Would You Ever Bow Down to Buddha?

buddhaWe were watching the popular reality show “Survivor” Thursday night, when we saw something that made us think.  This 15th season of Survivor is set in China, and on the first episode, all the contestants were led to a Buddhist temple and told to participate in a Buddhist ritual that, the host explained, was “not religious”.  When all the other contestants, instructed by monks, began to bow down prostrate before the statue of the Buddha, Leslie, a Christian talk show host, refused, and left the temple in tears.

She explained on camera that she “was not religious, but had a relationship with Jesus”, and that the Bible forbids bowing down to other gods.  When Jeff pressed her further she said, “Bowing down to Buddha sure felt like worship to me, and I will only bow before Jesus.”

Setting aside my possible admiration for a culture that honors obese men, I think she absolutely did the right thing by leaving the temple.  Some might argue that even participating in a show like “Survivor” is compromising for a Christian, but I think the Bible is very clear on how God views bowing before idols

For those who put “ceremonial” bowing in a different category, they might hang their hat on an interesting little passage in the Old Testament, where the prophet Elisha seems to give Naaman tacit permission to bow down ceremoniously before a false god when in the temple with his boss.  You can read this in 2 Kings 5:18-19

Watch the 4-minute clip, then tell us if you think Leslie did the right thing.


35 Responses to Would You Ever Bow Down to Buddha?

  1. Linda Ost says:

    She absolutely did the right thing. Oh how the world will lead us to believe that pagan worship is only a game or really not a big deal. The monks were serious about this ritual, it was not a GAME!!

  2. Echo_ohcE says:

    Dan. 3:8 ¶ Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews.
    Dan. 3:9 They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever!
    Dan. 3:10 You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image.
    Dan. 3:11 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace.
    Dan. 3:12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
    Dan. 3:13 ¶ Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king.
    Dan. 3:14 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up?
    Dan. 3:15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”
    Dan. 3:16 ¶ Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.
    Dan. 3:17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.
    Dan. 3:18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
    Dan. 3:19 ¶ Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated.
    Dan. 3:20 And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.
    Dan. 3:21 Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace.
    Dan. 3:22 Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
    Dan. 3:23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.
    Dan. 3:24 ¶ Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.”
    Dan. 3:25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
    Dan. 3:26 ¶ Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire.
    Dan. 3:27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them.
    Dan. 3:28 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.
    Dan. 3:29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.”
    Dan. 3:30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.

  3. I linked to this passage in the original post.

  4. Deborah Krueger says:

    She did the right thing! Can you imagine the oppression she may have felt inside that temple? I’ve been to Thailand and China, and the people there are WORSHIPPING when they bow down in those temples. You can sense the evil spirits soaking up the praise. Its creepy. How dare the producers insult everyone’s intelligence by telling them it was a “welcome ceremony”. Give me a break! Now, as to whether or not she should even be on Survivor…

  5. Echo_ohcE says:

    Oh dang! Sorry Albino! Feel free to delete my redundancy.

  6. I think it’s good to get the whole text out there anyway for those who didn’t click the link.

  7. RubeRad says:

    T&I saw that too. Immediately I was wondering whether Hosty McSafari-Shirt gave that disclaimer about “it’s just a welcoming ritual” (i.e. “don’t worry, it’s totally meaningless” — I wonder how Buddhists felt about that?) for the benefit of the contestants, or for the benefit of the viewing audience? Because they didn’t edit it out, it must have been at least somewhat for the audience, and I wonder if they wanted to make the Christian look all the more unreasonable.

    BTW, the Christian Religious Jockey did the right thing. I think she could have done it even sooner, but of course it’s impossible to tell what the real sequence of events was, what information she had to work with, etc., from the edited clips that make it onto TV. Kudos to her for standing up against idolatry, although what’s wrong with being religious?

  8. RubeRad says:

    BTW, did you see how even the out-for-#1, super-pagan NYC waitress was uncomfortable participating in idolatry? I think she is well in-tune with her sense of autonomy (rebellion), and could tell that the Buddhist ceremony was not meaningless, and she reacted against worship of any god.

  9. No one has commented on Elisha giving Namaan a “bow ritually free” card.

  10. danielbalc says:

    Rube, good call on the “what’s wrong with being religious” question. I HATE the bumper sticker doctrine of “it’s not a religion it’s a relationship”.

    As for the act bowing and idol worship itself, this scene reminded me a lot of my trip to Japan a few years ago. I went into a temple and saw one of the worlds largest buddahs (50 feet high). People would come, offer coins, ring a bell, pray etc. I watched it with a very sad heart mostly because my goal there wasn’t as a tourist but as a missionary. Here were so many people looking for God and completely blinded to truth.

    That being said I don’t know what I would have done had I been in that situation. It seems clear that is was set up specifically to target her. I highly doubt those “monks” in the that “temple” were legit. Had it been me I more than likely would have done more than just walked out respectfully. I would have made a statement of some type, perhaps even to go so far as to sing out a chorus of praise to Jesus Christ.

    I wonder if they would’ve aired that?

    I totally had the wrong idea about survivor China. I figured it would be about the challenges of living under communism. They would have to go beat dogs to death for food and try and hide from the forced abortion police.

  11. RubeRad says:

    People would come, offer coins, ring a bell, pray etc.

    I was once in Mexico City, and in the central square there were people lined up to get a “blessing” from an Indian (a Native North American?). I seem to recall that the people in the line were not tourists, but regular joes on their way to/from work — in all probability nominal Catholics. I’m sure Jim has much more insight into the synchronistic tendencies of Catholics.

    I totally had the wrong idea about survivor China.

    They keep doing Survivor in tropical climates — I want them to do a cold-weather one. Can you imagine: Survivor Yukon? Survivor Antarctica? But it’ll never happen, because there would be no bikinis. Even better than that, though, what they need to do is Survivor Special Forces: SEALS vs. Green Berets (vs. …). The reason they’ll never do that is that there won’t be any drama; the well-trained soldiers will immediately fall into rank and exhibit strict discipline and teamwork, with no catfighting or back-stabbing or whining about the hard conditions. And no bikinis. But just think — the challenges would be awesome!

  12. Rube — Mexico is FULL of anamism, polytheism and idolatry. Aside from the basic problem of worshiping the “Queen of the Americas”, the Virgin of Guadalupe (one priest here in town referered to her as the “Ark of the Covenant” and the “Fourth Member of the Holy Trinity” at a funeral), many Mexicans also believe in purchasing spells and curses from their local witch (curandero), and, in the South, they still worship the sun in some Indian communities.

    I went into a cathedral in the town of San Juan Chamula in Chiapas, and witnessed chickens being sacrificed. All over the floor of the church were empty Pepsi bottles. I asked a local why and he said, “When evil spirits come out, they emerge through burps, so everybody drinks Pepsi.” Ironically, the owner of the town’s only palacial mansion overlooking the town is the local Pepsi distributor.

    This is why I share Deborah’s revulsion at idol worship. I do believe that demons are present receiving the praise of the ignorant people.

  13. danielbalc says:

    Even better than that, though, what they need to do is Survivor Special Forces: SEALS vs. Green Berets (vs. …). The reason they’ll never do that is that there won’t be any drama; the well-trained soldiers will immediately fall into rank and exhibit strict discipline and teamwork, with no catfighting or back-stabbing or whining about the hard conditions

    your “(vs …)” Left out the Army Rangers. My Brother in Law is an ARMY ROTC and is strongly considering the Rangers.

    They now televise the “best ranger competition” in sort of a survivor-esque style. It’s pretty good and the competition much more intense and more real.

    And now it’s not JUST Rangers but all armed forces. If you liked your own idea you would like watching this.

  14. danielbalc says:

    I am intrigued by this idea all of a sudden. Suppose the girl would have elected to go through the ceremony with an obligatory bow and folding of the hands. All the while recognizing it as a formulaic traditional greeting and not a religious ceremony as they had said. Just as I am not worshiping when I bow to someone I meet in Japan, she’s not worshiping when she bows as a participant in their game. The question that I have that both Deborah and Albino have brought up is whether or not demons are receiving some sort of praise from her action of bowing.

    Could she not have done it as a demonstration of the freedom she has in Christ? i.e. sort of a I Corinthians 10 vs 27 “eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience” That passage is such a mixed bag as it says things like vs 19 “Do I mean that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything?” only to follow it up with vs 20 “No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons”.

    in other words since she is NOT a pagan does her bow mean anything to a demon or the idol or even God for that matter?

    (FWIW I’m just playing devils advocate to try and stir the pot a little so don’t anybody go attacking my personally)

  15. Could Daniel be perhaps nibbling around the edges of the “free ceremonial bowing” card that Elisha gave to Namaan?

  16. danielbalc says:

    I was going with a more often referenced NT version of it. What I want to see is the consistency of those who use the I Corinthians 10 passage for other “justifications”.

  17. RubeRad says:

    your “(vs …)” Left out the Army Rangers.

    Yeah, I thought about them, but I am ignorant. I know Green Beret are army, and Army Rangers are army, so is one inside the other (is a Ranger a super-Green-Beret, or vice versa?), or are they totally separate? And what’s Delta Force?

    This kinda helps…

  18. danielbalc says:


    Virtually everything I know about special forces I learned from these great specimins of manliness…

    John Wayne http://imdb.com/title/tt0063035/

    Sylvester Stalone http://imdb.com/title/tt0083944/plotsummary

    Charlie Sheen http://imdb.com/title/tt0100232/

    Chuck Norris http://imdb.com/title/tt0090927/

  19. danielbalc says:

    Where the guys that the predator ate special forces? I sure hope not, except of course for our governors character. He would dominate any special forces unit.

  20. Echo_ohcE says:

    Oi, I’ve got to really roll up my sleeves this time and help you guys understand the military a bit.

    First the Army. The Rangers are a large group. Somewhat elite. All it means is infantry with a little bit more training and a bigger ego. Not impressive for this Marine. Green berets, on the other hand are different. A relative of mine was a green beret once upon a time.

    I don’t know how they do it exactly in the Army, but I know something about the Navy Seals. See, there are seals and there are Seals. There are a lot of seals, but only a smaller number of the bad to the bone Seals. So there’s a broader group and a smaller group. It was the same in the Marines.

    I think, but I’m not sure, that Green Berets are the larger group, while Delta is the smaller group. I can’t be sure. I’ve heard lots of strange things that only kind of make sense.

    But ok, if you watch Blackhawk down, you’ll notice that the cool guys are the Delta guys, and the Rangers are just the backup. They’re guarding the perimeter while the Delta guys kick the doors in and do their thing. That’s a good paradigm to think of this bigger group/smaller group thing.

  21. Echo_ohcE says:


    What one prophet and one man come to as an agreement, as a deal, is not by any stretch of the imagination necessarily normative for us today.

    Notice that he says “when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm”.

    I cannot definitively interpret this. I’m not qualified. But it strikes me that here’s a guy who is a slave who is supporting an old man. The old man is leaning on him. When the old man bows, he has to bow. The man has to lean on him to worship. That’s his job as a slave. He doesn’t have any choice in the matter, because that’s his master. he is not going to worship, his master is, and he’s along for the ride. So God has mercy on him.

    It makes sense to me to interpret it that way. I’ve just looked at the Hebrew a little bit. Way over my head. Way over it.

    But it helps to understand something about the culture at the time. Namaan was probably obligated in some lawful way to this king, beyond the fact that he was his king. He calls him his master. Namaan, it seems clear from the previous part of the chapter, was a regular slave, but rose up the ranks to command the army.

    My point is that he was a slave, and I think the text makes that clear. He was a slave who had almost a son-like status in his master’s eyes. So when his master goes to worship, he naturally wants his favorite slave with him to lean on. And the slave, Namaan, recognizes that his master wouldn’t understand if he tried to explain it.

    So he said Go in peace. that’s a very specific situation, if I’m correct.

    But how would the Jews at the time have taken this? Would they have been scandalized or would they have shrugged? i don’t know. I think they would have shrugged and thought that it made sense. But more than that, they would have seen how a Gentile was healed of his leprosy, showed that the law had been written on his heart and his desire to follow it, followed by the benediction from God’s prophet, the word of pardon: go in peace. (We do something similar in our worship services.)

    I don’t think the Jews would have been too scandalized by the guy being forgiven for what he has to do, but that he had been healed of his leprosy, even though he was a Gentile. This was gospel, not law. That’s the “scandal” here.

  22. danielbalc says:

    that’s a fine enough understanding of the Naman example, but I’m interested on how you deal with I Corinthians 10.

    Do you think the “Christian DJ” girl could’ve gone through the motions with the knowledge that an “idol is nothing”? And that she’s merely “eating what is set before her”?

    BTW the Marines special forces are called “force recon” right? Did you ever deal with these guys?

  23. Echo,

    Ok, I’ll give you props for a well thought through bite at the apple. Since you are the only one who tried, right now you lead the pack.


    Eating meat sacrificed to idols is a far cry from bowing with your face to the ground 37 times before a foreign god in a temple dedicated to him, with monks legalistically correcting your every move. I think the first two commandments are pretty clear here. Now, if those same monks cooked up a rib eye that had been offered to the Buddha, then we have the Pauline example.

  24. danielbalc says:

    so if the dj wouldve gone through it she would have been giving praise to demons?

  25. RubeRad says:

    Note: the excellent military drama The Unit (season 2 premiered excellently last night!) is based on a book called “Inside Delta Force”

  26. zrim says:

    Right thing. She’s a sorry, flakey excuse for Xianity (“not religious but have relationship”…does she not realize that opening her mouth to utter a dictum makes her religious?). But she did the right thing. Likely she did it for poor, not well thought out reasons.

    Xians “participating on Survivor a compromise”? Please. There sentiment is a perfect example of not exactly daring to be a Daniel. Daniel particpated in every aspect of pagan culture but drew the line at worship. Pick up Hart’s “A Secular Faith.” In a way, this girl was a good Daniel. A real flake, but a good Daniel. Weird.

    Our age is interesting in its “sacredalizing” that which is secular and secularizing that which is sacred. Don’t Buddhists feel a bit queasy about how secularized their beliefs are? Do they care that Buddhist monks now sell Kleenex on TV?

    Also, so where’s the cheapening of the Lord’s Supper by making that a bawdy, secular exercise in reality TV? I think I smell some western arrogance that would dare not secularize Christendom’s symbols of faith but has no problem doing so with Eastern symbols.


  27. RubeRad says:

    Also, so where’s the cheapening of the Lord’s Supper by making that a bawdy, secular exercise in reality TV?


  28. zrim says:


    Have you never noticed that we don’t take our western symbols of faith and cheapened them they way we do eastern ones?

    Where ever is the contextual setting of medieval Camelot where the “challenge” is to go to the Church and gulp down as much bread and wine as possible?

    Or…is the cheapening of the Buddha a laudable thing in some way because “it’s a false religion”? I understand the primary question here about Xians bowing to a false god. I am just looking at another set of angles as well.

    My point is that the secularization of the sacred affects us all. We tend to overlook the other dimensions involved here because we are too focused on whether we’d be caught dead bowing to a false god, which seems rather a slam-dunk question/answer for serious Xians.

    Why is OK for Jeff Probst to cheapen a pagan, Eastern religion but not one found in the western hemisphere?


  29. danielbalc says:


    That’s why i contend it wasn’t a real ceremony at all. I highly doubt true budhist priests would lead foreigners in a valuable religious ceremony. Thus it’s more of a gag. Like a college toga party has nothing to do with worshiping greek gods (unless you count Bacchus), this contrived TV shot wasn’t religious at all. That’s why I don’t think we should necessarily suppose some sort of demonic pleasure coming from it.

    We may as well assume that cheering for human athletes, thespians or musicians is received as praise by the demons as well.

  30. Sorry, Daniel. This was not a college toga party or a concert or football game. This was a group of people walking into a temple and BOWING BEFORE A STATUE OF BUDDHA 37 TIMES!!! Are you seriously comparing that to cheering for Tony Romo?

    Anywhere you have worship going up to false gods and images, demons are not far away.

  31. danielbalc says:

    Albino, I didn’t see them being forced to bow 37 times to a statue. It all looked and felt super staged. That’s what I’m saying. IF it was legit (which I contend it wasn’t) then I would have refused as well and believe she was right to do (and I think it is praise to demons). However if it WASN’T legit, do you still contend that demons received praise from it?
    do you see the difference?

  32. RubeRad says:

    Even if it wasn’t legit, on the spot you have no way of knowing how the producers will edit it for broadcast (and you can have a pretty safe guess how they will want to portray the Christian!). The question of whether you personally would have been sinning is distinct from the image of Christianity you will be portraying. Avoid all appearance of evil. Silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good.

  33. More than one of the participants said they bowed “37 times”.

  34. LT says:

    she should get her fact straight since Buddha is in fact not a God. Bowing down in asian culture signifies respect to higher ranked individua.

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