Buddhists and Evangelical Christians Seek Common Ground in Portland

August 4, 2006

Source: Tricycle

On August 4, 2006 Tricycle published a piece by Sallie Jiko Tisdale, "Not much had changed in the thirty years since I lived in a college dormitory. The cafeteria was still a tangle of formica-topped folding tables. There were still giant bins of Froot Loops and Cocoa Puffs and a mess of dishes piling up on racks outside the kitchen. The custom-made omelet was a new touch, and there was never a Starbucks down the hall when I went to college. But the real difference this time was the company. Multnomah Bible College and Biblical Seminary in Portland, Oregon, is a thriving school of about 750 undergraduate and graduate students committed to a life of Christian evangelism. As a representative of nearby Dharma Rain Zen Center, on campus to attend a conference, I found myself explaining to a professor and a few students the meaning of the rakusu, the vestment I wear as a senior disciple in my lineage. I tried to explain, anyway, and they tried to understand. And little by little, we moved toward each other.

What is usually called Buddhist-Christian dialogue began in a shared respect for contemplative life regardless of social and religious beliefs. Over time, these dialogues evolved into gatherings of politically homogeneous people, well-meaning but awkward efforts to find common theological ground where little or none exists. (For some people, this has extended as far as calling oneself a 'Buddhist Christian,' or a 'Christian Buddhist.') I was never much interested in such a conversation. I feel pain and anger about the world that is based in our differences�theological, political, and social. That pain and anger, in turn, widens the differences between us. Fixing the separations between us begins not with talking about where we agree, but facing all the ways we do not, cannot, agree. It begins�and perhaps remains�with discomfort."