Ross Douthat, Op-ed columnist for the New York Times, takes another look at the brouhaha that resulted when a journalist suggested Tiger Woods should consider Christianity since being revealed as an unfaithful husband. Brit Hume, on Fox News many people noted with displeasure, had made the gaffe, showing both the moral bankruptcy of Fox as a news source and the danger of religious people being allowed to proselytize in the public square.
Douthat asks us to ignore the hissing in the background and be more thoughtful about what took place:
Liberal democracy offers religious believers a bargain. Accept, as a price of citizenship, that you may never impose your convictions on your neighbor, or use state power to compel belief. In return, you will be free to practice your own faith as you see fit — and free, as well, to compete with other believers (and nonbelievers) in the marketplace of ideas.
That’s the theory. In practice, the admirable principle that nobody should be persecuted for their beliefs often blurs into the more illiberal idea that nobody should ever publicly criticize another religion. Or champion one’s own faith as an alternative. Or say anything whatsoever about religion, outside the privacy of church, synagogue or home.
A week ago, Brit Hume broke all three rules at once. Asked on a Fox News panel what advice he’d give to the embattled Tiger Woods, Hume suggested that the golfer consider converting to Christianity. “He’s said to be a Buddhist,” Hume noted. “I don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. ”
A great many people immediately declared that this comment was the most outrageous thing they’d ever heard.
Douthat suggest that the outcry misses what might in fact be the most essential issue. “Theology has consequences,” he argues. “It shapes lives, families, nations, cultures, wars; it can change people, save them from themselves, and sometimes warp or even destroy them. If we tiptoe politely around this reality, then we betray every teacher, guru and philosopher—including Jesus of Nazareth and the Buddha both—who ever sought to resolve the most human of all problems: How then should we live?”
You can read Douthat’s interesting piece, “Let’s Talk About Faith,” here. I recommend it to you.