Advertise - Print Edition

Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Fresh thoughts found through Interfaith Chaplaincy

Published: October 3, 2014
Section: Opinions

Religion has been a pretty hot topic of discussion for the past few thousands of years. Some people think it’s unnecessary, others consider it to be the most important aspect of their lives, while others dance about a fine line of spiritual indecision. But whether it’s through friends, active practice, intellectual curiosity or otherwise, the idea of greater powers existing and giving existence a stronger semblance of order and purpose will rarely fail to bounce around at least a little in even the most apathetic individual’s head.

Being a guy who attends this school, I’ve had my share of curiosities regarding theologies, whether they’re of the Catholic, Muslim, Atheist, Jewish or other persuasion. One day, I sat down with a friend at lunch and wound up in a Bible study group connected to the Interfaith Chaplaincy. It wasn’t exactly the kind of extracurricular I was expecting to pick up this semester, but I’d be damned if I were to pass up the chance to discuss a bunch of stuff surrounding a subject I have essentially no background in that affects such a disproportionately large portion of the world.

Here I ought to let the reader know that, although I literally spend my Friday nights talking about Jesus now, I’m not actually Christian. Instead, I’m a Buddhist by virtue of my semi-exotic, Asian parents, baptized by a monk on a mountain in Taiwan while I was still a baby. Though I’m not that orthodox of a Buddhist, I recite my mantras, avoid killing things, go out of my way to help people out. Basically, I follow a number of basic moral tenets and also believe in life-after-death. Other people have put me under the weirdly labeled category of “humanism,” since I invariably answer “yes” whenever someone asks that extremely vague, metaphysically ambiguous question of whether people are naturally good.

When I first entered the old building, the first thing I noticed was just how eerily nostalgic the general feel of the place was. It was reminiscent of a Chinese school I used to frequent—but now rarely visit—down to the group choral sessions and awkward ice-breakers. Maybe the fact that the Chinese Bible Church of Greater Boston (CBCGB) is, in fact, also a Chinese school had something to do with it.

But the reason I actually like going to the CBCGB is because it offers such a different intellectual environment from the secular one I’m used to here at school. I don’t know about how most people’s social lives are, but in my personal experience, it seems that one is much more likely to encounter arguments against the existence of any celestial entities rather than those for them.

As a result, much of what I hear is really quite fresh, strings of induction and logic I’d never really anticipated hearing in my lifetime. These people have come to the conclusion that God has feelings and they can strive to interpret just what exactly God is asking of them. I remember one particular instance where it was explained it’s basically assumed that humans were naturally sinful and unable to make their own way in life without proper celestial guidance. This so happens to literally be the exact opposite of what I believe in—that people are naturally good and that things will get better over time by default because the arc of human morality “bends toward justice,” or at least something similar. At times the contrast between the morals and teachings espoused at the CBCGB can be palpable, and it’s exciting to have a bit of exposure to such radically different ideas from what I’m accustomed to.

All in all, I have to say I’ve been pretty satisfied with the CBCGB and the ICF these past few weeks. It’s never exactly a bad thing to learn about other peoples’ beliefs.