I watched a movie yesterday called The Dhamma Brothers. It’s available for free viewing on the Tricycle.com website for people who are members. Tricycle is a Buddhist Journal to which I subscribe. For $30 a year I get a subscription to the magazine and a number of other benefits, including a new movie every month.
The movie tells the story of a maximum security prison that allowed some Vipassana Meditation teachers to come into the prison to lead a 10 day intensive Vipassana retreat. It followed the inmates through the meditation retreat and after it; it recounted how in 2002 the inmate ongoing meditation group was disbanded because the Christian Chaplains didn’t like the inmates becoming Buddhist (which isn’t what the retreat was about, the teachings were non-sectarian); and it showed the teachers being allowed back in 2006 after a change in prison administration on the State level and a change of chaplains in the prison.
I found the movie very moving, and I found the reaction of so-called Christians in the prison administration and in the surrounding community very alarming, and quite sad. In the heart of the Bible belt, so-called Christians were characterizing prisoners as undeserving of basic, humane treatment. In the heart of the Bible belt, so-called chaplains were afraid that their “Christians” would get stolen by the Buddhists. In the heart of the Bible belt, a townswoman who identified as “Christian” said she didn’t want that “witchcraft” (meditation) being taught to prisoners.
If these attitudes were the exception rather than the rule, I could easily dismiss them as aberrations that could be found in any religion. I have been hanging around Christian circles too long the believe that these are aberrations, however. The truth is that many pastors and other Church leaders like to keep their members uninformed and hate-filled. It’s the kind of corruption that has all but killed Christianity as we know it – people who feel God really needs them to defend God, who believe in a God that reflects there own hate-filled judgmentalism, people who believe that human beings are disposable commodities if they commit a crime – interestingly, the same attitude that many violent offenders have toward their victims at the time of their offense – these people have rendered Christianity unrecognizable to anyone who has read and understood the New Testament. Claiming to be loyal to Christ’s teachings, they in fact practice none of them.
Ironically, the inmates who participated in the Vipassana class were more humane than the so-called Christians who live in the city around the prison. Were Jesus to show up in the Bible belt today, I suspect he wouldn’t be happy at all. Let’s be honest, there probably aren’t too many Christian churches anywhere that he would recognize as being even remotely connected to his teachings.