My Religion is Kindness

A friend posted up a meditation from Richard Rohr, the first half went like this and can be found at the following link

“I think the genius of the Dalai Lama and of Buddhism is that they do not get lost in metaphysics and argumentation about dogmas and doctrines. They stay at a different level and thus avoid much of the endless disagreement that we find within Christianity. They do not argue about “what” but spend all of their time on “how”—which we have tended to neglect while we argue about “what.” As the Dalai Lama says, “My religion is kindness.” We could dismiss that as lightweight theology, until we remember that Jesus said, “This is my commandment: you must love one another” (John 13:34). Kindness is supposed to be the religion of Christians too!”

(Adapted from Susan Hines-Brigger’s interview of Fr. Richard Rohr,
St. Anthony Messenger magazine, May 2013.)–My-Religion-Is-Kindness.html?soid=1103098668616&aid=7haGT57pots

While going through seminary, I heard Stanley Hauerwas say on multiple occasions, “Methodists have a theological conviction, God is nice and so should you be.” He would follow this up with what I refer to as the man-cackle. Only a Texas born and raised brick layer turned theologian can have that laugh. Regardless of the laugh, you can tell he doesn’t quite intend his sentiment as a compliment.

The problem is that Rohr and Hauerwas are talking about different things. Kindness for Rohr or the Dali Lama is not the same thing as being nice. Hauerwas disparages the methodists for being nice, which is a sort of courtesy that never engages with the stranger in anything more than a cursory fashion. Not every Methodist is under this scrutiny. I imagine working at a methodist school (like Duke) would be a bit difficult for him other wise.

Kindness then is about truly engaging with the stranger as self, a completely different way of orienting our being. The two greatest commandments are to love God and love neighbor as self. Kindness is a way of engaging with the neighbor in such a way that their problems become our problems. It is a sort of friendship that require divine aide.

While Rohr might disparage the desire to have right belief to coincide with right practice, I cannot. We may bicker over doctrinal difference, but those questions inform our practice. The reverse is true, our practice informs our understanding of who God is and how we worship him.

Think about how the practice of kindness might become the guiding shape of our identity. Wesley called for three simple rules for those participating in his societies to follow: Do all the good you can; Do no harm; and stay in love with God. Imagine if we oriented our whole way of living towards these three.


About Sean Smith

Husband, Father, Pastor, Swimmer, Writer, Reader, and attempted Adventurer!
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