Consecutive Days Riding: 94 Days Blogged: 91
New Mileage: 8 Total Trip Mileage: 741
I once had a student tell me that he thought the world would be a much better place if there was no religion! I told him I could not disagree more. I view religion as a double edged sword. Clearly it may serve a very positive function within an individual’s life. It may help to give their life meaning and a sense of direction. It also serves a very important function within our communities. Many of our important national and world leaders like Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and Dali Lama arose from within the ranks of religious citizens. In response to Haiti’s devastation many religious groups are stepping forward with assistance. Whether they are responding to Christ’s or Buddha’s commands to providing comfort and aid to the less fortunate and those in need, they are stepping forward.
The other side of this sword is the fact that the religious beliefs and actions of certain individuals and groups can be turned into potential instruments of bias, divisiveness, hatred and some might even say evil. Religion can be used to drive a wedge between people rather than become a device to bring together our communities.
Most recently two examples of this negative side of religious beliefs have come to light. The first occurred several weeks ago, when in response to Tiger Woods’ adultery, commentator Brit Hume of FOX News suggested that Tiger Woods should turn to Jesus to deal with his sins because the Buddhist faith does not offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption offered by Christianity. He suggested that Tiger should “turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.” As you might expect this statement has created a firestorm of protest from both Buddhist leaders as well as within the liberal Christian community. Robert Thurman, a professor of Tibetan studies at Columbia University notes that “it is insulting to Buddhism to indicate that it does not care about its own believers and followers.” He notes that adultery is as much a sin in Buddhism as it is in Christianity and that the ethics are the same in both traditions. There are clear philosophical differences between Buddhism and Christianity. Buddhism believes that a person must look inward and that the problem is something he’s got work out for himself, while Christianity believes that only a potent “creator God” can bestow redemption. I have no problem with Brit believing what he believes but his statement that Tiger should “lose his faith” and that this faith is inferior or somehow lacking is an insult to not only Buddhists but to anyone who does not hold to a Christian viewpoint. This approach does not foster deeper understanding and acceptance of others within our community. The fact that his views were aired on a network that prides itself on being “fair and balanced” just adds insult to injury in my view.
The second and I believe somewhat more egregious example occurred in response to the terrific destruction in Haiti following the recent earth quake. I’m referring to Pat Robertson’s statement in which he noted that “something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about. They were under the heels of the French you know Napoleon the third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said ‘we will serve you if you will get us free from the prince.’” Pat Robertson then goes on to note that Haitians need to have a “great turning to God” in response to this earthquake. It has been noted that this is not the first time that the former Republican presidential candidate has made controversial comments in the wakes of disasters he was quoted as linking Hurricane Katrina and the 9/11 terrorist attacks to a legalized abortion and the presence of the gay agenda in our country.
While Pat Robertson has every right to make his statements, the questions for me are: What good do the statements server? Do they help the Haitian people in their moment of need? Do they help our response to the disaster? Do they simply represent a “holier than thou” or a “we’re right and favored by God and you’re wrong” exclusionary religious rant? Is he trying to help quell questions from his followers about why or how could a “just and caring God” do this to these people?
How helpful is it in our preparing for natural disasters or dealing with terrorist threats to make blanket statements in which we tie the occurrence of these disasters to social political causes (e.g. abortion, gay rights). Do you help people who have a “pact with the devil?” How do we compromise and find common ground on issues like abortion if any kind of support is seen as bringing God’s punishment and damnation upon us?
One of the blessings of our great nation is people’s right to speak their opinions. However, I believe that there are responsibilities that go with this gift and that one of these is to work toward a greater sense of community, toward solutions that bring people together not drive apart. You can label it “fair and balanced” all you want, if it is derogatory, inflames passions and drives wedges into our communities then I believe we may be heading toward a path fraught with EVIL consequences.
As I prepared to post today’s blog my partner pointed out to me an editorial by the NYT writer Ross Douthat in which he notes that Brit Hume’s comments have fostered a much needed religious discussion. I agree that such discussions are needed, however, I would suggest that they not be started by commentators who present one sided and insulting statements. I would suggest starting with a balanced two sided presentation of the topic in question.
Please hold the people in Haiti in your prayers as they struggle to survive and rebuild!