Hitchens' Challenge – UPDATED

Hitchens' Challenge – UPDATED July 1, 2010

I’ve been feeling called to pray for him over the past few months, on and off

Now, my prayers for him will be daily, on.

Hitchens has recently had to cancel speaking engagements discussing his recently released memoir, Hitch-22: A Memoir

A look back at a post on
this maddening, fascinating and brilliant writer, whose prose I so admire:

HITCHENS’ WHACK-A-CHRISTIAN DEBATE TOUR

Because people know I greatly admire his writing (and often, his reasoning) my email is overflowing with missives about Christopher Hitchen’s 800 word hiss over the body of Jerry Falwell. Hitchens would be surprised, I think, to hear that most of the notes are good-humored, with only a few worrying that he might cause some to “lose faith,” and the balance being sad for him, in his atheism.

I’m not sad for Hitch, nor am I worried about folks “losing faith,” because of his latest book – entitled, God is Not Great – or his arguments. Chances are someone with shaky faith would have already capitulated and thrown in the white garment several months into the world-wide hype of The DaVinci Code, and they’re spiritual wimps if they can’t handle the scorn and debate of a gentleman who – although possessing a gift of supreme eloquence and a pleasant voice redolent of gin and honey – is simply a fellow with a big brain and arms perpetually crooked in a boxer’s stance. And he’s got issues, as have we all.

And his book-debating tour has been done before, several times, actually. In America William Jennings Bryan took on I-don’t-remember-who, and in England there was a most memorable series of debates between the great GK Chesterton and George Bernard Shaw, so this round of Hitchens “taking on all comers” like a good pub-buddy is nothing new. My Irish Aunties would love him.

Patrick O’ Hannigan at Paragraph Farmer is a fan of apologetics – I am not – and he is looking closely at the debates, none of which seem to be taking place with a Catholic, and he names his “Catholic A Team” of desired Hitch opponents, (“Richard John Neuhaus, Benedict Groeschel, Peter Kreeft, Stanley L. Jaki, George Rutler, George Wiegel, or John Corapi”) and his “B” team – (“Karl Keating, Christopher Buckley, Thomas Howard, Edward T. Oakes, Amy Welborn, J.A. Gray, and Benjamin Wiker.”) – as well.

I am not familiar with one or two of those names, but most are good suggestions, Neuhaus being, in my opinion, the contender. My personal feeling is that the Hitch opponents best equipped with the vocabulary, humor, depth and deft-touch necessary to pierce Hitchens’ intellect and actually reach into his humanity are – unfortunately – as dead as Falwell, they being Chesterton, CS Lewis and perhaps Ronald Knox.

But O’ Hannigan’s piece – a three-parter in which he looks at each Christian apologist facing Hitchens and tallies their scores (O’ Hannigan is an Irishman; you could expect nothing else) – is a fun, provocative and tantalizing read. If you are interested in, mad at, praying for or afraid of Christopher Hitchens, then you’ll want to read O’Hannigan’s Hitchens Gives Atheism a Bad Name, and parts two and three.

“I’m trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.”
– CS Lewis

Since writing that in 2007, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus has, of course, gone on to hear In Paradisium from the best vantage point. I have no doubt that he too, will pray for Hitchens.

UPDATE I:
UK Telegraph writer Cristina Odone and others wonder if they should pray. I am surprised to read it; I shouldn’t think any person of faith would hesitate.

Deacon Greg feels similarly to me.

Michael Weiss at The New Criterion, on The Hitch; A Modest Attempt at Understanding

Media Decoder: with a great quote:

Reviewing the book in The Times, Dwight Garner wrote of Mr. Hitchens, “He has a mind like a Swiss Army knife, ready to carve up or unbolt an opponent’s arguments with a flick of the wrist.”

More:
Pat Archbold
Reliable Source
L.A. Times Blog
Rod Dreher
UK Mail Online
Category: Hitchens


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