Thursday, January 7, 2010

Christianity, Tiger Woods, Brit Hume, and Ann Coulter

Here's Ann Coulter at with some funny and insightful comments on the Tiger Woods saga, the recent hubbub over Brit Hume's remarks about Christianity-- and more broadly, the claims of Christianity and the amazing confusion over those claims.

In a word, as Coulter ably notes below, Christianity is often understood as the narrowest of religions, when in fact it is the "easiest" religion. In one sense, it is narrow. It insists that one cannot be saved by his own works. In the other sense, it is the most open-- ironically, in that one is not saved by his own works; salvation and eternal life are offered as a free gift.

That said, as Paul writes in I Corinthians 1, the cross of Christ is a stumbling block for some since it doesn't make sense to them-- and others since they want to have something they (and others) must earn.

On a Fox News panel discussing Tiger Woods, Brit Hume said, perfectly accurately:

"The extent to which he can recover, it seems to me, depends on his faith. He is said to be a Buddhist. I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. So, my message to Tiger would be, 'Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world."

...sent liberals into a tizzy of sputtering rage, once again illustrating liberals' copious ignorance of Christianity. (Also illustrating the words of the Bible: "How is it you do not understand me when I speak? It is because you cannot bear to listen to my words." John 8:43.)

In The Washington Post, Tom Shales demanded that Hume apologize, saying he had "dissed about half a billion Buddhists on the planet."

Is Buddhism about forgiveness? Because, if so, Buddhists had better start demanding corrections from every book, magazine article and blog posting ever written on the subject, which claims Buddhists don't believe in God, but try to become their own gods.

I can't imagine that anyone thinks Tiger's problem was that he didn't sufficiently think of himself as a god...

On MSNBC, David Shuster invoked the "separation of church and television" (a phrase that also doesn't appear in the Constitution), bitterly complaining that Hume had brought up Christianity "out-of-the-blue" on "a political talk show."

Why on earth would Hume mention religion while discussing a public figure who had fallen from grace and was in need of redemption and forgiveness? Boy, talk about coming out of left field!

What religion -- what topic -- induces this sort of babbling idiocy? (If liberals really want to keep people from hearing about God, they should give Him his own show on MSNBC.)

Most perplexing was columnist Dan Savage's indignant accusation that Hume was claiming that Christianity "offers the best deal -- it gives you the get-out-of-adultery-free card that other religions just can't."

In fact, that's exactly what Christianity does. It's the best deal in the universe. (I know it seems strange that a self-described Savage would miss the central point of Christianity, but there it is.)

God sent his only son to get the crap beaten out of him, die for our sins and rise from the dead. If you believe that, you're in. Your sins are washed away from you -- sins even worse than adultery! -- because of the cross.

"He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross." Colossians 2:14....

Christianity is simultaneously the easiest religion in the world and the hardest religion in the world.

In the no-frills, economy-class version, you don't need a church, a teacher, candles, incense, special food or clothing; you don't need to pass a test or prove yourself in any way....accept that God sent his only son to die for your sins and rise from the dead ... and you're in!

"Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9.

If you do that, every rotten, sinful thing you've ever done is gone from you. You're every bit as much a Christian as the pope or Billy Graham.

No fine print, no "your mileage may vary," no blackout dates. God ought to do a TV spot: "I'm God Almighty, and if you can find a better deal than the one I'm offering, take it."

The Gospel makes this point approximately 1,000 times. Here are a few examples...John 3:16...Ephesians 2:8...Romans 6:23...

Christianity is also the hardest religion in the world because, if you believe Christ died for your sins and rose from the dead, you have no choice but to give your life entirely over to Him....


At January 7, 2010 at 10:59 AM , Blogger William Lang said...

What if Tiger Woods were Christian, and Brit Hume had suggested that Woods would only find comfort by becoming Buddhist?

And what if a Buddhist Ann Coulter had written an article in reaction to the resulting indignation by conservatives, to say that Brit Hume was correct, and how wonderful and true Buddhism is? After all, she could explain that Buddhism is a religion that teaches compassion to all sentient beings; she could say that only Buddhism offers a way out of suffering, because only Buddhism correctly understands the cause of suffering: attachment to the ego and to the world. And a Buddhist Ann Coulter might have a tart comment about Christianity, perhaps that Christianity is a religion founded on the cruel and illogical teaching that the guilt of a person can be removed by the sufferings of an innocent being.

At January 7, 2010 at 12:04 PM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

Good questions; a few thoughts...

Your hypothetical would not create nearly the firestorm or indignation that Hume's remarks did. While many Christians might ill at ease with such claims, few if any would be apoplectic. In this way, most conservatives are far more tolerant than many so-called liberals.

I'm also reminded of C.S. Lewis' point: if Christianity is correct does not imply that other religions are false in all of their claims. We are free to condone or even share beliefs with elements of other religions are valid if they do not contradict.

At January 7, 2010 at 3:31 PM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

Chuck Colson adds a few more details (hat tip: Linda Christiansen)...

The obvious question is, “Why the outrage?” Was Hume wrong about the differences between Christianity and Buddhism? Not really. Barbara Hoetsu O'Brien, a Buddhist journalist, told USA Today that “Buddhism doesn’t offer redemption and forgiveness in the same way Christianity does” since “Buddhism has no concept of sin.”

Was Hume’s offense presuming to offer Woods unsolicited advice in public? If so, the outrage is selective. At ESPN, writer Malcolm Gladwell “advised” Woods to make it clear that “he is not someone who is ready, as yet, to settle down” and then take lessons on how to “live a tasteful bachelor lifestyle” from Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter. I don’t recall any outrage over Gladwell’s “presumption” to advise Tiger Woods....

If Hume had advised Woods to spend time in a Buddhist monastery, there wouldn’t be a controversy. If he had urged Woods to enter rehab, Hume would have been applauded.

But what Hirschfield calls the “shrill objections” to Hume’s comments are, as he tell us, rooted in the “contempt which many others have for Christians and their willingness to speak their faith.”

At January 7, 2010 at 10:39 PM , Blogger Jenna said...

I'll tell you what is absolutely outrageous -- the fact that certain people are so upset by Hume's remarks! Get a Life!!!

Just like you can't say Merry Christmas anymore. Well, I work in retail and I said it to every single customer I served. What are they going to do - Fire me? Is it now against the law to wish someone a Merry Christmas?? If someone said "Happy Kwanza" or "Happy Hannukhah" to me I would know they were wishing me well and be glad. I LIKE knowing people of different faiths. I LIKE people!
Seriously, all this has gone too far. Jesus Christ is only the most famous person who ever lived and now we're not allowed to mention him in public?

I could understand if Buddhists would want to explain why what Hume said was wrong, but OUTRAGE? Completely misplaced. And it does show the complete intolerance certain news media people, among others, have for the Christian faith.

Let's all get a grasp on some basics - the Foundational Truths of major world religions are DIFFERENT. It is not possbile that they can all be true at the same time. People pick the one that seems most true, makes the most sense - by definiton this means that the other ones are not "as true". If you thought White Castle coffee was better than Starbucks, why shouldn't you tell other people to check it out? Why should people get mad at you for suggesting such?
I don't get mad at an atheist acquaintances/relatives who tell me God is a figment of my imagination, that people have no souls and that when you die you simply no longer exist. I think they are wrong but still want to be friends. We're all humans and in this thing called life together.

Everyone needs to lighten up IMHO, including me probably :-)

At January 8, 2010 at 8:20 AM , Blogger William Lang said...

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At January 8, 2010 at 8:22 AM , Blogger William Lang said...

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At January 8, 2010 at 8:46 AM , Blogger William Lang said...

[Let me try to get the wording here right, for the third time…]

I can't recall when a public figure advised another public figure that he or she should change their religion, particularly in a moment of public distress. So I'm not sure that the outrage is selective. Of course, it's not against the Constitution for Brit Hume to tell Tiger Woods to convert to Christianity. But it's not good manners either.

But if the outrage is selective, it is because much of the public regards evangelical Christians as being religious bullies—sometimes for good reasons. And I think the Buddhists have a right to complain that their religion has been distorted by the evangelicals. For example, Colson quotes a Buddhist journalist who says Buddhism has no concept of sin or forgiveness, but he fails to mention her explanation that Buddhism instead has a doctrine (metta) of loving-kindness towards all people.

At January 8, 2010 at 10:07 AM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

Neither can I recall when one public figure has advised another to embrace a religion. But Colson makes an interesting point about Gladhill. Tweaking that, why would it be fine for Hume to give material advice (e.g., rehab), but bad manners to offer spiritual advice?

Yes, Christians have been bullies at times. (I suspect this is part of a majoritarian culture-- and is not endemic to the religion per se.) But Brit Hume was not and has not been a bully, so that's not particularly relevant.

The Buddhist doctrine of lovingkindness is not particularly related to Tiger's problem. Tiger needs forgiveness, self-forgiveness, and redemption. If Buddhism doesn't have it-- and Christianity does-- that's the relevant thing, yes?

At January 8, 2010 at 10:11 AM , Blogger Jenna said...

Assuming it was bad manners on Hume's part - does this justify "outrage"?

The validity of your second point is dependent on the definition of "religious bullying".

You have done a great job telling us how Buddhism and Christianity are similar. How about explaining how they are different?

At January 8, 2010 at 10:20 AM , Blogger Eric Schansberg said...

Right, shouldn't we consider outrage as a response to be bad manners here? ;-)

At January 8, 2010 at 11:10 AM , Blogger William Lang said...

Is it bad manners to call others' irritation at Brit Hume's comments "outrage"? Or is that outrage at bad manners? I'm getting confused. <grin>

Of course, Buddhism doesn't have a concept of sin; in fact, Buddhism does not have a concept of a Creator God for anyone to sin against, so Buddhism also has no need for redemption. From a Christian point of view, the primary thing Buddhism lacks is the notion of a God who is just and loving. In the Tibetan Book of the Dead, monks are told to be thankful for their opportunity to work towards salvation (nirvana), because few beings have this opportunity. In that, Christianity is a big improvement in that salvation is immediately available to all. However, evangelical Christians usually teach that if you are not saved, you will go to the hot place for eternity (although evangelical Christians differ as to whether that means an eternal state of regret, or actual torment, or personal annihilation)—Buddhists instead teach that hell is a temporary state of suffering some souls find themselves in as a result of their lust or violence. As a liberal Christian, I tend to side with Buddhists as well as Jews, who also teach that suffering is not eternal. (Yes, I know what the New Testament says on that matter.)

At January 8, 2010 at 3:24 PM , Blogger Jenna said...

"Outrage", which I will define for purposes of this discussion as "becoming very angry" (I have no idea what Webster's says), is not an appropriate resonse to "bad manners". This can get you killed on the highway... it's commonly referred to as "Road Rage".

Thanks for the run-down on Buddhism vs. Christianity.
I have no PhD in comparative religion, but from what you've written, Colson and Hume turn out to be right. If Woods has a sin problem and is in need of redemption, Christianity may better serve his needs.

At January 8, 2010 at 9:19 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At January 11, 2010 at 3:44 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

I am a Republican and an Ann Coulter fan but she misses the point of Buddhism. It is about being self responsible and not looking for answers outside of one's self, it does'nt have much to do with a God or Gods. Buddhism is a perfect fit with Capitalism and America's can do attitude. One can be a Buddhist and Christian at the same time.
The left has "taken over" Buddhism and portrays it as anti-Capitalism and anti greed. Not true. It is against unhealty attachments, addictions. Buddha rejected extremes such as asceticism. Those attached to seeing themselves as holyier than thou, whether leftist do-gooders or rightist religious figures are both wrong.
Please Ann, don't concede Buddhism to the left!


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