When Fox News analysts Brit Hume extolled the benefits of Christianity to Tiger Woods (and made a second conversion attempt here), commentators responded with outrage and bemusement, with many arguing that proselytizing lies well outside the political analyst's purview. Michael Gerson of the Washington Post, however, thinks otherwise. In a remarkable move of rhetorical jujitsu, the columnist argues that it's not Brit Hume who was intolerant for calling Woods's Buddhism inadequate, but the reacting commentators who condemned him. Take a look:
By mauling Hume for airing views on Christianity and Buddhism, Gerson says commentators ignored a basic truth: "Religious faiths--Christian, Buddhist, Zoroastrian--generally make claims about the nature of reality that conflict with the claims of other faiths." Thus, "attacking Christian religious exclusivity is to attack nearly every vital religious tradition." He closes with a question: "Who in this picture is more intolerant?"
The assumption of these criticisms is that proselytization is the antonym of tolerance. Asserting the superiority of one's religious beliefs, in this view, is not merely bad manners; it involves a kind of divisive, offensive judgmentalism.But the American idea of religious liberty does not forbid proselytization; it presupposes it. Free, autonomous individuals not only have the right to hold whatever beliefs they wish, they also have the right to change those beliefs and to persuade others to change as well ... Proselytization, admittedly, is fraught with complications. We object to the practice when an unequal power relationship is involved ...We are offended by brainwashing ... But none of this was present in Hume's appeal to Woods.