Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Christopher Hitchens

It seems I am a bit late on this, but I just learned a few days ago that Christopher Hitchens has cancer.  I got the news from Hitchens' own reflection on what is surely one of the most sobering developments in a man's life, which was his contribution to the current issue (September 2010) of Vanity Fair.  (First, of course, I had to go through the customary ritual of finding his article, which in that magazine involves paging through almost fifty pages of ads before even getting to the table of contents.)  Anyway, it seems as fitting an occasion as any on which to share a few basic thoughts on Christopher Hitchens.

First, even if there were no good and admirable qualities in the man, which isn't the case, but even if indeed he were utterly abominable in every way, I would still find it appalling that he is hated by some Christians.  I have seen advocates of the Christian faith express what amounts to juvenile ranting against Hitchens' outspoken atheism, a sort of ranting that is at times hateful, often also sophomoric in its "argument," and always unworthy of discourse in the public square.  In my view, the reasons to love Christopher Hitchens are manifold, yet first and foremost in the list of reasons is that he and I share a common humanity.  My humanity is informed by my Christianity, which impels me to love him all the more.  And so I pray for his physical well-being, and also for the conversion of his soul. 

When I read and listen to his fierce and absolute antagonism to God and religion, I am reminded of one of the qualities I admire most in him, namely, the radical and thoroughgoing nature of his thinking.  When he takes something on, pro or con, he is utterly serious about it.  This says to me that, if the Lord does convert him on this side of the grave, Hitchens will be the type of intellectual giant with which the Church is blessed once in a great while.  Of course he is opposed to all forms of religion, yet he has said, and this I find very significant, that he has no respect for the Christians whose theology does not take seriously the basic tenets of the faith, eg., the atoning death of Christ, or His resurrection, such as the modern higher critics, for such is a faith that makes no sense at all.

The other main thing that comes to mind when I read his arguments against God, I hasten to add, is that the God he is against is also a god I'd be against if that were my concept of God.  I know it can sound condescending to say that he simply doesn't get or understand the gospel of the Christian faith, and certainly I do not believe that the answer lies simply in sending him some well written explanation of Christian doctrine.  The Christian faith is done a grave disservice when it is treated as though it were merely a body of data.  The gospel is not information.  It is the life of Christ, the Immanuel, Who blesses those who are baptized into His death, with a life full of His grace and truth.  The Spirit of God works faith in men's hearts where and when He will, when this gospel in its purity is proclaimed.  We need to proclaim it, and we need to live it. 

Even apart from religion, I do not agree with Hitchens in every point.  Even where I might disagree with him, when he speaks out on politics or literature or history, I always benefit from hearing his point of view, and from the way in which he argues it.  Hitchens is more than "lettered."  He is hypereducated.  And it is a pleasure to see him hold forth on Orwell, or Paine, or the failure of the United Nations to accomplish real peace anywhere.  Born a Brit, he has in recent years become a proud American citizen, and I might add, one of the greatest advocates today of an underappreciated aspect of American life, namely, our guaranteed freedom of speech.  He is a true First Ammendment absolutist.  I thought, in fact, I might share here a speech he gave in Toronto on freedom of speech.  It was occasioned by a proposed Canadian law against "hate speech."   In its course, this talk will reveal some points with which, of course, I disagree.  Nevertheless, in some ways it shows him at his best.  The video is divided into three parts.  Enjoy.

Part 1 of 3:

Part 2 of 3:

Part 3 of 3:

1 comment:

The Rev. BT Ball said...

I also find him a fascinating man, always interesting to read or hear, especially when one disagrees. It is good for us to be challenged intellectually and to counter arguments with the reason we have received as a gift, and yet such reason is always a servant to the faith believed and confessed.