By Corbin Croy
In the Buddhist tradition there is no past or future, there is only the here-and-now. My journey in the Christian faith would not have succeeded if I had not at become at least partially Buddhist. Some will scoff at this idea, but the reality is that I found help in Buddhism to overcome a big obstacle in my life that Christianity, as I knew it then, was unable to help me face. The obstacle I am referring to is the discovery that I was undiagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and that I most likely have Asperger syndrome. As it is commonly called, Asperger’s is a variant form of autism that impairs one’s ability to relate to other people and to communicate effectively (of course, there is much more to be said about this). Instead of describing my personal journey through this obstacle, I would rather highlight the endpoint. While it may seem like I am using a cop-out by blaming a mental illness for why I refuse to hold certain religious beliefs, I assure you that not only have I arrived at where I am at because of my personal experience, but I have also done a thorough amount of research.
I remain a skeptic for just about all supernatural claims. I do not deny the supernatural, but it is the involvement of the supernatural in the natural world that creates the biggest problem for belief. This is not necessarily a categorical reduction. I consider visions, encounters, inspiration and ecstasy to be far more likely than other supernatural claims like seas parting and dead men raising to life. The reason for this, in my mind, is that man is a relational being who seeks greater meaning for his life. It makes sense for God to be in relationship with him, and so I see a basis for a revealed religion, like Christianity. When it comes to miracles, it is much harder for me to accept them. I do think it would be awesome if some or all of the miracle stories Christianity holds turned out to be true, but I see no reason to accept them as history. In my mind they were written down to put into context something of theological importance during a historical period.
I also remain a skeptic of the after-life. For me, Jesus is the entry point into an eternal life, and while this holds potential for endless duration I think it’s primary function is to supply infinite intensity into our current situation. It is often noted that time acts in two ways: one is chronological and the other is experiential. To make this point simpler, there is clock time and there is time that is felt. I am sure we have all experienced time slowing down or speeding up depending on the intensity of the moment. It is this intensity of life that I seek when I walk with Jesus and participate in the eternal life that he offers. With the promise of eternal life I have no reason to fear slavery or death, and that implies an after-life for me, but I am content to simply hold to it as a hope. No matter the outcome, I have already obtained eternal life.
When it comes to my day to day life, the Bible doesn’t tell me how to live. I rely more on my own moral code and the goals that I have set to lead a fulfilling life. The Bible guides my spiritual walk with God; I use it to seek Him and draw myself closer to Him, and in that sense I see the Bible as an authority for my spiritual walk. However, using this book as a moral instrument has never produced anything good. This insight came to me when I realized that there is a difference between being a good person and being a faithful person. I remain faithful to the Bible and to my Christian beliefs, but I do not need them to be a good person. My faith comes from my desire to be close to God, and not from any guilt or shame.
Church has always been a struggle for me. I understand the concept of a universal church, but to me “church” is a building where a lot of strange people get together to take something seriously that most others do not understand. Church is not natural. There is an unwritten expectation for agreement and consistency about ideas and concepts, even our own human experience, and that is the most ridiculous thing that I can imagine. I can admit that I struggle with church, and I think it is important for all Christians to be honest about the struggle. The reality for me is that other people are a huge burden, but the truth remains that I have grown more deeply with God when carried the burden of other people than anything else. And I think that is because we all must have a cross to bear. Mine is the church. Fellowship is not something that raises me up. It is something that puts me in the grave, and it is there that I am able to rise again through Christ. That is the dynamic I think represents the Living God. The church really is a place of strange people who all have different experiences and expectations, but at the same time our united commitment to each other keeps the whole thing moving forward. It’s not the kind of beauty you find in nature: it’s sublime.
Prayer is not time spent with God; it is time spent like God. I see prayer not as a form of communication between me and God, but rather as a mentality of keeping God with me throughout my day and my life. It may take verbal form from time to time, but this is hardly representative of a prayer life. For me, I am praying when I study a subject thoroughly and come to understand it to the best of my ability, because I see that as representing God with my intellect. I am praying when I take a stand for a moral issue that others are too lazy or apathetic to think about. I am praying when I enjoy a conversation with my friend who I have not seen in a long time. Prayer is what happens when the moment is captured by the Divine.
I evangelize by living communally with others and striving to achieve the mutual goal of maximum freedom and prosperity. I see the full life as one with God, and so I show others this life in provocative and engaging ways that do not require a confession or conversion to some religious creed. I trust that the full life always leads to God, and so, in promoting happiness and wholeness I am assured that others will find their way to God. Sometimes achieving a fuller life means breaking free of religious shackles, therefore I find no problem in challenging religious claims as a form of evangelization.
Christianity is my one and only religion, and I see Jesus as the center of all spiritual truth. It remains my desire to see everyone become a Christian, as I am, but I do not see Christianity as the only path to God. People find God in all kinds of places, and we all deal with circumstances outside our control. I want to be Jesus to everyone, and that does not require that I make everyone believe in Jesus like I do. I accept that everyone in their own process will come to the right path when the Spirit guides them. If they are being guided by the Spirit toward Jesus within another faith context then my desire is to partner with the Spirit, rather than my own ego, to be a guide through love and acceptance instead of intimidation and fear. I trust in my God to be the best judge of all human experiences.
When I learned I had ASD I ended up reevaluating most of my personal history and realized how certain aspects of my faith fueled the negative side of my condition. I thought that the practice of my faith might be in jeopardy. The insights I found in Buddhism were far more helpful to me in developing a faith practice that would help channel my condition into a positive direction. I have come to accept who I am, and who God created me to be. I’m not saying that Christianity could not have eventually helped me, or that it was unequipped to help me. All I am saying is that Buddhism helped me become a better Christian at a time when I thought that Christianity might no longer be a religion I could practice.
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