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Brit Hume: Spiritual adviser


I don't know what compelled Brit Hume to offer Tiger Woods spiritual counsel on national television, but he would've been better off speaking in tongues. At least no one would know what he had said:

The extent to which he can recover seems to me depends on his faith. He is 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. 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.’

Hoo-boy. Ta-Nehisi Coates dubs this "faith for people who don't like to think." I'd say it's more offensive than that. Imagine if a Jewish commentator had taken to national television to say that a popular Christian adulterer should really consider converting, because "the Christian faith's emphasis on forgiveness provides an ethical get-out-of-jail-free card that contributes to these sorts of transgressions." Or if a Muslim suggested that a Protestant cheater should consider a conversion to a "rules-based religion. Christianity, sadly, erred when it focused on man's relationship with God rather than God's laws for man."

In either case, said commentator would resign within a day or two. But Hume will certainly survive this controversy. Remember that next time someone complains that we've lost our identity as a Christian nation. Frankly, we haven't lost nearly enough of it.

Photo credit: By Michael Williamson/The Washington Post

By Ezra Klein  |  January 4, 2010; 4:30 PM ET
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toche! Maybe he should become an ethical humanist because they believe in people acting ethically (ie no horn dogging on the Missus). Seriously, this should force Hume to be laughed off the air. The fact that this comment will go basically unpunished, even unnoticed, shows how deep villager depravity is.

Posted by: srw3 | January 4, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

As a rather committed Christian, I wouldn't be offended in the least if a commentator from another tradition evinced belief in their tradition. It follows from their being in a different faith (or none) that they disagree with mine, think it wrong, inferior, etc., at least most of the time. So what? Even if they said bad things about my religion, why should they resign over it? And, by the way, commentators say such things all the time without resigning. Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens can be found on all manner of talk shows saying all manner of terrible things about my beliefs, some of them just as ignorant as Brit's assessment of Buddhism. Do they, too, need to be stopped?

The First Amendment surely exists so that we can all hear from each other--I can watch Sam Harris accuse me of believing in flying spaghetti monsters without taking offense, and I can hear Brit Hume offer Tiger the consolations of the Christian tradition, and I wouldn't think any commentator on a range between the two should be forced to resign for so speaking his mind.

I do not really understand the paranoia here about espousing one's religious beliefs (or the rejection thereof) as things one actually, you know, believes. Brit is not a government official, after all.

Posted by: FrBill1 | January 4, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Hmm. That last line may have been a bridge too far.

Posted by: charlie14 | January 4, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

Uh oh, Bill Donohue's going to be coming for you.

Posted by: _SP_ | January 4, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

I generally agree with most of what Ezra says and even think sometimes he's gotten a little too centrist, but I do think on stuff like this people are trying too hard to be offended.

I mean, was it a surprising thing to hear in public? Probably, though it was on FOX News, so that barely counts. But really, I also am a committed Christian and I don't think I could muster up any outrage over someone else advocating their own belief system as the best way to go.

In fact, I kind of enjoy an environment where that's possible.

Posted by: bmrobert64 | January 4, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Offering UNSOLICITED advice about someone CHANGING their spiritual beliefs is offensive on its face.

Woods wasn't engaged in a debate with Hume about religious faith as Hitchens and others you cite ususally are. And, with Vitter, Sanford, Ensign, Hyde, Gingrich all cheating on their spouses, Christianity doesn't seem to have much of a track record in the fidelity department.

No one would criticize Hume for stating his Christian beliefs on the air. Certainly repiglicans are not shy about touting their supposed fidelity to Christianity when it suits them and ignoring it when it doesn't (any pro-war, pro-death penalty, leave the poor to fend for themselves repiglican Christians in the house?) (How is that covenant marriage/divorce thing going, Karl Rove and Newtie?)

Telling someone else to convert to Christianity, to get the benefits of redemption (not because of say a revelation about the love of God or Christ for example), is demeaning to Christianity and to Woods and whatever spiritual beliefs he might hold.

Posted by: srw3 | January 4, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

I was appalled by Hume's comment but agree that Ezra's last sentence steps over the line. Lately there's been an undercurrent of genuine anti-Christian hostility among the Young Jewish Male Bloggers lately (see Yglesias' obnoxious Christmas Day post) despite the fact they know virtually nil about the complexity of American Catholicism or the vast spectrum of American Protestantism. The devout goyim are all one bigoted right-wing circle jerk to them. As if.

Far better to let Christians criticize the outrageous statements of the Brit Humes of the world. I'd like to see Ezra and his brethren up the ante on their own offensive tribesmen, starting with AIPAC and Kristol and Lieberman.

-S. (aka BrklynLibrul)

Posted by: scarlota | January 4, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

If Hume were working for a non-partisan network as when he formerly worked at ABC, he certainly would be gone for this. But at Fox---no way. The dirtbag network relishes employing dirtbags.

Posted by: OHIOCITIZEN | January 4, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Hume's blithe chauvinism is offensive, but if you believe in anything it entails some level of chauvinism -- I think my views are better than yours, or I'd hold different views, wouldn't I!

But what's more offensive, and should be called out by serious Christians, is how theologically off-base it is. God's forgiveness, granted through Christ, is not a first step on a successful P.R. campaign. A "full recovery"? Of what, Tiger's endorsement prospects, or his mortal soul?

And shouldn't Hume be counseling Elin Nordegren to practice forgiveness, rather than telling Tiger to go get it? An "example to the world" indeed, running off to kneel at Rick Warren's feet with a camera running, rather than working to undo the damage done to your loved ones.

Hume doesn't see a difference between what Christ asks of us and having a halo put on your head by America's media. What of "the father who sees in secret"? Give me a break. (That's Matthew 6, by the way)

ps I'm an atheist, suck on that.

Posted by: StPaulite | January 4, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

The sad thing is that any committed membor of any faith needs his nation to share that faith. Unless you're something like a Caliphate style committed Wahhabi or a Christian Identity zealot, in which case it is both sad and dangerous.

As a friend of mine once had to tell a clerk in the government center where he was registering to perform our marriage: hey -- separation of church and state. Love it. Live it.

Posted by: wcwhiner | January 4, 2010 5:48 PM | Report abuse

@S "Far better to let Christians criticize the outrageous statements of the Brit Humes of the world. I'd like to see Ezra and his brethren up the ante on their own offensive tribesmen, starting with AIPAC and Kristol and Lieberman."

Clearly you are not paying attention. Klein, Matt, and other Jewish bloggers regularly criticize AIPAC, Kristol, and Holy Joe. They don't cut them any slack because of their religious beliefs.

Posted by: srw3 | January 4, 2010 6:21 PM | Report abuse

If Brit Hume is Christian, color me pagan.

Posted by: pj_camp | January 4, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

At least Hume didn't suggest that Woods should blow himself up! (alone, and in a sand trap, of course)

Posted by: bdballard | January 4, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

@S "Yglesias' obnoxious Christmas Day post"

HUH? Who reads blogs on a holy day? What post? The one about eating chinese takeout and watching tv? I don't get it. Not everyone wants to kill a tree for Jesus.

Everybody celebrates in their own way. Lighten up!

Posted by: srw3 | January 4, 2010 6:33 PM | Report abuse

Much ado about nothing. The only thing it shows is that Fox is biased, but--newsflash--everyone is biased.

Posted by: bmull | January 4, 2010 7:21 PM | Report abuse

"The devout goyim are all one bigoted right-wing circle jerk to them."

Awesome. Of course, I'm pretty sympathetic to this view as it applies to the American political landscape, but still. Nice rhetorical flourish.

Posted by: goodepicwashpost | January 4, 2010 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Wow, I love the assertion that Ezra's last sentence steps over the line. As if calling for the christianists to stop forcing their religion on everyone is even in the same category as Brit Hume's overt demonstration of ignorance.
To clarify, for those above in the comments section, espousing one set of beliefs is not, on the face of it, any kind of implied judgment about any other set of beliefs. I choose my beliefs just as I choose my clothes (because they fit me) but that does not mean your clothes do not fit you.
Finally, in practically any religion (or belief system) forgiveness is fully achieved when one has sought forgiveness from the injured, from oneself, and from a higher power. Christianity has no monopoly on atonement -- not even the fake plastic kind.

Posted by: GovtSkeptic | January 4, 2010 9:51 PM | Report abuse

I don't think it's offensive at all- not even a tiny bit. Incredibly stupid, definitely. How many prominent Christian adulterers have we seen in recent years? It obviously does not work all that well at preventing adultery. I think Hume's point must be that it's easier for adulterers in Christianity, because you can get instant forgiveness, with maybe some penance thrown in if you're Catholic. "Christianity- it's the religion for adulterers" would be a great slogan.

I think Brit Hume should convert to Buddhism because at least then he won't be as worried about burning in Hell for being a lead liar on Fox News.

Posted by: staticvars | January 4, 2010 10:39 PM | Report abuse

I think Brit Hume was unprofessional and his advice to Tiger Woods simple-minded and unhelpful. His comments were the mark of someone caught up in evangelical culture without having any insight or spiritual maturity.

How you guys can say that Brit Hume's comment was ok and then criticize Ezra for "stepping over the line" befuddles me. Ezra has a certain outlook about what he thinks our culture and public life should be like. It differs from yours.

And it differs from mine because I, personally, think that all of you would be much better off if you joined _my_ particular variant of Christianity, which I believe to be better than the others.

Posted by: tyromania | January 4, 2010 11:06 PM | Report abuse

--"In either case, said commentator would resign within a day or two."--

What are you jabbering about now, Klein? Reads like shadows on a cave wall, cast by your own dim wattage.

And, as usual, Klein is long on disdain, and somewhat short otherwise. For some reason or other he neglected to bob his head for more government oversight of sports in general, and golf in particular. Tiger is too big too fail, you know.

Or maybe Klein has his own Valley Girl aspirations and we should believe that Woods did nothing wrong, damn the Christian ethic still so ubiquitous.

Do tell us, Klein: What are the moral principles that inform your sexual peccadilloes?

Posted by: msoja | January 5, 2010 1:37 AM | Report abuse

It is wrong to assume that Hume's poor behavior represents that of all Christians. To even imply such a thing is an exercise in divisive stereotyping. Indeed, I am saddened and surprised by Klein's own intolerance in this post, because I generally admire the way he thinks.

Posted by: dsaporta | January 5, 2010 8:03 AM | Report abuse

What's really offensive is how little knowledge of Buddhism Hume has. Many branches of Buddhism believe that one can at any point "recognize his/her Buddha nature" and begin to act in conformance with it, moving closer to enlightenment. This is somewhat akin to salvation by grace in Christianity. In Buddhism there is not "forgiveness" in the sense that the karma created by an unethical act continues. But that just shows that Buddhism is more realistic (provides a more accurate picture of reality) than Christianity, which does create a kind of "moral hazard" that has plagued us at least since the Middle Ages.

Posted by: Mimikatz | January 5, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse


Comparing Brit Hume's actions and statements to the likes of Christopher Hitchens or Sam Harris is absurd at best. Brit Hume is Fox's News Anchor on 'Fair and Balanced' Fox, it's a pathetic stretch to compare authors who write entire thesis and books on their beliefs versus a teleprompter reader from going off message with his proselytizing and pontificating of his beliefs and on what another human should do with their own beliefs in the time of crisis...just ridiculous.

Posted by: bigmtnskier1 | January 5, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

There are Jews for whom the only Jewish practice or feeling that remains is opposition to Christianity. They can be called Jews against Jesus. They are in all matters secular, and hate Israel, but on this ONE thing -- their wish not to have Christianity waved about -- they are Jewish. And only on that one thing.

Posted by: truck1 | January 5, 2010 9:18 PM | Report abuse

bigmtnskier1, I'm not sure what "actions" Hume committed in addition to his statements, but a few points. One, the comparison was to whether it is offensive for commentators to make statements about the silliness of the views of others on tv, when those comments are about religious views. Has Hitchens written more about religion than Hume? Yes. Has he made equally ignorant statements about Christianity (for one) to Hume's about Buddhism? You bet. I fail to see why the comparison didn't hold because he wrote a book.

Further, Hume was not "off message"--he's a commentator now, not a news reader, and that has been true for some time (for the period of time before that he did both). So what's the story--commentator says something ill-informed on Sunday talk show? I'm not defending the substance of what he said. I'm challenging the notion that it's anything anyone ought to be offended by.

If he had said "I read a great book by a psychologist that I think would be good for Tiger," not a story. But saying "I think Tiger would benefit from reading the Bible," somehow is? Only by those who think religion needs to carry some extra valence in the world of ideas in this way. I don't see it myself.

Posted by: FrBill1 | January 6, 2010 12:24 AM | Report abuse

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