Many well read Americans are familiar with the name
Christopher Hitchens. Many people also
know that he is one of the big-name atheists in the world today.
Although Christopher was born in England, and retains his
British citizenship, he became a United States citizen on the steps of the
Jefferson Memorial, on 13 April 2007, his fifty-eighth birthday. Since that
date, Christopher Hitchens has become America's most outspoken atheist.
Atheism, in America and around the world, has progressively
grown more militant in the last few decades.
Christopher has materially contributed to that militancy. What was once
normally a low-key, somewhat closeted, personal spiritual condition (atheism)
is now metastasizing into an organized, spiritual disease of open, aggressive
Christopher's spiritual disease is now compounded by a
physical one, Christopher is facing a frightening death:
“America's leading atheist is dying.
Christopher Hitchens, a prominent public intellectual, has been diagnosed with
cancer of the esophagus. The deadly disease has spread to his lungs and lymph
– Reference (1) at bottom.
As might be expected, if you have listened to or read
Christopher's writings and debates, the prospect of his own untimely end has
seemingly not mellowed him:
“Yet it is astonishing how even when
starkly confronted with his mortality, Mr. Hitchens is unable to restrain his
anti-Catholic bigotry. The specter of death cannot wrench him of his hatred for
religion - especially the Catholic Church.
As he describes the pain and gradual degradation that cancer inflicts upon its
victim, Mr. Hitchens reminisces about possible regrets in his life. Besides not
seeing his children getting married, he is stricken by the prospect that he
will never read or write the obituary of "elderly villains," such as
the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Mr. Hitchens' bile toward Pope Benedict
XVI knows no bounds. Typical of many bigots, he clings to his burning hate unto
the final hour - it is all that is left to warm his dark, desiccated soul.
That Mr. Hitchens remains a militant atheist should come as no surprise. He is
an unadulterated Bolshevik. Throughout his public career, Mr. Hitchens has
consistently championed revolutionary Marxism. During the Cold War, he openly
called for the defeat of America in its struggle against the Soviet Union.”
– Reference (1) at bottom.
Christopher Hitchens, America's
most outspoken, renowned, militant atheist, must now exercise his faith or
non-faith and make emotional preparation for his own physical termination; and
he must prepare to meet the God he does not believe in, or, prepare, as he
apparently does believe, to go into eternal non-existence.
I am saddened by Christopher's
plight. I am frightened for him. He hates God, who will shortly hold him
accountable, yet he seems unmoved. I
pray that Christopher's eyes may yet open to the seriousness of the
ultimate-bedrock reality that he faces: Eternity apart from God. I dislike and am disgusted by Christopher's
abrasive Christian-hate and atheism, but I tremble for the fate of his lost
soul. Jesus can and will cure
Christopher's angry rebellion, but only
if Christopher will allow him.
The title of my article mentions
two brothers. So, who is Peter
Peter Hitchens is Christopher's
brother. The two brothers have
similarities as might be expected, but they are, in ideology and faith, poles
apart. Christopher is a God-hater, which
is ironic since he claims that God does not exist. Peter is now a Christian who spent many of
his non-Christian years living in Russia (Moscow). While Christopher has made a reputation for
putting-down religion, especially Christianity, Peter has, more quietly,
realized and articulated the influence for good that Christianity has wrought.
In his recent book, THE RAGE AGAINST GOD, Peter “...chronicles his personal journey through
disbelief into a committed Christian faith.”
Reference (2) at bottom.
is striking, to me, about Peter's testimony of his faith is that
attributes his return to faith largely to his experience of socialism in
practice, which he witnessed during his many years reporting in Eastern Europe
and his nearly three years as a resident correspondent in Moscow during the
collapse of the Soviet Union.” – Reference (3)
To those of us accustomed to faith
experiences occurring in or around a church, the notion that what a person
observes and experiences in their surrounding society could result in Christian
faith seems a bit odd. Perhaps too many people, including Christians, tend to think of Christianity only in
terms of personal beliefs, doctrines, and individual salvation. Yet,
Christianity in the broadest sense is, and should be, an all-encompassing
worldview (Weltanschauung). Everything is, or
should be, touched by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
But how often do any of us
actually contrast the difference in society that Christianity makes? Peter Hitchens does that. The difference Christianity makes in society
impacted him in a way that eventually led him to return to Christian
faith. Here are examples from his book:
"Life [in the USSR] began
with harshness. Even for the married, the main form of family
planning--in a society that hid little room for big families--was abortion,
legally unrestricted in the post-war USSR as the need for a vast conscript army
receded. In 1990, there were 6.46 million abortions in the USSR and 4.85
million live births.
Once the baby was home, married life quickly included the state as third
parent, since salaries were carefully set so that it took two wages to pay for
the basics of life.
For the average citizen [in Russia] it was a life lived at a dismally low level
materially, ethically, and culturally. The Soviet Union may have been a
great power, but it was a great power that had diverted its resources into the
hands of the state, with only the ruling elite spared the resulting dismal
privations. Even the few available consumer goods were a risk to their
owners. The chief danger in all lives came from badly built Soviet TV
sets, famous for their habit of exploding and setting fire to the
apartment, usually killing several people...Children's playgrounds were
obstacle courses of unreliable equipment, strewn with broken glass and
plentifully equipped with gagged edges. Here we were, in the
midst of real, existing socialism." [emphasis mine]
My experience in the Soviet Empire—the squalor, the stink, the harshness,
incivility, and desperation—was a long prelude to a much worse brush with
desolation. It was December 1992. I was sitting on a heap of cargo in a
Russian-built, Russian-piloted transport plane on its way from Nairobi in Kenya
to the Somali capital, Mogadishu.
Mogadishu by this time was no longer a functioning capital. There were no commercial airport, no law, no
police, no streetlights, no electricity, no normal telephones, no foreign
It just showed me a vision of how fragile our civilizations are, which is why I
think it worth mentioning.
At this point in my life I had already returned to Christianity...I saw no
particular connection, at the time of my return to religion, between faith and
the shape of society. I imagined it
was a matter between me and God. The
atheist Soviet Union, where desecration and heroic survival were visible around
me, begin to alter that perception.
Mogadishu accelerated the process.” [emphasis mine]
– Reference (4) at bottom.
The power of Christian ideas in
society is unfortunately a subject that is not given much attention in our modern
world. It is certainly no longer taught
in most public schools. It is seldom
discussed on any television program. It
is carefully avoided (too politically incorrect) in virtually all daily news
publications. And sadly, it is often not
emphasized in churches. But Ideas Have Consequences, as pointed out in
Richard Weaver's classic book. And
powerful ideas have powerful consequences.
Ideas determine the type of society in which we live. Christian ideas determine a Christian
society; pagan ideas determine a pagan society.
“Rational society is a mirror of
the logos, and this means that it has a formal structure which enables
...we learn that in the late ancient world the Hebrew memra and the
Greek logos merged, and in the Gospel of John we find an explicit
''In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was
God. The same was in the beginning with God.'' [John 1:1-2]
A following verse declares that logos as God lies behind the design of the
cosmos, for ''without him was not anything made that was made.'' “[John 1:3]
– Reference (5) at bottom.
Peter Hitchens articulates,
succinctly, the epitome of the power of Christian thought in society in the
following two short paragraphs:
"Only one reliable
force stands in the way of the power of the strong over the weak. Only
one reliable force forms the foundation of the concept of the rule of
law. Only one reliable force restrains the hand of the man of
power. And, in an age of power-worship, the Christian religion has become
the principle obstacle to the desire of earthly utopians for absolute power.
The concepts of sin, of conscience, of eternal life, and of divine justice
under an unalterable law are the ultimate defense against the utopian's belief
that ends justify means and that morality is relative. These concepts are
safeguards against the worship of human power."
– Reference (6) at bottom.
The story of the contrasting faith
(or faith and non-faith if you prefer) of these two brothers grips me,
why? I think it is because the beliefs
and actions of the two brothers illustrate the two primary aspects of God's
interaction with humanity:
1) God's love for us, 2) The liberty
God grants us.
Perhaps nowhere in the Bible are
these two precepts better described than in Jesus' parable of the Prodigal Son
(Luke 15: 11-32).
Echoing this parable, on the back
of the dust cover of Peter's book, is written, in large letters, the following:
In his book, Peter describes the
continuing impact that Jesus' parable of the prodigal son has had on him:
“Now, of all the parables, this one
[parable of the prodigal son] had been the most disturbing for me from the
moment I encountered it, which I did—as few do now—in the ringing,
unforgettable poetry of the King James Version, which fills the mind with vivid
pictures. I could not have known, when I
first heard that parable, how much it would eventually apply to me with direct
personal force, and in how many ways.
But it went home, deep and hard, all the same. I almost know it by heart, and cannot pass a
beech [tree] in autumn, with a litter of nuts about it, without the words, ''He
would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat,'' coming to mind. It is a bitter story, and we are left at the
end wondering how the two brothers dealt with each other in the years to come,
even though this is not the point of it.”
– Reference (7) at bottom.
There are obvious parallels
between the lives of the two Hitchens brothers and the two brothers in Jesus'
parable of the prodigal son. And while
we can't argue exegetically from biblical silence, in Jesus' parable, the
prodigal son repented and returned, and the older brother was not at all happy
about the forgiveness and restoration granted to his errant brother by their
What am I suggesting?
In the parable of the prodigal
son, were there, in fact, two sons who revolted? An open and blatant revolt by the younger son;
a silent and resentful revolt by the older son?
And was there only one son who returned?
Will there be only one Hitchens brother who returns? Let's pray for two.
(1) KUHNER: Why God is great, Perchance,
redemption for an 'anti-theist'
(2) THE RAGE AGAINST GOD, Peter Hitchens,
ZONDERVAN, © 2010, Front Dust Cover
(3) Ibid, Back Dust Cover
(4) Ibid, pp. 86-88; 91-92
(5) Ibid, pp. 35, 149
(6) Ibid, pp. 113, 135
(7) Ibid, pp. 109-110