Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Conversion as a "great example to the world"

By now you've probably heard about Fox News' Brit Hume's take on Tiger Woods' personal problems. For those that haven't, here's what he said on "Fox News Sunday":

Let's assume for a moment that Brit Hume (who has no education or experience in theology, comparative religion, or interfaith dialogue) intended this statement as something more than mere pandering to the  rich, white, wealthy, suburban, evangelical Christian demographic that makes up the core of Fox News' audience. Let's assume he's trying to make a substantive point.

First, on what basis does Mr. Hume claim that Buddhism does not have the redemptive qualities of Christianity? For that matter, where has he heard that Tiger Woods is a Buddhist?

It's true that Buddhism does not place an emphasis on radical, instantaneous conversion in the same way as does Western, post-Augustinian Christianity (particularly the American brand that styles itself in the mold of the Second Great Awakening). But to say that Buddhism doesn't speak to Tiger Woods' or any other person's moral failings is simply not true.

The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism state that the suffering of life comes from our attachment to worldly things, and that the way to alleviate suffering is to combat this attachment. If Tiger Woods is, in fact, a sex addict, as some have suggested, isn't his problem too great a desire for worldly pleasures? Might the core tenants of Buddhism encourage him to detach himself from his desires be very helpful? For something to be redemptive, it must, by definition, participate in healing and making something new. The Buddhist faith would, in fact, be very redemptive for Tiger Woods' situation.

Along the same lines, I have to wonder where Mr. Hume grounds his claim for Christianity as being more redemptive than Buddhism or any other religion? Does he ground this in the examples of Christian ministers who used to be guests on his channel until their own moral failings came to light (Ted Haggard, etc.)? Or on the televangelists who frequently appear on the network, who make their reputations more on who they hate and what they oppose than on the God of love and peace made known to us in the Bible they claim to take so seriously?

As a Christian I do believe in the redemptive power of Jesus Christ. It is a claim upon which I have staked my life and my very being. But why do we have to attempt to prove that by bashing other religions about which we know so little? And aren't there better reasons to enter into the journey of being a disciple of Jesus Christ than "to be a great example to the rest of the world"?

The faith of the one who said "deny thyself, take up your cross and follow me" (Luke 9:23) means ridding ourselves of our attachment to our reputations and not worrying about "being a great example to the world". It actually means the opposite and being thought a fool by most of the world.

Mr. Hume, let me encourage you to read a bit about Buddhism, and maybe a little bit about Christianity, before you try making any more grand theological statements.


Will said...

Friggin' awesome post, my friend. You articulated exactly what I'd been thinking--but you said it much better than I could!

Heidi said...

This is a fantastic post.