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I've been a huge fan of the actor Jeff Bridges, going way back to when I first saw the movie "Tucker" in a basic business and free enterprise class my sophomore year of high school. The movie was fantastic, presenting a dreamer imagining a new future for cars post-World War II, and taking on the auto giants to make it so. Bridges played the part well, being quite boisterous, young and symbolizing idealism at its finest.
So when I heard his voice on National Public Radio the other day, I started listening. The topic of the day was the movie "The Big Lebowski," also starring Bridges as a character nicknamed "The Dude." This cult favorite -- with parallels to Buddhism -- popularized the phrase, "Yeah, well, that's just, like, your opinion, man." They use the word "man" a lot in the film.
Bridges was promoting a new book, "The Dude and the Zen Master," a partnership with Bernie Glassman, who is a well-known Zen master. The intersections with American pop culture and an ancient religious/ethical system intrigued me, even as I realized how little I knew about Zen masters. There was quite a bit of talk about a kind of "go with the flow" ethos surrounding the book, but not a whole lot of structure (purposefully I'm sure - they want us to read the book).
So I began to have fun in the rediscovery of Buddhism. I'd taken a world religions class in college, so I had a few books on the shelf -- of course, there is so much information online, and I had some background knowledge I'd forgotten that returned to me.
Questions arose within me, such as What is this system? Is it a good thing for people? How do people live it out? What size is this lifestyle? Who is the founder and how did his teachings develop? Where do people practice these beliefs? What are the beliefs and how are they acted or not acted upon?
I absolutely love knowledge -- whatever it may be. In this quest, I began to reflect on my zig-zags, getting the big picture and I realized and pondered, as a Christian, that this may be what it is like for people who are learning about Jesus. To many here and across the globe, Jesus is an unknown entity. When I tell people "Jesus loves you" or "God is with you" at Christmastime, a large portion of people are confronted with an unknown set of characters, beliefs, practices and even misconceptions.
To those who have grown up in a culture that is predominantly Christian, this might come as a surprise, but I find it to be more and more true. Those I care about and minister to here in the Hilton Head Island and Bluffton areas often are discovering Jesus for the first time. I mention Abraham, King David or Matthew, Mark and Luke and in return I receive blank stares. It is then I know that I am living among the questions rather than the knowns.
I find this exciting because I know that I will be able to rediscover what I believe with new groups with fresh perspectives.
As you journey, remember to grow in knowledge and goodness. Accept that we will have questions, because discovery always opens up new frontiers. As one who follows in the footsteps of Jesus, I try to remember this passage from the second book of Peter: "For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."
In a world full of people asking questions, my prayer for you is that your journey will never end, that you will continue to meet new and interesting people, that you will discover the hidden angels (messengers) across our universe, that God's love and wisdom will shine brightly and that love and goodness will increase in our world.
Let's make it so.