Friday, November 2, 2018


I was brought up in a Christian home. As those who have been reading "The Buddha Diaries" for a while will surely know, my father was a minister in the Church of England. He was, as the English say (or used to say; I'm not familiar with current usage) "high church"--which meant robes, candles, even incense if he could get away with it in country parishes. All the ritualistic stuff. (Dog collars: the higher the church, the narrower the white band. Or so it used to be...)

My father was also a socialist. At the time of my birth he was the incumbent at St. Cuthbert's church in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, at that time a working-class, coal-mining town still suffering from the devastation of the Great Depression. His parishioners were poor, many of them hungry, and generally destitute. My father took his pastoral work seriously, and ministered with such compassion and empathy to his flock that he himself became ill and was urged by doctors to move south for his health.

His first brush with the fundamentalism that takes the form, in America, of evangelicalism, was during his college days, long before his ordination. A broad-minded man with a fine sense of humor, he recalled on several occasions within the hearing of myself, his son--though he would not have done so from the pulpit--the emergence of an evangelical group which called itself the (forgive me) Cambridge Univeristy New Testament Society--and proudly put out flyers throughout the university with its acronym plastered across the top. (You can work that one out for yourself!)

My father's Christianity was so far removed from the evangelicalism in America today that he would not have recognized what so many of our citizens preach in the name of "religion". His Christian faith required him to take care of the poor, the sick, the needy, to put their needs before his own, to practice the kind of compassion that Christ modeled in the New Testament books of the Bible. He would have abhorred the notion of the "prosperity" gospel. His Christian conviction required him to vote for the socialist Labour Party--the political party whose policies were guided by his principles.

Brought up with these--yes, Christian!--tenets, though now at heart a Buddhist, I remain to this day a socialist. I cannot reconcile my father's Christianity with the extreme right-wing views of those evangelicals who vote faithfully for Republicans and, astoundingly, are unwavering supporters of a "president" who proves himself on a daily basis to lack any shred of understanding or compassion for those less privileged than himself; who lacks the moral compass that undergirds decency and good behavior; and who personifies, in my view, everything that is un-Christian.

I know that there are many Christians--whether evangelical or not--whose thoughts and actions in the world are guided more by the New Testament than the Old. I believe that, as would my father, they will vote their Christian conscience at the ballot box. I know that there also are many who are both religious and conservative in their views. I'm guessing they must be much troubled, even torn, by what Republican conservatism has come to represent. And I'm hoping that they, too, will be guided by the wisdom of true Christian principles next Tuesday.

True Christians--I believe I speak for my father here--affirm truth over lies; compassion over cruelty; reflection over recklessness; knowledge over ignorance; charity and generosity of spirit over greed and selfishness; and, above all, love over hate. I want to believe that there are many who, in the name of the one they acknowledge as their "savior," will cast their vote with those Christian qualities remembered in their hearts and minds.

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