Thursday, November 06, 2003

So I went to the professor's class. Remember? I met a professor in Union Square and he turned out to be a professor of comparative religion and he invited me to his class? Well, I accepted his invitation and went to his class. The class title was "Classic Buddhists Texts." This particular day was Oct. 31, Halloween.

I walked in a few minutes late hating the fact that I was late at all. Thankfully, he hadn't started yet. He was passing out tests. The class was full of young, eager faces. As the professor made his way through the room handing out the tests, the students looked as if they were salivating. Yes, of course they were eager to see how they did on their tests but it was more than that. It was as if they couldn't wait to hear what the professor had up his sleeve for the day's lecture.

As the teacher began his class I could see why they were salivating. He began a passionate lesson on the real meaning of Halloween. "Halloween is the 'eve of all saints day' and is to be seen in light of all the great Christian saints who have lived before us." WOW! He wasn't holding back. He was really passionate about this and mixed in narratives of his morning commute that captured our attention. The "meaning of Halloween" bit was just a short part of his lecture but an incredible attention-getter. I was immediately drawn in!

The lecture continued as he narrowed his subject matter to the influence of Indian Buddhism in a Taoist China. It was interesting but all so very...esoteric and at the same time abstruse. However, the students were hanging on every word. Not just because it might show up on an exam but because they themselves are in search of something. It was evident that the professor was teaching but it could have easily been construed as preaching. Could I have gotten away with what he was doing as a Christian teaching Christianity? Hmm…

I waited around after class and the professor and I went downstairs to the courtyard to talk. He asked me what I thought of the class, of how things were going with the church plant and if I was going to go to an All Saints service. I asked him what these kids, his students, thought of Christianity. He said, “they are bored with it. They are bored with the notion that there must be rules and regulations. They are turned off by the annoying Christians you see on TV and see in the newspapers.� “What would it take to get these kids to a Sunday service?� I asked and he responded with a laugh. “Good luck,� he said. He went on to say that there must be a fusion of the real world into the services or there was no chance at all of getting them there. This of course is matter that I have given much thought.

Will the professor and I keep in touch? I assume we will. He is not sure how he is doing it but he is co-existing in two worlds. He is on the one hand a scholar of the Buddhist tradition and appreciates it but he is also an ordained priest and attends a Jesuit church. I think that in his heart he is very conflicted. Even the Dali Lama himself said, “you cannot be a Buddhist and a Christian at the same time.� The professor knows of this quote and struggles with it. I pray that God will work through his conflicting beliefs.

Lord, thank you for the opportunity to meet someone like this professor who opens my eyes to the different beliefs held by many in this city. May I respect him and where he is on the journey. May you, Lord, help him as he is conflicted. Help him to see how great an instrument he can be in your service! Use me if at all possible. Amen.