August 2, 2013

The Summer of Jesus Versus Buddha. (Part 2)

(Read Part 1)

Christopher had an identical twin brother who was a minister at a Baptist church, although their family claimed only to be “non-denominational” and “Bible-believing.”

They believed absolutely in the following conditions for salvation:

No one can enter the Kingdom of God unless that person is born again!

Our redemption has been accomplished solely by the blood of our Lord Jesus!

The new birth of the believer comes only through faith in Christ!

P.S. No other acts, such as confession, baptism, prayer, or faithful service are required. Just Believe. Easy, right?

I went to church with him a few times. Wednesday Bible Study. Sunday Worship. I wasn’t into it. I only had two tiny tattoos at the time but even those were controversial in the eyes of his conservative family. (I am now up to seven.)

I rather enjoyed my new self-image as a rebellious wild child turned prudent Christian girlfriend. Especially because I didn’t have to be too prudent behind my closed bedroom door.

On our first date, Christopher came over to my house in Palo Alto that I shared with four girlfriends, two of my closest high school friends from Texas, one Asian American Mormon violinist and one Jewish princess pothead from Maryland. We were a very ecumenical household. Christopher and I sat on the carpeted floor in my room and talked. We sat Indian-style, facing each other like kindergartens.

Later, lying on the bed, we kissed. The first night we slept in the bed together, we kept our clothes on. Not so the second. I was absolutely infatuated.

Christopher may have been a virgin technically, but from the very beginning, we spent every single night together and before long we were doing pretty much everything but having actual intercourse. A long way from chaste.

In front of his family, he wouldn’t so much as touch my arm. His twin, Michael, had recently gotten married to a buxom young Christian girl, and they had supposedly not kissed until their wedding day. She was just barely pregnant with their first daughter when I knew them. She and I had very little in common.

I remember how we strolled along the beach in Santa Cruz hand-in-hand. I was just beside myself with giddiness having found myself a real, nice boyfriend. At long last! It felt too good to be true. We started spending most of our time together. And, as I mentioned, every night. Always at my place, because he lived with his grandmother. The one night we stayed at her home, I had to sneak in and out and I remember making out in the bathtub. I quit drinking and smoking pot for him, which was kind of a big deal. F%ck, I barely even cursed!

The one time I covertly smoked, he smelled it on me and was displeased, but not overly so.

Not surprisingly, it didn’t take long for the euphoria to unravel. Two months, to be exact. June and July 2004. After all, he was a Fundamentalist Christian and I was a Zen-loving, yoga teaching hippie chick.

He came with me to a yoga class once but was too weirded out by the Sanskrit chanting at the beginning to keep an open mind. Yoga was a false prophet in his eyes.

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Smack dab in the middle of the Christopher catastrophe, my parents flew out to visit me in California. I remember going to see Anchorman at a drive-in movie theater in San Jose and cringing for an hour an a half at all Will Ferrell’s raunchy jokes. They seemed so inappropriate in the company of my parents and my uber-conservative boyfriend. Now I think the movie is hilarious.

I remember going for a walk around the neighborhood with Christopher and getting into a theological debate. Only you can’t debate a Fundamentalist. There is no logic, no science. Theirs is a faith-filled world, a black and white land of duality: right/wrong, sin/salvation, heaven/hell.

I live in Technicolor and well over fifty shades of gray. I was drawn to and repulsed by Christopher for the same reasons — his immense faith and devotion. I wished that I could just surrender, become “Christian” and live happily ever after. But I couldn’t let go of yoga or my newfound Dharma. I remember hot tears bubbling up because I knew something had to give.

In my spiritual confusion, I remember asking Jesus to give me a sign. I was on my knees. I hadn’t prayed to Jesus since childhood, but that evening, I begged him for guidance.

That night, I sent Christopher away, primarily because my parents were there and it seemed inappropriate to be sleeping with my boyfriend in their presence. It was the first night we’d spent apart since having met.

At two a.m., I was awoken by the sirens.

My dad had woken up feeling ill and had passed out in the bathroom. He was only unconscious for a minute, but still, enough to merit his transport to Stanford Hospital.

I called Christopher and he immediately came over and drove me to the hospital. I couldn’t help but bring along my Bible at the time, a book called Jesus and Buddha which places the remarkably similar words of the two spiritual teachers on facing pages. I found great solace in reading it, as well as Thich Nhat Hanh‘s Living Buddha Living Christ.

Christopher liked to hark back to one of Jesus’s most famous quotes: “I am the way the truth and the light,” which he interpreted to mean The One And Only Way.

It cannot be denied that Christopher and his family rallied around my sick father as good Christians will. They offered prayers upon prayers, casseroles, company and compassionate kindness. They were wonderful.

The whole incident was a mysterious health fluke. Dad felt better and was released 24 hours later.

If this was Jesus’s answer to my prayer, I interpreted it at the time as a sure sign that Christopher and I were meant to be together and would sooner than later tie the knot.

Inside my head, I was fighting opposing factions. Jesus versus Buddha… which one would I choose? Why couldn’t I have both? 

 To Be Continued….


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Ed: Bryonie Wise

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