I’ll admit, I thought Brit Hume’s “Tiger should convert” moment on Fox News the other week was a bit jarring, even if the backlash against him was over the top. In the New York Times, Ross Douthat says that, if we want a healthy debate about religion in this country, we all need to get over our delicate sensibilities on the subject:
The tendency to take offense at freewheeling religious debate is widespread. There are European Christians who side with Muslims in support of blasphemy laws, lest Jesus or the Prophet Muhammad have his reputation sullied. There are American Catholics who cry “bigotry” every time a newspaper columnist criticizes the church’s teaching on sexuality. Many Christians have decided that the best way to compete in an era of political correctness is to play the victim card.
But these believers are colluding in their own marginalization. If you treat your faith like a hothouse flower, too vulnerable to survive in the crass world of public disputation, then you ensure that nobody will take it seriously. The idea that religion is too mysterious, too complicated or too personal to be debated on cable television just ensures that it never gets debated at all.
Douthat points out that the shouting matches over whether Hume should have said what he did drowned out intelligent responses from Buddhists and Christians alike, where an interesting and worthwhile debate might have been had — and that’s a shame:
Theology has consequences: It shapes lives, families, nations, cultures, wars; it can change people, save them from themselves, and sometimes warp or even destroy them.
If we tiptoe politely around this reality, then we betray every teacher, guru and philosopher — including Jesus of Nazareth and the Buddha both — who ever sought to resolve the most human of all problems: How then should we live?
Read the whole thing here.