Saturday, January 9, 2010

On Public Forgiveness

Fox News anchor Brit Hume has gotten considerable criticism for telling Tiger Woods that he should drop Buddhism and become a Christian, so that he can get forgiveness and redemption for his misdeeds. But in fairness, possibly Hume was misinterpreted. Maybe what he meant was, "You should become an evangelical Christian so that you can be forgiven by evangelical Christians."

For example, after it was revealed that Sen. John Ensign had an affair with the wife of one of his aides, and that his parents had made a "gift" of $96,000 to the couple and two of their children, Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma said, "If you look at it in the light of everybody makes errors, at least he fessed up and resolved the problem with his family, so I think it speaks well of his corrective force.” It turned out a few days later that Coburn knew about the affair and may have been involved in the payoff negotiations, which to my mind is taking forgiveness too far.

Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, was sterner about Sen. David Vitter being on the client list of the "D.C. Madam":

"... I cannot defend David’s behavior. Adultery is a serious matter that affects not only the individuals involved but families and the well being of the entire community. Voters have the right to consider issues like this when they assess the character of an elected official.

"Having said that, the American people have shown themselves to be very forgiving toward a public official who admits their [sic] failures and takes redemptive steps. And despite what some [who?] have said since he released his statement, so does God. Proverbs 24:16 reads 'For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity.' I hope to see David back on his feet again."

So you can see Hume's point. If Tiger had been part of the family (or better yet, a member of The Family, like Ensign and Coburn), he would have been forgiven, at least by prominent evangelicals. Of course, Tiger is a sports figure and a role model, so perhaps we should hold him to a higher standard than U.S. Senators.

By the way, I'm pretty sure that's a misinterpretation of Proverbs 24:16. So thanks for telling us how God thinks, Mr. Perkins, but....

Addendum: Mencken should have said that no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of American journalists. Journalists scratched their heads about whether Buddhism truly offers forgiveness, and whether Hume was entitled to proselytize, and what karma is, anyway, and completely overlooked the core of Hume's point: "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.'" Now, is there any empirical reason to think that's more true of Christianity than Buddhism? Are Vitter and Ensign now a great example to the world? How about Mark "Appalachian Fall" Sanford and Larry "Wide Stance" Craig?

Addendum: I can't claim credit for noticing this, but the odd amount of $96,000 was the maximum that two people could give to four people without being required to file a form with the IRS. Also, a third child, who was over 18, received nothing, suggesting that Ensign's parents were not primarily motivated by a concern for the children's welfare.

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