beginning at the beginning: buddhism, the christian narrative (and les miserables)

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Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

buddhism and christianity

beginning at the beginning: buddhism, the christian narrative (and les miserables)

buddhism and christianity

truth is everywhere.

so was i reminded yesterday when i happened upon a tweet from @Buddha_Insights (via damien echols):

file this tweet in the category, “shots fired”. in this case, (whether it’s intentional or not) the shots flew in the direction of christianity. and, quite frankly, the shots are fair. (as well as this one, but that’s another post altogether.)

in the book, a new kind of christianity, brian mclaren lays out what he says is a poor narrative of scripture in which christians, by and large, skip the very beginning the story. the strong emphasis in christianity is largely the fall of adam and eve and the subsequent story of a god angered by sinful people. but alas! jesus comes and dies for us filthy sinners and everything’s ok (as long as you explicitly state the name of jesus as a means of salvation).

ok, hold that thought.

imagine if i’d never seen les miserables and you told me the following story:

a man named jean valjean is a fugitive on the run after committing a crime. he moves from city to city, changing his name to evade the law. the police inspector, javert, is in pursuit, attempting to perform his duties by bringing this criminal to justice. in the end, valjean eludes javert and javert kills himself because he’s unable to fulfill his sworn duty.

that’s the middle of the story. but the beginning of the story is absolutely critical to the middle of the story. you cannot understand the middle of the story without understanding the beginning of the story. according to the middle of the story, valjean is a criminal who rightfully deserves to be caught by javert. that would be justice. the beginning of the story, though, informs us of the context of valjean’s life and circumstances. and it changes everything.

so it is with the narrative of the christian scriptures. the middle of the story is only properly understood when told in the context of the beginning of the story. in the beginning, all things were created. and they were created good. as were people. and not only good, but in the very image of god.

when we make the primary narrative of christianity a story of sinners detached from god, we violate the the scriptures by removing parts of it.

human beings are not merely a pack of sinners. that’s merely the middle of the story. we are created beings who are crafted in the image of god himself. sin doesn’t define humanity. being made in the image of a good and loving and merciful creator, though, does.

the buddhist insight tweet offers a fair critique of a story perpetuated by a majority of christians. we’re more than sinners and it’s time we begin to affirm and live out the beginning of the story and not just the middle or the parts we choose.