Looking for God in the Woods

>> Monday, January 04, 2010

Oh, gosh, it's awful: Brit Hume said Tiger Woods can't find the kind of redemption Christianity offers in Buddhism and should convert, and now lots of people are talking about how out-of-line Mr. Hume was to say something like that.*

You know, it's times like this that I realize that the one great limitation of the written word is that you can't actually make that now-ubiquitous jerking-off gesture when you write something like the previous paragraph. You know, the one where you make a closed or semi-closed fist, hold it up at approximately chest level, and move it back-and-forth in a short, sporadic arc? Yeah, that one. Accompanied, perhaps, by eye rolling at the wankers you're referring to with the gesture, wankers like the Atlanta journalist quoted by Salon who said, "A person’s faith is a private matter between that person and God, and is not a matter to be judged by some pompous TV anchor."

Because, you know, that's one of the things Buddhism is famous for, the way it encapsulates faith as a relationship between a human being and a personal god.

At the risk of offending some of my readers, I have to admit that I find this journalistic hubbub not entirely unlike the conversation in the movie Stand By Me in which a bunch of little kids seriously discuss whether Superman or Mighty Mouse would win if they got into a fight with each other. The answer, says one, is obvious--Superman would win because he's "real." Clearly, Brit Hume isn't supposed to imply in the least tiny way that one religion is better than another, oh no, that's rude. Never mind that you can make a theological argument--indeed, if you take a strict reading of The Bible, you must make a theological argument--that Mr. Hume is absolutely correct, or that even in an abstract college-Comparative Religion 101-sense that Mr. Hume is technically correct (Buddhism doesn't offer a redemption-of-sin narrative), or that from the point of view of a materialist atheist like myself both faiths, Christianity and Buddhism, are silly. No, no, Mr. Hume was rude, how dare he express his personal opinion in a privately-owned, publicly-broadcast venue.

(Like Tiger Woods even gives a rat's ass what Brit Hume thinks about him in the first place. I'll bet Mr. Woods could pay Brit Hume to eat dog food if he really wanted to. And to say he liked it, nommy-nom-nom. How much integrity can Hume have? He's on Fox for fuck's sake.)

The only reason I'm even bothering to mention it is because I'm short of material today. For one thing. That's the main thing.

But for another thing, I also have to think that if Brit Hume had taken a few moments to address his comments to, say, an absent Christopher Hitchens, I hardly think anybody would be getting their knickers twisted over it, or at least anybody who wasn't P.Z. Myers. For one thing, nobody actually likes Chris Hitchens, which, mind you, I totally understand. People actually like Tiger Woods, no matter how much condemnation you may hear or how quickly he's losing endorsements. Hitchens, meh, not-so-much. But for another thing, and I'll admit this grates a little bit, if you look around, there's not a lot of respect for atheism as a "spiritual" position, even if atheism is in fact a personal statement about spiritual matters. At best, atheism is treated as a kind of "undecided" position--not that you believe there's no god, but that you just haven't figured out what you want to be yet, and it'll even be okay if it's one of those wiggy New Age/Hippie kinds-of-things so long as you eventually pick something; at worst, atheism is treated as if it's some kind of affront to all those who have recognized the existence of some purported Cosmic Doowhatsit, whether it's identified as Karma or Yahweh.

Because, yeah, I decided after much agonized searching of my intellect and conscience that there was no divine or spiritual force in the universe out of spite. Ha! That'll show 'em!

(Aw, sheesh, I'm doing that wanking gesture again and you still can't see it.)

The point being, people are getting up-in-arms because Tiger Woods is a reasonably-well-liked somethingist, and I have a hard time thinking they'd give a damn if Brit Hume regularly said certain specific-but-nobody-special atheists and agnostics could find forgiveness in Christ. They might say it was a little flaky, they might say it was another sign of Fox's disconnect from more secular broadcast traditions--then again, if Hume ended every broadcast with, "God bless America," it would be no-less-exclusive of atheistic beliefs (including Buddhism!) or polytheistic beliefs than Hume's plug for Christian redemption was, and I doubt Andrew Sullivan or Jay Bookman would bat an eye. I'm not saying, by the way, that I'd really be morally offended if a newscaster did close every broadcast with an appeal to a Judeo-Christian/Islamic monotheistic deity--y'know, whatever, man, long as he got the news right, I could give a crap whether he ends every broadcast with a hearty, "By Crom!" (Actually, who am I kidding? If a network anchor ended every broadcast with "By Crom!" that would be pretty fucking awesome. "CNN--The Conan News Network--has been brought to you by THE SECRET OF STEEL! STEEL! NOW AVAILABLE IN NEW ARMOR FORM! IT'S NOT JUST FOR SWORDS ANYMORE!" I'd have to get a cable or satellite subscription for that.)

No, what I'm moderately offended by is the inverted-sanctimony of people who, in all likelihood, actually agree with what Hume said, they just don't think he was supposed to say it out loud. It's another manifestation of the warped religious discourse of this society, in which tolerance is expected to be manifested by silence. You're not even supposed to bring up religion (nor politics) at the dinner table, lest you offend some guest; except, of course, you can express your religious beliefs in quiet, discreet ways--the little before-dinner prayer or a tasteful Star Of David on the mantle, perhaps. (With the further caveat that this is only permissible if your religious beliefs are somethingism--put a Darwin Fish or Flying Spaghetti Monster on your bumper, and it's why are you being so intolerant and disrespectful of everybody?)

I don't agree with Mr. Hume's beliefs, obviously, but he has every right to say what he thinks, and he even has that right if there's a little bit of inevitable disrespect embedded in it--Buddhism is, after all and from a certain-point-of-view, a false religion that comes between a man and the Saviour, his only route to heaven (well, except from the certain-point-of-view that Jesus was a false prophet who cruelly tricked the Gentiles into following a deceptive parody of the faith of God's Chosen People, but whatever). Mr. Hume's critics, naturally, also have a right to their opinions; I'm not faulting them for expressing themselves, no.

I'm faulting them for being disingenuous and sanctimonious assholes.

*Hume's actual comments, in case you were wondering, as quoted in Salon:

Tiger Woods will recover as a golfer. Whether he can recover as a person, I think, is a very open question. And it's a tragic situation ... 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 to depend 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 the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world."


Janiece Monday, January 4, 2010 at 6:06:00 PM EST  

Eric, have I told you lately how very much I love you in a completely platonic and non-stalkerish kind of way?


Nathan Monday, January 4, 2010 at 6:24:00 PM EST  

I haven't seen footage of Hume's comments (and I wonder if those two short paragraphs were all there was), but I couldn't help hearing a little snark in there. (OK, the snark was probably all my own, but I hear it just the same.)

Hume should have said, "Tiger, dude. You're boned if you stick with that Buddhism stuff. Haven't you been paying any fucking attention? Jimmy Swaggert cries and begs forgiveness? Boom -- forgiven. Jim and Tammy Fay found redemption. Ted Haggerd? Oops, bad example. The thing is, Tiger...don't just go for plain old Christian. Try Catholic. Ten minutes in a booth and 2 dozen Hail Marys and you'll be good as gold...no rehab required!"

vince Monday, January 4, 2010 at 7:09:00 PM EST  

So 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."

Yep, just like, say, Karl Rove, who has been divorced twice, lies like a bad rug, and is, in general, a piss poor excuse for a human being. Or Gov. Mark Sanford, who cheated on his wife, lied about it, and spent public money to cheat on his wife while lying to her and to everyone else about.

And I say this as a Christian.

Carol Elaine Tuesday, January 5, 2010 at 12:38:00 PM EST  

Yabbut, Vince, you're the bad kind of Christian - the kind who actually works hard (and, it seems to me, succeeds) at living the teachings of Jesus. I mean, what kind of example is that?


Eric, ditto what Janiece said.

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