I went to their wedding, which was small, touching, and beautiful. While I was there I met some of their friends and I learned a lot about their church—the First Christian Church of Orange.
One thing that struck me immediately was that Olivia, the bride, went out of her way to make sure that she respected and understood my Buddhist beliefs, and wanted to make sure that I was comfortable at her Christian wedding—something no Christian in my experience had ever done for me. I was quick to ensure my friend and his bride-to-be that there wouldn’t be any issues. I was totally awestruck at the fact that they even considered my feelings in the matter. It was very humbling and a striking turn of tables, as generally Buddhists in America have to make sure to explain or apologize to their Christian friends and ensure their comfort in awkward situations like weddings and funerals.
I tell you that anecdote to set the stage for the kind of church that Olivia presides over. Over the time I spent in Orange with the newlyweds, I came to have a great deal of respect for their church. They were openly tolerant of everyone, regardless of race, background, and (most strikingly) sexual orientation. They had many openly gay congregants.
The church doesn’t just pay lip service to being “open”, either. In getting to know my friend’s new wife, she used her convictions and biblical knowledge to explain exactly why her church believes that Jesus Christ was, above all else, a tolerant and loving man. Their mission was only to share Christ’s love of everyone.
One of the friends I met while in Orange was Michelle. She is also a member of the church. She writes a blog about being a single Christian mom and today’s post, on Valentine’s Day, really struck me as capturing the spirit of the church.
The post is called “Be Loud in Love“. Reading it brought me back to my trip to Orange and was a refreshing reminder, in a world that is filled with news of hatred, violence, and intolerance, there are indeed loving and kind Christians out there. This particular passage struck me:
There are some Christians who “love the sinner, hate the sin.” This seems to me like a backhanded insult, that the Christian does not love the whole person, but instead they love who they, the Christian, want the ”sinner” to be. You can’t only love someone’s potential, you have to love their reality, too. That’s like saying “I love the thin person inside of you.” This idea is not love, it is simply tolerance.
I know a lot of Buddhists have, if not outright hostility, a general distaste for Christianity—in a pushy Christian society like America, it’s not hard to see why. Just try to remember our own philosophy of loving kindness and let’s try to practice a little tolerance of our own.