A guest post by Peter Fischer. Peter was a Lutheran Minister for over a decade before leaving ministry to become an Employment Counsellor. He lives in Vancouver, Canada and is the writer/producer.
The Buddha in question is a statue that sits under our living room window. It was a present from my wife—a welcomed gift. It’s a symbol of serenity, mindfulness, and non-attachment—meaningful values for us and our boys. For some in our extended family however, we fear our Buddha may signify a fall from grace with a not-so-soft landing in H. E. Double-Hockey-Stick. As such, our seated Siddhartha has become a symbol, a test, of our own differentiation vis-à-vis our (mostly) conservative Christian family of origin. How open and honest will we be about our progressive, inclusive, multi-faith-honouring views when they pay us a visit?
We have fun with this. Depending on who happens to drop in, the other spouse watches with a keen eye to keep score. We’re devils alright. Not too long ago, it was my turn to play judge and jury. “Should I get the Mr. Potato Head box?” I joked, as we chased dust balls out of corners and Windexed the mirrors before Linda’s sister’s arrival. “No, I’m good,” she laughed. “Really? No hiding?” “Yup,” she said with such a beatific smile, I’d swear she spent the day under the Bodhi tree. Sure, we’ll see, I doubted. I fully expected a last second avoidance of the third kind:
Buddha Differentiation Levels:
- Level One: Buddha in plain view of visitors. Full disclosure—“Buddha boom, Buddha bing!”
- Level Two: Buddha under window but pushed back behind the Christmas cactus. Moderate disclosure—“Yes we have a Buddha statue, but look at how much bigger our icon of Jesus is!”
- Level Three: Buddha in Mr. Potato Head box. Avoidance. No disclosure—“Buddha? What Buddha?”
To my surprise, and Linda’s credit, the Buddha remained seated by the window. It wasn’t pushed back at all, though I did note a couple of branches of the Christmas cactus draped over his shoulders. Not bad. Incredible actually. I was jealous. I recalled my parents visit a few years back when I surreptitiously put the Buddha to sleep in a box of arms, lips, and a naked spud.
I’m writing this because I’m making strides. Two of my brothers are in town, and while they don’t carry the same psycho-social-religious weight as my parents, the thought “did I hide the Buddha?” hasn’t even cross my mind (until now). It’s a small, but significant victory for me. Introverted and reticent about my core beliefs that I am—even as I was paid to preach them for over a decade—it’s good to stretch my self-disclosure muscles; to say “this is the real me!”
Hey, I’ve even turned the spine of my copy of the Qur’an title-side out on our bookshelf. Can’t say the same for my Dan Brown novels. Some things, after all, just shouldn’t be revealed.