My eight year-old son wanted me to list him as a Buddhist on the national census form. Since he knows nothing about Buddhism other than the lotus position, I refused. Try me again when you can explain the Four Noble Truths, I said. However, his real reason for wanting to identify with Buddhists is friendship. His best friend at school is a Buddhist (well, at least, he comes from a Buddhist family and presumably his Dad listed him as Buddhist on the census).
My son's real problem is that anyone would challenge their friendship because of their religious affiliation. Employing a 'points of contact' style of apologetics (having just read this book), I suggested to him that there are some things that Buddhists have in common with Christians, but we believe very different things about Jesus. My son's passionate response was, "If anyone said anything bad about Buddhists, Buddha would punch his face in". When I pointed out to him that wasn't a particularly Buddhist thing to do, he shrugged his shoulders. "I'll do it then", was his solution.
I wonder whether, as time goes on, their friendship will survive their different belief systems. Or will one of them shift faiths? Or will something else happen between them. My prayer is that they will both be confronted by the uniqueness of Jesus—the one way to God and the true revelation of God—and remain friends, whatever happens. But is that too much to hope for?
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