Monday, January 11, 2010

Ross Douthat wants to talk about faith

And I thought the Tiger Woods/Brit Hume flap was old news. But I was wrong. Even the Zennist had to get in a quote of James epistle yesterday; in any case I will try to make this my last post anywhere near the subject. Though it's more about Ross Douthat, I'd say than Woods.

...If you treat your faith like a hothouse flower, too vulnerable to survive in the crass world of public disputation, then you ensure that nobody will take it seriously. The idea that religion is too mysterious, too complicated or too personal to be debated on cable television just ensures that it never gets debated at all.

Agreed. So Ross Douthat, any time you want to have a public discussion of Buddhism verus Christianity, please let me know. I have no degree in theology, I am pretty much as you are, except for the 12 years of religious Christian education, I am self-educated in both Christianity and Buddhism, as well as philosphy in general.

So, let's talk...

This doesn’t mean that we need to welcome real bigotry into our public discourse.

Well, what is religious bigotry if not prejudging another religion

Christians believe in a personal God who forgives sins. Buddhists, as a rule, do not. And it’s at least plausible that Tiger Woods might welcome the possibility that there’s Someone out there capable of forgiving him, even if Elin Nordegren and his corporate sponsors never do.

Except that if you understand Buddhism, and if you are practicing Buddhism, you are practicing under the assumption that there's no need for forgiveness from any outside entity. The wronging and wronged parties are themselves wronged and wronging and hurting, and it's the hurt and suffering and general dukkha that needs to be addressed.

Or maybe not. For many people — Woods perhaps included — the fact that Buddhism promotes an ethical life without recourse to Christian concepts like the Fall of Man, divine judgment and damnation is precisely what makes it so appealing. The knee-jerk outrage that greeted Hume’s remarks buried intelligent responses from Buddhists, who made arguments along these lines — explaining their faith, contrasting it with Christianity, and describing how a lost soul like Woods might use Buddhist concepts to climb from darkness into light.

Give the man some credit, although the "appeal" of Buddhism is not that it's "not Christianty," but rather because it works. But kudos to Douthat for acknowledging that Buddhists have a response at all.

I am happy to say that I actually agree with Douthat largely in his sentiments, even if his specifics seemed to be still uninformed by Buddhism. But it's way better than what I've read from other Christians on this issue.

Yes, let's have the debate. But let's have an informed debate.


Kyle Lovett said...

Yes, what he fails to notice is he is reading into Hume's words. Forgivness and redemption can and do come from many places, self being a very good starting point. Hume never said anything abotu a personal God and there was no 'Buddhist' on the air to discuss these issues.

Debate is good, ignorant debate is well.....ignorant.

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