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Understanding Jesus Through Buddhism (Unsent Letters Religion Theme)

Jesus,

I was forced to believe in you at an early age.  Relatives made me attend church at an early age, prodding me to open up books full of songs that praised you.  I never understood who you were, but I sang and praised you to make my relatives happy.  They even dumped water on my head, telling me this would cleanse me of the Devil.

When I entered high school, my friends told me I had it all wrong.  They said I was in the wrong denomination, a denomination that promoted evil and worshiping false idols.  I didn’t understand them.  They told me in deep earnest that I needed to stay away from this church, that I needed to allow myself to experience the power of your love by joining their congregation.  I never quite understood why this was different, but they said it was, and I believed them.  My church would bring me into a fiery pit after death, where your love would not be experienced.  Scared and confused, I joined their congregation hoping to make everyone happy.

Several months later I paid a small fee to attend a Christian convention in Minneapolis, and several church leaders invited us down to accept Christ into our life.  I was unsure of their intent, but I decided it would make everyone happy if I listened to them.  I sat on the ground, clasped my hands, and repeated their words:

“I accept you, savior and protector, into my life.  I ask you to forgive my sins and take them as your own, forever and ever.  Amen.”

I felt something overcome me at that point which I cannot explain.  It was a calmness in my heart, a serenity flowing throughout my body.  I was hugging strangers as I walked back to my friends, unsure of how I felt or what had just happened.  They cried with me.  I thought I had finally made them─and─you happy.  I was doing the right thing.  I was a good Christian.

Several weeks later we gathered in the church for a weekly bible lesson.  The youth leader began discussing homosexuality and the sins of sex before marriage, and to my astonishment, he explained in great detail why homosexuals were sinners that would never be forgiven by Jesus.

I was bisexual.

All this work to make everyone happy and now this?  Jesus wouldn’t love me because I was bisexual?  I felt immediately ashamed, horrified, and disgusted with myself.  Why now?  I had messed up all along, it seemed.  I wasn’t good enough to be loved by Jesus.  I was a terrible, awful, homosexual-sinning Christian.  And everyone agreed.  I watched everyone agree that homosexuality was the biggest sin of all─a sin not forgiven by Jesus, and a sin that would banish me to the lower levels of Hell.  I stood silently as the bible lesson was finished up, everyone uttering their own contempts for those who slept with those of the same sex.

I never returned.  Calls poured in as people noticed my absence from church, but each time I had a more elaborate excuse.  I’m sick, I have cramps.  Big headache, too much for me to leave the house.  Oh, I’ve got too much homework right now.  Can’t right now.  Just can’t.  I eventually lost the friends who were so interested in me years before, and I slowly became a hermit.  My devotion to Christianity dwindled slowly but deliberately, as I thought I wasn’t deserving enough to practice Christianity.  After all, I was a sinner.  Sinners are the ones who fail.  Sinners are the ones Jesus does not love.

After I graduated high school I lost all contact with my friends.  It was at that point I left for Korea to visit my relatives and travel the country.  It was a welcomed diversion from life in rural America.  During the end of our trip we visited a mountain retreat near the North Korean border, where I saw one of the most amazing statues I had ever seen in my 18 years of life.  It was a gold statue, rising above the mountains, picturing the image of Buddha, a revered figure in Korea.  Again came the calmness I felt when I first bowed my head to accept Jesus into my life.  The image was transfixed into my mind as I left Korea and stayed there for several months.  Only in December did I gather the courage to learn more about Buddha, picking up religious texts at the local library.  I read each book throughly with an eager curiosity.  By the Spring I was a Buddhist, practicing Buddha’s ideals and setting aside time every day to meditate.  The calmness never did disappear, nor did any practicing Buddhists criticize me.  I felt happy.  I was accepted.

You would think I would hate you now, but I really don’t.  Buddhism taught me two things: happiness is acceptance and hate will bring no justice.  Buddhism allowed me to open up and to see Christianity for what it is─a loving, accepting religion marred by a few naysayers who would rather focus on sinning instead of improving the lives of others.  Isn’t that what Christianity is about?  About loving, accepting, and appreciating people?  About loving your enemies even if they have faults?  Christianity, as I’ve learned today, isn’t being taught in Church.  You were never in church, Jesus.  Instead, you were in an invisible church only attained with understanding, generosity, and a desire to bring happiness to others.  Submitting to everything is not the goal of Christianity.  Showing the support and love Jesus showed in the Bible is.  There is no Christianity without Christ.  And although I will stay Buddhist for a very, very long time, I have finally realized your message.  I no longer worry about making others happy─I now worry about my own happiness.

That is the goal of every religion.  I understand you now, Jesus.  Thank you.

Understandably yours,

An Enlightened Buddhist

~~~
A.E. Olson is a freelance writer and blogger currently living in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband, a persistent cat named Sephiroth, and several hundred books.  When she is not meditating, she can be seen on Associated Content, where she is a category editor, or on her new restaurant and food blog. Read her writing here:

Associated Content: http://www.associatedcontent.com/user/116441/ann_olson.html
Restaurant and Food Blog: http://koreangirleatsout.com/

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8 Responses to “Understanding Jesus Through Buddhism (Unsent Letters Religion Theme)”

  1. Gillian says:

    ‘happiness is acceptance and hate will bring no justice.’

    That line reduced me to tears for deeply personal reason and for the simple fact that it is true. Thank you for this letter.

  2. This was a wonderful letter and so true.

    Aside from the quote Gillian pointed out, I couldn’t agree more with the statement you made:

    “Showing the support and love Jesus showed in the Bible is. There is no Christianity without Christ.”

    Thank you for these words.

  3. Linda St.Cyr says:

    I don’t have the words to express how beautiful this journey was to read. I was heartbroken and healed while reading the path’s that you took. Beautiful.

  4. Borgieskid says:

    I’m glad you understand what Christianity really is.. it is about accepting and loving. Sadly, those naysayers do ruin it for many. You won’t find that kind of talk in your first church, the one you were told worships idols. That should have been your first clue that those taking you away from the church did not have your best interests at heart. Creating doubt in the heart of a Christian is just awful, and in my book a greater sin than any they tried to pin on you. And yes, Jesus still loves you just as you are!

  5. Cindy says:

    Annie–
    Your leader is powerful and wonderful, just like you. I had so-called Crhistians tell me the same thing about idols, not in my church, but in the church of good friends just because they believed slightly differently. It’s sad that the church has become such an anti-Christ force.

  6. Angel says:

    I’m glad you found peace. I never understand people telling others they are going to go to hell because of this or that. NOBODY knows who is going to go to hell! We should all worry about ourselves and pray for everyone, not try to change them or scare them to death!

  7. Andi Caldwell says:

    It always makes me sad when other people ruin religion for truth seekers. Jesus preached love, not condemnation. I enjoyed your letter and your journey to enlightenment

  8. Lucky M. Diaz says:

    I feel like this letter took my feelings about Buddhism, Buddha, Christianity and Jesus and displayed them to the world. What an AWESOME letter! Thanks so much for sharing.

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