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Buddhadharma : Spring 2012
74 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY SPRING 2 0 1 2 experiences and insights, form the sub- stance of the book. Drew shows how their voices blend as well as contrast with each other—and with what the theological or philosophical experts are saying about the possibility—or advis- ability—of dual religious practice and belief. Drew describes Buddhist–Christian dual belonging as a “religious identity in which both traditions have come to occupy a strong, normative status.” Thus, dual belongers are “people who, through their interaction with these two traditions, have reached a point where they no longer identify themselves sim- ply as Buddhist or simply as Christian, and have come to understand them- selves as belonging roughly equally to both traditions.” So for Drew the two primary marks of a dual belonger are found in the abiding concern to both preserve and integrate the distinctive differences of each tradition. Neither is preferred; neither is held to be superior. That, as becomes evident, is quite a tall order. Dual belonging is neither dabbling in the divine deli nor a new syncretistic spiritual sausage. Analo- gously to what Christian theologians have called the “hypostatic union” of divine and human natures in Jesus, in dual belongers there is the one practi- tioner (one person) but two practices (two natures). And the union of the two practices is such that the differ- ences and integrity of each is not only preserved but enhanced. Such a com- mingling, Drew surmises, borders on the mysterious. Drew collects, analyzes, and inter- prets the data from her extensive inter- views under four categories: God or ultimacy, Jesus Christ and Gautama Buddha, salvation or liberation, and practice. Regarding what Buddhists and Chris- tians are ultimately after, she enters the contemporary discussion on whether they are going in two different direc- tions or essentially the same one; and she clearly opts for what she calls a “monocentric pluralism” (one ultimate reality in divergent and always ineffa- ble experiences) as more faithful to the teachings of both traditions and to her interviewees. This one, ineffable ulti- macy, however, turns out to be much more nondualistic, much more co-inher- ing with relative reality, than Christian- ity has traditionally taught. Primarily in view of the way her interviewees actually relate to Jesus and Buddha, but also in view of what they say about both of them, Drew draws her cautious, but bold, conclu- sion: both are held to be “mediators” (or incarnations) of the mysterious Ulti- mate, though each in profoundly differ- ent ways. In these differences, neither is superior to the other, but here again it seems that Christians are called upon to make more doctrinal adjustments than Buddhists: rather than holding up Jesus as the “constitutive” cause of salva- tion through his atoning death on the cross, her interviewees relate to him as a primary, though not exclusive, revela- tion-through-embodiment of a Divinity that already pervades all reality. As for Christian salvation or Bud- dhist liberation, Drew admits irresolv- able differences in the views about what follows death: One life or many? What lives on? But despite the different under- standings of what lies beyond death, the this-worldly paths to get there resonate with each other, for they both call for “the replacement of egotistical, selfish ways of being with loving, wise, and compassionate ways of being.” Here she follows John Hick’s contention that the “other shore” for which Buddhism and Christianity provide different rafts is in fact one: a transformative shift from self-centeredness to other-centeredness. Drew describes how most of her interviewees—whether praying or medi- tating, whether at the Eucharistic table or on their cushions—could not neatly distinguish or isolate their Buddhist from their Christian practices. In moving eas- ily back and forth, they don’t know pre- cisely what religion they’re occupying at any given moment. Thus, Habito, King, and Reis Habito were reluctant to speak of “dual practice” and preferred some- thing like “practice across traditions.” Whether they as Christians were “pray- ing to” or as Buddhists simply “praying that,” the effects of a sensed transforma- tive connectedness with others seemed essentially the same. Throughout her reporting and assess- ing of what she has heard from her six dual belongers, and in assembling and weighing the many critics of dual belonging within the academy of reli- gious studies and theology, Drew clearly has made an effort to give all a fair hear- ing. Still, she goes about this task not only as a Christian, but as a progres- sive Christian. To be more dangerously precise (for all classifications are both helpful and dangerous), she would pitch her philosophical and theological tent in For Drew the primary marks of a dual belonger are the abiding concern to both preserve and integrate the distinctive differences of each tradition. Neither is preferred; neither is held to be superior.