The first rule of dinner-table conversation is no hot talk about politics or religion. Apparently, there's a rule regarding the discussion of religion during political talk shows, too.
On "Fox News Sunday" on Jan. 3, the panelists had advanced to that light part of the discussion where they focusing on movies and crime novelists. Venerated newsman Brit Hume turned to sports, and predicted Tiger Woods would return to success as a golfer. But if he really wanted to recover as a person, Hume suggested, he should consider Christianity. Woods is a Buddhist, he said, but Christianity offered the forgiveness and redemption that could really make Woods a powerful role model for faith and recovery.
Ka-boom. Oh, what a reaction erupted. Some in the secular elite acted like Hume had set the national house on fire and broken all the fine china. Some TV talk show hosts quite seriously compared Hume's comments to those of "Islamic extremists" waging a "holy war."
Asked about this reaction, Hume told CNSNews.com he was "not surprised" by the backlash and accused the media of having a "double standard" when it comes to religion: "If I had said, for example, that what Tiger Woods needed to do was become more deeply engaged in his Buddhist faith or adopt the ideas of Hinduism, which I think would be of great spiritual value to him, I doubt anybody would have said anything."
No one in the secular media is supposed to assert his religion is true, or that his is best, or even that his faith can heal a father, marriage and family. These suddenly manners-conscious secularists insist that religion be a "very private matter," and by that they mean something neither seen nor heard, and for G-'s sakes, it's something you certainly don't put on national television. "I think it's been true for a long time in many cultures," said Hume, "It is certainly true in secular America today that the most controversial two words you can ever utter in a public space are 'Jesus Christ.'"
They want to build a very high brick wall, with barbed wire on top, separating church and TV studio.
The sudden arrival of these punctilious Emily Posts of religious discussion is strangest because Christianity is so routinely and thoroughly mocked and denigrated across our news and entertainment outlets without an ounce of concern for offending the average Christian. Hume's chat is intolerable, yet "South Park" or "Family Guy" can put Christianity through a shredder, and they are cheered for their "irreverence."
Speaking of which, there is also the matter of who Hume is: a sober, respected newsman's newsman. It was jarring to hear him talk of Jesus Christ in the opposite way from "South Park," in reverent terms, offering hope to Tiger Woods. To the TV tastemakers, it sounded like a bad commercial for a very artificial product.
Tender concern for the soul of Woods has not been the dominant cultural theme. The discovery that this very talented golfing legend was severely cheating on the mother of his young children came first as a shock. But it very quickly turned into a punch line. Within days, Tiger became a conventional piece of gossip-sheet meat, like Paris, Lindsay or Britney, a scandalous figure that we are all supposed to enjoy mocking and disparaging. Maybe he deserved that. But Hume aimed higher -- and very quickly became much more judged than Woods.
Many cultural analysts didn't really want Woods to be judged, and found wanting. His adultery was his business, and his golfing talent was almost a license to misbehave.
At the epicenter of our secular cultural media is a writer named Jenny Block, who argued at Newsweek's website it was not surprising to learn of Woods' multiple affairs because his "entire life is based on winning; on having, doing, and being more ... why on earth would anyone think 'settling down' was even in his vocabulary?"
Block declared without reservation that she had cheated on her husband with another woman, and she was the norm, not the exception. Now they were in one of those fabulously open marriages with no judgmental God and no real vows or commitments. "Monogamy just isn't always realistic. There's nothing wrong with admitting that. It simply doesn't work for some. And just as people choose different religions, eating habits, and places to call home, I believe we should be able to choose different ways to live out our relationships."
This kind of evangelism doesn't cause the cultural elite to explode at the national dinner table. How does any culture build strong families and strong children if that chaotic and abnormal view dominates? If America lived in less of a morally upside-down world, it's Jenny Block who would be sitting in Brit Hume's corner wearing the dunce's cap.
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