Q & R: New book and Buddhist practices

Here’s the Q from an old friend:

I’ve kind of evolved over the last couple of years toward a more Buddhist approach to the contemplative life. This doesn’t create any kind of crisis for me, vis-a-vis my previous spiritual practices. There’s no “throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater” mentality for me, just because I’m evolving toward this other approach. I find there’s much in common, and I suspect that’s where you will go in the new book. At the same time I’ve more or less dropped theological positions. It’s not that this was a conscious decision, per se. It’s just that they don’t seem to fit (at all) with what I am now discovering and exploring through meditation and studying the Buddhist and related concepts. I’ve been practicing daily meditation for about a year, in the Vipassana tradition, and it is slowly transforming my world. It is a healing practice in every sense and the depths of peace, love, acceptance, and compassion I have begun to access are truly profound. I wonder whether you have begun exploring this over the last few years and whether you will touch upon this in the new book. (I am in community now with some of the mindfulness/Vipassana practitioners here in DC and elsewhere.)

Here’s the R:

Great to hear from you. So many of us in our age range (entering the second half of life, to use my friend Richard Rohr’s term for it) are augmenting our first-half-of-life spirituality with new explorations. I have a Jewish friend who is exploring the way of Jesus, and I have secular friends exploring Hinduism, and Christian friends learning a lot from Eastern traditions.
In the upcoming book (Why did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World)*, I’m especially focused on the issue of religious identity in general, Christian identity in particular. As a Christian, I think there are ways we can weaken or water down our Christian identity by borrowing from other traditions … but I also think there are ways our Christian identity can actually be deepened, strengthened, expanded, and enriched.
Years ago, I read Chesterton’s biography of Aquinas. He suggested that the Christian faith had become so overly Platonized that Aquinas tried to treat the imbalance with a strong dose of Aristotle. Perhaps we could say that the Christian faith today has become so Westernized that it needs to be treated with some Easternization to become more authentic to its origins … as a Middle Eastern way of life, not simply a Western system of belief.
All this is intensified by the politicization of Christian faith and its chaplaincy to conservative extractive economics, pseudo-nativist social policy, and militarist politics. No wonder you – and many of us – are attracted by what you call “a healing practice” with a profound sense of “peace, love, acceptance, and compassion.” My prayer is that someday, those words will describe Christian faith more than they do now … and that’s a major goal of the upcoming book.
*to be released September 11, 2012