Brit Hume, former Fox News Anchor, now a commentator, touched off a firestorm when he made some compassionate remarks about Tiger Woods on a Sunday Fox show:
“Tiger Woods will recover as a golfer. Whether he can recover as a person I think is a very open question. It is a tragic situation. He has lost his family. It is not clear to me whether he will have a relationship with his children.
“The Tiger Woods who emerges once his news value dies out of this scandal – the extent to which he can recover seems to me to depend upon his faith. He has said he is 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 is, `Tiger, turn to the Christian faith. You can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world,’” Hume asserted.
His fellow panelists were stunned.
MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann aired Hume’s remarks and sneered, “WOW! Hume’s attempting to inject religion in a discussion of Tiger Woods, and says one religion is better than another.”
Dan Savage, a guest, agreed: “Being Christian is the best religion because it offers a `get out of adultery free card, like Mark Sanford and David Vitter. It is an insult to Christianity. Didn’t his mother tell him, `Never discuss religion in public?’”
Olbermann described the “Peter Pan quality” of Hume’s remarks, “Our God can beat up their God.”
Tom Shales, who reviews TV for “The Washington Post,” was also contemptuous “of his trying to compare two of the world’s great religions…Is it really his job to run around trying to drum up new business? He doesn’t really have that authority, does he, unless one believes that every Christian by mandate must proselytize?”
A blogger nailed Shales directly with this arrow, “You’ve managed to offend over 70 percent of Americans who call themselves Christian. I know you’re probably an agnostic or even an atheist, so you won’t understand, but `proselytizing’ is a tenet of Christianity. Ever read Matthew 18:19, sir?”
Bill O’Reilly gave Hume an opportunity to respond on his Monday show, asking if he was proselytizing, “I don’t think so,” replied Hume, adding, “Tiger Woods needs something that Christianity offers, forgiveness and redemption.”
“Remember Chuck Colson, a leading light of Watergate?”
O’Reilly replied, “He made a true conversion.”
And what did that conversion produce? Colson created Prison Fellowship, which over 30 years brought tens of thousands of volunteers into prisons, giving millions of inmates genuine hope for a new life. A single transformed life can impact millions.
Knowing that, Hume responded, “If Tiger Woods made a true conversion, we would know it. It would be a magnificent thing to witness.”
It would indeed.
O’Reilly asked why Hume’s observations sparked so many negative jibes at Christianity.
“It has always been a puzzling thing to me that if you even speak of Jesus Christ (and I did not use his name in my remarks), all hell breaks loose. It is explosive. I simply spoke of the Christian faith. But that triggers a very powerful reaction in people who do not share the faith and do not believe in it. It always has.”
Jesus predicted this would happen: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first… If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also (John 15:18-20).
Many Buddhists have been puzzled by the controversy. They don’t believe Hume denigrated their religion, but simply described it. As one Buddhist blogger put it, “Buddhism doesn’t offer redemption and forgiveness in the same way that Christianity does. Buddhism has no concept of sin. Redemption and forgiveness in the Christian sense are meaningless in Buddhism.”
Hume’s critics are disingenuous in claiming to be offended by Hume’s elevation of Christianity as a better answer than Buddhism. The fact is that Christianity does offer a better answer.
What prompted Brit Hume to offer the Christian faith as an answer? More than a decade ago, Hume described his own conversion and what motivated it: “I came to Christ in a way that was very meaningful to me,” in the aftermath of his son’s suicide.
Tiger Woods ought to explore the Christian faith and consider Brit Hume’s compassionate advice. If he made a genuine conversion, went back to playing golf and being faithful to his wife and children – he would likely be forgiven by them in time as well as by his fans.
Tiger Woods could become his generation’s Chuck Colson.
Editor’s note: Michael McManus is the author of “Ethics & Religion”, a syndicated opinion column which appears in many US publications. Mike is also the founder and president of “Marriage Savers”, a non-profit organization that prepares couples for marriage. Copyright © 2010 Michael J. McManus