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"Faith, Brit Hume and Tiger Woods"

Rev. Steve Cornell
Award of Outstanding Merit - $1,000

Steve Cornell is founding and senior pastor of Millersville Bible Church (26 years), Millersville, PA. Steve attended Citadel Bible College, Philadelphia College of the Bible, Institute for Biblical Studies, Lancaster Bible College, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (east extension), and Biblical Theological Seminary.  He has a wide-ranging ministry on radio, in newspapers, among university students, and at conferences.  Steve and his wife Becky are parents of four children.  He is a previous Amy Writing Award winner.

When Tiger Woods was exposed for his extra-marital affairs, Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume dared to express concern for Tiger’s personal well-being and found himself in a storm of controversy. Hume acknowledged that Woods will survive the scandal as a golfer.


“Whether he can recover as a person, I think, is a very open question and it’s a tragic situation with him,” Hume said. “I think he’s lost his family. It’s not clear to me … whether 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 depends 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 your faith – turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.’ “


When the outrage poured in against Hume for sharing his faith, it exposed some misguided assumptions about religion. Several decades of cultural brainwashing have led the unsuspecting to believe faith should not be discussed publicly and that all religions should be considered equally true.


On this note, anyone who has the audacity to suggest that one faith offers something superior to another should be viewed as a religious jihadist. End of statement! No discussion! Zero tolerance! And, the faithful said, “Amen!”


Whether Hume’s remarks were true or false was irrelevant. The speech police moved in quickly to condemn him. Hume violated the new rules for religion.


Hume’s use of a public news program for expressing his religious beliefs and his reference to the inadequacy of Buddhism compared with Christianity drew the most protest.


But as Hume later observed in Christianity Today, “Instead of urging that Tiger Woods turn to Christianity, if I had said what he needed to do was to strengthen his Buddhist commitment or turn to Hinduism, I don’t think anybody would have said a word. It’s Christ and Christianity that get people stirred up.”


The vicious nature of many attacks on Hume reminded me of Jesus’ words, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” (Matthew 5:11).


One of the most insightful responses to the whole debacle appeared last month in a Washington Post op-ed piece by Michael Gerson. “Religious faiths — Christian, Buddhist, Zoroastrian — generally make claims about the nature of reality that conflict with the claims of other faiths,” Gerson wrote.


“Attacking Christian religious exclusivity is to attack nearly every vital religious tradition. It is not a scandal to believers that others hold differing beliefs. It is only a scandal to those offended by all belief. Though I am not a Buddhist or a Muslim, I am not ‘dissed’ when a Muslim or a Buddhist advocates his views in public.


“Hume’s critics hold a strange view of pluralism. For religion to be tolerated, it must be privatized — not, apparently, just in governmental settings but also on television networks. We must have not only a secular state but also a secular public discourse. And so tolerance, conveniently, is defined as shutting up people with whom secularists disagree.


“Many commentators have been offering Woods advice in his travails. But religious advice, apparently and uniquely, should be forbidden. In a discussion of sex, morality and betrayed vows, wouldn’t religious issues naturally arise? How is our public discourse improved by narrowing it — removing references to the most essential element in countless lives?


“True tolerance consists in engaging deep disagreements respectfully — through persuasion — not in banning certain categories of argument and belief from public debate.”


It’s sad that Hume’s effort to reach out to Tiger Woods became so controversial. Hume is no stranger to personal tragedy. His son, Sandy Hume, committed suicide in 1998, ending a battle with alcoholism. This propelled Hume to get serious about the Christian faith. Referring to the loss of his son he said in Christianity Today, “His death was devastating. I was shattered. Yet through all of that, I had this feeling that God would save me, that he would be there for me, that I was in his hands, and that I was going to be okay. It really happened. … I’ve been trying to face up to the implications of believing in Christ and believing in God ever since.”


As reported in Christianity Today, Hume said, “Christianity is a religion for sinners. It doesn’t encourage you to sin, it encourages you not to, but it provides a way of forgiveness and redemption. That’s what Tiger Woods, like many sinners, needs. That’s something we all need. He, in his particularly desperate moment here where he appears to be losing his family, is in special need of it. And I hope he finds it.”


Printed February 14, 2010; Sunday News;  Lancaster, PA

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