Fox News’ Brit Hume stirred the pot this weekend, commenting on Tiger Woods’ infidelities. Hume said:
Whether he can recover as a person depends 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.”
Many commentators were offended. Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution responded:
But seriously, I do not understand and can’t begin to comprehend the arrogance it takes to publicly anoint yourself someone’s spiritual adviser, and to then lecture them about their faith and its alleged inadequacies. This was a prepared, considered remark by Hume, not some off-the-cuff aside.
A person’s faith is a private matter between that person and God, and is not a matter to be judged by some pompous TV anchor.
And then there were those, like PJ Media’s own Charles Martin, who rejected Hume’s remarks on religious grounds. Charlie wrote:
Please mention to Brit that his knowledge of Buddhism leaves enough to be desired that he probably shouldn’t opine thereon.
I’ll grant that Buddhism doesn’t provide a transcendental entity which can forgive sin, but then Buddhism doesn’t actually provide the concept of sin either; we replace it with “things which lead to a peaceful life, causing no avoidable harm to others” and, of course, the opposite.
High on that list is “avoid sexual misconduct” which can be translated to “know when to keep your pants zipped.”
Having no concept of transcendent forgiveness, we replace it with the idea that having harmed someone, you should make amends and reconsider your behavior in the future.
You tell me which is more productive: being Forgiven of Sin, or making amends and remedying your faults?
Should Brit Hume be speaking to a celebrity’s mental and spiritual state and giving advice? Allahpundit of HotAir wrote on Twitter that Hume’s statement was “presumptuous.” The Anchoress said she felt that Brit chose the “wrong venue.” Jim Hoft saw the liberal backlash as a restriction on speech.
There was a time when discussing one’s Christian faith may have been less controversial, but I don’t know. Even fifty years ago, there would have been a presumption that people would view Tiger Woods’ actions as immoral and a sign that he had some sort of emptiness in his life. Back in the day, such wanton infidelity was simply not spoken of publicly. It would be too shameful. Now the media spreads every sort of salacious detail of a celebrity’s life, and everyone is free to comment. Why should there not be a comment on his faith, too? We know that Tiger likes rough sex and sex without condoms and sex with porn stars and has super-human, possibly steroid-enhanced endurance. Should his spiritual beliefs be off-limits while his sexual exploits are fair game?
Discussion about either seems unseemly. Tiger’s sex life should be personal, and his relationship with God is even more intimate than that. His own careless actions made his sex life public. Does that free people to speculate about his spiritual life? It seems a personal relationship with Tiger would give a friend some cause to talk with him about God. A calling out like Hume’s seems destined to fail.
As to Brit’s theological assertion that Buddhism would not offer Woods the sort of redemption that a relationship with God and Jesus would offer, Buddhists like Charles Martin admit that Buddhism won’t give redemption or a relationship. The emphasis is on karma — what goes around comes around — and how Tiger is reaping the rewards of it.
In Christianity, the karmic notion is nothing new. Galatians 6:7 makes clear that God is not mocked and that we reap what we sow. The Christian philosopher C.S. Lewis noted a “Tao” of belief that most great religions share, and how this is centered around some version of the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do to you.
Charles implies that in Christianity, there is no attempt to “make amends,” while in Buddhism that is the core tenet. As for remedying faults, the Greek word metanoia — translated as “to repent” — means to change. It implies a before and after. A Christian demonstrates his change by actions. “By their fruits you shall know them.” (Matthew 7 is a good book to read about condemning and discernment and repentance.) It’s not repentance or forgiveness of sin. It’s both.
And all of this is rather moot. Tiger has his own path — one that only he must take. America is a place of new beginnings and do-overs. Redemption and renewal, core Christian tenets, are woven into the fabric of the American psyche like nothing else (think Rocky). Whatever Tiger chooses, it’s his business. His public life gives the illusion that what he does is our business. But in the big scheme of life, this story is about a man’s internal struggle.