Monday, January 04, 2010

Did Brit Hume "Evangelize" Tiger Woods

Blogger Ann Althouse says that Brit Hume "evangelized" golfer Tiger Woods in this clip from Fox News. Many of Althouse's commenters seemed to agree and they didn't like it.

I have a slightly different take on the matter from that of Althouse or some of her readers.

The term "evangelize" is rooted in the New Testament word euangelion, meaning good news. (The New Testament was written in Greek.) For Christians, the good news (or Godspell, Gospel, in Old English) is that God restores relationship between God and humanity in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. All who repent and trust in (or believe in) Christ have forgiveness of sins, restored relationship with God, the capacity to believe in God's promises, and so on, in addition to eternal life.

In a way, Hume does "evangelize" in this clip, I suppose.

But in commending "good" news, did he violate the tenets of another "good," that of good journalism?

What interests me about Hume's comments to me is that I once saw Juan Williams give an interview in which he was asked about his involvement with Fox News. (Williams used to be a commentator there. I have no idea if he still is.)

Williams, who is overt about his Christian faith and often reports and opines on the intersection between faith and daily life, said that one of the most interesting aspects of his work at Fox came in his relationship with Hume.

Hume, he said at that time, had always been skeptical about Christianity and felt deeply uncomfortable with any discussions of the faith, on air or off. He was wary of Christians, regarding them as suspect, intellectually and otherwise.

Williams said that he felt that he had opened some sort of door of insight onto Christian faith for Hume, revealing to him that it wasn't as suspect or foreboding as he had seemed to think it was.

To me, Hume's prescription for Woods, though clearly informed by sympathy for the golfer, is almost distant and clinical, utilitarian. It doesn't come off as the endorsement of a "satisfied customer" of God's grace given in Jesus Christ, but as the observation of an outsider suggesting that the Christian faith might offer to Woods exactly what Hume believes the golfer needs right now.

Hume observes that Woods needs forgiveness and redemption and says that, based on his observations, Woods is less likely to find those things in Buddhism, to which Hume understands Woods to be an adherent, than in Christianity. Hume's comments were presented with a kind of objectivity, it seemed to me, an impression buttressed by Williams' comments, unless, of course, Hume has undergone a conversion since that time.

As for the appropriateness of what Hume said, it appears to have come during some sort of round-robin discussion. Under those circumstances, he's functioning as a commentator, not an objective journalist, and he has as much right, under those circumstances, to express his views as any other commentator. What he said certainly isn't the most outlandish thing I've ever heard in a cable news bull session.

I should put my biases on the table, so that you can better assess whether to totally dismiss what I've written here.

First, I'm a Christian and I do believe that Christ brings forgiveness, hope, and restoration. I would gladly--and I hope respectfully-- commend following Jesus Christ to Woods if the opportunity presented itself.

I'm a Lutheran, a pastor of a denomination which is seen as being liberal, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). But I'm unabashed in quoting Jesus when He says, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life." I believe Jesus restores relationship with God, giving new life and hope to all who believe in Him. I'm a very evangelical Christian. I think that there's good news to tell and I'm unabashed about telling it, but I hope I do so in a way that is respectful of everybody's perspective. Back when I was an atheist, one of the things I most hated in the world was Christians who went beyond telling me about what Christ meant to them to forcing their version of Christianity down my throat!

Second, I haven't watched Fox News in several years, other than for several seconds when my channel-surfing landed me there. It just isn't my cup of tea. (It should also be said that I haven't seen MSNBC in more than two years, either. When we moved to our new community in 2007, we found, to our chagrin, that MSNBC wasn't part of the basic cable package to which we subscribe. We miss Chris Matthews, but not Keith Olbermann, the latter of whom I loved as a sportscaster, but who I found abrasive and self-important as the host of Countdown. I haven't seen any of the newer personalities there--at least not for more than a few moments on the Internet--in order to be able to comment on what they're like.)

Third, I've never been much of a Brit Hume fan, even when he worked for Jack Anderson or later, ABC. But I did enjoy watching CSPAN's Brian Lamb, the most admirable of objective of journalists, interview Hume several years ago. Lamb helped me to see Hume a bit differently than I had before and again, then, there was no indication of Christian zeal on Hume's part.

If any of these disclaimers help you to explain away my less-than-critical take on Hume's comments regarding Tiger Woods, so be it.


prairiew said...

I'm afraid I disagree. Brit Hume's remarks put his arrogance on display and, frankly, his rudeness. Whether you call it evangelizing or proselytizing, it's offensive on the public airwaves. It's rude to the non-Christian. It's cliquey. It's patronizing. It's also quite harmful to genuine Christianity. As some wag pointed out this morning, Christ was not a Christian. I'd add to that that he certainly wouldn't want to be, given its latest manifestations!

Mark Daniels said...

Thanks for taking the time to comment.

I'd like some help in understanding some of what you said when you said of Hume's remark "it's offensive on the public airwaves."

What aspect of it was offensive? The exclusivistic claim? The critique of Buddhism? And don't commentators have the right to be offensive?

You're right that Jesus, the Christ, was not a Christian. A Christian is a person who follows Christ. But Jesus did claim to be the exclusive giver of peace with God, forgiveness from God, and life with God. He claimed to be the exclusive giver of an offer universally available to all who will repent for their sin and trust in Him as Lord and God of their lives.

For that claim, Jesus was offensive and that's why, from the human side of the equation, He was put on a cross.

Jesus has "promised" His followers that if we advance His claims about His Lordship, we will be offensive.

And in his New Testament letters, the apostle Paul, who proclaimed Jesus' Lordship in the marketplaces of major cities throughout the Mediterranean basin, calls the Christian Gospel an offensive, scandalous message.

I don't think that the world has changed that much in the past 2000 years. Christ and His Lordship remain deeply offensive to the world.

But if we believe in freedom of speech and if a commentator believes that the Gospel might have some relevance to a public matter, why should he be gagged?

If you read this blog with any regularity, you will know that I am opposed to the Church or to preachers being partisans in political debate. God is neither a Republican or a Democrat.

But as a Christian, I do believe that Christ brings the possibility of a relationship with God that no other belief system affords. I came to that conclusion after years as an atheist.

Do Hume's comments hurt the cause of Christ? I suppose it's how we hear them.

But please do share with me more on your perspective. As I always tell people, "I could be wrong."