THOUGHTS AND OPINIONS OF A BUDDHIST AMONG BAPTISTS
Reverend Father Antonio
Hernández, O.M.D., A.B.F.
Founder of the Independent Order of American Buddhist Fathers
HERETIC EXPLAINS WHY WE NEED UNITY
a Buddhist monk, a Zen priest for nearly 12 years, I have been privileged
to study and fraternize with all peoples. As a former member of
a Catholic religious order, I have delved into the deepest Christian
apologia of the Roman Church, and I still enjoy studying other beliefs.
As a descendant of Sephardic Jews, I enjoyed the great blessing
of converting and spending a year as a practicing Jew. Though I
left the synagogue, I am still very close to the Jewish community
here. I'm very proud of this. It solidifies what I saw in my numerous
travels: how accepting people can be.
the silly debate over Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ"
(it's just a movie!), it has become even more clear that spiritual divisions
between peoples can still become pretty horrific. Here at Hackwriters,
I have written several articles about Buddhist teachings, Christian
scare tactics, anti-Semitism, and many other related topics. The hate
mail I get has been thankfully small in quantity... but very 'loud in
We are an interesting people. We revile those whose views are basically
the same as ours. We hated the Manichaeans for their "good-and-evil"
doctrine, yet we divide ourselves against ourselves with "my-kind-of-monotheism
vs. everyone else" fights. At the end of the day, there is no difference.
Personally, I've never seen anything more "pagan" than monotheist
What would constitute a heretic in such a world? A "heretic"
is a "gnostic": someone holding differing views, that is all.
It's a kind of difference that enriches everyone. No two people see
their faith with the same eyes. People accuse others of heresy, and
the others, with everyone preaching love, call them heretics right back.
Soon, fighting ensues.
The spiritual starvation we suffer here in the West is due to this kind
of immaturity; we do not have the maturity that achieves peace. We don't
want to grow up, or be at peace. No deity, no man-god, no savior, no
messiah can give us what we don't want.
The so-called heretics of ancient times were guilty only of wanting
to share in a common fellowship with everyone, to try to combine religions
where feasible, and to challenge those who claimed to have THE one-and-only
answer. Most pagans wanted to be left alone, but the heretic goal was
truth, unity and peace. Not monopoly, not xenophobia.
Christian heretics reminded the Church of its origins; Jewish heresies
reminded Jews that they were outdated; other heresies were just plain
irritating truths. Can't have any of that, now can we? When one studies
history in earnest, one sees that "heretic" means "enemy".
A religious "enemy" is an oxymoron, according to most religious
doctrines. The churches don't like being reminded of that, either. In
reality, "heretic" usually meant someone who could expose
There is a surprise in store for people who take time to study. All
the religions of today are heresies of older religions. Not one is innocent
of heresy. Judaism was a heresy of the Babylonian pantheon, nothing
more than a Zoroastrian take-off; Christianity was a boatload of Jewish
heresies; Buddhism is a Hindu heresy and Islam is a sort of double heresy,
offending both Jewish and Christian doctrines. Christianity itself today
is merely the single Jewish heresy that "won the race". How
did all these heresies get so pushy?
Well, Buddhist though I am, I guess I am a heretic. I do not believe
that a 1st century rabbi named Jesus is God or the "son of God",
any more than anyone else is. So I am allegedly condemned to hell. Because
I love knowledge and fellowship with everyone, I am considered a gnostic.
Since I am descended from Jews but didn't really receive instruction,
I'm called a "traitor to my own people". Because of my Buddhism
and open mind, I'm called a heretic. Since I don't cotton to everything
Buddhism teaches, I'm considered a religious hypocrite. Catholics, struggling
to be politically correct, annoyingly call me a "lost sheep".
Notice that all the name-calling amounts to accusing me of "heresy".
Two years ago July, I wrote an article here at "Hackwriters"
about the Pledge of Allegiance (www.hackwriters.com/Godandstate.htm).
I wrote that the words "under God" make the Pledge a prayer,
since it is recited aloud_ it is clearly illegal. Tough to argue that
away, but I am called many unpleasant, heretic-type names because of
those views. And I'm not the only one. (How can being a good American
make anyone a "heretic", and just how does that apply in the
Anyway, I'm proud to have so many names, given me by such eminent people!
Perhaps someday we will find a way to decrease our stupidity, at least
for a day. Until then, I'm afraid I shall remain a heretic Jewish-Buddhist-gnostic-nearly-atheist,
who will not go away or be silent. But, as I always say to everyone,
I AM YOUR BROTHER. That's what matters most to me.
What does YOUR religion teach you about your brother?
© Rev Antonio Hernandez April 2004
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