Monday, February 22, 2010

"The same idea"

Yes, I heard Tiger’s “apology” press conference. At least, I heard part of it. More interesting to me than the conference were some of the remarks of WSB Radio listeners after. The question came up, why did he need to do this? One caller answered: This could be the beginning of Tiger’s own spiritual recovery. The first step, in many recovery programs, from infidelity to alcoholism, is to admit personal failure.

This got me to thinking. This was a Buddhist confession, not a Christian one. How are the theologies different? What does Buddhist theology say about marriage and fidelity?

The Dalai Lama was asked about this recently:

Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader told The Associated Press during a brief interview in his hotel suite in Beverly Hills that he had not heard of Woods, but when the circumstances were explained to him he said that when it comes to adultery, “all religions have the same idea.”

“Whether you call it Buddhism or another religion, self-discipline, that’s important,” he said. “Self-discipline with awareness of consequences.”
Buddhists take it as a point of faith that all religions are basically the same, codes of ethics. This is a view that politically-correct Western Liberalism has also adopted. But does it really measure up, if tested?

Christian theology teaches that marriage exists to teach us about God’s triune nature. Just as God is Three-in-One, three distinct Persons in eternal Unity, with Love as an essential characteristic of that unity, a marriage consists of two people united to be “one flesh” [Genesis 2:24]. The love of the Father for the Son was so great that a life-filled Creation was the result; the love between a husband and wife leads to the creation of a family, and new life. In Christian teaching, God loved His people so much, even through our spiritual infidelity, that the Son shed all his glory, lived a humble life, suffered, and died in order to redeem us. No amount of self-discipline can overcome our fallen nature. Only Christ can heal our brokenness, if we enter into a loving personal relationship with Him. Heaven is eternal loving communion with God.

Let’s get back to the statement that “all religions have the same idea”. Do any religions out there have “the same idea” as Christianity does? Sure, the basic idea that “Thou shalt not commit adultery” is common. What about the consequences? What about love, and life? In Buddhist theology, life is suffering, and the purpose of religious discipline is to reduce the amount of suffering one creates. Suffering is to be avoided, not embraced, as Christ embraced suffering for us. Infidelity is bad because it causes suffering. The “two-become-one-flesh” of Christianity has no context here.

Nor does the Christian view of marriage have any context in Islam. While love is essential to the character of Christianity’s triune, personal, loving God, Islam’s God is distant. Paradise in Islam is still a paradise where Allah is distant. Christ commands love; Allah demands submission and obedience. A Christian husband is called to love his wife, cherish her, and if she is unfaithful, forgive her and take her back, though he may suffer for it. What about Islam? Rape is only punishable under Sharia law under the testimony of four male witnesses; Evidence is irrelevant. On the other hand, evidence can be used to convict a woman of sex outside of marriage. The punishment for this crime is non-negotiable: Death. There is no room here for forgiveness or redemption.

So much for the idea that all religions have the same idea.