By Lisa Miller
I'm not at all sure why the liberal left is always so shocked that evangelical Christians want other people to become Christians. The outrage that followed Fox News anchor Brit Hume's plea to Tiger Woods to find Jesus has been totally disproportionate to the statement itself. The usual suspects—MSNBC and The Huffington Post—and indeed the whole liberal left blogosphere leapt all over Hume for his arrogance and conservatism. These waves of criticism prompted another stab by Hume at saving Tiger's soul, this time on Bill O'Reilly's show.
The word "evangelical" comes from the Greek word for gospel, or "good news." Evangelical Christians are those who want to spread the good news. They aren't pretending to believe in salvation through Jesus Christ. They actually do believe that it—and yours, and mine—comes through him.
Now, it's distasteful (or cynical ratings-bait) for Hume to be flogging his religion on television and disingenuous for him to say that he meant no disrespect to Buddhists. (Though on those terms, he and Tiger are a fair match. Tiger has claimed an affinity for Buddhism, his mother's religion, but now that we know he's a pathological liar, it's hard to imagine him as a devout defender of any faith.) And it's silly of his interlocutor O'Reilly to say "Buddhists aside," when Buddhists—who, incidentally, do forgiveness better than almost anyone—are more than 300 million strong worldwide. But Hume's remarks are nothing if not unsurprising. Evangelizing is what evangelical Christians do.
In fact, Hume was at least the third prominent Christian to call for Tiger's conversion. More than a month ago, the syndicated columnist Cal Thomas—formerly Jerry Falwell's PR man—did exactly the same thing. "We should pray," he said on his radio show "for Tiger Woods that someone can meet his greatest need, which is not other women, but Jesus of Nazareth who will transform his life." Ten days later, Larry Ross, who runs a Dallas-based Christian PR company said almost as much in an essay on The Huffington Post. "Without introduction," wrote Ross, "God welcomes all men who turn to Him in repentance and faith. Perhaps through this ordeal, God may finally have Tiger's attention." Taking a different tack, Gov. Mike Huckabee simply pleaded with Americans to leave Tiger alone. "Focus," he said, "on what's going on behind the doors of your house." (He might as well have said "let he who is without sin cast the first stone.")
In the ridiculous, gratuitous world of nonstop news, Hume was using his platform and his airtime to give Tiger some free advice, just as a recovering alcoholic might recommend a 12-step program. Hume's pronouncements might not be the most edifying television. They might lead viewers to wonder about his journalistic neutrality when it comes to delivering the news, but that's all. You have the remote control. If you don't like it, you can turn it off.