Dear Mr. Hume:
I am not a television viewer of any regular status (nor, on the rare occasion that might find me taking in a broadcast of some kind or another, a watcher of the FOX television network) but I do keep up with the news of the day. It appears certain of your recent on-air comments directed to Tiger Woods got quite a few current affairs junkies chattering away on television, in newspapers and across the Internet's blogosphere and Twitterverse.
Ordinarily, I might be inclined to say something like, "Bravo sir!" except in your case, you seem to have stepped into something with quite an unpleasant smell.
As your comments to Mr. Woods, whose self-inflicted descent into the mire of tabloid rapacity I have been largely inclined to ignore since its initial flare-up, touched on a couple of subjects with which I am familiar -- upon which I have considered opinions -- I'm compelled to waste a little breath and a bunch of pixels to give you the benefit of my own view.
I expect no gratitude; your awareness and enlightenment as to certain truths will comprise their own reward.
Reading the transcript of your original remarks and that recounting your explication of them on Bill O'Reilly's program afterward, what struck me most was your glaring misapprehension of both Buddhism and Christianity.
Buddhism is not a religion. Believing it to be so is a common misconception held by those who have not studied it -- especially among westerners, who have only come into meaningful contact with Buddhism and its practitioners in the last century. And yet, the principles of Buddhist thought were established more than 2500 years ago. And they form the basis for living among an estimated 6% of the world's population.
Your original statement, "I don't think that faith [referring to Buddhism] offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith" pricked up people's ears and your following suggestion that Tiger get under the Christian tent really set 'em off.
But you know what? Your were right, if unintentionally so.
Buddhism doesn't offer the same kind of forgiveness and redemption offered by Christianity. It offers -- in the marketing parlance of one of the greatest branding triumphs ever conceived -- the real thing.
You see, with Buddhism, the secret sauce is inside, while Christianity and almost everything else revered in western culture measures things like forgiveness and redemption in relation to things external.
Who are we, Mr. Hume? Who are you, and who am I, who is Dick Cheney or Nancy Pelosi or Michael Vick or Tiger Woods or any one of the planet's howevermany billions of people, but collections of meat and bones and blood and neurons that perceive whatever it is we call reality from inside, looking out?
Thus, any true forgiveness or redemption must necessarily come from inside ourselves and not from without -- because whatever is "out there" is just a figment of our perception. Because each of us is unique, whatever is external to us is different in the eyes and ears and hearts and minds of every individual. Whatever praise or condemnation any of us deserves is necessarily a function of our inner lives and not of anything that can exist outside ourselves.
Jesus. I'm wading into the deep end here.
In the end, if Tiger Woods is ever to find any kind of forgiveness or redemption, he will find it within, and Buddhism -- should he be a true practitioner of its guidance for living -- offers his only salvation in that regard.
With respect to my assessment of your misapprehension of Christianity I must offer this disclosure; I am not a Christian. I was educated by Christians, and I have studied the teachings of Jesus Christ in both literary and philosophical disciplines, but I do not ascribe to the religious values of any church that claims Jesus Christ as its founder.
It seems to me something like 90% of the people on this planet who claim to be guided by the teachings of Jesus Christ have spent no time studying those teachings or attempting to use them as guidelines for their own behaviour.
Fully one third of the people who claim a religious affiliation claim Christianity as their own -- and yet wars are waged endlessly in Jesus' name and the countries which hold him in the highest regard seem to have the highest numbers of poor and wretched among them. This is prima facie evidence of a major disconnect from the man's teachings.
Some believe Jesus himself spent much of his twenties studying Buddhism, and those of us who have taken the time to investigate the matter have no difficulty recognizing the confluence of ideals that form the basis of each system of thought.
The ultimate difference as it's manifested in the modern world lies in the desire of so-called adherents of the teachings of Jesus Christ for temporal and political power. Followers of the teachings of the historical Buddha, on the other hand, are interested in no power other than that which guarantees freedom from the suffering attendant on fear and attraction.
I wish you well, Mr. Hume, and I hope you might find the time and the space to sit and meditate on the ways in which Buddhism and Christianity spring from common ground.
There is no competition between the two.