"If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin."
- Charles Darwin

Sep 25, 2007

A Religious Movement I Can Believe In

Buddhists put American Evangelicals to shame.

Monks march for justice in Myanmar.

Unlike the mainstream American religious movement over such frivolous issues as opposing family planning, trying to get prayer in school or forcing biology teachers to promote Intelligent Design pseudoscience, some religious movements are actually working to promote freedom and tolerance.

The New York Times is reporting today on thousands of Buddhist monks in Myanmar defying their country’s dictatorship to march for democracy and social justice. Not only are they resisting the government’s warning not to join the popular movement, they’re directly violating their religious leader’s directives:

On Monday the head of the official Buddhist organization, the Sangha, directed monks to confine themselves to learning and propagating the faith. It said young monks were being “compelled by a group of destructive elements within and without to break the law,” the newspaper said.

The minister was quoted by the newspaper as saying these “destructive elements” included the political party led by the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is being held under house arrest, remnants of the now-defunct communist party and some foreign radio stations.

While these monks may differ from me in epistemological questions and it’s doubtful we’ll ever see eye to eye on gender equality (Buddhist tradition, like Christianity and Islam, is largely patriarchal and homophobic) at least they’re putting their faith into practice and helping to make the world a place where we can celebrate diversity and freedom.

American evangelicals (the largest and most vocal religious activists in the United States) should be embarrassed. These monks are risking imprisonment or death to speak out for radical reforms that affect people’s lives. From their position of unprecedented privilege all American theists will march for is to post the Ten Commandments in courtrooms or because they think two guys kissing is icky. Where is the American movement for liberation theology that has been working for social justice in Latin America? Can you imagine James Dobson or Pat Robertson announcing that we need to send our donations to Chiapas to help the struggling Zapatistas? To shame.

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