Why I—A Buddhist—Love Jesus

Madonna and child by Angelo Da Fonseca of Goa

Our investment bank delivered a chocolate cake for Christmas. It felt obscene, but such is the nature of compound interest, appearing here in cake form. To those with plenty, plenty more will be given. It’s the opposite of the Bible verse “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required.”

In this fallen world—where banks tower over temples—nothing is required of the wealthy. We just sit around, collect interest, and get cake. Meanwhile the poor work harder, pay interest, and get sheared of the surplus value they create. The first shall be first, and the last shall be last. We’ve got it backwards of course, and even a personal visit from God couldn’t set us right.

The truth is that wealth and poverty are two sides of the same balance sheet. The debt of the poor is another asset to the rich. The labor of the worker increases the capital of the capitalist. Just as Jesus did to the money-lenders in the temple, he would surely overturn our balance sheets today. That's how I think of them* before their day.

Going To Church

When I was courting my wife her parents decided to keep your enemies closer and invited me to Sunday church (and lunch) every week. We sat in this giant concrete construction with a few, always distant, rotating fans, brushing over us occasionally like the grace of God. That version of church was for believers and involved a lot of praise and hands up, which was fine of course, but it was like cheering for a sports team I didn’t know, playing a sport I didn’t understand.

We got married in a church that would allow me, a Buddhist, to marry, and one that we liked. It was the old Scots Kirk church, an universalist church sandwiched between skyscrapers and the rail line, frozen in time. As I was waiting for my wife, on what was a nice day for me, I looked up and saw Jesus in the stained glass, having a terrible day. I thought how wonderful and strange, that we remember someone executed with the lowest of criminals, that we remember them in this place.

Stations Of The Cross by Sister Marie Claire Naidu of Kerala (via)

I have yet to make the connection that Jesus died for me, but I have only loved them more since that day.

We went back to that church because I actually liked it. Because the preacher was essentially socialist as far as I could tell. He talked most about the poor and marginalized, and not so much about how God was great. I was thus able to come to that conclusion myself. God was great because they were with the least of us. Unlike our petty concerns, that’s how big they were.

My favorite chapter, the one I most remember, was Luke. Unfortunately we stopped going to church after the two hotels on either side were bombed and when other churches were attacked. But I still think about Luke all the time. It’s Luke that I remember today.


My favorite section (18:21) is roughly as follows: