In November of 2009, the Tiger Woods high-volume adultery scandal broke open with the revelation that the once-pristine imaged golf pro was cheating on his wife with literally scads of lady lovers. Amid this brouhaha, Fox News opinioncaster Brit Hume imperiously expressed his thoughts on the matter:

"The extent to which (Tiger) can recover 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."
But an example of what? A high profile "conversion" coup? A proof that, if-and-only-if you're going to be adulterous, it's somehow better to be a Christian? That we should face challenges by giving up whatever are our existing beliefs and taking on new ones? There's something of an embarrassment to Christianity in the very fact of this prominent person practically begging with an even more prominent person to make a facile conversion over to his side -- and, naturally, under the veneer of forgiveness. Would Brit Hume think Tiger was better off as a Buddhist (and so continuing to reject Christianity) if Tiger had revealed no such blemish to his character?

That consequence is actually unsurprising given the negative premise of Christianity, for its cult casts humanity under a permanent pall. Once its premises are bought, the doom it offers can never be escaped -- for Christianity accuses everyone to be a sinner, even before they actually do anything "sinful." We are, it teaches, basically badly created, made horrible, made by a god for the sick purpose of the vast majority of us being punished by eternal torture. Odd, even, that Brit should wait for Tiger to publicly falter -- was not Tiger a miserable sinner, in Brit's Christian judgment, needing forgiveness, even before he cast an adulterous eye on another? And yet, this "promise of forgiveness" empowers Christianity to prey on the superficially self-loathing, on those who need to make a quick fix to a tarnished public image by sticking tightly to an insistence that all of us are horrible, and they are no better (but really, no worse).

But Brit's philosophical error is magnified by his utterly vincible ignorance of Buddhism -- an error seemingly corrected by Tiger himself in his public statement of contrition. Overly scripted and woodenly delivered as it was, Tiger set the path straight on the doctrine:

"Part of following (the path to recovery) for me is Buddhism, which my mother taught me at a young age. People probably don't realize it, but I was raised a Buddhist, and I actively practiced my faith from childhood until I drifted away from it in recent years. Buddhism teaches that a craving for things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security. It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint. Obviously I lost track of what I was taught."
And so, explains Tiger, it was turning away from Buddhism that started him on the wrong path in the first place!! Buddhist scholars have basically nodded in affirmation of Tiger's summation of the Buddhist view. While most theistic faiths seek simply to replace one set of desires with another (centered on subordination of self to approval of the group's deity), Buddhism seeks to reveal desire itself as the cause of suffering. Amusingly, the spiritual leader of Buddhism worldwide, the Dalai Lama himself weighed in on that point (after it was explained to him who exactly Tiger Woods was, and what it was Woods had done): "Whether you call it Buddhism or another religion, self-discipline, that’s important. Self-discipline with awareness of consequences."

Now, notice what the Dalai Lama did not do: he did not proceed from a presumption that Buddhism is the "only way"; nor did he seize this opportunity to evangelise how the troubled should turn to Buddhism to heal their psychic scars. There are not an awful lot of Buddhist "evangelists" out there, and yet hundreds of millions hew to Buddhism -- why? To those who adopt it and maintain it, they simply find it works for them; others see those for whom it works, try it themselves, and may also find comfort in the results. It seems, then, that a religion that offered a true path would "sell itself," would not need to salesmen to be evangelising at all. And so a religion that must be heavily evangelised to obtain converts -- to the point that a newscaster would seek to twist the failings of a celebrity into a public plea for the celebrity to join the newscaster's cult -- must be false. And perhaps, Brit Hume needs to consider, now, the degree to which his life might be corrupted by his theistic desires to make such an arrogant and ill-advised push.

Previous experience aside, Tiger Woods may be in no position to act as a spokesmodel for Buddhism. But at the least, this incidence has given many pause to ponder how Buddhism and Christianity, respectively, respond to personal failings and the public airing thereof, and perhaps even for some Christians to wonder, "now why can't my religion behave more like that?"


Read more:
On Brit Hume's religious advice
Tiger Woods discusses role of Buddhism in recovering from his personal failings
The Dalai Lama responds to questions about the Tiger Woods situation

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