Sunday, April 13, 2008

Articles of Over-Simplification

There is a recurring guest column that appears in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer called "Articles of Faith." This week, Mr. Robinson, a Christian minister, takes on the Dalai Lama's message of compassion, selecting a few sound-bites, and constructing from them overly-simplistic ideas that equate the practice of compassion with maintaining social harmony at all costs, and that being empathic means being a doormat who never says "no" to even the most unreasonable demands. He also seems to think that if the Dalai Lama's ideas about compassion had any real-world relevance, Tibet wouldn't be the position that it's in.

On the one hand, this seems like a simple lesson in why it's a bad idea to critique material that you really aren't familiar with. If the Dalai Lama were in fact pushing a message of extreme passivity in the face of injustice as the way to save the world, that really would be a bad thing. But I haven't seen or heard anything to suggest that such is the gist of his teaching - although I missed all of his Seattle appearances, so I can't say that definitively (yes, I know, I know). But the cynic in me detects a hint of Christian chauvinism. Normally, Robinson is more forward with his own religious beliefs - "Articles of Christianity" or even "Articles of Protestantism" would be a more accurate title for his column, as he almost never mentions other faiths by name, let alone talk about how they relate to the world today.

But I'm curious as to what Robinson would say about Christ's injunctions to treat others as we would like to be treated, and to turn the other cheek when struck. These seems to be a much more blatant call to passivity than the Dalai Lama's stand.

No comments: