Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Buddhist Teahouse Approach to Evangelism

We have once again entered the time when people discuss how much the religious beliefs of people in government should influence those people.  Lots of people seem fearful of the religious beliefs of the Republican presidential candidates, as they wonder how those beliefs might shape policy.

My atheist friends explode into anger at the idea that one's religious ideas might seep over into the work week.  Yet these are the same friends who seethe over the hypocrisy of some religious people they see, people who say one thing in church and behave another way in public.

What's a religious person to do?

To be fair, I, too, feel uncomfortable with people at work who just can't stop talking about their religious beliefs.  I was taught that it's rude and risky to talk about politics or religion in work or school settings.

Clearly, not everyone was brought up the way that I was.

I believe that if you're living your beliefs, then you're behaving in a way that bears witness.  You don't need to do any more evangelizing than that.

It's what I call the Buddhist teahouse approach to living an integrated life.  In an interview with Bill Moyers, poet Jane Hirshfield explains, "Teahouse practice means that you don't explicitly talk about Zen. It refers to leading your life as if you were an old woman who has a teahouse by the side of the road. Nobody knows why they like to go there, they just feel good drinking her tea. She's not known as a Buddhist teacher, she doesn't say, 'This is the Zen teahouse.' All she does is simply serve tea--but still, her decades of attentiveness are part of the way she does it. No one knows about her faithful attention to the practice, it's just there, in the serving of the tea, and the way she cleans the counters and washes the cups" (Fooling with Words: A Celebration of Poets and Their Craft, page 112).

Of course, I've wondered if that's just me wimping out on The Great Commission.  Jesus didn't say, "Go live a quiet, but good, life a life that makes everyone want to be around you and wonder what your secret is.  Thus you will bear witness to me."

Or did he?

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