these talks took place at the very spot where Christians had invaded and desecrated. So here was the Buddhist community responding to Christian hatred by inviting a Christian theologian and practitioner to speak to them – to enter into a dialogue with them!

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