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Jan. 12 2010 - 12:18 pm | 1,071 views | 2 recommendations | 10 comments

Was Brit Hume right on Tiger Woods?


One of the odder bits of fallout from Brit Hume’s already-odd decision to proselytize the Christian faith to Tiger Woods has been the even-odder backlash from two high-powered conservative commentators, the New York Times’s Ross Douthat and the Washington Post’s Michael Gerson. They each argue that Hume’s statements were not only appropriate, but that he has been unfairly pilloried, the result of an outmoded, politically correct decorousness about discussion of matters of faith.

This is preposterous.

Remember the circumstances here. Hume was speaking on Fox News Sunday – a political chat show in which pundits and politicians argue unproductively with each other about the events of the week. FNS and other Sunday shows are part of a larger ecosystem of TV political chat which is, to generalize, crass, superficial, flighty, and out of touch with both American public opinion and the workings of the political system it purports to analyze.

Pundits argue all the time about the role of religion in politics, a perfectly valid topic for discussion. But can we envision them expanding their portfolio to include religion itself, and the questions – cosmic, existential and deeply personal – it engages?

Imagine Brit Hume, Wolf Blitzer, David Gregory, Karl Rove, Keith Olbermann, John McCain, Joe Lieberman (and now, Sarah Palin) disputing over which religion is best (and worst – I’m pretty sure we already have a loser!). Or, more broadly, imagine them arguing over the purpose of existence, the meaning of suffering, the role of sin and of a redemptive God. It would create a whole new universe of stupid. It’s enough to turn the entire political-TV audience agnostic. (Which might not be a bad thing, now that I think of it. But never mind.)

These are the most important issues there are. They should be discussed and argued, and there are forums for doing that. But there are good reasons for, in keeping with the tradition of American political discourse, maintaining respect for all faiths. Given the nasty state of our politics, doing otherwise is an invitation to holy war.

I’m not big on proselytizing myself, but it is a part of the Christian faith. But I’d disagree with Douthat and Gerson on the appropriateness of Hume’s statement even in that narrow context.

Hume was, by all accounts, sincere in his desire to reach out to Woods (his faith, as Gerson describes it, comes from his own experience with personal tragedy). But if I were Hume and wanted to help Woods, I wouldn’t do it on Fox News Sunday. I would privately offer consolation and advice. Trumpeting “my faith is superior to yours when it comes to redemption, so give it a try” is no way to offer help to a troubled soul – the ostensible purpose here, not winning converts or arguing the relative merits of Buddhism and Christianity. To me, Hume’s decision to speak out this way casts doubt on his judgment in spiritual matters. Why should we listen to what he says about religion when he uses Tiger Woods’s personal pain as part of a kind of rhetorical stunt on a political TV show?


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    What Hume said was inappropriate, but then, he works for Fox News, so he’s paid to be inappropriate. What Douthat and Gerson wrote was silly. One can only hope that both were (lame) attempts to be interesting and counter intuitive. As you say, this is a serious subject worthy of serious discussion. Neither Douthat nor Gerson contributed.

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    Who cares about Tiger? Elin should dump Tiger, and let him join Amway, along with his “girlfriends”, as Amway also screws anything that moves.

    Amway is a scam, and here’s why: Amway pays out as little money as they can get away with, so they support the higher level IBOs ripping off their downline via the tool scam.

    As a result, about 99% of IBOs operate at a net loss, while the top 1% make several TIMES more from their Amway tool scam than from the Amway products.

    Read about it on my blog, I suggest you start here: http://tiny.cc/D5oJh and forward the information to everyone you know, so they don’t get scammed.

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    Mr. McQuaid,

    It seems to me that Mr. Hume is free to say anything he likes that Fox TV approves of. If Fox and Hume want to be seen as advocates of a particular religion and as dismissive of the beliefs o others that is their right as well. I agree that Mr. Hume gives every impression of grandstanding rather than showing any actual concern for Mr. Wood’s emotional or even spiritual well-being, but again that is his and Fox’s prerogative. In olden times Fox would have had to granted time equal time to those with different views, Buddhists I suppose in this case, in the interest of “fairness” but those days are long gone.

    It is a free country and there is freedom of the press for those who own one. Poor taste and impoliteness are protected forms of free speech.

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    It hadn’t occurred to me to take Brit Hume seriously on any topic.

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    The essence of my Christian religion is that if you do not believe as I do then you are going to go to Hell. That said, all other religions are based on that premise also. You may not go to Hell but you surely are not going to recieve salvation or whatever the ultimate prize is depending on the religion. In our American culture, we recieve all religions with due legal respect – even Atheist which are a religion unto themselves. The most that any one of us can do is practice our faith to our utmost as an example to others to emulate. I applaud all of you that do this – even if you are going to go to Hell.

    • collapse expand

      Hello mrtgardencook,

      You wrote:”That said, all other religions are based on that premise also.” I am sorry I believe you are mistaken in this matter. Judaism has no heaven or hell and sin is not a matter of belief but action. Similarly Buddhism has no unique place of eternal suffering and such suffering was the result of unbelief but bad actions. Other religions believe that the soul is born again and again in potentially endless series of lives and death here on Earth. Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the souls of the dead, both the saints and the sinners, sleep beneath the Earth until the final day of judgment when all resurrected and judged.

      That said, even if you are correct, no one is saved from the fires of hell by the a newscaster lecturing a professional golfer on TV.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    It seemed to me that Hume was using the Woods brouhaha to stir up the Christian right wing’s sense of being the persecuted majority. No one stopped Hume from speaking out about his religious convictions. People did criticize him, not for speaking about religion in public, but for trivializing large questions and for insensitivity.

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    About Me

    I'm a journalist and author who writes about science, environment, various forms of government dysfunction, and, against my better judgment, American politics. Also: the media and the future of journalism. My work has appeared in Smithsonian magazine, Wired, The Washington Post, Mother Jones, the Guardian and the Huffington Post. In a previous life I was an investigative/explanatory reporter for The Times-Picayune of New Orleans. The edge of chaos, BTW, is that narrow zone between stasis and chaos where complexity emerges and interesting things happen.

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