The continuing Tiger Woods media frenzy has brought many folks the out of the woodwork in the media. One of the most interesting comments to come yet was made by Fox News' Brit Hume this past Sunday on how Tiger can put his life back together. This is part of Brit's comment:
"The extent to which he can recover seems to me depends on his faith. He is said to be a Buddhist. I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. My message to Tiger would, 'Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world."
In Brit's defense, his plea to Tiger seems sincere. It doesn't seem that Brit means his remark to be facetious or irreverent. And Brit is right: Christianity does offer forgiveness and redemption, does it not?
However, the trouble is that Brit seems to be presenting Christian faith as a type of therapeutic commodity that can be offered to someone seeking a cure for their "symptoms." For Brit it almost seems that Christianity is a magical pill that will bring Tiger the peace and redemption he is supposedly looking for. Brit’s appeal certainly fits this personal remedy model. By describing the Christian faith as providing something, his plea fits the typical American interpretation of Christianity – it gives you something you need. Faith becomes a commodity; it can be exchanged for a greater end (ever heard of the prosperity gospel?). But if faith becomes merely a mode of exchange, then it ceases to be faith. While manifesting forgiveness and redemption, living a faithful life is not a vehicle for self-help or personal therapy.
Peace and redemption is surely a part of the gospel, but it doesn't mean human beings somehow cease to be fallible with faith. Nor does faith guarantee an easier life without struggle - "Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27).
The problem is that having faith in Jesus Christ is not a means to an end. Sure, peace and joy can certainly come with faith, but becoming faithful solely to attain such things makes faith merely a conduit for self help rather than a basis for discipleship. Jesus first and foremost wants disciples, not individuals seeking personal remedies.