Read an interesting piece by John Eldredge last week, but since I was out of town, I didn’t get a chance to post it. He shares a personal story from his son of a student at his (unnamed) Christian college flying Buddhist prayer flags in solidarity with human rights in Tibet. While it is certainly commendable, at least to me, to want human rights for others around the world, without regard to religion or race, the method shows some naivete. As Eldredge points out:
Those college students grew up, had children of their own, and shaped the culture we have at present. We are so steeped in the tolerance=compassion=human rights=all faiths have goodness to them=the important thing is to be sincere mindset now that a Christian student flying Buddhist prayer flags is met with this sort of reaction: “It’s kinda cool.” “It’s not big deal.” “It’s a symbol of tolerance.” “It’s a way of standing with the oppressed Tibetan people.”
It is, in fact, very naive.
The flags contain prayers (mantras) and symbols to gods other than Jesus Christ. They are, in fact, an invitation for demons to come and take roost. By your permission.
But doesn’t my saying so seem just a little…too obsessive? I mean, c’mon. Lighten up. As proof that we are so accustomed to the laid-back paganism of our times, notice than on the whole we are more uncomfortable with someone saying, “umm…that’s demonic” than we are with a Christian student flying Buddhist prayer flags at a Christian college.
It would be a very uncomfortable community exercise to ask, what does James 1:27 mean for this culture right now? “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (1:27). We are really, really big on the social justice part right now. That is super cool. Very “in.” But we are unsure if we want to deal with the second half of the passage. That part is not so cool at the moment.
I have typically been more comfortable with the lack of pollution part of this, and not nearly as concerned with the social gospel aspect of this verse. As I awaken in my spirit to the need to work for social justice, I don’t want to fall into the opposite trap of becoming so post-modern that I fail to see that different religions really do answer the most important questions differently. While we can use our similarities to work together in some ways, we cannot gloss over the eternal consequences of our differences. If the Buddhist prayer flags are benign and meaningless, then we may have to admit that Christianity may be powerless as well. If the Buddhist prayer flags are powerful for good, Christianity is false. If Christianity is true, the Buddhist prayer flags are appeals to a false god, and therefore should not be used lightly. The one thing we cannot say is that Christianity is true and Buddhism is neutral.
Thoughts? Feel free to give me your perspective below!