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Brit Hume Takes Off the Secular Burqa

John on January 5, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Brit Hume said something scandalous the other day:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_dCB-XUwoc

What Hume has done here is appear in public without his secular burka. Bloggers on the right and left had a problem with this:

  • Instapundit – “CALL ME CRAZY, but I don’t think religion is Tiger Woods’ problem.”
  • This guy – [W]hy didn’t Brit Hume just say, “Hey Darky, your stupid religion ain’t good enough; you need to get with the white man’s theology in order to get your career back.” [For the record, I don't know who this guy is but I'm guessing he's an atheist]
  • PZ Myers – “Brit Hume, who has always been mindless conservative drone, has crossed a line.”
  • Anti-christianist Andrew Sullivan wrote, “Once you have abolished the distinction between secular and religious discourse, as they routinely insist on doing, their politics is their religion and their religion is their politics.”

So the reactions range from nervous clucks over someone committing a faux pas at a dinner party to warnings of dire (if murky) future. Doesn’t Hume know that religion just isn’t mentioned in “polite” society?

Actually, I think he does know. In fact, from his follow up on O’Reilly I think he was well aware of the reaction his words might generate. I think Brit Hume was making a statement, and not just about Tiger Woods.

The reaction to what he said tells us something important. We live in a society that has fetishized the seperation of church and state to the point that we need metaphorical skirts on the table legs. You can be a believer in whatever you want at home, behind closed doors. But to actually bring any of that into a public discussion, to go unveiled before the world as a sectarian on national TV…awkward. As Myers said, a line has been crossed.

Of course Hume’s real sin is not to mention Christianity but to suggest it is superior to another faith. It’s very much like what Sonia Sotomayor did in her wise Latina speech (and got away with), except of course that religion and race are not equivalent. The former is a matter of choice, the latter of genetics.

C.S. Lewis once noted, people are often most afraid of the thing they are least likely to become. Under George Bush, we had several years of the coastal elites working themselves into a frenzy over the coming theocracy. All of that seems to have quietly subsided now. Obama, though a Christian, is their kind of Christian, i.e. one who apparently misses church at Christmas as well as the rest of the year and rarely if ever mentions his faith in public.

You could see the stunned looks in Copenhagen when he used the dreaded e-word in his acceptance speech. Evil? Are we still allowed to say that? Admittedly, there was a far more scandalized reaction when George Bush used the word, I suspect because people knew he meant it. With Obama the surprise is mitigated by a sense that, whatever he says, he’s not really one of those tacky people, i.e. the kind that would suggest someone convert on national TV.

Even if verbal brickbats are the civilized alternative to billy clubs, there is a parallel to the Saudi religious police. Shunning and social coercion were not stamped out by the Enlightenment, only redirected. Indeed, the two extremes are mirror images of one another. The dominionist Christians and the militant new atheists have in common that they are the partly domesticated expression of their respective ancestors. The one gave us witch trials, the other denunciations to the party. For every triumph of cruel dogma over the soul there is a soulless 1984-style bureaucracy waiting to carry out orders without question. Ultimately, the difference between “God wills it” and “I was just following orders” is vanishingly slight to those on the business end of the rifle. Yet, somehow, the American body politic seems to have only been sensitized to the one danger and not the other. Thus Brit Hume’s statement falls outside the realm of polite discourse, but praising Mao or wearing a Che’ t-shirt in public barely raises eyebrows.

Similarly, on television and in movies in America the believer is, with few exceptions, the villain or, at the very least, the ignorant obstacle. But the Marxist (however murderous in life) is ever the dashing hero. The armies of Christian societies long gone are a mob of violent zealots we’re well rid of today. The armies of secular Greeks long gone — who killed and pillaged their way across the known world– the stuff of legend. Something is out of balance here.

Intentionally or not, Brit Hume’s statements remind us we have drifted quite a ways as a nation. Did Brit really cross a line or did the secular culture cross one some time ago and we’re just now noticing?

He’s right too. Tiger should convert.

Related: The Anchoress has a good roundup of reactions on this topic as well.

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Category: Celebrity Conversions |

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