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The Domino Theory

I call it like the domino theory of reality. If you can go one step at a time and it seems to make sense, you can then take your audience into an area that is relatively outlandish.” Ivan Reitman

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.
Galatians 6:7

In the fifties, anti-communists latched onto something called the “domino theory” to elaborate their concerns about the spread of global Marxism. At a press conference on April 7, 1954 President Dwight D. Eisenhower explained how he understood this new geopolitical theory. “Finally, you have broader considerations that might follow what you would call the ‘falling domino’ principle. You have a row of dominoes set up, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly. So you could have a beginning of a disintegration that would have the most profound influences.” Basically what he was saying is, if you knock over a domino without doubt the domino at the end of the line will fall too. President Eisenhower touched upon what grew to be a guiding geopolitical theory in the later half of the 20th century. It was concern over this “domino effect” that eventually led the United States into conflicts in Korea and Vietnam. The theory posited that if one country fell to communism then it would only be a matter of time before those around it fell to this same Marxist ideology.

Today in the 21st century there is another line of dominoes that are being set-up for a tipping point to be set in motion. It is a struggle that involves some unlikely players. I have focused my writings over the past 6 months on Islamist extremism, but today I want to turn our attention to yet another form of extremism, namely, Buddhist extremism, a form of extremism no less violent than that which we have seen coming from the islamist world. Upon a closer look what we may discover is that the effect of falling dominoes has second and third order affects that nobody counted on, setting the stage for a potently dangerous world.

This should not come as a surprise for us, fundamental to our faith is the reality that what we reap we will sow. This is not intended to be a callous look at this darkness. It is an attempt to alarm us to eschew violence as a means to solve our differences with people who do not agree with us.

The review.

There is a tragic movement currently underway in South Asia that has taken many by surprise. It is a virulent strain of Buddhism emerging as a dangerous development in parts of Asia, particularly in Myanmar, Thailand and Sri Lanka. The threat to liberal societies may be less dramatic but is nonetheless real. Across Asia today, religious fundamentalism is posing a growing threat to liberal society. The threat to liberal societies may be less dramatic but is nonetheless real. Extremism thrives in situations of general malaise or uncertainty. Both Islamic fundamentalism and Buddhist extremism can be traced to economic anxiety and political tumult. To complicate matters, Buddhists in Sri Lanka, along with Myanmar and Thailand, follow the Theravada tradition, that is more conservative than the alternative Mahayana tradition. A cocktail of violence is being served that has the potential to put entire countries at risk of war. It is in one respect the culmination of dominoes being tipped in entirely other parts of the world.

What factors cause entire groups of people to rise up and commit acts of heinous violence against other groups? It would be difficult to fully explore this in less than two thousand words, but I will provide a short analysis that hopefully will whet your appetite for further investigation.

One powerful position which can lead people to violence is a geopolitical argument when, for example people war against one another over land and resources. This could be the likely theory to enable us to understand the current situation. However, the evidence is too strong to be ignored concerning the influence of the “domino theory” as it provides powerful evidence for an explanation as well. There is a clash of meta-narratives seriously at play concerning these theories. This struggle is growing.

What is a meta-narrative and why would it provide the impetus for killing and suffering? What are the conflicting meta-narratives?

Let’s look at a brief picture of one of the missionary meta-narratives of Buddhism. Buddhism is a non-theistic tradition, (another word for atheistic tradition) meaning that it does not involve a belief in God. The focus of Buddhism is on the nature of the mind. What concerns Buddhists is an understanding of how consciousness works, not only in theory but more importantly in practice. How universal is their belief? Buddha said, ”Go ye forth for the good of the many, for the welfare of the many, out of compassion for the world. Let no two of you go in the same direction, teach the Dhamma that is beautiful in the beginning, middle and end, expound both the spirit and the letter of the holy life completely fulfilled, perfectly pure. There are beings with but little dust in their eyes, who not hearing the Dhamma will decline but who, if they do hear it will grow”. How does a Buddhist go from this commission to his followers, to the rape pillar and plundering of entire Islamic communities? Buddhism, like atheism is a missionary religious position that cannot tolerate the existence of a moral sovereign God.

In Islam there is an equally clear directive to spread the message of Muhammad to the entire world. “You are the best nation raised up for humankind. You enjoin righteousness, forbid corruption and you believe in Allah.”— Quran, Sura 3 (Al-Imran), ayah 110 Again, Who is better in speech than one who calls to Allah, does righteous deeds and says indeed I am among the Muslims. — Quran, Sura 41 (HAA-meem-shisdah), ayah 33. Though neither of these verses clearly infer that Muslims are to convert the world to Islam, there is enough evidence to reveal that clearly, within the mind of Muhammad, (and in the minds of early and current Muslims) that those who did not believe in the absolute submission to Allah were infidels who needed to be brought into submission to the Muslim world (Umma) and its message.

Both Islam and Buddhism are missionary exclusionary religions, as is Christianity.

There is no room for multiple truths. I don’t fault either Islam or Buddhism for that position. Every serious evangelical Christian holds to a precious set of truths that determines destiny and existence. The reality that Islam believes in the unity of a singular god and that Buddhism teaches that there is no-god puts these two religions on a collision course from the outset.

Muslims and Buddhists have lived in peaceful coexistence for hundreds of years. Why are they suddenly determined to wipe each other out, especially when both religions portend to be faiths that elevate peace to the top of their ideological specters? How is it that this sudden surge of violence has become a regular part of everyday life in parts of South Asia? Will it be a trend that will increase? Will the dominoes, in fact fall as the theory concludes they certainly will?

The first precept of Buddhist thought, Alejandro Chavez-Segura, notes, is “no killing.” So how can Buddhism be used to justify violence in Myanmar and Sri Lanka? It can’t be, he argues, stating that those who “interpret the Buddhadharma to justify the perpetuation of suffering through violence and war” shouldn’t be regarded as Buddhists. While religion has been used to legitimize violent actions in holy wars, “no war is compatible with Buddhism, and ‘Buddhist warfare’ is a misnomer,” Chavez-Segura writes. Nonetheless, Myanmar-avowed Buddhist monks have led a “new trend that largely disregards the basic beliefs and practice of Buddhism.” Ethno-religious civil strife in Myanmar has taken on an especially ugly character as a result.

Alejandro Chavez-Segura’s position is interesting because the exact same argument is used to impress upon the world that Islam is a religion of peace and that anyone involved in violence in the name of Islam is not really Muslim. Both religious communities are committing egregious acts of wanton violence in the names of their religions, yet each wants to assert that the violence has nothing to do with their religion.

As I look at the history of Christianity, I am cautious as some of the acts that have been done in the name of Christ seem to be way beyond the purview of what it means to be a Christian. It causes me to step back and take seriously the teachings of Jesus Christ as he taught us to love one another and to resist the evil one’s temptations to take matters into our own hands with acts of violence.

The why.

We, as Christians have a meta-narrative that gives meaning to our lives. We are told that we were created in God’s image and that we were meant to live in fellowship with Him and with each other. We have sinned and broken that fellowship, but God in His grace has provided a way for us so that we can be forgiven, saved and restored. Jesus is God born into the human race for the express purpose of dying for us, to pay the penalty for our sins. After His death on the cross, Jesus rose again from the dead. All who trust Him for salvation will be forgiven and made new. Jesus will return to earth one day to gather His followers unto Himself. In the meantime, we are to share this good news with everyone in the world because it applies to everyone. It is true for everyone. Those who have come to know Christ recognize that this grand narrative—this overarching story of redemption—gives meaning and purpose to the world, to history, to all of life, and to each individual.

There is little that stands in the way of conflict between Islam, Buddhism and Christianity. The reason that this course is one destined for collision is that there is only one Truth. Truth is not relative. It is either true or it is false. Since most of us agree with that last sentence, why is it so difficult to believe that there is indeed one truth? Why does believing in a singular truth cause mankind to struggle with others who do not agree with them? Why must all others believe what I believe? Why is it so important that we will kill one another for not believing the same as we do? It is baffling to me.

The action.

In James 4:1-2 of the New Testament, James illuminates the condition of man’s heart. He writes, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.”

James tells us that we battle because of the desires that come from within us. What struggle is he talking about? He goes on. “You desire, but you do not have, so you kill.” He adds to our condition, unfulfilled desires. What desires? “You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.” James unfolds for us perhaps an entire discourse on the human heart. We want something; we don’t get it, so we kill. It appears what James is telling us is that universally mankind wrestles with several things that cause him to fight. We have disordered desires, selfishness and pride. In a sense it is a preoccupation with one’s self, thus the definition of pride.

Our sinful condition is so desperate that when we do not get our way, we often kill. It seems like a simple conclusion as to why Buddhists kill Muslims when their religion tells them not to kill… and why Muslims kill Christians, when their religion tells them not to do so and why Christians…. Dare we go there? This weeks action? Determine that you will be a force of peace and love in the world and that you will refuse to take matters into your own hands, even when others disagree with you. Lovingly determine to stand for truth, but humbly allow others to disagree.

What if we started a domino effect? What if we tipped a domino of love and grace? What would that look like? Would the “domino theory” stand true?

Resources.

Eisenhower and the Domino Theory… https://inhomelandsecurity.com/the-domino-theory-in-the-21st-century/

Buddhist 969 Movement… http://www.buddhistpeacefellowship.org/the-969-mov…

Buddhist Extremism… http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-22356306

Buddhist Extremism… http://www.dailymirror.lk/article/Is-Buddhist-extremism-less-dangerous-than-other-extremisms–137709.html

Buddhism Missionary Calling… https://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/dharmadata/fdd31.htm

Buddhist Missions… http://www.truefreethinker.com/articles/buddhist-missionaries-proselytize

What is meta-narrative?… https://www.gotquestions.org/metanarrative.html

Meta-narrative and Post-modernism… https://www.gotquestions.org/postmodernism-dangers.html

Meta-narratives and Literature… http://theoryofnarrativepropp.blogspot.com/2012/02/what-is-metanarratives.html

Global Strategic Landscape… https://cdainstitute.ca/wp-content/uploads/ontrack20n1.pdf

Islamic Missionary Calling… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dawah

Geopolitical Theory… https://www.britannica.com/topic/geopolitics

How Buddhists justify violence… https://daily.jstor.org/how-is-buddhism-being-used-to-justify-violence-in-myanmar/

Are Buddhists Atheists?… https://davidmichie.com/are-buddhists-non-theists-or-atheists-and-whats-the-difference/

Alejandro Chavez Segura… https://research-repository.st-andrews.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/10023/2091/AlejandroChavezSeguraPhDThesis.pdf?sequence=6

Christian Meta-Narrative… https://www.gotquestions.org/metanarrative.html

Truth… https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-challenge-of-relativism

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