Ramesh Ponnuru and Peter Wehner have both posted defenses of Brit Hume’s expression of hope that Tiger Woods will convert to Christianity because Christianity offers a forgiveness and redemption that cannot be found in Buddhism. Woods, apparently, is a Buddhist.
It seems to me that there are at least two issues here: (1) the accuracy of Hume’s comparison between Christianity and Buddhism (2) whether, even assuming the comparison is accurate, Hume should have brought up the subject of religion in this context.
As to the first issue, I’ve never subscribed to or practiced either of the two religions in question, and I know next to nothing about Buddhism. However, one Buddhist blogger writes:
Mr. Hume is right, in a sense, that Buddhism doesn’t offer redemption and forgiveness in the same way Christianity does. Buddhism has no concept of sin; therefore, redemption and forgiveness in the Christian sense are meaningless in Buddhism.
It doesn’t follow, of course, that Woods would be better off with a religion that has a concept of sin and redemption. However, Hume’s opinion that he would be is plausible. The important point, though, is whether Hume misrepresented Buddhism and Christianity at a factual level. It does not appear so.
The second question — whether Hume should have brought up the subject of which religion will better serve Tiger Woods — is less straightforward. To me, it seems presumptuous to express one’s view, especially on television, about which religion will be most beneficial to someone, especially a stranger (the underlying fallacy of much of what has been said about Woods is the assumption that we “know” sports icons and other celebrities — we didn’t know Woods before and, though we have more information, we don’t know him now).
On the other hand, Hume is hardly the only person to comment on television about which paths will benefit and which will hurt Woods. Such questions as whether he should play golf or take a long leave of absence, and whether he should abandon his sports celebrity pals or lean on them, have provided endless grist for the mill. Does the fact that Hume addressed the matter from a religious perspective raise special concerns?
For me, not really. I would soon tune out any commentator who consistently talked about personal decisions others might make to improve their lives. But Hume, to my knowledge, doesn’t do this. His comment about Woods seems to be a one-off deal that stemmed from his belief that he had something important to tell Tiger, not a desire to use Fox News to gain converts to Christianity.
Next time, I hope he does it privately.