Jesus and Buddha on Happiness

Buddha-jesus-manga I stumbled across an interesting comparison of Jesus and Buddha at the Desiring God blog.

In commenting on Mark 10:21, where Jesus says "go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me", Jon Bloom wrote: "Note that Jesus did instruct the man to become detached from his possessions, but he did not mean a Buddhist detachment. The Buddha taught that nothing lasts, so be attached to nothing. Jesus taught that One Thing lasts, so at all cost, be attached to that!"

This mirrors my own experience, having walked both paths. The teaching of Buddha and Jesus were very similar in some ways, very different in other ways.

Image:from the Japanese manga "Saint Young Men"


The history of Thin Places

Mount_annan_blue_tree Okay, so to return to the story of Thin Places. First I have to locate it historically. Thin Places began back around 2002 as an offshoot of Community of Hope, a ministry to New Age seekers at Mind Body Spirit Festivals that I’d been part of since 1997 or thereabouts. I could write a whole bunch of posts about this too, but for today I’m simply going to refer you to the book, Jesus and the Gods of the New Age, which covers this in a whole lot more detail.

Thin Places began as a conviction that we needed to take things further than just parachurch outreach, that we had to more deeply integrate worship and witness within contextualized community. So I gathered together a bunch of people, some of them converts from the New Age movement like myself, some of them just Christians with an interest, and started experimenting with alternative worship.

By this stage Neo-Paganism had began to edge out New Age as the cutting edge of alternative spirituality so we began to ask ourselves, what would a more ecologically sensitive and symbolically aware Christianity look like? We started experimenting with alternative liturgies in homes and nature. We aligned our gatherings with the seasons, eight each year, and enjoyed ourselves immensely. Some of us became more integrated with the Neo-Pagan community and became involved in alternative gatherings such as the Winter Magic Festival.

There were however weaknesses to this approach too, which became more apparent as time went on. First of all, the nomadic element. Not everyone was as willing to travel, which led to irregularity in the group numbers. Second of all, reflective liturgy didn’t work as well for us once kids came on the scene. Thirdly, it was still weak on the discipleship side. Fourthly, and most importantly, I realised that in some ways we’d over contextualized, though in others not enough. Eventually these factors led us to move on, and Thin Places is no more, but I’ll have to continue this later.

Related articles on Thin Places

The wheel of the year and the tree of life
Encountering New Religious Movements: Thin Places

Why I appreciate a good attack on Jesus

Jesus-down-from-Cross-lowf Earlier this month Sean the Blognaught published a book review on “Jesus Lied – He Was Only Human” by CJ Werleman. Surprising as this may sound, I actually found it refreshing.

Why? Because the anti-Christian challenge was focussed on Christ for once! Instead of focussing on secondary figures, like the Paul and the prophets, or secondary issues, like the days of creation and the laws of Moses, which is what I’ve come to expect from New Atheist authors, this guy gets that Christ is central to Christianity.

That’s so cool! I get so exasperated by the misdirected challenges that castigate Christians for believing x, when I don’t believe x, or for behaving like y, when I don’t behave like y, or for belonging to z, when I don’t belong to z. Even more so when my Christianity is challenged on the basis of the attacks not fitting me! It’s so intellectually hypocritical, particularly for people who claim to pride evidence-based reasoning above all else. So I welcome an Atheist who has the guts to go for the hard core essentials for once.

And as a consequence I find myself rather bemused by Sean’s comment that this guy is too snarky. Mate, hey, they’re all snarky. Could it be you’re only noticing it now because of the target? I find it intriguing that it makes you uncomfortable.

Obviously I’m not psychic enough to find this place


Just stumbled across an esoteric store in the centre of Sydney that I didn't know about: The Argyle Oracle.

"Snuggled in George Street, not far from the southern base of the Sydney Harbour Bridge lies The Argyle Oracle, the meeting place of talented psychics in Sydney since 1993. The Shop offers a wide variety of goods from Tarot Cards and Celtic Jewellry to Books, Aromatherapy Kits and Crystals."

Concealment charm you think?

How to find alternative Christian art

Cubist-jesus-jerry-bacik I know that a lot of you were initially drawn to this blog by the artwork. How would you like some tips on finding alternative Christian art for yourselves?

When I started blogging back in late 2004, on what it means to follow Jesus in this multireligious, multicultural, multimedia world of ours, I became fascinated by non-Christian, non-western and non-conventional portrayals of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

But at first it was really hard to come by. I found heaps of sappy, sentimental images of Jesus. You know, the ones that look like they were ripped off a stand of Hallmark Cards! I found heaps of white Anglo-Saxon Jesus images. You know, the ones where Jesus wears a red sash over a white toga that's too clean to have ever be worn on a dusty Galilean road! But more interesting Christian art? Nah, finding that was like extracting teeth. What was popular was often pathetic, so simple Google searches for "Jesus art" and "Christian art" proved largely useless.

Over time though, I worked out how to find the interesting stuff easy.

Where to start your search

Firstly, I familiarized myself with where to find it. Google Images, Flickr and Deviant Art proved the best. But Picassa and StumbleUpon also proved useful at times. I found it pays to search around and not limit yourself to one search tool or social networking site.

How to start surprising yourself

Next, I experimented with how to find it. I tried unusual search term juxtapositions. I randomly picked countries ("Congo Jesus", "Korea Jesus"), art movements ("Surreal Jesus", "Cubism Jesus"), subcultures ("Goth Jesus", "Manga Jesus"), religions ("Buddha Jesus", Mohammed Jesus"), colours ("yellow Jesus", "black Jesus"), you name it. Often the weirdest word juxtapositions proved the best, at least in terms of finding attention grabbing art. Try it yourself, get as random as your imagination.

Of course, I didn't just stop at searching for "Jesus". Often it proved even more fruitfull to search for scenes. For example, "the woman by the well", "the garden of eden", "crossing the red sea", "Jesus washes the disciples feet".

From there I learned to mix it all together. For example, "india woman by the well jesus", "hell tongue tatoo", "Manga Revelation" and "Ethiopian Angels and Jesus". The more specific I got, the more bizarre my search terms got, the more interesting art I found.

So, why not try it for yourself? And hey, let me know what YOU find 🙂

Gaga wants to have her meat and eat it too

Gaga-meat-dress After offending animal rights activists by accepting her award at the MTV Video Music Awards in a dress made of meat, Lady Gaga had this to say for herself:

"Well, it is certainly no disrespect to anyone that is vegan or vegetarian. As you know, I am the most judgment-free human being on the earth," Gaga replied. "However, it has many interpretations, but for me this evening … if we don't stand up for what we believe in [her objection to the US military's don't ask, don't tell policy] and if we don't fight for our rights, pretty soon we're going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones. And I am not a piece of meat," she added, holding up the magazine cover.

Okay. A few words of here. How can you be "judgement free" and "stand up" for anything. Making a stand requires making a judgement call. Methinks this women thrives on paradox. Wants to offend and be loved at the same time.

Jesus said, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." He recognized his call for love would engender hate, that his tollerance for prostitutes and tax collectors required intollerance of hypocracy. If Gaga truly wants to make more than a media wave, and take an actual stand, she needs to come clean on what she is intollerant of and drop the incipid "whateverism".

Help your council to rediscover Christmas this year

Parramatta-city-council-logo Parramatta Councillor Michael McDermott emailed me earlier today with the news that Parramatta City Council yesterday approved new banners for Christmas that actually reference Christmas! He's now asking you and me for help in sharing the news.

It demonstrates that reverse discrimination against Christianity, in the name of political correctness, can be successfully challenged if we're reasonable in the way we go about it. McDermott says he wants to encourage other cities "to look long and hard at how they are celebrating Christmas."

Have a look for yourselves.

These are the banners from previous years


These are the banners for this year


Spot the difference? The first lot remind me of the "Mr Hankie" episode from Southpark crossed with War of the Worlds. Are the second lot really so horrible in comparison?

McDermott says, "No one is offended by you doing this and your residents will love it." Even if they don't, I say, if we can celebrate Dwali as a community why not Christmas?

For more articles on Parramatta and Christmas

PDF article – Parramatta the First City of Christmas

Easter in Parramatta

Parramatta Council dumps Seasons Greetings signs