Much has been written already about the Tiger Woods' Apology on Friday. A Google News search reveals more than 12,000 stories since Friday's press conference. We are told that even Wall Street stopped trading to hear what Tiger had to say. What has grabbed my attention this morning are the op-eds and the discussion about religious diversity, or lack thereof, in America.
The conversation has even made its way to Paul Revere Family Restaurant, where I like to hang out in the morning. One of my eating buddies said, "Mark, you should read the op-ed in USA Today today." So I did. "A Buddhist Moment in America," is written by Stephen Prothero, a professor of religion at Boston University. Prothero believes that there is room for more religious tolerance in America. He writes:
One of the core civic challenges in the USA today is to find a way to reconcile our Christian supermajority with our many religious minorities — the Jews and Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists, Sikhs and non-believers in our midst.
While it is true that many more people in America claim as their faith Christianity than any other, it would be incorrect to believe there is anywhere close to the 250 million Christians in the USA that Prothero quotes. I doubt there are even 250 million seats in Christian American churches. One of the biggest challenges that Christian teachers like myself face, in fact, are the misconceptions of what Christianity is and what it isn't. For example, Prothero writes that the concept of craving is best known as a Buddhist concept:
The key moment in Woods' statement came at the end, when, in an effort to make sense of his behavior, he turned not to Christian theologies of sin but to Buddhist teachings about craving. Whereas Christianity seeks to solve the problem of sin, Buddhism seeks to solve the problem of suffering. Buddhists observe that suffering arises from a 12-fold chain of interlocking causes and effects. Among these causes is craving. We crave this woman or that car because we think that getting her or it will make us happy. But this craving only ties us into an unending cycle of misery, because even if we get what we want there is always something more to crave — another woman or another man, a faster car or a bigger house.
I will be the first person to admit that I am NOT an expert when it comes to Buddhist teachings. But I do know something about Christian teachings. I know, for example, that most Christ-followers affirm the Ten Commandments as basic to their faith. The tenth and final commandment is "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."
Some rabbis have historically observed that this final commandment against coveting is different than the first nine in that it is the only one that cannot be outwardly observed by others. Additionally these same rabbis have noted that if one observes the first nine commandments, then the tenth becomes a gift from God. In other words, the way one does not fall to covetous behavior like the craving described by Tiger Woods is by observing the first nine commandments. Prothero observes:
As Woods recognized, the money and fame that came with celebrity made it easy for him to fulfill his temptations. But we Americans who can only dream of such money and fame also possess an unparalleled ability to satisfy craving upon craving. Ours is the richest country in the history of the world, and our core values derive at least as much from consumer capitalism as from Christian faith.
Certainly Woods is not the first incredibly wealthy and famous man to discover that he could not satisfy his cravings through either his fortune or his fame. The author of the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes begins his composition this way: "Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless." Many scholars believe that the author of this "meaningless" mea culpa is none other than King Solomon, the wealthiest man who ever lived.
As an American I have great respect for my fellow citizens' (like Tiger Woods') different religious views. As a Christ follower I wish Tiger Woods every best wish for a full recovery. As a theology student I also appreciate Professor Prothero for bringing a fresh awareness of Woods' different religious background. But I also want my readers to know that Christianity has much to say about the subject of craving. Ultimately our craving will either lead us to meaningless emptiness or to Christ.