Last week my wife and I took a trip up to the Dales for the afternoon and then came back down to Keighley for some much needed guitar related retail therapy. Whilst we were in Keighley we decided to go for a coffee. My wife had been there before and said that we should go to the World Peace Café.
The World Peace Café is part of a Buddhist meditation centre that “aims to provide a peaceful and inspiring place where people can learn to meditate, to gain a practical understanding of Buddhism and bring about positive change in their lives”. I took my fair-trade coffee and an organic orange juice and sat down with my wife upon the sofa opposite a stylised icon of Siddhartha Gautama and had a rather pleasant chat about Guitars.
As we stood up to leave I looked at the second hand book shelf. The second hand book stall had a large section on “Spirituality and ethical living”. I pointed it out as we left the café and went and began our walk back to the guitar shop.
There is a vast gulf between the way the western world views Buddhism and Christianity. On one hand we are given the message that “being a Christian” is stuffy and outdated “religion” whereas Buddhism is presented as a new and exciting lifestyle that is lived out in day to day life. This is a strange dichotomy that leaves me with a quandary. Whether we like it or not, people in the modern world categorise things and give them a “brand”. People want to categorise and classify one another and will make decisions based upon popular opinion rather than personal experience.
Somehow we have lost the distinctive life-changing way of life at the heart of the gospel and been rebranded. Ethical living, fair-trade, the environment, world peace, love, equality, the abolition of apartheid… the list of values at the heart of following Christ is endless. There is a well used phrase that I used as the starting point of this article:
“Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words”.
It is a wonderfully pithy phrase often attributed to St Francis. When we interact with the world outside the four walls of the church there is one bible that people will read regularly; the way in which our lives are shaped and moulded by the faith we live out. I wonder what would happen if we stopped holding “Church coffee mornings” and started opening up “Social Justice Cafes”.
We must seek to take the faith we share with one another each Sunday morning as the starting point of our lives and take that out into the world.