The Separation of Church and Everything

I’ll admit, I thought Brit Hume’s “Tiger should convert” moment on Fox News the other week was a bit jarring, even if the backlash against him was over the top. In the New York Times, Ross Douthat says that, if we want a healthy debate about religion in this country, we all need to get over our delicate sensibilities on the subject:

The tendency to take offense at freewheeling religious debate is widespread. There are European Christians who side with Muslims in support of blasphemy laws, lest Jesus or the Prophet Muhammad have his reputation sullied. There are American Catholics who cry “bigotry” every time a newspaper columnist criticizes the church’s teaching on sexuality. Many Christians have decided that the best way to compete in an era of political correctness is to play the victim card.

But these believers are colluding in their own marginalization. If you treat your faith like a hothouse flower, too vulnerable to survive in the crass world of public disputation, then you ensure that nobody will take it seriously. The idea that religion is too mysterious, too complicated or too personal to be debated on cable television just ensures that it never gets debated at all.

Douthat points out that the shouting matches over whether Hume should have said what he did drowned out intelligent responses from Buddhists and Christians alike, where an interesting and worthwhile debate might have been had — and that’s a shame:

Theology has consequences: It shapes lives, families, nations, cultures, wars; it can change people, save them from themselves, and sometimes warp or even destroy them.

If we tiptoe politely around this reality, then we betray every teacher, guru and philosopher — including Jesus of Nazareth and the Buddha both — who ever sought to resolve the most human of all problems: How then should we live?

Read the whole thing here.


Margaret Cabaniss


Margaret Cabaniss is the former managing editor of Crisis Magazine. She joined Crisis in 2002 after graduating from the University of the South with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She now blogs at

  • Austin

    Douthat is correct and very insightful. I’ve met him and he is a formidable intellect. A true conservative and a Catholic of a profound depth of though. I wish he would be an intellectual force in the Republican party, which we very much need. With the passing of William F Buckley, we have been afflicted by frauds who spend their energy and time defending Team Bush and their myriad errors.

    Religion is too important to be left to the so called “experts” and talking heads. Hume was well within his rights to make his statement about Woods and Christianity and others are within their rights to disagree.

  • Pamela

    I know what you mean about finding Brit’s remarks jarring. I sat there with my mouth hanging open for a full minute, I’m sure, but I think it says more about us than anything else. Why are we so uncomfortible with hearing about Jesus in a public forum? If we are uncomfortable hearing it, how much more unlikely are we to stand up and spread the good news as Brit actually did? As stated in the excellent article, he did what we are all called to do. While we are all quite willing to speak of our belief in a forum such as this, how many would be willing to do so in front of a less receptive crowd? We have let the non-believers force us to cover the light with a bushel so much that even when we know what it looks like, we are jarred by and blink when it is exposed. That’s not good.

  • Justin

    Pamela is right “We have let the non-believers force us to cover the light with a bushel so much that even when we know what it looks like, we are jarred by and blink when it is exposed. That’s not good.”

    This is about the salvation of souls, not political correctness. Although Buddhism ( and I’m a former Buddhist) does not stand for the behavior of Mr. Woods on any account, if we truly believe in the teachings of the Catholic Church we can’t see in Buddhism any source of salvation. Buddhism rejects God as a non issue and believes, like a certain Pelagius that was condemned by the Church centuries ago: that man can be saved solely on his own efforts.

    Maybe Mr. Hume really sees that this fall from grace on the part of Tiger Woods is a good time to make him aware that there is no salvation in Buddhism but only through Christ.

    If we let the atheists and secular humanists have their way then we’d never be able to so much as wear a Cross in public. Look around you; look how spiritually barren the outside culture is, the rotten and bitter fruit of us not proclaiming Christ when called to do so.

  • Mother of Two Sons

    thanks be to God that you found and posted this outstanding perspective… it has long been my perspective.

    When I spoke to a Rotarian Club, that was completely made up of Christians of various denominations, and I called “us” to combine our Christian and Civic call to duty and just see what could happen in our communities…. I watched the former mayor cross every part of her body possible as I spoke. I was so nervy that I got her home number and called her later that evening as she shunned me at the meeting itself. This is what I said to her, Ms. former Mayor, with all due respect I am calling you because I noted that you were quite upset by my presentation today… She said, I was, it is clear that you have strong leadership abilities and no one took the time to prepare you with the proper protocol of civic discussions. I told her that I do believe that my attorney did try to give me some guidance and I just thought that I was speaking to a group on Monday that was all at Church on Sunday and challenging us to take “all of us” to this important work of community transformation and elevation! She said, you will know better in the future. I thanked her for her time.
    Fortunately, I have not succumbed to such ridiculousness! I could no more leave my Soul at the door of the World as I could leave my brain at the door of the Catholic Church…. this commitment has caused my heart to be broken in a million pieces more than once in my lifetime; finding comfort alone in the heart of God!