I should explain. Regularly on Sunday nights here in NSW, ABC’s Geraldine Doogue plays the part of the Queen of Bland as she presents Compass, which claims to be “an engaging program reflecting and exploring faith, belief and values in Australia and around the globe”. I don’t want to complain too much – it does look at a much wider range of issues than some straighforward “religious” programmes might. But in its worthy struggle to find common ground and not give offence it often appears toothless. Here she is:
(Thanks to ABC for picture)
The last two weeks have been taken up with a two-part series by Robert Beckford. He may not look bland:
but then he talks. I’ll be honest – I also allowed myself to be irritated at being spoken to like a 10-year-old, and at interviews where the subjects were left little option but to agree with the simplistic views he was urging on them. OK, they could have disagreed I suppose, but that would have ended on the cutting room floor. And, by the way, I do still use “simplistic” in its sense of excessively or misleadingly simple, not in the modern usage of just “simple”.
Our man presented “remarkable parallels to the Jesus story in other faiths; some that predate Christianity by thousands of years. He looks at the stories of Horus, Mithras, Krishna and the Buddha…” Let me take the last: we were told a number of times about the “remarkable parallels” between the teachings of Christianity and those of the Buddha. Quoi? Arguably a key feature of Christianity is love and compassion. Yes, some might argue against it, but the case can be made. Arguably a key feature of Buddhism is also love and compassion – we have a saying that if there were one teaching that could put Buddhahood in the palm of your hand, it would be great compassion. Arguably this is the most important thing about either religion. But that is as far as it goes. As for practically everything else I can think of – the soul, the self, the mind, god, the world, the effects of our actions, the nature of reality and so on – the teachings of the two are as different as bacon and bananas. To pretend otherwise is to reduce both to “just be kind to everyone”. Good advice, no doubt, but I expect something more incisive from someone advertised as “academic theologian Dr Beckford”.
I watched because there was plenty of colourful location shooting. But if there were a third episode I would hesitate before letting myself in for further exhortations to drop the doctrine1, drop the dogma2 and serve god by living the message of the real Jesus3.
1, 2 – said as if dirty words
3 – said as if it’s obvious what that means