Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Buddha, Desmond Tutu & Mormon Stories

PBS has been featuring this week its 2010 documentary The Buddha, a film by David Grubin --- described occasionally, in a kindly way, as Buddhism for Dummies, since it was intended as an introduction aimed largely at an Americian audience steeped in Christian triumphalism.

The older I get, the more convinced I am that the Buddha got it right although, like Christianity, the basic fabric has been heavily embroidered. Parallels between "the Buddha" and "the Christ" are intriguing, however, and the film worth watching online --- if you've got an hour or two.

The Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibetian Buddhists, makes quite a few appearances, as might be expected.

The Dalai Lama is a good bud of retired Anglican Archbishop (and bodhisattva) Desmond Tutu (above), who rather famously declared during a conversation with the esteemed Buddhist sage some years ago that "God is not a Christian." Think about it. 


Anyhow, Tutu is in the news again after declaring on Friday in Capetown, "I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place… I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this."

The archbishop was speaking at a launch rally for the United Nations' new "Free and Equal" campaign that seeks to raise awareness of antigay violence and discrimination throughout the world. Me, too.


Also this week, I've been listening to Mormon Stories --- principally because of John Hamer's excellent four-part YouTube history of the Community of Christ --- formerly Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Here is the first installment:

Mormon history fascinates me, in part because of remote family connections, but also because so much that was crucial to it played out across the south of Iowa during 1846 and thereafter. I come very close to living right on top of the Mormon Trail, for example.

The Community of Christ --- now headquartered in Independence, Missouri --- is especially of interest regionally because its principal early gathering point was Lamoni, where the denomination's Graceland University still is located.

But I've enjoyed in the past and still do listening to other stories told here of affection, disaffection and challenge for the main branch of the LDS expression of Christianity, headquartered in Salt Lake City.

Some of the story-tellers are LGBT --- the LDS church traditionally has treated its gay children harshly. But many others tell there stories here, too.

It's the type of forum those estranged, or facing estrangement, from the other branches of Christianity might find useful, too, since simply telling one's story can be therapeutic, liberating and perhaps a step toward avoiding the spiritual vacuum that sometimes develops when a faith tradition is abandoned.

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