No Buddhists Here

No Buddhists in Arkansas

This morning a minivan descended down the creek bed where we live, which was strange. Cars we don’t know don’t use our road. It was even stranger when it stopped in our driveway. We weren’t expecting anyone. When two men in suits and perfect hair opened their doors and stepped out, I muttered, “Christians.”

My partner responded, “Get rid of them.”

I met them halfway down the drive.

They smiled and both opened their Bibles to give me a sermon right on my own property.

I held up my hands. “Hey, I really appreciate your coming, but we’re Buddhist, and….” I let them complete the statement.

Oh.

The elder of the two looked straight ahead, searching for some way to navigate this.

They closed their Bibles.

The elder was still searching, his eyes straight ahead.

The younger of the two looked surprised. “There aren’t many Buddhists around here.”

“I’m learning that,” I responded. “Where’s your church?”

They told me. The younger said, “You should come. We welcome everyone, Buddhist and all.”

I thanked them again for coming, and thankfully they left.

I was glad that we each left the interaction happily.

We’re not committed Buddhists, but we are frequently Buddhist in practice. We are Taoist, which is more difficult to explain. My partner is also Agnostic and to only add to the complexity, I am a Quaker as well, which is even more difficult to explain concurrently with Taoism. Throw in my leanings toward traditional Native ceremony and the mix becomes so convoluted that I struggle to navigate let alone explain it.

This morning, however, I found to be distinctly Buddhist. We did not exist at all in the context of feud and feudalism that I find too often characterizes Western Evangelical Christianity. We found ourselves to be outside the known categories. We were neither a different denomination nor faithless. We have faith, just not theirs. And I found myself surprisingly humbled by the elder’s inability to respond to this. I had only been trying to get rid of them, not prompt his existential crisis.

I walked away from them warmed by thankfulness, and I hope they did as well. Rather than fired up by a seething bitterness from some antagonistic confrontation, we found ourselves to be in a context in which neither was able to tell the other that he was wrong. It’s always a good day when you can say that. So…

Namaste.

3 Responses to “No Buddhists Here

  • Not long ago we got the knock on the door and the suited fellows as well. I do my best to remain polite and respectful in these instances, but my husband? Well, I’ll just say that life is stand-up comedy to that man. After I had explained we don’t believe in [their] god, the younger of the suited fellows asked as a way of departing “Is there anything else we could do for you tonight?” after which a shout from my house came “YOU CAN SHOVEL THE DRIVEWAY!”
    I just smiled and waved bye-bye.

  • That’s a funny comment, Caro! Great response.

    Jamie, Cat and I got such a tickle out of how you both responded to their presence. We, too, have had similar situations and I often wonder what they’re thinking as we systematically peel away argument after argument, while loving them for standing by what they believe in. Several years ago, in a long and heartfelt conversation between a friend of mine – who happens to be an Israeli – and me about war, he mentioned that he simply had to respect anyone who was so committed to his ideology (temerity, perhaps?) that he’d strap explosives to his body and run, through a hail of gunfire, straight at him. He didn’t agree with nor believe in this person’s cause, but he respected him for it…

    • Jeremiah! I told Caro that her husband’s response reminded me of a good friend of mine. I was thinking of you!! lol

      Re. the discussion you shared, frightening. I find a huge difference between someone willing to sacrifice their life for the right to believe in an ideology and someone willing to sacrifice their life for their ideology. I have no respect for the latter. It usurps the position of their God and is therefore, by their own definition, blasphemy.

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