I was talking with the headmaster of a local school and after confirming his suspicion that I was a missionary, he affirmed that all religions are good. I agreed to this in so far as religion teaches you to be a good person. In Thai thinking, religion is mainly about ethical teaching, namely how to be good. So to the extend that all religions teach you be basically a good person, I can agree to that. Buddhism says to have compassion on people and not get drunk. That's great. But, of course, the essence of the Gospel is not a command to "be good".
The headmaster went on, however, to say that Thai people really want to see or experience something extraordinary or spectacular. I think that he was implying that religious ethical teaching (of whatever variety) is all well and fine but not all that interesting. What really catches the average person's interest is the amazing or the spectacular. This was a fascinating comment and I decided to see how far we could run with this. I posed the question in reply, "So, in your opinion, what is really amazing in Buddhism?" He looked up at the sky for a moment and then came right back, enthusiastically declaring, "Amulets and charms that protect you from harm. You know, the ones that you hear about in the news. Someone gets in a horrific car accident and they come out unscathed. The reporter asks, 'How did you make it out alive from this?' and the guy proudly clutches the amulet from around his neck and says, 'This saved me'" Now I have to admit that getting out of a horrible car accident without a scratch is pretty amazing but, as I tried to point out to the headmaster, the people who die horrible deaths and suffer great tragedy with the very same amulet don't make the news.
I don't know if my Thai wasn't very clear or if he wasn't so interested in that fact, but I don't remember getting much of a response.
We talked briefly about the Jatukam amulet that was so popular a couple years ago but is hard to find now (it didn't make people as rich as they had hoped) and then I thought I would offer my thoughts about what is so amazing about Christianity. There are many directions that I could have gone with this as there are lots of people bearing the name Christian who claim miraculous healings, resurrections from the dead, or a picture of the Virgin Mary in their bowl of noodles. However, what I said to him was, "There is something very amazing in Christianity that maybe some people don't think is amazing. Normally, we only sacrifice and do good things for those who love us and care for us. If someone hates us and despises us, it is highly unlikely that we will be motivated to help them at all. But what is totally amazing is that Jesus Christ died for people who hated him. We are all sinners and have not honored God as we should, walking in our own way, but it is for people who don't want God that Jesus died for. Who would voluntarily die for someone who hated him?"
The conversation didn't go much of anywhere after that because the headmaster seemed to lose interest and changed the topic. Perhaps I wasn't seeker sensitive enough or didn't cater to felt needs properly. As I figure it though, if the Holy Spirit is doing something in his heart, he would at least be curious about this amazing Jesus and why he'd die for those who hate him. Maybe he will be curious eventually, if he remembers and thinks about it later on. All things in God's timing. As I told the headmaster at the beginning of our conversation, I don't force anything on anybody but respect all. If people want to talk about religion, that's great. If they don't, that's okay too. We went on to discuss other things in a friendly manner but I would have been glad if he had pursued the amazing Jesus topic of conversation.