Sunday, 19 July 2009

I began reading The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying yesterday. Written by a Tibetan Buddhist monk, his assertion is that the West and the people living in it are a culture totally denying of death and its 100 per cent assurance that it shall have us also. This book is about living with dying in our sights so that we can truly live. To live fearing and suppressing our own impending death is not living at all.

I wonder how differently things would have been if Christianity hadn't taken its weird twists and warps as the cultural religion, dangling everyone over a vat of eternal hell if we do not conform to the giant god's petulancies? Christianity as it stands is also a death denying religion. Christians are some of the most fearful people on the planet.

I don't think those two are a coincidence.


Edit: I am not talking here of Christians living life in Christ. I am talking about the empire religion that, I am becoming more and more convinced, is a large beastlike thing that does not remotely resemble whatever it is that Christ may be building. That's what I mean when I talk about "Christianity" in this sense.


  1. I just wonder, Sue, if you don't need to qualify the word "Christian" there a bit? Knowing that death is not the end of the story is not quite the same thing as denying it!

    Jesus said to [Martha], "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die." (John 11.25-26)

    I do agree that some of the shallower kind of evangelical thinking does deny death; and those who follow a prosperity "Gospel" deny it twice over; but for quite a lot of us, it's not remotely about being dangled over any vat by any petulant giant. I don't mean to claim anything special for Franciscans - we're just an example - but I can only think of one I know who thinks anything like that!

    Only when we accept death - as Jesus did - can we let his victory over it become ours. And that's remarkably like quite a bit of Buddhist teaching, once you get over the prejudice that can cloud the question from either side ;-)

  2. Mike, yes, you are most likely right :) I have the ongoing problem of naming as "Christian" the most horrible element of it, when really it is as diverse as a body. But when I talk about "Christianity" here, it is the version that is the empire religion. It is the version that is clothed in patriotic red, white and blue. It's the one that, as I heard someone mention earlier today, has the voice of a lamb but speaks like a dragon.

    I think it is a totally different thing separate from the reality of Christians. And it's this that I speak of, this thing that has gotten away from all of us and run off on its own. It is an evil thing. It does so much damage in the world. It is, as a blog friend and I shared earlier, something we consider as very close to the anti-christ. Or an anti-christ.

    It is a totally different beast than what I believe the true Church is. I do not know what to call that horrid ugly thing that exists out there. Cultural Christianity perhaps? But when I speak of that, I am not speaking of the life that is shared among the Body down through the centuries, despite whatever is going on out in the world. Christ building his Church.

    Maybe I should start working out some more clarifying terms so that one doesn't get mixed up with the other. I guess it's the system of Christianity I am talking about, versus the people who regularly get chewed up by that system, the everyday people who are experiencing life in Christ in whatever diverse form that takes.

    I agree, the Buddhist and Christian views of death are very similar indeed. It is one of the reasons why I am interested in reading this book.

  3. "Empire religion" - that's quite a good one, Sue!

    You're right - we do need terms to clarify this. And ones like "Evangelical" don't really help either, since there are wonderful, profound thinkers, and Christians of deep spirituality, who'd call themselves Evangelicals. And some who'd self-identify as Catholics who are as bad as anyone.

    It's not a denominational thing, is it, Sue? It's about whether we live the Gospel, or only use parts of it to justify living the way we want to live, or have been brought up to live, or something like that!

  4. No, it's so not denominational, nor is it whether we attend church buildings or not.

    I guess what prompted part of this post was seeing yet another example of how some Christians believe they have the right to treat other Christians like dirt if they are not conforming to their knowledge of "the truth". It's this horrid, fear-based, manipulatgive kind of thing which has sprung up around Christ and his people. And the world mistakes them for the same thing.

  5. Now that is getting there... And I must go and have a shave and a shower, or I shan't get to church myself :D

    Catch you later, Sue...

  6. Interesting conversation there, Mike and Sue. One term for what you are talking about is Christianism (as opposed to Christianity, as Islamism is opposed to Islam). It is a caricature of the faith. It is worthwhile remembering that even the Apostles were a bit thick and found the message hard to assimilate -- and they had Jesus in the flesh!

    Have you ever seen the film Breaking the Waves? It is an interesting treatment of the subject, I think.

  7. Of course, Barbara! Christianism is the perfect term, don't you think, Sue? (There's even a (brief) Wikipedia entry, though no satisfactory dictionary definition that I can find online.)

    No, I've not seen Breaking the Waves myself, though I do remember people talking about it at the time it came out.

  8. I've just read a really good post from Confessing Evangelical, about attitudes to dying - thought you might like to have a read. It's here.

  9. "Obsessions with self preservation
    only faded when I throw my fear away
    It's not a thing you can imagine
    you either lose your fear
    or spend your life with one foot in the grave."

  10. Thanks for the link Mike. That was interesting - especially the bit about death seeming weird because we are unaccustomed to it. I wonder how different it would have been when Uncle Stanley was in the front room for a week before the funeral, or where the whole village got involved in the funeral, you know?

    I heard the most beautiful thing yesterday. Someone told me how their friend had said to her that if she dies first, her friend is going to go through a particular process of rituals with her body, like washing it and wrapping it up etcetera. The way she said it, it really stabbed me in the heart. What a comfort to think that someone will treat you so lovingly after you have died :)

    Kent - I had to google those lyrics. Had 10 bucks on the lyrics being Over the Rhine. Unfortunately the bet was with myself, so after I doled out the winnings and then paid myself I was pretty square one, really :)


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