Brit Hume’s loss of context

There ought to be a clear delineation between religious insights that inform political arguments and religious appeals for conversion. The former is an acceptable line of reasoning in a political forum and the latter should have no place in a show like “Fox News Sunday.”

Hume's remarks were inappropriate because he made the comments on a public affairs show whose purpose is to have informative public debate. Religious appeals for conversion are not relevant in a political debate. It would have been acceptable if Hume mentioned that his Christian faith’s focus on forgiveness leads him to believe that mandatory minimum jail sentences are unjust. However, religiously informed opinions can’t rely solely on one’s own beliefs; if they are effective in convincing others of their position, they must appeal to common ideals of those of different faiths.

Additionally, Hume’s role as a news former anchor should have caused him to pause before suggesting Woods convert to Christianity. Ingrid Creppell, a political theorist who has written on what religious toleration means in a modern republic, argues that members of the media have a special responsibility to refrain from proselytizing: “of course the public sphere ought to tolerate a vigorous debate about the distinct merits or offerings of religious beliefs. The issue is not about what ought or ought not to be floating about in public discourse, but what this particular person's perch enables him to do.”

Debate about religion in the public sphere is healthy. I’ll give credit to writers Ross Douthart and Michael Gerson for pointing out that it’s foolish to accept that believers shouldn’t be willing to assert a preference for their own religion. But it was not simply the content of what Hume said (though of course Buddhist scholars have found considerable fault with his assessment), but the specific context, place and position from which Hume made the remarks.


The views expressed in this blog do not represent the views or opinions of Generations United.

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