Sunday, December 9, 2007

Happy Birthday Buddha

Today our sangha celebrated Buddha's birthday: he was born sometime around 563 BC and Zen Buddhists mark December 8th as the day.

During my run this morning, I caught part of Speaking of Faith's phenomenal interview with Rick and Kay Warren. Wow.

Funny to find myself feeling a sense of kinship with these Evangelical Christians who head a mega-church with a 100,000 membership. They seem entirely Republican (hard to discern, I know, but I'm not), conservative, suburban. Well, evangelical.

They were famous and rich evangelicals, featured on nightly news shows and with bestselling books (of course, I missed that entirely but found them on NPR) when Kay picked up a magazine, read an article and discovered HIV-AIDS in Africa.

Like she hadn't really understood the problem existed.

In the interview, she tells Krista Tipett that until that magazine article, she hadn't understood this simple fact: most people in the world live in shattering, brutal poverty. Half the people live on less than $2.oo a day. One billion people live on less than a dollar a day.

The Warrens were so disturbed they went to Africa to see for themselves: AIDS, poverty, disease. It would be easy to make fun of their ignorance and their ability to hop on a plane and go check it out. Sort of has a celebrity feel to it, an Angelina Jolie-esque quality.

Except now they give 90% of their considerable annual income to fight AIDS, poverty, disease. They toil for the poor. They're shouting the message from their mountain top: every sick child, each starving person is my, your, our responsibility.

This reminds me of the Singer Solution to end world poverty: share more. Share most. And Prince Siddhartha took suffering--all suffering--on as his personal problem to solve.

The interview reminded me of a good friend who, when we first met, identified himself as a born again Christian. Seeing my visible shock (we were at a Green Party meeting), he said: "Like Jesus. You know, actually give away all your stuff, work hard and live among the poor--that kind of Christian."

The average American family spends between $750-$900 on Christmas. We're no better or worse, I'm sure. And we're not even Christians, so Santa just shoots in with toys for the hell of it.

Sigh.

1 comment:

pandre said...

I had a decent impression of that Rick Warren before I read your post. There was this cheesy showdown-style double interview in Newsweek earlier this year with him, the Believer, and one of those overly well-known atheists whose name I can't remember. I recall reading it and feeling like I was siding with conservative evangelical, and then feeling sort of weird that I was doing so.

Thinking back, it was because he seemed so straight up -- and to be a really mature person. Thanks for holiday message.