Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales grew increasingly nasty in a Tuesday column on Brit Hume’s attempt to suggest Tiger Woods accept Christianity. Shales demanded that Hume apologize. He insisted "the remark will probably rank, even only a few days into January, as one of the most ridiculous of the year." He ended by suggesting that when Hume said he wanted to retire before people said he was fading, "Hume ought to know that what people are saying right now is a whole lot worse than that he's fading."
Shales cracked: "Whom did he sound more like -- Mary Poppins on the joys of a tidy room, or Ron Popeil on the glories of some amazing potato peeler?" (This, from the man who’s shamelessly sold Barack Obama to readers as "every inch President Wonderful." Popeil, heal thyself.)
Why are liberals like Shales so angrily offended by a brief statement of evangelism on a TV news show? Why are liberals so much less offended when Fox broadcasts scabrous anti-Christian mockery on Seth MacFarlane’s Sunday night comedies?
Shales never insisted that MacFarlane has needed to apologize. Shales has never asked the makers of "South Park" to apologize for insulting Christianity (and nearly every other religious belief system except Islam.) In 2005, Shales somehow forgot to review the Comedy Central special "Merry F—ing Christmas," but no one at the Post demanded an apology.
Liberals get very upset at the idea of proselytizing in places they don’t expect, like Sunday news shows. (It never occurs to them that it’s the Lord’s day to millions of Americans.) Shales jumped to compare evangelism to commercialism:
It sounded a little like one of those Verizon vs. AT&T commercials -- our brand is better than your brand -- except that Hume was comparing two of the world's great religions, not a couple of greedy communications conglomerates. Further, is it really his job to run around trying to drum up new business? He doesn't really have the authority, does he, unless one believes that every Christian by mandate must proselytize?
What an ignorant secular liberal. If Shales knew much about Christianity or the Bible, he'd know that every Christian is encouraged to share their faith. After all, if you think you have the secret to eternal life, isn't sharing it an act of kindness? But Shales thought Hume was a walking, talking skit on Saturday Night Live that could barely be topped:
Oh, but there was much more to it. Since Buddhism is so lacking in news-you-can-use, Hume continued -- sinking into his own mouth-made mire -- "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." Whom did he sound more like -- Mary Poppins on the joys of a tidy room, or Ron Popeil on the glories of some amazing potato peeler?
You could almost hear the gears of YouTube turning as he spoke, and imagine the writers on "Saturday Night Live" trying to find ways other than the painfully obvious to satirize the moment and what it represents.
Secular reporters and commentators also failed to ask: if Tiger Woods is actually a Buddhist (instead of just dabbling in it to please his mother), isn't adultery wrong in that religion? Yes, it certainly is.
Shales was just getting warmed up, moving on next to the "pathology" of Fox News, and how liberals always hopes its moments of conservatism are insincere:
The easiest mistake to make would be to associate Hume's off-the-cuff, off-the-wall remark with the pathology of Fox News, a cherished target of the left just as the left is a cherished target of certain Fox personalities. Some of us cling to our faith that there is no institutional bias at the network, and that the business of Fox, to paraphrase Calvin Coolidge, is business.
Shales briefly made a small nod of deference toward the origins of Hume's Christianity (after the suicide of his son Sandy at 28), but he still had great distaste for a pulpit in secular TV-land:
It would be indefensibly insensitive to mock Hume for his beliefs, especially considering the way he came to them, but that still doesn't mean one must cheer him on as he tries to turn a bully pulpit into a pulpit, period.
In a way that many others had spoken of this particular faith, Hume seemed so bolstered by Christianity that he just had to go tell it on the mountain. And the golf course. And Fox news-talk shows.
Whatever his motivations, and however his statement regarding Woods reflected Hume's own emotional turmoil, the remark will probably rank, even only a few days into January, as one of the most ridiculous of the year. It tends at the least to banish any wayward hopes that the looniness of the Bawdy Aughties is over; we're not out of the woods, or the Woods, yet. Oh no, the madness will go on and on and on, at least until some sanctimonious busybody takes it upon himself to go even roguer than Hume.
If Hume's remark is going to turn out to be a mere starting point, where in the name of all that's holy (really holy, genuinely holy) is the finishing line going to find us? Or leave us?
Like David Shuster suggesting that Hume touting Christianity on television "denigrates" Christianity, Shales lamely argues that in the name of "all that’s really holy" you should shut up about your God. Shales ended with the "gotta apologize" demand and the suggestion that Hume is "worse than fading." (He’s senile? He’s evil?)
Hume has a message for Woods; lots of people will have a message for Hume. First off, apologize. You gotta. Just say you are a man who is comfortable with his faith, so comfortable that sometimes he gets a wee bit carried away with it. If Hume wants to do the satellite-age equivalent of going door-to-door and spreading what he considers the gospel, he should do it on his own time, not try to cross-pollinate religion and journalism and use Fox facilities to do it.
At the same Republican convention where Hume bemoaned his advancing years, he spoke of knowing when to leave the party and go home. "I'd like to walk away while I'm still doing okay," he said, "and not have people say, 'He was fading.' " It's easy to understand the sentiment, but Hume ought to know that what people are saying right now is a whole lot worse than that he's fading.