I’ve been delaying comment on Brit Hume’s recent advice to Tiger Woods to ditch Buddhism for Christianity because I thought freedom of speech was a no-brainer in this country. Heavens, haven’t lots of Hollywood types pushed yoga (which has Hindu connections), Scientology or Buddhism on anyone who’d listen?
For those of you who’ve been on Pluto this past week, Brit 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.”
Here is the YouTube link to his speech. Notice how his fellow Fox News panelists look a bit taken aback at the sermonette.
But Mr. Hume is not the first person to talk about Christianity being the go-to religion if you want your sins forgiven. Back in 1996, I interviewed Barnard Nathanson, the former abortionist who converted to Catholicism that year, on why he gave up Judaism. His answer was similar: Considering the 70,000 abortions he’d helped bring about, Christianity — and specifically Catholicism, which mandates one confess one’s sins often to a priest — was the only religion he could trust to save his soul from hell.
It’s odd that Brit would be the focus of so much ire. For 10 years, I was involved with Gegrapha, a group of Christians working in the secular media all over the world. Founded by former Time magazine correspondent David Aikman, it still meets in the Fox News/C-SPAN building on Capitol Hill each week. Its membership is secret, chiefly because of the harassment so many openly Christian journalists experience in their newsrooms.
At one point, we invited Brit Hume to speak at one of our noontime gatherings at La Colline, a Capitol Hill restaurant that’s now closed. I think this was after his son, Sandy, committed suicide in 1998, but even so, I remember Brit didn’t reveal much about himself during his short presentation. In fact, I got the clear impression he was quite new to the faith. He may not have been, but for whatever reason, his speech had very little theological depth. His co-Fox news analyst, Fred Barnes, was far better known in the Christian-journalist realm as evidenced by this speech at one of our conferences.
However, Brit got it right theologically when he emphasized that Buddhism is not a sin-absolving kind of faith. Buddhism has no concept of personal sin, a fact that trips up many Christian missionaries to Buddhist countries. Actually, Buddhism doesn’t necessarily include a belief in God, either, and certainly not hell.
All the naysayers against Brit emphasize the failures of converted Christians who’ve chosen to turn rather than burn without bringing up the other side of the equation that was emphasized in the movie “Amazing Grace.” Which is: that Christianity was the only religion that came through for slave trader John Newton, whose sins were greater than anything Tiger Woods has amassed. Brit Hume represents a world view that believes there is a hell, that one will be brought to account sooner or later for one’s sins and that it’s better to repent now than regret later.
His detractors don’t see a universe set up along those terms. It’s too bad they have to ridicule those who do.
— Julia Duin, religion editor