Rendering Unto Caesar Only What Is Caesar’s

By Rev. Kate Braestrup

“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s…”

Upon  hearing Jesus utter those words, Matthew tells us that the Pharisees are “amazed.” They marveled greatly,  their gast was flabbered and off they went to discuss this novel idea.

We aren’t amazed because we have grown up in a society (founded upon Jewish and Christian ideas) in which church and state are separate, this being yet another of those rare and fragile circumstances we are privileged to take for granted.

Caesar Augustus, first emperor of Rome

Fragile, I say, because the tendency to render unto Caesar that which rightfully belongs to God is awfully strong. In Jesus’ time, Caesar—-head of the Roman empire—-was seen by pagan Romans as a kind of demi-God himself, capable of communion and even kinship with the actual Gods. Caesar, naturally, encouraged his people to see him this way, to worship and obey him;  the Caesars and mini-Caesars of this world will ever hope to harness the power of God to themselves,  to augment their own.

Whenever and wherever they rule and whomever they rule over,  Caesars and Caesarettes tend to share certain characteristics. A Caesar will have some capacity to exert physical force—-maybe he’s physically bigger than most people, or has a bunch of guys with guns who will arrest, imprison or kill you if you don’t do what Caesar wants.

But it’s not all “stick” with Caesar, he has carrots too. Caesar provides good boys and girls with stuff that makes life easier, better and more fun: Roads and bridges, opportunities to make money, cool parties. Caesar can open doors, grant favors, bestow lucrative contacts, establish sinecures and generally perform the sort of miracles that tempt any ordinary mortal to overlook those big clay feet.

And when the miracle you’re after isn’t for you personally, when the society you live in could really do with some improvements —-in terms of social justice, say—- then the thoughts and prayers you toss to God are all well and good… but Caesar is the real rainmaker, amiright?

Five years ago, the actress Meryl Streep called Harvey Weinstein “God” when giving thanks for a Golden Globe award. She was joking…sort of.

Harvey Weinstein was a movie producer, a star maker, a mogul and a man far more frequently and fervently thanked at various Hollywood awards events—-Oscars, Emmys—- than than actual God. And why not? Newsweek describes him as “an Oscar machine. He made careers and money for countless directors and actors which, in Hollywood, is enough to overlook [sic] very bad behavior.”

“Countless directors and actors” —-Ms.  Streep and Tarantino, Damon, Cluny, Pitt,  Paltrow—-overlooked very bad behavior. Why? Because Weinstein was, as one pundit put it, “Hollywood’s own Henry the 8th.” Or, as I might put it  Weinstein was  Caesar.

And not just to actors and directors. In an interview, former New Yorker editor Tina Brown explained exactly how Weinstein controlled reporters in the mainstream media. The man made miracles happen.

“If there was any stirring of a negative story [about him] Harvey would offer … a book contract, a development deal, a consultancy, and they used to succumb. Journalists are often short of money, and they were also very star-struck with the world that Harvey offered, which was movies and Hollywood.”

And it wasn’t just reporters and editors either: the miracle-maker was a huge donor to various causes, and over the years, he gave millions to the Obama campaigns, to all the Clinton campaigns, to the Clinton Foundation and (when need arose) to the Clintons’ legal defense funds. Last year, he raised $1.8 million in a  single, New York party thrown for Hillary.

Harvey Weinstein could, as the psalmist would say,  level the mountains, break down gates of bronze, cut through bars of iron and give you hidden treasures…

The psalmist sings of God. With all due respect to Meryl Streep, Harvey Weinstein was not God.  He was a bully and a violent sexual predator.

That’s on him. His sins are his responsibility, and we can  but hope that his victims receive good care and justice.

What responsibility, however, should be born by those who all-but-worshipped him and certainly endured, excused and covered up his crimes? The question is not just the  one our bloody  human history always asks of bystanders, “what did they know and when did they know it,” but why? What was wrong with these people?

Film LightThere are no doubt explanations, though few  excuses. Theirs is a strange and glamorous world, with strange obsessions and pressures. (I, for one, am very glad today that I get to live in small-town Maine with a lot of truly beautiful people.)

But idolatry is a human temptation not exclusive to Hollywood. Any human being who renders unto a Caesar that which is owed only to God will not and cannot change Caesar. He will be who he is. She will, however, change herself.

The early Christian author Tertullian says that when you hand over to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s,  you “give to Caesar his image stamped upon his coin, and give to God His own image stamped upon you; so that while you render to Caesar the coin which is his due, you may render your own self to God.”

If you allow him to do so, any Caesar will inevitably stamp his image upon you: He will make you more and more and more like him.

Dwellers in glittering worlds  rendered unto Weinstein the  things that are God’s: the attention, the worship, the obedience, body and soul placed in Weinstein’s hands because he claimed the power to re-create them, the power to transform human beings into stars. Yet, idolized, Weinstein could only make more idols. He stamped his image upon them and he made them like unto him.

Well, we could discuss the fortunes and misfortunes of Harvey Weinstein and his enablers all day and call it exegesis rather than salacious gossip…instead, let his be yet another cautionary tale, undergirding the truth that bears repeating:  That it is in yielding to God’s power and only God’s that we find our own power. That when we give our obedience and worship, our very selves to God and only to God, we receive ourselves in return. That God and only God created and still creates us,  forms and stamps us in God’s own image.

We may think that our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of the heart — but it will out. That which dominates our imagination and our thoughts will determine our life and character. Therefore it behooves us to be careful what we are worshiping, for what we are worshiping we are becoming.  — Attributed to Emerson

Blessed be.

Copyright 2017 © Kate Braestrup

 

21 comments

  1. Kate, your article, the reaction to something I wrote on my other blog, and the Quentin Tarrantino “confession” got me thinking about myself. Have I ever been part of the male conspiracy? And I realized the answer is yes — clearly, at least once.

    It was when I worked for a major corporation, at the time one of the largest in the world. In the late 1970’s, I worked with one of the top execs, who later became chairman and CEO. I traveled with him in corporate jets and limousines, and wherever we went the company’s employees treated us, especially him, like royalty. And he had a reputation for leaving his wife at home and engaging in one-night stands wherever he traveled, but of course there are never witnesses, so who could say whether it was more than a rumor?

    One night, I came as close as one can come to being a witness. On the road, in his hotel suite, as 2 a.m. approached, I departed for my own room as he manipulated a young woman into staying. The next day, back at corporate HQ, she entered my office, looking haggard, and said simply: “It’s all your fault.” That’s all she said before leaving to return to the floor she worked on. Not long after that, she took a job with another company.

    At the time, I took her “fault” remark as a sort of joking boast, but I could never be sure, since she said nothing else. And I have no way of knowing whether they had sex or she managed to avoid that. Either way, the imbalance in power between the two of them made any sort of approach highly immoral.

    In the real world of the time, there was probably nothing that either one of us could have done to stop this sort of behavior. We were both too far down the line to be taken seriously. So this is another example of how pervasive that god-like power can be over ambitious women or those who simply want to keep their jobs.

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  2. Perhaps it is not the object of the behavior that is the root problem, but the idolizing behavior itself. Dreadful things have also arisen from the placing of attention, worship, obedience, body and soul in the hands of gods, or in the hands of one own self. You are correct that idolizing unworthy objects is a universal human temptation. But people who don’t believe in a god or gods aren’t any worse in this regard than people who do.

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  3. Dreadful things can happen when you place yourself in the hands of God(s) that are not God.

    I know, that sounds facile. I don’t mean it to. I use the word “God” because there is no other word that comes closer to meaning what I mean by it, let alone communicating it with anyone else. But how do I know whether the God I am giving myself over to is actually, you know, God?Another way to phrase this, maybe, is “how do I know that I am actually on the right path? Moving toward the best possible ends? Making good use of my time and talent, making the world a better place, getting better at love?” There are existing paths mapped out that that have the great advantage of having been traveled and tested many times by other people. Buddhism, for example, maps a path, offers an existing system that permits a Buddhist (MP, for instance) to proceed without having to reinvent the wheel.

    After many years of attempting to draw my own map, create my own wheel only to find myself, at best, laboring mightily and bringing forth a gnat (mixing mucho metaphors tonight! Hooo-Whee!) I realized that I am a Christian. No point in hemming and hawing; it’s a waste of time. That’s the path I’m on. So on I go.

    How do I know that this is the right (or best or best available) path for me to be on? I remember being really struck by a saying attributed (aren’t they all?) to Mother Theresa: “Help those whom Christ has placed in your path.” I decided that this could mean your actual, physical path but it also means your life path. As a writer, minister, mother, neighbor, friend, relative, American, etc…I am to help with what I have (words, energy, time, patience, intellect, encouragement…)

    And—important!—if there is no one in my path who needs my help, then I’m on the wrong path.

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    1. Yes, I figured this was written from a Christian perspective. And it appears to be pretty good advice for Christians and perhaps for other believers. On the other hand, it leaves me, an atheist humanist, with a sour taste. It reads to me like an beautifully written, eloquently argued presentation of an idea that I find both disturbing and hurtful: the idea that humans need to believe in a god to lead good, moral lives.

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      1. On the other hand, one concept of “God” that has some meaning for me is “Good Orderly Direction,” from Julia Cameron’s book, _The Artist’s Way_. This “G-O-D” is more of a process than an anthropomorphic being, and that viewing of “God” as a process sounds sort of like what you were getting at in your comment here. My understanding of that process, however, at least as articulated by Cameron, is that it wouldn’t do much good to worship it or hand over your heart and soul to it. Rather, you would become part of it, become one with it, lose yourself within it as part of a whole that is greater than the sum of what makes it up.

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    2. This is just a side issue, perhaps, but I’d say that Buddhism offers a path that has been traveled for thousands of years, over bumps and around obstacles as the original words of Gautama Buddha (if we even know what they were) are interpreted by different cultures and at different times. While some Eastern cultures are quire rigid about the Dharma, we in the West are still figuring out what Western Buddhism will be. So we’re hacking out some new angles in the path.

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  4. I think Tertullian was cautioning against idolatry even of God. That is, God if it is God is going to give you back yourself. One of the slightly maddening things about God, in fact, is how difficult it is to actually give God anything. God always gives it back.

    If you’ve ever had the slightly guilty feeling, while doing some sort of charitable work, of a kind of joy…”Yeesh, I am getting so much more out of this than I am giving?” That’s the sort of thing I mean.

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  5. Atheist humanists can certainly live good moral lives. And, by the way, by many definitions I’m an atheist humanist, so there’s that. We can slice and dice, in other words, and include and exclude. I try not to, because it’s not realistic. I know Christians who live terrible lives, and atheist humanists who live beautiful lives.

    There are advantages and disadvantages to any way of looking at the world, but look we must. What alternative is there?

    And then we somehow have to come up with a language with which to describe what we see. The point of a religion like Unitarian Universalism is the hope that, by allowing each other to describe the view through our respective lenses, and looking for points of contact or even overlap, or even just by sharing a space, we might bring each other toward a wider and more generous understanding than any of us might have on our own. A Unitarian Universalist atheist is, by definition, one not so rigid in her atheism that she can’t share a pew or a coffee-hour chat with a Unitarian Universalist Jew or Sufi or Christian or Buddhist… For the orthodox of these varying traditions, by definition that makes us suspect— a bunch of not-quite-good-enough Buddhist, Humanist, Atheist, Christian, Sufi…etc. etc.

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  6. Good, orderly direction—I like that, too!
    We can get into trouble with any system, especially one that is not somehow self-correcting. The scientific method is —while not a moral system—at least one that is intentionally humble, (enough so that a phrase like “the science is settled’ should be met with a snort of derision!) “I could be wrong” is —or is supposed to be—included in the very process.

    We can’t really do that with religion. It is less like science and much more like art, relying heavily on metaphor to gesture toward something that can’t really be accurately described. Paul Tillich talked about the concept of transparency, and those people/things/ideas/phenomena that allow us a glimpse, through them, of The Ultimate, or the Ground of Being or God. Jesus is a window, the Bible is a window, a beautiful piece of music is a window… The problem is that it is awfully easy to start worshipping the window and forget that it is really about the view.

    Tillich also said that it is possible for a “window” to lose its transparency, to become opaque. Idolatry —worshipping the object— can render it opaque. This has echoes of “If you meet the Buddha, kill him…” and “the raft is not the shore” and all the other near-cliches that have, themselves, been rendered opaque with over use!

    Perhaps because I didn’t grow up in a Christian household, the images and stories of Chrsitianity aren’t opaque to me (let alone associated with uncomfortable childhood memories). They have a freshness to them. Even the anthropomorphic God works for me, but I wonder whether that’s just because I’m a people person, so of course God is a person! What else would God be, for someone like me? And of course the Word/Story/Theory/Study (all translations of logos) appeals to me. What am I, if not downright obsessed with words, stories, theories and studies?

    I am lucky insofar as the language of Christianity is the common language for most of the people I minister to. As a Chaplain, most of my game wardens and most (though not all) of the victims of wildland disasters speak at least some dialect of this language as well. In an emergency, there is no time to come up with a new language, so it helps to be relatively fluent and happy with the tongue most common to mourners in Maine.

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  7. I like the idea that Western Buddhism is —well, of course!—becoming its own thing. How could it not? I think I read somewhere that Western (or at least American?) Buddhism, because it “rubs up against” Christianity and Judaism, has been developing a stronger sense of justice than perhaps the original(s) contained? Do you think that’s true?

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    1. First, there are myriad varieties of Western Buddhism. It has not yer evolved into an identifiable school. But, one of the bumps in the road we’re getting over now is the literal idea of rebirth, which was a given in the Buddha’s time, and which is still a common concept in some Eastern cultures. So, the very core of Buddhism — the idea of karma from a past life influencing this one, and karma from this life influencing future ones — is difficult for Westerners to accept as literal.

      So, while I have not seen any polls on the subject, I’ve seen some scholarly Western Buddhists write that most Western Buddhists don’t accept rebirth and hence see karma in a different light. I’ll save explaining how I see it for another time, but to your question, that adjustment makes karma something more focused on this life, and not only your individual life but (since we also focus on oneness and interbeing and nonduality and all those groovy things), the lives of all sentient beings.

      So, yes, Western Buddhists are more interested than at least the Theravada Eastern Buddhists in justice for all.

      As an offshoot of this: At my last retreat with Lama Surya Das, in July, in my private interview with him, I brought up what’s going on in UUism. He wasn’t familiar with what we’re going through but said he gets some of that in meetings with other Western Buddhist teachers. He says there’s a lot of angst about why we’re not more diverse and he pipes up: “Can’t we talk about Buddhism?”

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      1. I realize that over on my other blog, I have how I define both Dzogchen (the great perfection) and karma:

        All beings have a pure core that can be compared to a perfect mirror, which reflects (sees) the world exactly as it is in its primordial, non-dual state. Over the generations, back to the beginning of time (if there was one), that mirror has been repeatedly smudged. I’ll call all that smudging karma, and I’ll include in that karma our biological adaptations, our cultural adaptations, other environmental factors, and our own behavior.

        In each moment that we live, we do have some degree of free will along with all that karma, but here’s the thing. As Billy Joel said, we didn’t start the fire. Our karma is what it is, and the free will we have exercised in the past is, by definition, past. So as each new moment arises, we are again perfect. We are what we need to be and what the other beings in the world, with all of their karma, need us to be.

        In each moment, we can use our free will to take a non-dual, compassionate view or submit to the karma that tends to pull us toward self-and-other. Guilt about the past doesn’t help us do that. It’s another form of attachment to our own inflated ego. (“If only I had done this or that, the world would be better.”) We need to see ourselves as perfect, smudges and all, before we can get closer to the pure inner core that reflects the world exactly as it is. We need to accept, perhaps even cherish, our smudges in order to remove them.

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  8. Kate, I didn’t mean to say or imply that you personally thought that atheists cannot lead good, moral lives. However, I have had versions of that argument used against me by Christians other than yourself over the years. I grew up as a moderately conservative Christian. The specific Presbyterian church I attended, and in which I was confirmed, wasn’t particularly conservative, especially for the area (which was highly Catholic), but the overall culture was.

    I grew up in Western NY, near Buffalo. There’s a large Basilica nearby, in Lackawanna, which was founded by Father Nelson Baker, who is a much-beloved figure in the area and a candidate for Roman Catholic sainthood. Jack Kemp was for a long time the area’s most famous and influential politician. Religion and morality, heaven and hell, angels, saints, and sinners, were all highly intertwined there, and this view still makes up a large part of what I think of when I think of “the culture.” In spite of being physically located in New York state, people in Buffalo don’t (or at least didn’t–I’m sure it’s changed now) read the New York Times. Abortion provider Barnett Slepian was murdered near to my childhood home. I was anti-choice too, when I lived there. I changed my mind and became pro-choice in my 20s (although still pro-life, by my own definition, in that I would like to see the abortion rate reduced as much as possible by methods such as free birth control, comprehensive sex education, and a social safety net). Ideally I still wish the abortion rate could be zero, but I recognize the impracticality of such a goal, and the terrible unintended consequences that result from trying to achieve that goal through laws that criminalize abortion. As an article that was making the rounds of my Facebook feed recently pointed out, “a ‘pro-life’ world has a lot of dead women in it.”

    Anyway, while this might appear to be a long-winded side issue, I think here we get to an answer for the question Mel asked in his post: how did we get to the point where disagreeing with someone means we think they are a bad person?

    I think this is how we got to that point: there are particular issues in the dominant strains of Christianity (even mainline, somewhat “liberal” Christianity) for which *agreement with those precepts is the definition of being a good person*. One of these issues is “belief in God.” (I use the quotes because to me this is an incredibly loaded phrase. Not only does it assume that everyone agrees on what “God” is being talked about, and that there is only one, but it also assumes that of course it exists and that it’s merely an individual choice whether to believe in it or not. I can’t even begin to unpack all those assumptions, hence the scare quotes). In the culture of heaven and hell, of saints and sinners, you’re either with us or against us. If you disagree, it’s not just you-say-potato-I-say-potahto and we can all shake hands and be friends afterwards, it’s that you are damned to hell for all eternity. And furthermore, since this God makes covenants with nations and not with individuals, you are taking me to hell too by being here and disagreeing. You, with your dissenting opinion, are going to get us all left behind when the Rapture comes. (Here I am also using “you” as a theoretical, like “one”. I don’t mean you particularly.)

    I think that literal belief in fire and brimstone is somewhat extreme and on the wane, and that UUs, being non-creedal, should be able to get away from that mindset in their own churches. But I think that mindset is strong enough in the culture at large that its shadows, echoes of the primal fear of hellfire, still haunt our discourse. That’s also my main reason for being skeptical that the culture at large is really, truly “liberal” in any meaningful sense. The culture at large still believes in hell.

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    1. Wow!
      At some point we will have to get into a discussion about…well, at least four or five big things! Yay!
      This struck me:
      “But I think that mindset is strong enough in the culture at large that its shadows, echoes of the primal fear of hellfire, still haunt our discourse. That’s also my main reason for being skeptical that the culture at large is really, truly “liberal” in any meaningful sense. The culture at large still believes in hell.”

      I hadn’t thought of it being a Christian mindset…perhaps you’re right, though? Because one thing that a few minister friends and I have discussed over the past few years is how Calvinism is making a comeback in UUism, with “the correct opinion of God” swapped out for “the correct opinion of politics.” There is a creed that must be affirmed—not the Nicene, but the Social Justice Left, nicely summed up on a banner recently made available for hanging outside our UU churches: “We believe love is love, we believe black lives matter, we believe climate change is real, we believe no human being is illegal, we believe all genders and abilities are whole, holy and good, we believe women have agency over their bodies” https://i0.wp.com/www.uucwc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/banner-jpeg.jpg

      Each of these is actually a political statement, not a theological one, but it takes the form of a creed and has the same separating-goats-from-sheep effect.

      But I hadn’t thought of it as being an originally Christian template that gets filled in, Mad-Libs wise… that will be fun to think about today!

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      1. That’s an interesting point, and a worrisome development, to see a political creed taking form in UU churches. But that is not what I meant in my comments. I don’t personally think that creeds per se and separating the sheep from the goats are uniquely Christian ideas.

        What I was proposing there as a Christian concept was damnation to hell as the consequence of having been deemed a goat.

        Even in the worst case scenario, even if UUs are snotty and unwelcoming to people they don’t agree with, that is bad, and to be deplored. But it’s still not the same thing at all as condemning the goats to eternal physical torture after death.

        So I’m not really sure how this exemplifies Calvinism making a comeback. Calvin believed in the gaping maw of eternal damnation for sinners, not just in kicking them out of his club because he didn’t like or agree with them.

        Anyway, here is an interesting article I found about how damnation and fear of hell took hold in the new American republic (against Universalism), because it was seen as necessary to promote moral behavior.

        “How American Preachers Reinvented Hell.”
        https://www.salon.com/2014/09/06/damnation_american_style_how_american_preachers_reinvented_hell/

        I think the “salvation” model is closer to what current liberal Christians believe, but
        I maintain that current US culture is still steeped in the “damnation” model for promoting moral behavior.

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  9. Not so much the damnation to hell part, but both heaven and hell (whatever their reality, which I’m not really much interested in) tend to become metaphors for the way we want actual, rather than eternal, life to be. So if heaven is a place where only Christians go, it is a very short hop from there to “I prefer my home/city/state/country/world” to be a place where only Christians are. Indeed, this is the reason why, of all the Christian ideas that I don’t find particularly useful, the idea of hell is the one I actively resist. Not just because it is illogical and cruel, but because belief in a God who would consign anyone to eternal suffering will not help the believer resist those who would inflict merely temporal suffering in the here and now. (To take the usual example, Nazis.)

    UUs may not cast people into outer darkness, if for no other reason than that we can’t, but we can cast people out of our club. We can make it pretty clear who is and is not welcome, whom we will speak up for, who will find safety and sanctuary within our walls, whom we actually believe to have inherent worth and dignity and who really… doesn’t.

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  10. Yes, I’m totally with you there. I now, as a liberal adult, view hell as a sometimes useful metaphor. I might speak of “the hell of opioid addiction,” for example. This contrasts with my childhood belief in a literal hell, which terrified me and made me feel unsafe. Unfortunately I still remember what it is like to hold that belief, even as I have discarded it.

    My lengthy point, above, is that the use of these terms as metaphors is a relatively recent and liberal idea, and one that I don’t think is widely shared by the culture at large. Even now, I think there is a lot of confusion about who is using it as a metaphor, who is taking it literally, and who is somewhere in between. Like anything else, people tend to think that other people think like themselves, but that’s not true. And, if one really believes in hell, that might justify all kinds of behavior that looks wrong to people who don’t believe in it: including thinking that people whom one disagrees with are bad and dangerous people.

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  11. “This contrasts with my childhood belief in a literal hell, which terrified me and made me feel unsafe. ” Yes—this is why I feel fortunate to have grown up in an essentially secular household. I didn’t get a snootful of bad religion. I have a good friend whose experience of Catholicism was so punitive and shaming that she literally cannot set foot in a Catholic church without getting the willies.

    When training chaplains, I point out that—by definition—a first responder chaplain does not know the background of the civilians she encounters. So we have to be very humble and respectful, and allow the people we are with to show or tell us what love and support looks like to them. You can’t take the time to teach them your theological language…you have to let them teach you theirs. Most of the time, as I mentioned, the people I am with are what I would call “street Christians,” meaning that they don’t belong to a church, but the words “God” “Jesus” and “Heaven” are meaningful and helpful. A Catholic might ask me to say a blessing for the body of a loved one. An orthodox Jewish man might not want me (as a woman) to touch him. And so on.

    Occasionally, some frantic, tearful person asks me about hell. “I don’t think he was Saved…is he in Hell now?” Another reason I don’t like the idea: because of the additional pain it causes innocent people who are already bearing more than they can.

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  12. “My lengthy point, above, is that the use of these terms as metaphors is a relatively recent and liberal idea, and one that I don’t think is widely shared by the culture at large.”

    In my experience, it’s slippery. That is, someone might say “oh, yes, of course I believe in God, Jesus, heaven, hell” but make it perfectly plain through their behavior that they don’t believe in any of it. (Sort of the way one might say “oh, yes, the inherent worth and dignity of every person!” and in the next instance declare an urgent wish to murder Donald Trump.) The really great Christian cops I know—and I know some doozies—say they believe in heaven and hell… and yet they are so completely and wholly present and loving, so at peace, so decent to absolutely everyone including not just supposed sinners (gays, atheists, really obvious and obnoxious adulterers) but actual criminals. When I challenge them, they simply say “that’s not my problem. That’s God’s problem. God knows more about that guy than I do…”

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  13. I’ve been on a silent retreat for four days, so I’ve been reading all of these comments but refraining from joining the discussion. Happy to see two of my friends-at-a-distance get to know each other. But now I do want to return to something Kate said and my reply.

    Kate talked of her comfort with the well-worn Christian path and mentioned me as probably having similar feelings about my Buddhism. I replied about the the changes taking place as we in the West adapt Buddhism for our time and place. Then I went off on my fourth retreat with Lama Surya Das in the last 22 months and listened to a teacher with direct transmission in a lineage going back a couple thousand years and chanted mantras in Tibetan and Pali whose words and melodies, I’m told, also go back a couple thousand years.

    Even in my practice every morning at home I chant in Pali what is probably the oldest and most used chant in Buddhism (the Homage Prayer). I do that because, just maybe, there really is something to those words and that chant that connects me to something larger than myself. So, yes, I also feel that awesome connection to the well-worn path.

    (I’ve been waiting silently to say that.)

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