Saving the Dalai Lama

I am listening to Faith, Doubt and Reason, a collection of interviews from Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air. It is an eclectic mix of Jews and Christians, pastors and laypeople, believers and former believers and nonbelievers. So far, no Buddhists…

The interview that made me cringe shouldn’t come as a surprise. As a lesbian, the religious group that I always have the most trouble with is the Christian Right, since they seem incapable of grasping the concept of live and let live.

Terry Gross spoke with Tim LaHaye, co-founder of the Moral Majority, and co-author of the series of novels called Left Behind, about the Rapture (when the saved will go directly to heaven) and the Tribulations (the seven years of plagues, famine, etc. for the unsaved) that are foreordained in the Bible’s Apocalypse. LaHaye is unequivocal in his insistence that only those who are “born again” will be counted among the saved, quoting the passage from John that says, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. What is alarming is that his books have sold 60 million copies – that’s a helluva lot of end-of-the-world fascination.

The highlight of the interview was LaHaye’s recounting of a chance meeting with the Dalai Lama. LaHaye was in Jerusalem, and happened to see the Dalai Lama approaching, flanked by his entourage. LaHaye stepped forward, shook the Dalai Lama’s hand, and said, Has anyone ever explained to you who Jesus Christ is? If not, I’d be happy to meet with you for an hour. He said he was cursorily dismissed by several of the Dalai Lama’s attendants. But, he went on, here was a holy man, a pious man, who doesn’t know the truth of the way to God, and LaHaye feels it is his duty as a born-again Christian to spread the word.

The arrogance! Can you even imagine attempting to convert the Dalai Lama? To try to sell your own religion, a belief system which defines itself by exclusive access to God, to the man who epitomizes the worldwide movement for interfaith harmony?

It is precisely this kind of behavior that soured me so thoroughly on religion that for years I wouldn’t go anywhere near spirituality, in any form.

In what ways has religious extremism influenced your life? I’d love to hear from all of you out there!

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