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Brit Hume: Jesus Can Tame You, Tiger

5 years ago
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For Americans who are both political junkies and faithful churchgoers (guilty as charged), Sunday mornings can mean a painful choice between watching the Sunday talk shows for scoops (or gaffes) from newsmakers, or attending services to meditate on the wisdom of ancient scripture and tradition.

But thanks to Brit Hume and "Fox News Sunday," we didn't have to choose. On yesterday's program the panelists were discussing predictions for the coming year and when talk turned to Tiger Woods, Hume weighed in with some serious preachifying:
"Tiger Woods will recover as a golfer. Whether he can recover as a person, I think, is a very open question. And it's a tragic situation. . . . But the Tiger Woods that emerges once the news value dies out of this scandal, the extent to which he can recover, seems to me to depend on his faith.

"He's said to be a Buddhist. I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. So my message to Tiger would be, 'Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.' "
Bet a lot of churchgoers didn't get such a straightforward sermon. And how many preachers got in a shot at Buddhism? At The Daily Dish, Andrew Sullivan blasted "the pure sectarianism" of Hume's comments and got in a good line about "the slow morphing of Fox News into the 700 Club."

Hume's homily was understandable, because, well, this is Fox News, but also because Hume himself reconnected with his faith in a serious way after his son committed suicide in 1998 and his faith clearly carried him through. As USA Today's Cathy Grossman notes, in a 2008 interview with The Hollywood Reporter on the occasion of his retirement as FNC's Washington bureau chief, Hume said this when asked what he wanted to do in retirement:
"I certainly want to pursue my faith more ardently than I have done. I'm not claiming it's impossible to do when you work in this business. I was kind of a nominal Christian for the longest time. When my son died, I came to Christ in a way that was very meaningful to me. If a person is a Christian and tries to face up to the implications of what you say you believe, it's a pretty big thing. If you do it part time, you're not really living it."
In his "Fox News Sunday" remarks, Hume was correct in that Buddhism does not have the same concepts of forgiveness and redemption. But Buddhism certainly provides paths for healing and the kind of recovery that Hume seems to be talking about. And there have been any number of rebuttals from Buddhists, as rounded up at USA Today's Faith & Reason site. Among my favorites is Kyle Lovett, a.k.a. The Reformed Buddhist:

Could Hume get away with saying something like this about Jewish people or Black People or the Muslim Faith? You betcha he couldn't. Why should he be able to skate away scott free when speaking about Buddhists?

Christians may have some quibbles as well. From what I can tell, Hume's framing of his altar call to the wayward golfer raises at least two debatable points:

One is the purpose of Christianity: It is eternal salvation through belief in Jesus Christ. That is the entry point, the foundation of it all. Christian belief should lead believers to behave in upright ways, to sacrifice themselves totally, and to live as Christ did. But if that happens, it is really a welcome result of belief. In his remarks, Hume almost sounds like all those Christian "life coaches" and prosperity gospel preachers who see Christianity as a means to a happy and successful life. Christianity is more about what has been called "the sanctification of failure," namely through Jesus on the cross. In that sense Tiger has plenty of opportunity to be a witness.

The other problem with Hume's comments is that they are contradicted by so much evidence. Anecdotally, one need look no further than the sanctimonious Christian pols-turned-philanderers, or the many high-profile pastors who turn out to have feet of clay. Statistics also show that Christians are as likely to divorce or abort as everyone else, and Bible Belt states often have much higher rates of marital breakdown and teen pregnancy than other regions.

So Buddhism -- or any number of other religious or secular philosophies -- could get Tiger to the Promised Land that Brit Hume wants for him. (Though rumors of Tiger partying it up in the Trump International Hotel in Manhattan would lead one to believe he isn't listening to Pastor Brit or any other religious leader at the moment.)

On the other hand, there's a good argument to be made that Tiger should just do what he does best: play golf. That's the direction in which "Fox News Sunday" regular William Kristol, who was clearly nonplused at Hume's comments, hoped to steer the conversation:
"Well, Brit is concerned about Tiger's soul, which is admirable. I'd just make a more straightforward sports prediction, which is that he'll come back and win the Masters. Because, you know, he's still an awfully good golfer, despite the chaos and bad news about his personal life."
Any takers on Woods at the Masters?

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