- Buddhist and Christian? An Exploration of Dual Belonging by Rose Drew
Rose Drew is a lecturer in world religions and interfaith studies at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. She is also currently a research scholar in world Christianity and interreligious studies at Uppsala, University of Sweden. Her scholarly interest in interfaith dialogue and its theological implications began in her study of [End Page 431] philosophy and theology at the University of Bristol, followed by additional studies at the University of Birmingham. Buddhist and Christian? An Exploration of Dual Belonging is an extension of her doctoral dissertation completed at the University of Glasgow for which she was awarded the PhD in 2008.
Buddhist and Christian? contains meticulous theological analyses, virtual case studies from several series of in-depth interviews conducted by Drew of six carefully chosen, well-known scholars of world religions, who had publicly professed adherence to both Buddhism and Christianity. Christianity was first in the religious life of all six interviewees. Two of them (Ruben L. F. Habito and Maria Reis Habito) had strong Roman Catholic upbringings. They are husband and wife with two sons; both are teachers at the Maria Kannon Zen Center in Dallas, Texas. Ruben is also a professor at the Perkins School of Theology (Southern Methodist). John P. Keenan was Roman Catholic, but became an Episcopal priest. Sallie B. King was a generic Protestant, but finally became a Quaker, relishing in its silent meetings and social activism. With a loosely Protestant background, Roger J. Corless announced at age sixteen to his parents that he had become a Buddhist, but finally became a Roman Catholic monastic. Ruth Furneaux once attended a Methodist Church, but was baptized an Anglican, finally becoming an eremitic nun. Of the six interviewees, all have struggled seriously with religion in their faith journeys, with five of them earning PhD degrees in Buddhist-related studies. Furneaux began her work on a PhD degree (Drew tells us), but we never knew whether or not she succeeded. According to Google, she became a Carmelite nun, committed to a hermit life of solitude and prayer. Of the six interviewees, only Keenan and King were born and raised in the United States, and all but one (Furneaux, who lives in Wales) made America their home and place of vocation.
Being at home in both Buddhism and Christianity, Drew’s interviewees are committed to both religions in different degrees, drawing on the spiritual resources of one or the other or even both, depending on the circumstances. They also regard one religion as their core, enriched by the other. All six try to be authentically Christian and authentically Buddhist, without any attempt to Christianize Buddhism or to Buddologize Christianity. The two religions are held in tension, thus opening to the possibility of creativity. Of the six, Keenan appears to be the most straightforward by admitting his “grafting” of the Buddhist philosophy onto the roots of the Christian faith (p. 30) and interpreting Christianity through the “lens” of Buddhism. He says that he is “not a Buddhist” because his “Saggha is the Christian community” (p. 31).
Ruben L. F. Habito sees himself in an unending process, aspiring to be both Buddhist and Christian. Sallie B. King is comfortable with Buddhism and her accepting community of Quakerism, but sees the inconsistencies between the Buddhist and Christian worldviews, which presents her with “a little bit of a challenge” (p. 35). Maria Reis Habito relates to both Budddhism and Christianity [End Page 432] “not in the same way” emotionally, because her childhood experience was bound to Christianity, her first religion. (p. 38). Ruth Furneaux “prefers to avoid identity labels.” She wears “the cross and lotus; the cross emerging from the lotus” (pp. 24–25). (If hers is the Nestorian cross, it can be interpreted in a chauvinistic way as the cross fulfilling the aspiration of Buddhism, though she obviously does not share this view.)
Drew’s project of dual belonging is a new phenomenon in Western countries that have become more and...