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HolyGround >> RIP Christopher Hitchens

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12/16/11 1:38 AM
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Lahi
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Edited: 12/16/11 1:49 AM
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Sad to hear he is gone. I watched a lot of his debates and interviews, read "god is not great" a couple years back. While I thought he was way off sometimes (his critiques of Billy Graham were just nuts), other times I thought he said exactly what needed to be, and what others were afraid to (like his criticisms of Church officials in the child abuse cover-ups). At the very least he made you think.

I thought the documentary with Doug Wilson (I forget the name right now) showed a side of him that was actually pretty humble and generous.

RIP.
12/16/11 1:50 AM
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Lahi
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Anyway I'll miss hearing what he has to say.
12/16/11 6:35 AM
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Ali
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Edited: 12/16/11 10:45 AM
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R.I.P., Christopher.

I don't know if you're talking about within the book "God Is Not Great" -- where I don't recall specifically Billy Graham critiques. But I've heard him talk about Graham in interviews, and I don't hear it as nuts at all. I think Graham has been a baleful influence at best.
12/16/11 12:33 PM
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Lahi
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Here's a Time article on his Billy Graham statements that seems to be pretty accurate. I think most of the comments were made in a C-Span interview:

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1662757,00.html

Whatever else one might think of Graham (I have nothing but respect for him), he's certainly not in it for the money...that's been pretty well documented anyway.





12/16/11 6:31 PM
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Ali
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Edited: 12/16/11 6:34 PM
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I didn't even know about the Templeton exchange. The quotes from Hitchens atop the article come from the interview where -- at least the section I saw -- he only speaks about the anti-semitism. And the article has Graham's apology, but if you read a transcript of the conversation Graham had with Nixon, there's no way that apology comes off as genuine.

Graham also is the guy that got Vereide and "The Family" in with Eisenhower, the whole Presidential Prayer breakfast move; and that has developed into a cult that worships power, whatever the ends of power. Graham might have been a patsy for them, but his influence is horrid. And I don't let him off the hook so easily, anyway. I think he's perpetrated a lot more evil than good.

Anyway I recognize Graham is a sacred cow, and I'll leave that alone other than what's here, and a recommendation to read Jeff Sharlet's "The Family". Graham plays a tiny but hugely important role -- so not many pages about him.

I think Hitchens was wrong about lots of things, btw. Particularly to his extreme right turn when it came to Dubya and Iraq. But he was a very important voice, and a blast to listen to and grapple with.
12/16/11 7:51 PM
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Lahi
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Edited: 12/17/11 12:14 AM
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Maybe we should start a separate thread on Graham. I would say that his influence for the good has been much stronger than anything for the bad. I'll have to look up the Vereide thing, but as far as what people did with the prayer breakfast I can't blame that on Graham.

I've read other apologies from Graham on the Jewish comments. I believe they are sincere, as do most leaders in the Jewish community. I'll be the first to admit that I've said terrible, terrible things about people I cared about that didn't reflect how I really felt about them. Of course it was wrong, and I felt horrible about it, but it also wasn't the truth about how I felt or or acted towards them.

Graham refused to do segregated Crusades in the South; on one well documented occasion, the ushers ignored his demands and set up a "colored" seating section that was blocked off from the white one. They were surprised to see someone out in the stands tearing the barricades down before the meeting, and then realized it was Graham himself doing it. He preached to an integrated crowd that night.

His friendship with MLK was also public and well known...maybe you could say he just had a problem with Jews, but taking his life as a whole I don't believe it.

Saying Graham is loathsome, despicable and evil (I'm paraphrasing but I think these words are close), a liar, and insinuating that his death would be a good thing are altogether crazy things for Hitchens to say IMO.

Graham isn't a sacred cow to me, I'm more than happy to discuss anything about him. I don't agree with everything he's said or done, but I don't agree with a lot of people I respect and look up to on everything (CS Lewis, Shane Claiborne, etc.). I think the price of living passionately is that you're going to get it wrong, even badly wrong at times.

That said I believe Graham is sincere, honest, and a person who has done much good for the world.
12/16/11 7:54 PM
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Lahi
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There's a longer interview you can find from the same show where he has a lot more to say about Graham than just the anti-semitism, where he talks about Templeton and other things too.
12/16/11 7:59 PM
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Lahi
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I would probably agree with you on some of his interactions with politicians. I question them, don't agree with some of them, but I also don't see him as a self-seeking, evil person by any means. For whatever mistakes he's made I also see that he's avoided a lot of them too, such as playing in the whole idea that Jesus is an anti-gay, anti-abortion, pro-war Republican. This is one struggle I have with Franklin Graham, but that's another topic:)
12/18/11 12:34 PM
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Ali
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Edited: 12/18/11 12:37 PM
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Lahi - "he's avoided a lot of them too, such as playing in the whole idea that Jesus is an anti-gay, anti-abortion, pro-war Republican. "

You make a very compelling case, right there. Bravo. And I agree.

I think his problems are more subtle, and along with the Vereide/Coe "The Family" connection, he's much more a worshipper of raw power for its own sake. He himself, in his apology for the antisemitic conversation with Nixon, at least admits to the "mistake" of kowtowing to power. Which is a nice moment of self-awareness.

Anyway, I could be wrong -- that is, I think your praise of him is correct for what you give it for. And I'm not really willing to go do a whole-careero-review and my own analysis of how those things balance out. But, if I am wrong (and happily would be so), and Hitchens is wrong, I think the critique has some purchase, and being wrong does not make Hitchens at all "nuts" on the issue.
12/18/11 6:38 PM
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TheStewedOwl
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Hitchens was certainly an interesting guy. He could write and speak exceedingly well, which made his more specious arguments sound more plausible than they deserved. His enthusiastic, even sanguinary, support for the post 9/11 wars ("the Mesopotamian Campaigns," as my friend calls them) was problematic for the American and European Left, and his perception of abortion as a moral evil even more so, for those who see abortion as a secular sacrament. The sheer bile of his arguments against God, religion, and believers brought him a lot of fanboys, but I give him credit for holding and espousing beliefs that weren't always congenial to his natural fanbase, even as I recognize how contradictory and ahistorical many of his arguments for the evils of religion were, and how stupid and wrongheaded he could be about many things.

Coincidentally, I was working my way through his brother Peter's book, "The Rage Against God" at the time of Christopher's death. Peter, who obviously maintained a deep sense of love for this brother over the years even as he returned to Christianity from atheism, provides a vivid picture of the post-WWII Britain that shaped both brothers and led both to an atheism that, while now fashionable among cultural elites and academia, was markedly less so at the time when both brothers declared their antipathy to God. I think Peter Hitchens also gives one of the best short summations of the problems in Christopher Hitchens' belief system:

"As I hope I shall make clear, his arguments are to some extent internally coherent and are a sort of explanation - if not the best explanation - of the world and universe. Although he often assumes that moral truths are self-evident, attributes purpose to the universe, and swerves dangerously around the problem of conscience - which surely cannot be conscience if he is right - he is astonishingly unable to grasp that these assumptions are problems for his argument. This inability closes his mind to a great part of the debate and so makes his atheist faith insuperable for as long as he himself chooses to accept it."

It's been said that the sad fate of an Atheist upon his death is to either realize he was wrong, or never to know he was right. If we are judged by our results rather than our intentions, and if Hitchens was wrong about the Big Question, maybe he'll do okay. He may have led some people sitting on the fence to examine their beliefs more closely, realize the conflicts inherent in a strictly materialist system, and to extend faith toward God, however cautiously. He was certainly one of the atheist writers whose works I examined in depth when I was an agnostic, and seeing some of the same arguments in print that I had advanced myself (with the same angry and righteous certainty as Hitchens did), and recognizing how faulty many of my conclusions were when I heard them from another , led me to research and examine my own premises and conclusions more critically...and ultimately, this was one of the factors that led me back, however slowly, to faith. So I guess I should thank him. Even an advocatus diaboli can work in the service of God, I guess.

There are few men for whom I wish ill, and the recognition in Hitchens of the same faults I had, and have, lead me more to sympathy and compassion for him than hatred or any sense of schadenfreude at his death. I wish him mercy if he was wrong, and if he was right, I hope his death was painless and wish comfort to his family.

12/18/11 7:30 PM
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Ridgeback
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 Good post Stewed Owl.  I found Hitchens most interesting because he was so fearless and oftentimes over the top.  He did say that he appreciated those Christians who prayed for him even though he didn't believe it would do any good.  And he seemed to acknowledge the importance of agape love even if he didn't have a coherent idea of where it comes from.  May God have mercy on his servant Christopher and memory eternal.
12/18/11 9:54 PM
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Lahi
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Ridgeback -  I found Hitchens most interesting because he was so fearless and oftentimes over the top.  


I think that's one reason I liked him to. That, and the rebel side of him that didn't seem to want to really quite fit in anywhere were things I could relate too.

He really challenged me when I read "God is not Great." It was very luke-warm time for me in a lot of ways, and he forced me to take a lot of things more seriously, and to re-examine a good bit of things too.

I've thought a lot about why I've had his death on my mind so much...maybe some of it is that you hate to see a worthy adversary go. The guy definitely showed up to fight:)
12/18/11 9:56 PM
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Lahi
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Ali I promise I'll get back to you, I'm only on for a sec and want to give your post the consideration it deserves, instead of just spouting off like I normally seem to do here:)
12/18/11 10:01 PM
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Lahi
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And you have to give respect to anyone who actually volunteers to be water-boarded as part of his research for a story.
12/19/11 11:00 PM
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Lahi
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Edited: 12/19/11 11:05 PM
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Ali,

I can see a very strong reaction to Graham's anti-Jewish comments, if someone didn't know much about him. I listened to them the other day, and they were pretty terrible. I came to those comments having seen all the good Graham did in his life first, so my perspective is different. If you're coming at him the other way, I can understand the reaction. No doubt they were horrible things to have said.

I guess my problem with Hithcen's isn't that he criticized Graham, or even that he believed Graham was a bigot. I just thought that he completely mis-represented Templeton, claimed that Graham was in it for the money (a little research would have showed this isn't true), and insinuated that it was good that Graham was going to die soon.

Those are my issues with Hitchens on this. If people don't like Billy Graham fine, that's their business. I'll admit he's fair game for criticism, as I think Graham himself would. I just thought Hitchens was out for blood on this one with no real case to support most of his claims...just way, way off on his arguments.

I also think that people like Dawkins and Hitchens are just plain wrong, when they say that Christians are teaching terrible things to people by sharing their faith. I can certainly see the hell-fire and brimstone teachers being fair game for them, but Graham really did preach a message of love, mercy, tolerance for those with different beliefs, caring for the poor in stead of hording one's money, and equal rights. To say that this is evil doesn't makes sense, even if you think his belief in God as the foundation for these teachings is wrong.

Anyway I'll shut up now, think I'm going to take a break from here for a while. Feel free to Hitch-slap me if I sound like I'm arguing just to argue, this place seems to bring it out in me.
12/20/11 12:05 AM
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Lahi
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Ridgeback -  Good post Stewed Owl.  


Yeah, thanks for posting that. Encourages me to get real about studying and thinking again.
1/23/12 2:52 PM
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samcarr6
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A great man Phone Post

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