An invitation to conversation
by Doug King, your WebWeaver emeritus
Click here for a longer version of these meandering thoughts >>
A lot of our lives are shaped by lines – the lines we draw (“in the sand,” for instance), the lines we follow (party lines, maybe?), the lines we cross, the lines we use to connect us with others. We draw lines, delineating and defending boundaries, to protect ourselves – as individuals, as nations, as religious communities – from being attacked or diluted or weakened by those who are different from us.
So lines may protect us, may guide us, but they may also exclude us, limit our own freedom of thinking and acting and associating with others.
Jesus drew lines, too. I’m impressed though, that he seemed more interested in drawing lines that included, rather than those that excluded. In his living and his teaching, he seemed interested in crossing lines and breaking barriers, more than in defining and defending them. So he associated often and warmly with people whom most good Jews of his time wanted to exclude – the poor, the prostitutes, the servants of the Roman occupation power.
And when Jesus did draw lines, they tended to be to protect people from the moralists, the pious, and the rich. For instance, consider Matthew’s reports of his harsh warnings to the Pharisees, as in Matthew 23.23. Or of course there’s Jesus’ sharp contrast between the widow giving her two pennies at the temple, and the wealthy donors showing off their generosity as they made their gifts.
So Jesus did cross some very important lines, and drew some others – and was put to death for his willingness to do that.
And he invites us to follow him, I believe, in crossing lines – loving and serving and simply being friends with the outcasts, the unclean, the “sinners.” (For more thoughts about the drawing and crossing of lines >)
One vital line Jesus calls us to cross is the line that we draw so often, to divide one religion from another, one faith from another. The line Jesus himself struggled with was the one between Jews and gentiles, or within the Jewish religious community – the line between those who observed the Law and those who were, for whatever reasons, lax in their observance.
My own very unspectacular career has in many ways been a matter of crossing lines: national and cultural (for 10 years of teaching in Indonesia), religious (in teaching and providing pastoral care to people of various faiths), and more. (Click here if you’d like to see more about my own line-crossing adventures.)
Why am I going on about all this? I’m looking for a few folks who’d like to join in a conversation about our various experiences of crossing religious lines. I’m long retired, but still shaped by my own past, and by all that I gained from crossing those lines so long ago. And now I find myself drawn to crossing religious lines again, but in a deeper, more personal way. So I’m simply seeking to gain some wisdom and comfort and strength for myself, and to expand the horizons of my spiritual world.
Specifically, I’m drawn to various voices speaking out of contemporary Buddhist thought and practice, especially in what is often called “mindfulness.” On this little quest, I’ve been drawn to sages and writers including Thich Nhat Hanh, Chogyam Trungpa, Pema Chodron, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and many others.
As I wander down these deeply enriching spiritual paths, I’m looking for others who are on the same journey – crossing lines, especially religious lines, whether to enrich their own lives, or to gain understanding of others outside the Christian circle.
So – what are your experiences in line-crossing?
Crossing religious barriers:
How have those ventures enriched you?What kinds of concerns and problems have you encountered?What would you like to share with other seekers?And what would you like to hear from them?
Are you interested in joining the conversation?
Please just send a note – and let me know whether you’d like the conversation to be private (in an email list I’ll set up) or public (by posting your note here). NOTE: If the email link just above doesn't work (ah, the mysteries of the Web!), just send your note to firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m looking forward to hearing from you!