Fox News analyst Brit Hume received backlash this week over his suggestion that Tiger Woods should turn to Christianity.
"Tiger Woods will recover as a golfer. Whether he can recover as a person, I think is a very open question," Hume said on the show Fox News Sunday. "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 the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world."
The former news anchor says he became serious about his Christian faith about 11 years ago, when his son Sandy committed suicide at age 28. Hume spoke to Christianity Today about his faith and the criticism in response to his suggestion to Woods.
How would you respond to people who are criticizing you?
I certainly expected this. I'm nowhere near the first Christian to be mocked for his faith. It is simply a fact of life that the two most explosive words in the English language appear to be Jesus Christ. You don't even need to say them if you speak openly of Christianity. Faith engenders a tremendous reaction, a lot of it positive and a lot of it negative.
It seems like you've moved from anchoring news to more opinion, is that right?
I'm a senior political analyst. I do more analysis and commentary now. I do almost no anchoring anymore. I'm semi-retired. I only work 100 days a year.
Would you say you've moved out of objective journalism?
In a way, yeah. This was a panel segment where journalists give their analytical observations. We were doing predictions. We were discussing a whole range of issues including sports and entertainment. The first show of the year, we do that on Fox News Sunday. That's how the subject of Tiger Woods came up.
Were you surprised by the reaction?
I was surprised at the extent of it, but not the tone of it. I expected there to be some very strong criticism and some very strong, favorable response.
Can you tell me more about how you became a Christian?
I grew up in a Christian family and I went nine years to an Episcopal boys school. I've always been, at least on paper, a Christian. It wasn't until my son died 11 years ago that I began to get serious about it. 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.
Fox News was not the dominant channel that it is now. It was a fledgling cable news channel with very little viewership. I had been there about a year after being a correspondent at ABC News. I was not an anchor there except on weekends. I'm better known now than I was then. The news of my son's death was a big story in Washington but it wasn't a big story around the country. Yet, in the weeks after his death, I began to receive expressions of sympathy from all over the country and other parts of the world.
My secretary and I were sending out notes to people that said, "Thank you for expressing your sympathy." We sent out 973 sympathy notes in a matter of weeks. I read them all. My mailbox would be stuffed with them night after night. I'd weep over some of them. Some of them were prayer cards, some of them would tell me a tree had been planted somewhere. I felt that I was seeing the face of God. I felt people's support and love. To me it was a miracle. I've been trying to face up to the implications of believing in Christ and believing in God ever since.
In this discussion about Tiger Woods, it seems as though some are offended that you would say something about Christianity specifically.
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.
What about raising the topic of Buddhism?
I didn't say much about Buddhism. Look, I don't think there's any question, this is a matter of fact. I don't think Buddhism is hostile to forgiveness or redemption, but Christianity, like no other religion we've ever known, is principally, and fundamentally, and especially about forgiveness and redemption. That is what Christianity is based on. That is why Christ was here. That is what he came here to achieve. On that issue, Christianity is unique.
Some have questioned whether Christianity can help you be more faithful to your spouse.
I don't think you draw a straight line that way. My sense is that if you turn to Christ and seek his forgiveness and mean it, you'll get it. You will be impelled and inspired to live the Christian life. 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.
Do you think saying something publicly on TV would interfere with private evangelism efforts?
No. I can't imagine that any Christian with whom Tiger might consult, and I have no reason to believe that he is or isn't, would say something substantially different from what I'm saying.
Do you think your experience becoming a Christian after your son's death has led you to be emboldened to talk about your faith publicly?
I ought to be willing to do that. I don't want to practice a faith that I'm afraid to proclaim. I don't want to be a closet Christian. I'm not going to stand on the street with a megaphone. My principal responsibility at Fox News isn't to proselytize. But occasionally a mention of faith seems to me to be appropriate. When those occasions come, I'll do it.
Is Christianity welcome in the media?
No. Christianity is scorned by many in the media.
Did you see that before you made this statement?
Sure. Think of how many times we've seen an athlete interviewed on the sidelines of a football game who says he owes it all to God or owes it all to Christ, and the weird silence that greets those statements. People are uncomfortable with it. People don't want to talk about it. Politicians who proclaim their faith, the next question is about something else.
Was your statement about Tiger Woods something you had been thinking about before and had decided to make?
Yes. I've been thinking about it for some time.
Some people might say, "What about Christians like Ted Haggard or Mark Sanford?"
I don't think I would blame Christianity for the failings of people like that. Christianity is the right religion for people like that. Christianity is a religion for sinners. Christianity is not about the salvation of perfect people. Christianity is a way for people who are not perfect to be saved. What Mark Sanford needs is not less Christianity. He needs more of it.
What were you hoping people would take away from what you said?
Well, I was kind of hoping that in some way word of it might reach Tiger. I was hoping that people who were of faith might receive some encouragement from the message. You never know. I also thought it was interesting. I didn't really sit down and make some kind of calculations on a sheet of lined paper about what were going to be the consequences. We were expressing our views and those were my views on that point.
Do you attend a church in D.C.?
A lot of the worship I do is in home church and Bible study. There's a regular journalists' group that meets. There's also a group we're meeting this weekend at our place in Virginia, a group of families that meet for home church. There's a minister and his wife who lead it, and we like it.
Do you have a pastor or mentor?
I do. Jerry Leachman. He leads men's Bible study groups all over the Washington area.
I understand that when you moved into part-time work last year, you took time off to focus more on your faith.
That's true. I said I had the three G's I wanted to devote myself to: God, granddaughters, and golf. I'm trying. I'm trying. I'm able to see my granddaughters more, I'm spending more time focused on my faith, and when I can, I'm playing golf. All three of those things are still part of the scheme here.
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