Buddhism vs. Christianity ~ Two men enter one man leave!

Awwww....they like each other! No tongue-kissing!

I know this Brit Hume thing is getting beat to death.  The man made comments about religion because he wanted a chance to proselytize on air…fine. Whatever.  Comments have also sprouted up from the Buddhist camp concerning misconceptions made clear by Hume’s poorly informed comments.  Ethan Nichtern did a fantastic job on CNN covering these.  It was a joy to watch.  The fact that Ethan simply refused to subjectively judge another faith was simply beautiful.  Stuck to the facts and didn’t extrapolate.  This interview could have gone in a different direction if Ethan went down that path but he didn’t…

As well as a few surprising ones from Don Imus (the last man I expected to do some research on Buddhism since he did such a great job identifying with African American women).  But he actually went in, somewhat irreverently, and discussed Buddhist thought.

While I think most Buddhist, after the initial knee-jerk “I’m-so-pissed-off” reaction, took this as an opportunity to explain our beliefs (or lack of them) to the popular media, I am not surprised that the media twisted it into a “Buddhism vs. Christianity” thing.  Something to sensationalize and cause dispute.

It isn’t a battle over souls.  It isn’t us versus them.  It is a process.  This process sometimes spans across several belief patterns and religions but it takes us to the same place ~ introspection, realization of true-self and a more productive and happy life.  If you need to place a Buddhist, Atheist or Christian label to it then fine….

…but don’t pretend that most of us are in the least concerned about converts or conversion.  The best thing, from my point of view, that a spiritual practitioner can do is respect and treat with compassion another’s belief or non-belief.




 NPR Interview about Buddhism and Brit Hume

And some comments from Ethan Nichtern on his media blitz!


17 thoughts on “Buddhism vs. Christianity ~ Two men enter one man leave!

  1. I have to agree about Ethan. There were several bait questions that he wouldn’t have anything to do with. He walked that tightrope brillently. All in all he did an excellent job. Would have liked to hear more, and sounded like he was prepared for more, but they didn’t give much time.

  2. I think Ethan did an excellent job, and I think it comes as a shock to a lot of people outside the faith the there are plenty of Christians that practice Buddhism.

    I’m also kind of glad CNN didn’t ask me or John on…that coulda gotten ugly.:-)

  3. Hi John,

    Yes, but wasn’t it a terrible pity that so many Buddhist bloggers had that “initial knee-jerk “I’m-so-pissed-off” reaction”?

    I mean, how’s the letter writing campaign going? Are the bloggers still calling for an on-air apology?

    I mean, blimey, it was one man, whose position is well-known, giving his personal opinion when asked for it. And if you think his words are insulting, it’s because people are looking for them to be.

    Gladly, most Buddhists happily shrug this off knowing that without the enraged blogs, the letter-campaigns, the us-vs-them knee-jerk reaction, it all soon goes away.

    There are villages in southern Thailand where entire families are shot and killed simply because they are the last remaining Buddhists in that village – where is the reaction from the Buddhist blogosphere when that happens?


    Buddhists continue to be persecuted in China, in Burma (the chanting of the Metta Sutra was recently banned there) and in other places on a daily basis, yet the Buddhist blogosphere generates moe heat over one individual Christian’s spoken opinion than any number of official regimes’ torture.


    • I don’t see it as a pity. People will react as they react. There were many loud voices, myself included. But my knee-jerk reaction was what it usually is ~ humor. I see no issue with that.

      But it did get the conversation going, rolling and I think ended up in a good place. If everyone, just sat back and said “Thats nice” then no-one would have learned about Buddhism.

      Ethan’s interview was as close to perfect (although left out alot, granted, it was only 6 minutes long) as I think someone can get by attending to the moment and clarifying the issue at hand about Buddhism. Very little was said as a critique Christianity (although the interviewer tried!).

      As per the numorous horrible events that happen in the world ~ I call ’em as I see ’em. Hume was a good oppurtunity to discuss Buddhism. Thailand is a great opportunity to discuss human rights.

      As an international blogger, bring these events to the forefront! Believe me, American News can care less about those topics and that is where we get most of our stuff from (at least I do). If you bring it up and supply links and a commentary, others will follow (including me).

      Don’t cluck your tongue b/c things go unreported. Report them, instead.



  4. @Marcus – Because it got the conversation going and it got people talking about it. It’s silly, its not of consequence, but did you ever stop for a minute to think that some people might hear the conversation, get interested in Buddhism and find all the wonderful things that we have just because they had the TV on when someone was chatting about that.

    You can keep being silent all ya like, but that’s not for me and I’ll keep being a loud mouth. Sometimes people miss the beauty of the stars because they are so focused on the street.

  5. I think forgiveness of bad actions is a very interesting topic. In fact, Buddhism offers no redemption except the endurance of Karma from said actions with a kind heart and acceptance.

    I struggled with this when I first joined a temple. I wanted forgiveness and a kind of clean slate when I signed up. What I got was: Accumulation of merit (by doing temple work) and some purification ceremonies and practices: Vajrasattva practice and the confession Buddhas.

    There is a lot of omission in those videos

  6. @Marcus. I can’t help but feel that you’ve developed a wrong view on this issue. I’ve seen your comments in many places basically criticizing the blog author for their indignation. The Buddha said that we must guard against unskillful speech.
    I’m not saying that we should take everything in the Sutras as some sort of doctrine or anything but in this case the suggestion seems valid.

    He denigrated the ethics of our path. This was unskillful and should be treated as such. We can ignore it and adopt the attitude that this will pass without our intervention, which may be true, but it it displays a disturbing lack of concern.

    We may not be concerned with converts but neither do we wish for our chosen path to be ill perceived for no good reason. Ignorance should be countered when it is found.

    Much, Metta, Marcus.


  7. Right speech, from my limited uunderstanding, goes beyond just not telling lies. The Buddha tells us we have to refrain from speaking harshley and slanderous even if it may be true (I strugle with this personally) so if our responses are truth, laden with friendship, warmth, compassion and gently spoken then I think to speak out would be the correct thing to do.

  8. I think I side with Marcus on this, but maybe not for exactly the same reasons. It’s important to consider the source when measuring our reactions.

    Brit Hume. On Fox News.

    If I railed against Fox News and demanded an apology every time they twisted facts, made outlandish assertions, denegrated, disregarded, or outright lied about something that I hold dear, I’d have no time leftover in my day to do anything but organize letter-writing campaigns.

    I understand and empathize with our community’s indignation. But I agree with Marcus that some of the knee-jerk response was over the top, especially considering we are, at our core, supposed to be developing mindfulness here on the Middle Path.

    Part of the mindfulness in my personal reaction to this was to remember the source, their motivations, their audience, and their intent.

    And after all, when you wrestle with a pig, you both get covered in shit…

    But the pig likes it.

  9. I still submit that a careful rehearing of Mr. Hume’s speech will tell you that regardless of his prosilyting motives, he was basically right. Christianity hands you a deity and says follow him and he will absolve your sins.

    Buddhism does not do that.

  10. @Don He never mentions God, only forgiveness and redemption. It seems you might be reading your own motives into his words. Forgiveness and redemption can come from many places, God being only one of them. If a man can not forgive himself and make an effort to redeem himself, then what is the point? God isn’t going to pop a magic wand on anyone’s head and bingo, you have redeemed your sins.

    • As always Marcus, I love your commentary. It comes from different experience than mine and thus broadens my outlook.



  11. Cheers John,

    By the way, this week, while everyone’s been getting worked up about Brit Hume’s personal opinions on Tiger Woods, the Chinese have sentenced Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche to eight and a half years in prison on what, in my opnion and that of most of the rest of the world, those who are bothered to look, are trumped up charges in an unfair trial.

    During the interegation of Phurbu Tsering Rinpoche he was “handcuffed by an alternating hand each day to an iron pillar in the interrogation room, and with arms outstretched and unable to sit down he was interrogated continuously for four days and four nights by a team of six people in three units of two people; at the same time the defendant was told that if he did not confess that the weapons and explosives were his, then his wife and son would be detained.”


    And yet, while Buddhists and Buddhist monks are being tortured on a daily basis, the western Buddhist blogoshere don’t even notice, they are too busy writing letters to Fox news demanding that someone apologise for giving their opinion.


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