Ross Douthat on Brit Hume

Ross Douthat of the New York Times weighed-in yesterday on the Brit Hume controversy. He writes:

“What Hume said wasn’t bigoted: Indeed, his claim about the difference between Buddhism and Christianity was perfectly defensible. 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.”

His conclusion is right on point:

“When liberal democracy was forged, in the wake of Western Europe’s religious wars, this sort of peaceful theological debate is exactly what it promised to deliver. And the differences between religions are worth debating. Theology has consequences: It shapes lives, families, nations, cultures, wars; it can change people, save them from themselves, and sometimes warp or even destroy them.

“If we tiptoe politely around this reality, then we betray every teacher, guru and philosopher — including Jesus of Nazareth and the Buddha both — who ever sought to resolve the most human of all problems: How then should we live?

“It’s reasonable to doubt that a cable news analyst has the right answer to this question. But the debate that Brit Hume kicked off a week ago is still worth having. Indeed, it’s the most important one there is.”

Read the rest here.

(HT: Justin Taylor)

4 Responses to Ross Douthat on Brit Hume

  1. David Vinzant January 11, 2010 at 3:36 pm #

    I generally liked Douthat’s column, especially some of the bits you didn’t quote.

    After the “It’s plausible . . .” sentence you cited, Douthat continues:

    “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.”

    Another good bit, I thought:

    “Somewhat more plausibly, a few of Hume’s critics suggested that had he been a Buddhist commentator urging a Christian celebrity to convert — or more provocatively, a Muslim touting the advantages of Islam — Christians would be calling for his head.

    “No doubt many would. The tendency to take offense at freewheeling religious debate is widespread. There are European Christians who side with Muslims in support of blasphemy laws, lest Jesus or the Prophet Muhammad have his reputation sullied. There are American Catholics who cry “bigotry” every time a newspaper columnist criticizes the church’s teaching on sexuality. Many Christians have decided that the best way to compete in an era of political correctness is to play the victim card.”

    That last sentence is especially relevant to the way some Christians have been acting victimized by negative reaction to Hume’s comments.

  2. Nate January 11, 2010 at 4:34 pm #

    David: Christians do play the victim card at times. However, in this debate, it is the secularists who are playing it and they even attempt to play it for other religions (as if they even care). They really don’t want to discuss the merits of Buddhism either.

    And Douthat’s conclusion that Denny quotes is spot on: Why not just have an intelligent debate? Olbermann and Shales certainly don’t. None of Hume’s other panelists offered any intelligent rebuttals, except that Tiger should go back to playing golf.

  3. Norris Hall January 12, 2010 at 3:29 pm #

    Brit Hume’s comments reveals how little he knows about Buddhism. That’s typical of most Americans. To say” I don’t think that faith (Buddhism) offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith.”
    He goes on to say that Woods should switch to Christianity to get real answers to his problem.

    It seems clear that Hume does not understand much about Buddhism.
    The teachings of Buddha, do in fact offer good advice on how Woods could improve his predicament

    Buddhism is not a religion with a heaven for good people and a hell for bad people. You don’t have to convert to Buddhism. There is no such thing as salvation or going to heaven (as Brit implies).
    Buddha is not a God. He does not need to be prayed to, pleased, praised, adored, worshiped or in any way have his ego stroked to keep him happy.
    There are rules to follow in order to get rewards.
    Buddah is considered a great teacher…much in the same way that Lincoln is considered a great president. We honor Lincolns memory. We build monuments to him. We celebrate his life. But we don’t worship Lincoln or pray to Lincoln to give us things. He’s not a God that needs us to
    praise him. He’s not like Santa Claus who rewards

    Perhaps it would be helpful for Brit to google “Buddhism” before he makes broad sweeping statements about things he knows nothing about.
    There are many good links to the teachings of Buddah on the internet. It never hurts to do a little research first

    Too many news analysts just aren’t adhering to basic journalistic standards anymore. They are going by what they’ve heard rather than what they’ve researched.

    So fiction now has the same force as fact.

  4. D.J. Williams January 12, 2010 at 3:39 pm #

    Norris,

    Hume never said that Buddhist teachings don’t offer good advice. He said they don’t offer forgiveness and redemption. Are you claiming that they do?

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