A very public anti-God figure, journalist, author and cultural critic Christopher Hitchens, has a vicious form of cancer. Hitchens, author of God Is Not Great gave an interview to Anderson Cooper that is worth viewing.
Hitchens notes that people are praying for him, and that some are praying he will “suffer and die.”
Others, he admits, are praying in a more charitable manner, if–to his mind– without effect.
Oddly, the fellow enrages me or engages me–I enjoy Hitchens when I can mentally block the vulgarities he employs. I cannot fathom how his famed intellect was seduced by Socialism, though it can indicate an idealistic hope for a better world. His attack against Mother Teresa is crude and unwarranted. His excessive life style is one my Southern Propriety finds oppressive, even slavish. I cringe, yes, when he resorts to what many Christians think is blasphemy ( he cannot mean it if he does not in fact believe there is a God).
But on the whole I find him to be a St. Paul-like figure–an energetic mind, a man very proud of his native talent, not shy about his certainties and possessed of a certain type of humor that amuses even when one disagrees with his premise. I wish I had known him personally.
I’d like to know the off camera Hitchens. I imagine we could find areas of interest just shy of “religion” that would fill a couple of hours over a plate of risotto ai carciofi. But I’d forfeit my dinner with Christopher Hitchens if I could offer my chair to Hillaire Belloc. Wouldn’t that be an intriguing conversation?
Perhaps, in view of Belloc’s heavenly residence, I might arrange an evening for Hitchens with that incredibly “lightsome” soul, James V. Schall, S.J. of Georgetown University. What Mr. Hitchens would enjoy is an erudite exchange with good minds melded to good souls. No “religious” topics, of course. And none needed, because, after all, to Schall and Belloc, any and everything interesting is “of God.”
Somehow, despite my own adamant and nearly (?) smug orthodoxy, I’m not moved to pray for Mr. Hitchens’ conversion. I do not want to see him humbled or in any manner flattened into a desperate last minute- hedge-your-bets-Pascalian repentance. I do not want the man’s chemo weakened, cancer ravaged “half demented” mind pushed to submit to an evangelist’s zealous belt notching. It is not that I don’t wish his salvation. I do.
But a man who has spent decades as an “anti-theist” and who thinks that belief in God is the loss of individual freedom cannot be reached by a last minute assault on his freedom to reject God. I believe God is a Lover. I pray that Hitchens can assent to his “aha!” moment, that he can see that ineffable beauty, the Love of God Himself, that permits, for love’s sake, Hitchens’ freedom to rail against the very source of his freedom. God never wanted a host of puppets; bobbing their mindless wooden noggins, they’d be utterly uninteresting. St. Paul was not uninteresting. Perfect Love took the risk that man’s freedom entails–rejection.
I want for Mr. H that recognition of a pattern that is of its own exquisite perfection after all, when seen from the distance.
And so… I pray that the most curmudgeonly saints in heaven–and there are quite a few!–come quickly to the side of Mr. Hitchens, whose guardian angel will surely welcome their unique intercession for this most stubborn of charges.