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Brit Hume and Evangelism

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It happened on FOX News, so I'm not sure politics can be kept out of the discussion. A&F ditched in "Politics" forum many months ago, and I'm not trying to restart it in this thread.

I raise Brit Hume's comments here because it's a bold declaration of faith. By describing it as "bold," I don't mean to endorse what Hume did, or where he did it, although I admire what he said.

With the new year comes a chance to re-evaluate what we believe and why we believe it. Do we believe in evangelism? When, if ever, is evangelism off-limits?

Would you ever tell a Buddhist, or anyone of another faith, "I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. Turn to the Christian faith"?

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Some thoughts in response to Gaddy: Hume is a retired news anchor. He is now a senior advisor behind the scenes and a commentor once or twice a week on his old show and

part of the roundtable most Sundays.

Is suggesting that forgiveness is a hallmark of Christianity that another religion does not really have/stress a utilitarian pitch? Grace and forgiveness from The One who is the

source of all existence is THE distinctive of Christianity. If this is utilitarian and, hence, off limits, what is the strength and consolation of any system of beliefs, religious in particular? Is

the craving for comfort and release, the search for meaning and peace a utilitarian pursuit insofar as it rewards the searcher or craver with the possibility of what is searched for? I fail

to see the relevance of Gaddy's key objection.


"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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Depends on what pool of all clergy he's talking about. I'd say that he's right.


"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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Guest stu

Would you ever tell a Buddhist, or anyone of another faith, "I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. Turn to the Christian faith"?

Haven't checked this forum for ages, but since I did, and since you asked a direct question, here's a quick response:

To stick to the Buddhist example, I wouldn't tell a Buddhist that, because it is not something that I have any level of conviction about. Just as it seems to me that you can only really understand Christianity from the inside, not on the basis of a brief theoretical summary, I imagine that you can only really begin to understand Buddhism from the inside. And this is something I've never done - I've never had any serious discussions with a Buddhist, observed the shape their beliefs take in their life, etc. I took one undergrad module a decade ago, but that is very, very hazy in my mind.

So, the words "I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith" feels like its true but unimportant - of course the two faiths are different in certain important respects, but their differing does not of itself tell us anything that helps all that much (Christianity does not offer the same path of meditation that Buddhism does, because it is different, but I'm not going to become a Buddhist, just yet anyway).

For what it's worth, I find the level of casual disdain sometimes displayed by Christians towards other religious beliefs very, very sad. The truth is that most Christians I know have very little real understanding about any other faiths in practice. Which is fine, because it takes time, and there are other things to do, but when this is accompanied by massive pronouncements about them, it's disturbing. To me at least. It seems to display a complete lack of desire to really understand anything - as if you could be content to know that Buddhism is not as good as Christianity and have a few bullet points that say why, rather than actually learning about it. I feel the same way when I hear people say things like "science has disproved the Bible" as if that settles it and we can now think about something else; the lack of curiosity feels deadening.

I recently read some selected Upanishads, and found it a really helpful way of re-thinking what Christianity is about, both because of the similarities (which are striking at times) and the differences. And it made me wish that I'd found time to read more texts from Hinduism and Buddhism in particular, in a receptive, rather than analytical way before, and I think it's something I will continue to do from time to time. I know that there are rather large theological questions in the background here, but really my point is a much more practical one: why would I ever express a huge, simple judgement about something I have never learned about?

Edited by stu

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[quote name='stu' date='05 January 2010 - 11:21 AM' timestamp='1262708461'

For what it's worth, I find the level of casual disdain sometimes displayed by Christians towards other religious beliefs very, very sad.


"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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Forgive me if this is slightly off-topic, but I can never hear any discussion of Christianity and Buddhism without remembering an interview I did with the Vancouver Sun's religion reporter back in 1996 (see the PDF file here). Excerpt:

In the interests of fairness, Todd [who was raised atheist] is reluctant to disclose the finer points of his own religious belief, but admits his search led him to identify with one specific tradition: Christianity. “I studied Buddhsm too, actually. And while I’m attracted to Buddhism, I just think Christianity is a better religion.” A nervous laugh slips out. “Oh shit, what did I just say?”

Todd composes, then qualifies, himself. “Unlike Buddhism, it takes society seriously. Some aspects of Buddhism do, but not most of it. It takes history seriously, that we’re responsible for society and history and each other. It’s not a form of escape from life, but a way to get into it more.”


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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It seems to me that many of the comments here miss the larger point. It's certainly true that Christians can be rude and insensitive in their understanding of other religions. And it's true that other religions have valuable teachings that Christians would do well to adopt in their own lives.

But Mr. Hume is urging repentance. This isn't, in Mr. Gaddy's words, "the manipulation of faith." It's a bedrock component of the Christian faith. It says "I screwed up, God; please forgive me." And to argue, as Mr. Hume did, that different religions understand "forgiveness" in different ways is not prosetylization. It's stating what is objectively true. The nature of "salvation" is fundamentally different in Buddhism than it is in Christianity. One could argue whether one form of salvation is better than another. That's why, at least in part, people choose different religions. But, to put myself in Mr. Hume's shoes, this is why the gospel is good news. It says, "If you repent, you are forgiven. You don't have to work it out over a series of lifetimes, as in Buddhism. You can know forgiveness now."

Is he wrong in stating such a view? I don't think so. Would it have been better stated in private, in an actual conversation with Tiger Woods, instead of in an interview on national television? Without a doubt. Is it potentially offensive? Sure. The gospel always has been. It's also true.

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Is he wrong in stating such a view? I don't think so. Would it have been better stated in private, in an actual conversation with Tiger Woods, instead of in an interview on national television? Without a doubt. Is it potentially offensive? Sure. The gospel always has been. It's also true.

I think you are missing what Hume actually said here... Hume stated that if Tiger converted to Christianity, he would be a great role model. If only being a Christian related to how good of a role model people are in the public arena.


"You know...not EVERY story has to be interesting." -Gibby

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Guest stu

I took the main point of the thread to be about what we think, or how we feel, about the idea of evangelism, when 'evanglism' is taken specifically to mean encouraging people to convert from another religion to Christianity (I have pretty much no idea what has gone on with Tiger Woods - something to do with a car crash, and that he's been a bad boy is about all I know).

So the thing about insensitivity towards other religions does seem to be related to what is believed about evangelism, doesn't it? As in, some beliefs about evangelism could encourage a lack of interest towards the inner meaning of other religious worlds, and vice versa. Or at least, that's what I'm trying to point out.

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Is he wrong in stating such a view? I don't think so. Would it have been better stated in private, in an actual conversation with Tiger Woods, instead of in an interview on national television? Without a doubt. Is it potentially offensive? Sure. The gospel always has been. It's also true.

I think you are missing what Hume actually said here... Hume stated that if Tiger converted to Christianity, he would be a great role model. If only being a Christian related to how good of a role model people are in the public arena.

I assume that this is the relevant passage in Gaddy's column:

Speaking about Tiger Woods on "Fox News Sunday" January 3, 2010, Mr. Hume observed that Mr. Woods' recovery "depends on his faith." Was that a personal opinion of the reporter, a theological belief, or a "breaking news" story? After telling his audience that Mr. Woods is a Buddhist, Hume said, "I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is (sic) offered by the Christian faith." Evidently the reporter has expertise in both Buddhist and Christian thought. With such self-assumed authority, Hume addressed Woods personally, "Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world."

I see a lot of conditional language there. If Woods converts to the Christian faith, he can be a great example to the world. I think that can happen. I also think it might not happen. I know too many screwed up Christians, including myself, to want to foist many of them off as role models.

But I don't think that's what Mr. Hume is suggesting. The focus here, it seems to me, is on a man who has screwed up and needs forgiveness and redemption, not on some celebrity who would be a great Trophy Christian. It certainly appears to me that Mr. Hume is addressing Tiger Woods the man, not Tiger the Would-Be Christian Celebrity.

I happen to agree with Mr. Hume that Mr. Woods' recovery "depends on his faith." That's not intended as a judgmental statement. My recovery depends on my faith, too. But it's acknowledging that faith can make a positive difference in horrendous life wounds that are often self-inflicted. I honestly don't understand Mr. Gaddy's objections. Of course Mr. Hume is offering a personal opinion, and of course he's offering a theological opinion. So what? He's a Christian, he's editorializing on a segment of a program that is clearly of an editorial nature, and he's being asked to comment on the personal failures of a celebrity. Is he supposed to pretend that there is a total disconnect between his most deeply held values and how those values might apply positively in the life of someone who needs forgiveness?

Do I think it was the best forum to express those views? No, I don't. That's a conversation that should be held privately and one-on-one, not broadcast over the airwaves. But I still can't fault Mr. Hume for what was said. From everything that I can see, he was speaking out of compassion.

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The main goal of Buddhism, as I understand it, is to live a life free from desire. Hence when we're told that Tiger is a Buddhist, I wonder how seriously we're supposed to take that pronouncement.


Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

Do you know the deep dark secret of the avatars?

It's big. It's fat. It's Greek.

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Not that living in a Buddhist nation (99% if you believe the statistics, even after 150+ years of Christian evangelism) makes me an expert, or allows me to make grand pronouncements about Buddhism, but I think I may have a different perspective on the issue. I don't see Tiger's behavior as radically different from most of the "Buddhist" men I've met in Thailand (in fact, Tiger's half-Thai heritage makes his claim to be a Buddhist culturally sensible).

The reality is I take people's statements about what they believe with the same level of grace that I hope people take my professions of Christian faith. Sure, the pursuit of women and money seems at odds with the rejection of desire and being at the heart of Buddhist teaching, but so does much of what Christians do seem at odds with Christ's teachings.

A person's actions don't invalidate the whole of the belief system they profess, or else the Church is in big trouble.


"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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I was indeed questioning the depth of Tiger's devotion to Buddhism, but I am aware that no religion stands or falls based on the actions of one of its purported adherents. I haven't seen any statement about Buddhism directly attributed to Tiger; I just read that Gaddy said that Hume said that Tiger's a Buddhist. I don't even know if it's true. It is, however, intriguing to contemplate that Tiger needn't step out of Buddhism in order to find reasons not to have multiple affairs.

I am aware that the keeping of mistresses is a common cultural practice in Thailand. I guess I don't know, however, whether there are Buddhist teachers there who object to it on religious grounds.

Edited by mrmando

Let's Carl the whole thing Orff!

Do you know the deep dark secret of the avatars?

It's big. It's fat. It's Greek.

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Guest stu

It is, however, intriguing to contemplate that Tiger needn't step out of Buddhism in order to find reasons not to have multiple affairs.

Yes, and that's why the idea that "conversion" as the obvious immediate thing to recommend to someone in this kind of predicament is a bit strange, to me anyway. And it's also why to encourage repentence may not always be the same as "evangelism", at least as the term is often used.

(And perhaps the widepsread acceptance of adultery in "Buddhist" Thailand is a bit like the universal acceptance of usury in the "Christian" West, although obviously slightly less deeply rooted. I'm aware this is another discussion altogether...)

Edited by stu

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On the surface, I don't have a problem with Hume's statement about the Christian faith excelling in matters related to personal forgiveness. However, I wonder if he would have a problem with someone saying that Christianity is not the best schoolmaster for individuals dealing with rage/anger management and that Buddhism is a far more practical guide in that regard.

The scandal revealed a man with enormous, life-destroying personality defects. I would hope that for a while he would leave the comforts of religion out of it and face-- then conquer-- those issues head on. Evangelicals are naturally fond of the "Accept Christ NOW" panacea, as if a quick, tidy redemption is always the ideal formula for people who have f'ed up their lives with addictions. I hope he finds the peace of God in a quiet place, but after he's seriously dealt with the trauma his retardation has caused others.

Edited by Greg P

"The things we enjoy are channels through which the divine glory strikes us, and those who love and delight in any good thing may yet learn to love God." --Gilbert Meilaender

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