The Paradoxical Hatred of Christopher Hitchens

May 17, 2007

I was actually surprised to hear writer Christopher Hitchens’ attitude toward Reverend Jerry Falwell’s death, given the good sense this liberal has exhibited on the war issue.

As a war supporter, I have been heartened by Hitchens’ fervent and eloquent support for the Iraq war. I didn’t quite understand how his war support could be reconciled with his liberalism considering liberals’ near-uniform opposition to the war, but I was nonetheless grateful for it.

Naively, I even speculated that Hitchens was on the verge of an ideological conversion. But after watching him on “Hannity and Colmes” about the departed Falwell, I realized his anti-Christian and anti-theistic worldview is, for now at least, an insuperable barrier to any ideological transformation.

Indeed, I now surmise that his very support for the war is rooted in his contempt for Muslim extremism, which he appears to conflate with orthodoxy of all other religions. I don’t know whether Hitchens considers strong evangelical Christians, like Falwell, to be as evil as jihadists, but he made clear he has abundant contempt for them.

Some might object that Hitchens’ contempt is particularly reserved for Falwell or, at most, a small group of “extremist,” vocal Christian conservatives. To be sure, Hitchens made disparaging references to Falwell personally, calling him “a vulgar fraud and crook,” by which Hitchens, in fairness, did not mean to indict Christians generally. But many of his other references were broadsides directed at garden-variety Christians.

Hitchens said, “Jerry Falwell made a career out of sponsoring dislike and superstition, said that people he didn’t like were going to hell, said the United States deserved to be attacked by Islamic fascists, said that he believed that people would be raptured into heaven, leaving all the rest of us to wallow behind.”

Leaving aside Falwell’s regrettable comment about 9/11, for which he repeatedly apologized, one wonders what beliefs Hitchens is referring to as superstition. Given the subject of his recently released book, “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything,” I think it’s fair to infer he is talking about Falwell’s belief in Christian doctrine, not just Falwell’s occasional objectionable outburst.

Obviously, those who believe in the rapture are despicable in Hitchens’ view, and, though this may stun some of you, that includes many people. Even more believe in heaven and hell — an overwhelming majority, excepting those who subscribe to “universal salvation.”

As intelligent as Hitchens is, he manifests woeful ignorance about basic Christian doctrine in mischaracterizing Falwell as believing that people he didn’t like were going to hell, just as he has, elsewhere, in describing the evangelical’s concept of salvation as works-based. While I can’t readily prove a negative, I would be shocked to discover that Falwell preached that “people he didn’t like were going to hell.”

Christians are commanded to love everyone, including those they believe are “lost.” They do not believe that those they don’t like are doomed for hell. Rather, they believe the Bible teaches we are all doomed unless we have saving faith in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins. Christians are not the ones pronouncing judgment on their fellow man in this regard, but believe God has revealed, through Scripture, his plan for divine judgment.

Apart from Hitchens’ recklessly sloppy error in lumping Christians with Islamofascists and his implied indictment of Christians across the board, to say nothing of his indictment of those of other religions, I was struck by the irony of his viciousness, meanness and hatefulness in attacking Falwell essentially for being vicious, mean and hateful.

Many liberals, like Hitchens, rail against “hate” as the worst imaginable sin, yet exude a magnitude of hatred that the conservatives they condemn as hateful couldn’t begin to possess. Hitchens refused to back down from his excoriation of Falwell on the very day of his death, saying, “I don’t care whether his family’s feelings are hurt or not. But if they are, they can take comfort from the extraordinary piety and stupidity, and generally speaking, uniformity of the coverage of the man’s death.”

Even more revolting was Hitchens’ response to CNN’s Anderson Cooper’s question of whether he believed in heaven and whether “you think Jerry Falwell is in it.” Hitchens said he did not believe in it, but “I think it’s a pity there isn’t a hell for him to go to.”

It would take an extraordinarily warped perspective for someone as mean-spirited as Christopher Hitchens to believe he is entitled to righteous indignation at those — like Christians or conservatives — he presumably believes to be mean-spirited.

But Hitchens will get a pass for his abominable behavior from the liberal media because he is a liberal — notwithstanding his heresy on the war — and liberals are not to be condemned for their hatred because the objects of their hatred deserve to be hated.