Lesson 6 - Five Major Religion Blocks

(Part 2: Buddhists, Tribals, and Chinese)

Look at the map, read through the article, and look up the verses below.

predominate religions

5 Major Religion Blocs

by Bob Sjogren and Bill and Amy Stearns

Buddhist Unreached Peoples

Every morning in Sri Lanka, Tibet, Thailand, Vietnam, and dozens of other Buddhist countries, orange saffron-robed monks move quietly from house to house collecting food. The priests do not say thank you for the offerings, since they feel they are allowing the people a favor, which gains them merit to achieve higher status in the next reincarnation.

Buddhism is based on the sixth-century B.C. teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, later known as Buddha. His focus was on man, not on gods. He taught that life is basically a pattern of pain and suffering that results from desire. The ceasing of all human desires, then, would signal the end of suffering. The goal of life is to move as rapidly as possible toward the absence of desire, known as nirvana.

By the third century B.C., Buddhist teachings had been crystallized in written form in a language called Pali (related to Sanskrit) on the island of what is now Sri Lanka.

The nonreligious, philosophical aspects of Buddhism - that it has nothing to do with a Deity - is obvious in the doctrine of anatta. This teaching asserts that a person has no soul - no personal center exists. A human, rather, is composed of five khandas, or "aggregates," that give the illusion of identity. That illusion can be swept away only when the tensions of suffering and desire are erased through discipline. Discipline eventually leads to nirvana ("emptiness" or "nakedness"), the state in which the lack of desire allows perfection and pure peace.

In common practice, Buddhism usually takes the form of merit-making acts and Buddhist festivals and ceremonies. Throughout Buddhist countries, citizens invite monks to chant the Sutras, protective formulas for blessing and protection, in all household ceremonies and in funeral and memorial services for the benefit of the cremated deceased.

For the layperson, the principles of Buddhism's Noble Eightfold Path consist of five don'ts: Don't steal, lie, take a life, engage in illicit sex, or drink liquor.

Most Buddhists also reduce their religious commitment to a simple pattern of gaining merits for good karma, the sum of the positive and negative actions in a person's life. Buddhism, as practiced by common folk, is generally an outward activity of doing good to the monks who can give merit, of participating in ceremonies and rituals, and of contributing toward the construction and maintenance of the local Buddhist temple.

Although Buddhism teaches that people are caught in samsara, an eternal cycle of birth and death by which a person's karma moves perpetually on to rebirth, or reincarnation, few typical Buddhists place much emphasis on these cycles and levels of future existence or on gaining nirvana because their life is occupied with the simple struggle to survive. Their interest in gaining merit has more to do with an improved life now.

Many laypersons following Buddhism simply feel that no one can protect himself from the eternally linked laws of karma because a previous form of life has dictated one's level of suffering. This fatalism leads most people to practice the forms of Buddhism, while still believing in the existence of various spirits. Beneath Buddhism's philosophy - in which there is no God and man has no individual soul - most Buddhists harbor a deep, ancient belief in spirits, which they fear.

Tribal Unreached Peoples

Depending on how a researcher defines "people group," there are from 3,000 to 6,000 unreached groups of Tribals worldwide. They are found in places you would expect, such as Irian Jaya, Papua New Guinea, the Amazon Basin, and in parts of the African continent. But they are also found in virtually every country of the world, according to Dave Sitton, director of the Institute of Tribal Studies, headquartered in Los Fresnos, Texas. Most of the world's 2,000,000 nomads are actually tribals.

The typical remoteness of tribal groups enforces their distrust of outsiders. Fear of unknown spirits inhibits their exploration of new territories as well as new ideas. But often the toughest problem missionaries to tribals must overcome is "cargoism"-the appeal of outsiders', particularly white men's, gadgets and wealth.

In order to find out more about the Tribal peoples of the world, check out the following resources:

Don Richardson, Peace Child (Regal Books/Gospel, 1974).
Don Richardson, Lords of the Earth (Regal Books/Gospel, 1977).
Don Richardson, Eternity in Their Hearts (Regal Books/Gospel, 1981).

Chinese Unreached Peoples

The only major unreached people block less defined by religion than by political boundary is the Chinese peoples. What makes it difficult to adequately characterize this block is that the Chinese government and, to some extent, the people of China have pursued the idea of the "Great Tradition"-that the Chinese are one people, sharing culture, communication, and ways of conducting affairs. In the light of this view, the Chinese government recognizes one majority people, the Han, and only 55 minority peoples within the borders of the People's Republic of China.

In spite of the diversity, some generalizations may be made about Chinese block of unreached peoples. For example, this block reflects two influences, ancient Confucianism and modern communism.

Confucius (551-479 B.C.) emphasized the order necessary to society. His teachings urged the Chinese to value social relationships, to live properly in courtesy and common respect, and to admire self-denial as the key means of benefitting all. Confucianism teaches that humans are basically good, although a person's goodness can be weakened and distorted by greed, selfish ambition, or corrupt leadership.

The fact that communism eased into Chinese society on the coat-tails of Confucianism is no surprise. Although hundreds of millions of Chinese don't really think of themselves as communists, their cultural thought patterns do reflect the communist ideals of (1) submission of the individual to the good of the whole, (2) the evils of a society based on economic classes, and (3) the eventual workers' paradise.

Chinese communistic/Confucianistic thought holds that

Humankind determines its own destiny.
Religion is a dangerous fantasy - "the opiate of the people."
Rational thinking - science - leads to truth.

With this mind-set, many of the people groups of China reject Christianity. That rejection is especially acrid when merged with the anger that many Chinese still feel at the historic blunders of "Christian" countries that meddled in China's affairs.

Classifying more than a billion Chinese citizens is anything but simple. And yet these basic characteristics help explain that, while in the midst of the greatest church growth on earth, scores of Chinese people groups comprising hundreds of millions of individuals are still very much unreached.

Look up theses verses:
Hebrews 9:27
Psalms 14:1
Joshua 24:14-15

Excerpted from "Run with the Vision" by Bill and Amy Stearns and Bob Sjogren. Used by permission.