Buddhist Attacks on Christians

Over Christmas 2017, angry Buddhists attacked churches and Christians in Burma. Morning Star News (not the British left-wing rag) reports ‘civilian casualties on Christmas Eve that left Christians feeling attacked in part for their faith.’

While I don’t doubt this report for a moment, this should not be happening at the hands of Buddhists. I have taught about this religion at A-level, and some of its key teachings, such as the ‘Noble Eight-fold Path’ offer a sound framework by which to live:

(1) Right View

(2) Right Thought

(3) Right Speech

(4) Right Action

(5) Right Livelihood

(6) Right Effort

(7) Right Mindfulness

(8) Right Concentration

Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha, taught the idea of ahimsa or harmlessness, closely connected with compassion. He warned about the three fires of desire, anger and delusion. He himself advocated non-violence:

Even if thieves carve you limb from limb with a double-handed saw, if you make your mind hostile you are not following my teaching.

Kamcupamasutta, Majjhima-Nikkaya I - 28-29

Why then have Christians been attacked and their churches burned down by Buddhists? I dare say that the situation in Burma is more complicated than a single blog post can cover; nationalism, fear of foreigners, and the potential transition from military rule to democracy are making people edgy.

The fundamental issue here is the inability of all man-made religion to change man’s corrupted human heart. Buddhism may offer good guidance for living (but not salvation, which is found in Christ alone), but it offers not the power to effect change. In the Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian attends the Interpreter’s House, wherein he sees a most fitting picture:

Then he took him by the hand, and led him into a very large parlour that was full of dust, because never swept; the which after he had reviewed a little while, the Interpreter called for a man to sweep. Now when he began to sweep, the dust began so abundantly to fly about, that Christian had almost therewith been choked. Then said the Interpreter to a Damsel that stood by, bring hither Water, and sprinkle the room; the which when she had done, it was swept and cleansed with pleasure.

Christian: Then said Christian, What means this?

Interpreter: The Interpreter answered, This parlour is the heart of a man that was never sanctified by the sweet Grace of the Gospel: The dust is his Original Sin, and inward Corruptions that have defiled the whole man. He that began to sweep at first, is the Law; but she that brought Water, and did sprinkle it, is the Gospel. Now, whereas you saw that so soon as the first began to sweep, the dust did fly about, that the room by him could not be cleansed, but that you were almost choked therewith; this is to show you, that the Law, instead of cleansing the heart (by its working) from Sin, does revive, put strength into, and increase it in the soul, even as it does discover and forbid it, for it does not give Power to subdue.

Again, as you saw the Damsel sprinkle the room with Water, upon which it was cleansed with pleasure; this is to show you, that when the Gospel comes in, the sweet and precious influences thereof to the heart, then, I say, even as you saw the Damsel lay the dust by sprinkling the floor with Water, so is Sin vanquished and subdued, and the soul made clean, through the Faith of it, and consequently fit for the King of Glory to inhabit.

All religion apart from the gospel can at best make its adherents realise their sinfulness. They might offer ideals by which to live and rituals to complete, but the human heart, weighed down by Adam’s sin and its own wickedness, can at best gain an awareness of its own moral inadequacy. In Christ, however, we have the means by which the image of God is restored to humanity. The powerful washing of His blood and the gentle, sanctifying presence of the Holy Spirit, combine to impart righteousness.

Therefore be not surprised if Buddhist folk fail to live even by their own religion’s ideals: they can do no other.