Tiger, Buddha, and Jesus
After months of silence, Tiger Woods addressed the nation on February 19th to apologize for his marital infidelity and to confess his faith in Buddhism. It was a carefully planned, scripted, and executed “confession.” Both of his sin and his “savior.” To be clear, Buddhism has no personal savior per se, but what it does have is a set of teachings, which, if lived properly, will lead one to an eternal existence in Nirvana (which literally means “blow out”). It’s all rather abstract to be sure. Buddhism has as its focus suffering. The Four Noble Truths declare that existence is suffering and that desire is what causes suffering. By ridding oneself of all desire one can eliminate suffering in this life. And the way to end desire is to follow the Eight Fold Path that Buddha taught.
This is the path that Tiger Woods declared that he had “drifted away from…in recent years.”
This theology of suffering stands in stark contrast to Christian theology. Yes, Christianity acknowledges the reality of evil and suffering in the world. But unlike Buddhism, Christianity pins the source of suffering on sin. Sin is a rebellion from God and His ways. When we live life on our terms, our way, that is sin and it WILL lead to suffering. Sin also has a ripple effect. The sin of another can touch the lives of many, even those seeking to live without sin. How many of us have heard the story of a drunk who rams his car into a family on their way home? The drunk walks away unharmed and the family is killed. That’s the ripple effect of sin. And that is suffering.
Buddhism claims that the culprit for all suffering is desire. The teaching of Buddhism is that the fulfillment of desire only leads one to want or desire something else. What develops is an endless cycle of desire that is never really met, thus suffering. So if you can eliminate all desire, you will break the cycle, eliminate suffering, and be truly happy.
But Buddhism has a logical flaw. Isn’t happiness, in and of itself, a desire as well? Don’t you have to desire to eliminate suffering in order to follow the Eight Fold Path? Isn’t Nirvana as a goal, by definition, a desire? The reality is that it is impossible, and inhuman, to shun all desire. Tiger Woods speaks of a return to the teachings if Buddhism. Does this mean he will leave the PGA and never play golf again? Something tells me that Tiger desires greatly to be the best in the world at golf. He desires to regain his reputation. He desires to reclaim his sponsorships. He desires the wealth that golf brings him. And he expressed in his own press conference that he desires to be with his wife. I would submit that Buddhism in and of itself produces suffering because to presents a theological belief system that can never be attained. Failure is a guarantee.
But Jesus offered something wholly and completely better. The theology of Christ affirms desire. We have been made in the Image of God with wants, and needs and desires. We desire friends. We desire intimacy. We desire, ultimately, a relationship with God. The answer is not to rid ourselves of desire and to thus deny the way we were created. The answer is to channel our desire in the direction that God has laid out for us. Suffering will only be eliminated when sin is defeated. The battle is waging right now. If Tiger wants to end his suffering, he should confess Jesus and not Buddha. Jesus will forgive him. Jesus will take his sin away. Forms of suffering will remain for but a time as the battle in the hearts and minds of humanity will continue. But for Tiger, Jesus would reserve for him an eternal life in a very real place; a place where there will be no more sin or suffering or crying or pain (Rev. 21).