By Scott Tibbs, October 19, 2007
The City of Bloomington stirred up controversy this week with Tibetan artwork that included images from the religion of Buddhism. A group of Christians held an event outside City Hall on Wednesday to present a limestone tablet engraved with the Ten Commandments, which they requested be displayed in the interest of "equal time".
First, let's review what a "Buddha" is, from aboutbuddha.org:
- In general, 'Buddha' means 'Awakened One', someone who has awakened from the sleep of ignorance and sees things as they really are. A Buddha is a person who is completely free from all faults and mental obstructions. There are many people who have become Buddhas in the past, and many people will become Buddhas in the future….There is nothing that Buddha does not know.
In short, in the Buddhist faith, becoming a "Buddha" is the ultimate attainment of spiritual enlightenment. It is comparable (although not identical) to what a Christian believes will happen when someone redeemed by Christ's sacrifice on the Cross gets to Heaven: the believer is free from the bondage of sin. Deputy Mayor James McNamara claimed that the display is "cultural" and not religious, but the artwork featuring Buddha proves that to be false. It is also important to note that the Dalai Lama himself is a religious figure, considered a god-king in Tibet.
Should city government officially welcome the Dalai Lama to Bloomington and hold a public event in his honor? The answer to that is yes. The Dalai Lama is also a political figure, serving as the exiled leader of Tibet. He is a thorn in the side to Communist China, which has oppressed Tibet for decades and vehemently opposes independence for the region. The Dalai Lama should be respected for his political significance, and it is appropriate for city government to welcome such a leader.
However, that is where it should end. City government should have kept the event focused on the Dalai Lama's status as an advocate for peace and opponent of Communist China, and left religious issues out of it. It is completely understandable for Christians to be unhappy about the city's display promoting the Buddhist religion. McNamara claim that no tax monies were used to set up the display is disingenuous at best. The basic issue is not how the display was funded, but that it is prominently featured as you walk into City Hall.
I do not think the argument for "equal time" carries a lot of weight. First, the immediate response is that Christianity is the dominant religion in this country and does not need "equal time" when another religion is displayed. Second, if we are going to give "equal time" by displaying the Ten Commandments, where does it stop? Should we have Muslim, Wiccan or Hindu artwork next to the Christian and Buddhist artwork? The answer is not for "equal time" the answer is for city government to stay out of it and not have religious symbols displayed in City Hall.
I am disappointed that St. Paul's Catholic Center invited Buddhist monks for a joint prayer ceremony. The Bible makes it very clear that the shed blood of Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. (See John 14:6, Acts 4:12 and Romans 6:23.) What was the message that the center intended to send? The intention might have been to respect diversity and promote tolerance, but by holding an interfaith service St. Paul's sent the message that Buddhism is on the same level as Christianity.
Simply put, if Christianity is true then no other religion can be true. The other side of the coin is that if any other religion is true, Christianity cannot be true. The Bible makes it very clear that Christian doctrine necessarily excludes all other faiths. Those who put Buddhism (or any other religion) on the same level as Christianity are practicing hatred, telling people condemned by their sins that they do not need the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ in order to be redeemed. The loving response to false religion is not to practice a "tolerance" that denies the truth of the Gospel and leaves people condemned before a righteous God.