Monday, January 04, 2010
Should Tiger Convert?
Is it my imagination, or do the other members of this panel look embarrassed by Brit Hume's out-of-his-depth comment?
Here's what I think is wrong with what he said. It's not exactly that he misunderstands Buddhism. In my outsider's view of the matter, it is true that Buddhism does not promise forgiveness of sins. I also think (though this would be controversial) that it is misleading at best to apply the word "redemption" to any important Buddhist idea.
Isn't that a flaw? How is Tiger, if he is actually a practicing Buddhist (which I rather doubt, but let's suppose for the sake of the argument) going to get forgiveness for his sins?
Well, the real problem with Hume's comment is that he seems to be treating sin and the resulting guilt as if they were facts of nature. In fact, they only exist within the context of world-views like the Christian one. As is pointed out here, Buddhists don't need forgiveness because they don't believe in sin in the first place.
The soothing balm of God's forgiveness is the solution to a very real problem, but it is a problem that is created by Christian morality in the first place.
Woods has made a terrible mess of his personal life and should strive to earn the forgiveness (if it is still possible) of his wife and, one day, of his children. To understand this situation we need certain moral concepts -- such as vice, betrayal, and offense -- which we find in all civilizations and all moralities. To these potent ideas the Christian adds a notion of even greater moral amperage: the idea of sin, which is an offense ultimately, not against human victims, but against God.
I don't mean to be flippant about this. I would imagine that there are people who do derive benefit from this extra dimension, from thinking that, in addition to all the others who are harmed and aggrieved by their wrongs and betrayals, they have also offended the Creator of the universe. Those same people also derive benefit from being forgiven by the Creator. But to offer that forgiveness to Woods is to offer him something that, if he does not already have a personal relationship with a highly moralistic God, he probably cannot use and does not need.