Tiger Woods, Brit Hume: Who Should “Repent?”

5 January 2010

Christopher J Wiles

pastor | writer | speaker

It’s a bad time to be Brit Hume.

I assume you’ve all heard by now that Hume doled out some controversial advice to Tiger Woods on “Fox News Sunday.” In case you don’t care to watch the clip, here’s what Hume said to Woods:

“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 for him. I think he’s lost his family, it’s not clear to me if he’ll be able to have a relationship with his children, 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.'”

The response has been predictable, though it’s been interesting to note the “who’s who” list ready to voice their outrage over such religious insensitivity. Who, you ask? John Stewart, Don Imus and even – oh, yes, the Sultan of sensitivity himself: Howard Stern.

There are two key issues that I see at work here, that I think deserve address from a Christian standpoint – and yes, unlike many others in the blogosphere, I freely admit my biases. We all have them, so we might as well admit it.  That said, I intend to be slightly more abrasive than usual, so bear with me.

STANDARDS

The first issue is this: we all agree that a standard has been violated. I’m speaking, of course, of Tiger Woods and his growing list of…you know. When it comes to sex, there are few standards shared almost unanimously across American society. Monogamy happens to be one. And so it comes as no surprise that Americans express their collective outrage over the sexcapades of the former pro-golfer.

RELIGIOUS SENSITIVITY

But the other, larger issue is this: claims of religious superiority are arrogant and oppressive. The general theme of most of those outraged is that it is arrogant to assert that one religion is inherently superior to another. When Hume vaunts the Christian faith over the “inadequate” faith of Buddhism, it flies in the face of the Baskin-Robbins, 31-flavor version of contemporary spirituality.

One blogger even addresses Hume’s inability to represent the Buddhist faith, calling Hume’s comments “the denigration and misrepresentation of Buddhist traditions.” Notice, of course, that no one will actually state why Buddhist traditions are valid. We are instead meant to understand the implied wisdom of the contemporary spiritual zeitgeist.

The Spirit of the Age is rightly named Legion, for it is many. Diversity remains the seminal virtue for a culture raised on Oprah. Anyone arrogant enough to claim that one religion is right and another wrong is clearly a nutjob.

Right?

WAR OF THE WORLDVIEWS?

Here’s what’s really going on, and it’s shameful that none of the objectors can see their own intellectual hypocrisy.

The strong reaction against Hume seems to hold in common the idea that all religions are equally deserving of respect. This is not to say that they are all the same (a danger the Dalai Lama himself warns against), but that we should acknowledge the diversity of metaphors and different faith expressions.

What?

In other words, see it our way…or else.

What’s really being stated is this: “Our approach to religious pluralism is superior to all other approaches to religious pluralism.” If they really felt that all beliefs were appropriate, then they would never be bothered by comments like Hume’s, even when they “misrepresent” your faith. And for that matter, if we demand an apology from Hume, should we not expect the same from Bill Maher for mocking Christianity?

But no. As they say in Texas, “that dog won’t hunt” (sorry).

What’s happening is, at its heart, a collision of worldviews, specifically Hume’s Christian worldview versus the contemporary worldview of religious inclusivism.

And you can’t have it both ways.

You can’t accuse Hume of seeking to impose “his” worldview on another person and then turn around and do the exact same thing. One view will invariably dominate the other. The objections only reveal the attempts to force men like Hume into the same intellectual mold. Hume is called to apologize for his remarks. But no one is willing to apologize for arrogantly committing the same crime against Hume.

SEEKING SENSITIVITY

The superiority of the Christian claim lies in the validity of the resurrection, apart from which faith loses meaning, and apart from which there can be no hope for either the individual or for mankind.

I really don’t know if Hume’s words are what Tiger needs to hear right now. Nor am I confident that they won’t get lost in the sea of rhetoric surrounding this “incident.”

I do know this. We must all realize that we do live in a world of many different, conflicting worldviews. We cannot reasonably expect men like Hume to check his faith at the door when he’s at the news desk. At the same time, I do not claim to know whether Hume’s actions were wholly appropriate to his position.

At the end of the day, I agree with Augustine, who said (and I paraphrase) that he had read all the scholars and philosophers (might we add Fox News in there somewhere?) and there was only one man who said “come to me all you who are weak and weary, and I will give you rest.”

I don’t know Tiger’s faith persuasion, mainly because there are so many flavors of Buddhism that it’s hard to keep them straight. Buddhism and Christianity diverge on many points, one of which can be seen in the very symbols of the faith. Buddhists are represented by a smiling Buddha, Christians through the suffering of the cross.

Christianity offers a solution to suffering through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Where “religion” tells us that we have to work our way to God, Christianity tells us that God comes to us. And it is only through His sacrifice and resurrection that we find our way to our Creator.

In that sense, we are – each of us – lost without God’s mercy and provision. Jesus is the only way to the Father, a statement made not by Hume or even the church, but by Jesus Himself. It’s not about targeting Buddhism or any other religion – this isn’t the “culture war” of fundamentalism.  It’s about the changed life as a result of what God accomplished through Christ.

And that’s better news than anything coming across the news desk.

5 January 2010

Christopher J Wiles

pastor | writer | speaker

Chris is a writer and speaker. He currently serves as teaching pastor at Tri-State Fellowship and as a research writer for Docent Research Group.

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