As most of you already have heard, Christopher Hitchens, the renowned British journalist/atheist/author, died of pneumonia Thursday night at a hospital in Houston, TX. Mr. Hitchens had been battling cancer of the esophagus for more than a year now. He went from looking like this:
...to this (and in a relatively short amount of time):
When I heard the news late Thursday night, I was listening to a local radio station while driving home from seeing a very stupid movie (the new Mission Impossible) and instantly my mood went from silly anger about Tom Cruise's sub-par film to true, genuine sadness for the family of Mr. Hitchens. Chris' brother, Peter, is actually an outspoken Evangelical Christian and talented writer in his own right. I thought of the numbing pain a Believer must feel when a sibling or parent who does not share their faith passes away. I thought about the the fact that if the Bible is indeed true, and Christopher did not change his mind about Jesus Christ before succumbing to his illness, then he is in Hell right now. There is no way around it: this is a tough pill for anyone to swallow.
Christianity is often attacked for supposedly being "callous" with its "fire-and-brimstone" teachings on eternal punishment for those who reject God in this life. Perhaps some of those charges are true. Perhaps many are not. What I do know is this: It is important for all of us to come face-to-face with the implications of the things we say we believe in, and for me, last night, hearing about the death of Christopher Hitchens, was yet another one of those moments.
I honestly never hated "Hitch" (as he was known to his friends). In fact, I adored his writing style and prose. He was a complex man and a supremely talented communicator. His columns were a delight to read and I re-posted some of them on this very site over the past 4 years. I don't wish to run down his entire biography here and now, so for more on that I would recommend this review of his autobiography Hitch-22 at National Review Online ("His Own Drum") from last year. The guy had an incredible life and for all intents and purposes, practiced what he preached. In a strange way, despite his militant atheism and predominantly liberal political views, I respected that fact.
I respect consistency, probably because of how inconsistent I know I am in my daily life.
Those are, in my opinion, unnecessarily strong words to describe something more than 95% of all humans who have ever lived have practiced. Belief in some sort of Higher Power is as natural as breathing. Even the suffering we see screams of an "evil" that can't adequately be described in humanistic, secular terms.
Religion is not the problem. Bad values and a distorted worldview are. Everyone believes in something. Even atheists like Hitchens do not want anarchy, and if you are to avoid anarchy, people must have something to believe in. We need a right and wrong. Atheists look at that and say, "See, it's just an evolutionary defense mechanism that people form religions...it's all about controlling the masses." Notice that they do not say, "So let's abolish all institutions and live like feral pigs." They instead say, "I know a better way for people to live and will now work to see it implemented." Christopher Hitchens had a "moral code" and set of values he lived by, he simply thought it superior to the Judeo-Christian traditions and teachings that have largely defined the Western culture he was a benefactor of. But he still believed in something.
As Bob Dylan sang, "You gotta' serve somebody."
I'm not saying that Chrisopher Hitchens did not understand this. I truly think he did. My real problem with Hitchens' writings on religion (and the writings of those like him through the ages) is not that he hated Christianity, but is the trickle-down secularism it produces in the hearts and minds of others (most notably, young people). Because so much of the mainstream media and so many members of modern academia agree with his worldview, Hitchens was able to reach millions of impressionable young minds with a biased message that passed itself off as an un-biased - scientific even! - appraisal of the natural world. Meanwhile, stuffy old Christians are perpetually framed as those "world is flat", out-of-touch, close-minded bigots whose time has passed. Of course many brilliant defenders of theism (i.e. William Lane Craig, Jay Richards, etc.) have challenged and debated men like Hitchens, but never are those men of faith given the same prominence and respect in the culture at-large as Hitchens, Dawkins, and Sam Harris are.
But I'm not here today to feed you nothing but sour grapes. As I've already stated, Christopher Hitchens was a phenomenal talent and man of conviction (however wrong those convictions might have been). He was willing to anger liberals with his support for unpopular positions like the War on Terror and invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. He was unafraid of what either side had to say about him. Hitchens was even willing to take on the sacred cow of late-night fake-news programming hosted by the likes of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
He was witty, engaging, and mesmerizing when you got the chance to see him interviewed on TV or YouTube clips.
I recommend this one to you:
In closing: I'm sorry he's gone. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. My deepest hope is that he called out to his Maker before the end.
You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls.
But you're gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You're gonna have to serve somebody,
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you're gonna have to serve somebody.
The basic ideas, ideals, and values that generally define and characterize the central tenets of what today might be termed "modern conservative thought."
We believe that a proper understanding of history, economics, and theology leads to certain conclusions. Many of these are the same conclusions our Founding Fathers arrived at in constructing a "more perfect union."
All ideas and opinions are welcome; not all are correct.