In my last post on this issue, my overall point was two-fold: (1) there are real differences between Buddhism and Christianity that aren’t being discussed in the Brit Hume kerfuffle; and (2) that Brit Hume exposes a deeper religious double-standard in our country that may be the better target of our discontent. In this post, I’d like to talk about a related but separate issue, that is, how the mainstream media represented Buddhists in their response to Brit Hume’s comment.
I’ve wavered back and forth quite a bit about whether or not I wanted to weigh in on the whole Brit Hume thinks Tiger Woods should be a Christian thing. But I think there are a couple of points in all of this that are worth bringing into the spotlight, so, albeit a little late, here goes.
First, some disclaimers.
For starters, I think Marcus is right. Our outrage is no doubt better served by protesting actual atrocities committed against Buddhists the world over rather than the vacuous comments of one talking head on a network not generally known for being particularly fair or balanced. Moreover, I think that we’re right in spending our energies on real human suffering, such as that in Haiti right now, and that, in the grand schemes of things, Pat Robertson deserves far more ire than Mr. Hume.
But I also think that some of the commenters on Marcus’ post are, at least partly, also right. This was something of interest to us here in the States, and it is worth talking about to the extent that, to borrow a phrase, media matters (it is the message, after all). So, while I respect the fact that we should all be doing Other Things right now, I’m going to talk about some of the buried messages in this little event, take it as a teaching moment, a way to shed some light on how the media operates, and what it has to tell us about the state of religion and religious discourse in the good ol’ U.S. of A.
If I know you as well as I think I do, my dear readers, I know how much you like statistics. (Okay, thatâ€™s my silly attempt at sarcasm. I know that not many of you like statistics, so Iâ€™ll do my best to jump over them and get to the point as quickly as possible.)
I just read this little nugget of made-up wisdom over on the Tricycle blog: Buddhism is Franceâ€™s 3rd-largest religion, according to Wikipedia.
How to tell your family you are Buddhist.
Some woman is suing Prudential Insurance for â€œforcingâ€ her to participate in the â€œreligious practicesâ€ of Buddhism (and Hinduism, though the lawyers canâ€™t seem to keep the two separate). Basically, some idiot in management picked up Nancy Spearsâ€™ Buddha: 9 to 5 and thought it would be a good idea to make all of his employees sit around meditating and chanting the sacred syllable (à¥ if you havenâ€™t been paying attention).
This can’t end well.
It seems to me that the BCA is actually pretty well-equiped to not only propagate the Buddha Dharma to its existing members in a real and lasting manner, but also spread the Buddha Dharma beyond its existing base into the future. But it seems clear that weâ€™ll need to do some radical re-thinking of our priorities. The structure is in place. And a lot of it works pretty well, for certain segments of our population. The trick will be in re-shifting priorities and purpose. It seems clear that the BCA is at something of a crossroads, and itâ€™s time to do something, to set the terms of the debate. So hereâ€™s to getting the ball rolling.
In sharp contrast to Islam and Hinduism, Buddhism in the U.S. is primarily made up of native-born adherents, whites and converts. Only one-in-three American Buddhists describe their race as Asian, while nearly three-in-four Buddhists say they are converts to Buddhism