Friday, June 3, 2011

Unspoken Truths

Christopher Hitchens was on a recent 60 Minutes episode and it was fascinating to hear this man who is deeply flawed, but so eloquent and, could one call him arrogant? talk about his fight against vocal chord cancer which has metastasized. He’s a man who has loved his voice in both speaking and writing and he’s used it, or sometimes misused it very effectively. I heard, but can’t confirm that he called Mother Theresa that ugly little dwarf from Belgium. Really? He’s said plenty of nasty things about others and against Christianity, but he does it with such eloquence you have to admire him and laugh, even while you disagree.
I’ve wondered whether the experience of so much loss and suffering at this end of his life will soften or change him. What could be better than this crusty soul coming to Christ? I pray he does.

In a recent article that appeared in Vanity Fair he begins it with an excerpt from T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold
   My coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

He concludes with a truth that seems as Christian as it is human – that we are meant to live and die in the company of friends – that our relationships to one another in some sort of community increases wisdom and eases the loneliness, especially when we are suffering a fatal illness.

“My chief consolation in this year of living dyingly has been the presence of friends. I can’t eat or drink for pleasure anymore, so when they offer to come it’s only for the blessed chance to talk. Some of these comrades can easily fill a hall with paying customers avid to hear them: they are talkers with whom it’s a privilege just to keep up. Now at least I can do the listening for free.”


Anonymous said...

I agree with your description of him. I might think "cocksure" is more descriptive of him than "arrogant." Eloquent, definitely. I had read about him asking specifically for Christians NOT to pray for him. So, a good discussion question might be whether we honor his wish not to be prayed for. Thoughts?

Margie Haack said...

Yes, I think "cocksure" is descriptive.
I didn't know he'd asked that Christians not pray.
That is a good question. I'm not sure. Can it sound patronizing or somehow belittling if we tell someone we will pray for them when they don't even believe in God? But can he dictate what I privately pray about? Oth, my saying "I pray he does" in this post makes it public, doesn't it? I think that if I'd known I may have honored his request. (Does CH "request? He doesn't seem like a "requesting" person, does he?)
There have been times when I've asked a person if I could pray for them and usually, even if the person hasn't demonstrated belief, they've seemed touched that I would pray. It does seem like a different thing when you ask someone if you can pray as opposed to simply announcing it like I did.

Anonymous said...

He addresses the question of "whether to pray for Hitchens" in a Vanity Fair column from last summer/fall. Sep 20 was "Pray for Hitchens Day", and this is what he wrote: "I don’t mean to be churlish about any kind intentions, but when September 20 comes, please do not trouble deaf heaven with your bootless cries. Unless, of course, it makes you feel better."
So technically, I suppose he gives us license to pray for him, not for his benefit but ours.

The column is worth reading as he mentions his Christian friends and debating partners (Doug Wilson, Francis Collins, etc), and how they deal with the prayer question.