'The two most explosive words in the English language are Jesus Christ. You start talking about Jesus Christ and all hell breaks loose...This is to be expected... this is part of the deal.'
CHESAPEAKE, VA. (Catholic Online) - Much hay has been made this past week about Brit Hume's remarks on the Fox News Sunday program in which he told Tiger Woods he should turn to the Christian faith to receive forgiveness, be restored and be a great example to the world.
Later on The O' Reilly Factor, Hume went on to say that what Tiger needs is a genuine conversion, and if he experiences such a miracle, as other public figures who have fallen hard and then altered their lives' course by turning to follow Christ (Chuck Colson was mentioned), then we, the public, would know it by the evidence of his life. We would witness his conversion and know it was real by the fruits of his life thereafter.
Naturally, the anti-Christian crowd was furious, said Hume was proselytizing, then demeaned him personally. Washington Post critic Tom Shales was particularly rude and declared, "the remark will probably rank, even only a few days into January, as one of the most ridiculous of the year." Shales concluded his snarky column by saying Hume must apologize for getting "carried away" with his faith, doing "the satellite-age equivalent of going door-to-door and spreading what he considers the gospel" and "not try to cross-pollinate religion and journalism and use Fox facilities to do it." He then threw his final insult at Hume by implying that Hume is "worse than fading" as a journalist. (Tim Graham at newsbusters.org takes Shale's ignorant and condescending column apart quite effectively.)
David Shuster of MSNBC made the nutty remark that talking about Christianity on the news is "denigrating" and actually diminishes the significance of Christianity.
Buddhists have complained that Hume was insulting Buddhism by saying it cannot offer Tiger the redemption he needs right now, and one professor from Columbia even called Hume's remarks "stupid." Some forms of Buddhism (Theravada) are atheist and thus better categorized as a philosophy rather than a religion. Others (Mahayana) do incorporate deities and religious elements. However, all forms emphasize an understanding of "liberation" which is radically different than the Christian vision. They do not have a concept of sin or recognize the need for a Redeemer. If a belief system offers no Redeemer because it doesn't acknowledge sin then Hume is accurate in saying Buddhism does not offer real forgiveness and redemption.
Most notably, Hume has even taken some heat from a smattering of Christians, some of whom have questioned the "appropriateness of the venue" and wondered whether it would have been better to "witness" to Tiger in private. Curious... without impugning the integrity of those Christians, I have to wonder, how does that square with our call to be a light on a hill? Our witness isn't supposed to be public? Yes, our faith is deeply personal and has a private element, but are we not called to publicly profess true freedom in Christ? When given an opportunity to publicly extend the hope of forgiveness and redemption to a person who is shattered by sin - sin made public, I might add - why should we be hesitant to speak out?
"There's a time and a place" some will argue. Maybe, but it's a short trip from exercising prudence to being a useless lamp hidden under a basket. And hidden is precisely what our secular, Godless society would like us to be. Hidden and silent. Faith should remain private and never public, they insist. Church and public life are separate and never the twain should meet. Any mention of faith in public is an invitation to be sneered at and shouted down with the "p" word: proselytizing. Oooh - sounds heinous, doesn't it?
For my money, Brit Hume wasn't "proselytizing" - that word has become loaded with derogatory meaning. He was fulfilling the call to tell the Good News. He was sharing Christ with a man who desperately needs Him. He did so with the humility of a man who knows deep personal sorrow, and also knows the Strong Arm that carries you through it.
There was nothing "hellfire and brimstone" about what Hume said to Tiger. There was no condemnation, no superiority, no lecture. He simply offered Tiger the gift he himself has received - forgiveness, restoration, and healing through Jesus Christ. And he did so unapologetically, with gentle candor and grace, as someone who'd sunk lower than he ever thought possible and was raised up again by faith.
I have admired and respected Brit Hume for a long time, but I was not aware til this week of the tragedy of his son's death by suicide in 1998. I saw his interview this week on CBN in which he openly shared how that loss compelled him to finally get serious about the faith he said he believed:
"Eleven years ago my son committed suicide and as you can imagine it was absolutely devastating, and yet throughout that whole terrible time I had this sense that God was there for me, that He would rescue me, that He would save me, and He did in ways that I couldn't have imagined or expected. His imagination is always greater than ours."
He shared how he saw the face of God in the hundreds of letters he received from people extending their prayers and support, and he said, "I felt it was time for me now to face up to the Christian faith I purported to belong to, and to face up to the implications of what I purported to believe and I've been trying ever since."
He knew his words would be criticized by many and his reputation would be maligned. As he said so astutely, "The two most explosive words in the English language are Jesus Christ. You start talking about Jesus Christ and all hell breaks loose...This is to be expected... this is part of the deal. You have to be willing to deal with this. If you're going to say His name out loud, you're going to hear about it." Indeed!
Brit's courage is an example to us all. In a business so full of ill-mannered, dishonest and shameless glory-seekers, Brit Hume is the real deal: a consummate professional and gentleman. And even better, he is a genuine believer who is unafraid and unashamed to speak the name of Jesus Christ.
Ridiculous? So says Tom Shales. St. Paul says otherwise: "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." 1 Cor 1:18
God bless you, Brit, and thank you for your shining witness. I pray Tiger heeds your sage advice and turns to Jesus for forgiveness and redemption so he can be fully restored, as you said.
Jennifer Hartline is a Catholic Army wife and stay-at-home mother of three precious kids who writes frequently on topics of Catholic faith and daily living. She is a contributing writer for Catholic Online.
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