Thursday, May 17, 2007

Hitchens, Falwell, Hannity, and Reed

I'm not a fan of Christopher Hitchens, from his attack on Mother Teresa to his support for Bush's war to his snarky close-minded approach to religion. But they guy is certainly eloquent, and facing him in an argument must be a daunting task. Michael Crowley from TNR's The Plank discusses a clip of Hitchens debating Falwell's legacy last night with Sean Hannity. Watch it. For a start, Hannity is no match for him. After laying into Falwell's dubious theology, Hannity turns to Ralph Reed for the other side of the argument. Hitchens, in classic form, starts interrupting and referring to Reed as part of the "Abramoff faction", repeating that name over and over. A brilliant tactic, given Reed's close association with Abramoff and the fact that Abramoff had, among other things, lobbied for the sweatshops owners on the Northern Mariana islands, who were implicated in forced abortions and forcing women into prostitution. Hypocrisy is not the word!

But, watching the clip of Reed, something else struck me. Despite Hitchens's constant hectoring, Reed tried to list the core values that Falwell stood for. If you were asked to list the five key principles that guided Falwell in 10 second, what would they be? This is illuminating. First, the protection of innocent human life. Second, the sanctity of marriage. Third, support for Israel. Fourth, anti-communism. Fifth, opposition to "radical Jihadism". Now, are these values from the gospel or from American foreign policy? No, this is a Christianity pollluted by a very bad theology, and welded to American nationalism.


Antonio Manetti said...

Although Hitchen's blind spot on Iraq is a sore spot with me, I applauded his attack on Mother Theresa.

Anyone who feels she was unjustly maligned might undertake to explain:

The millions of dollars collected by the order, none of which is accounted for.

The squalor and sub-standard care for those in her charge, while she, herself, enjoyed first class medical treatment.

Her friendship with thieves and despots, such as the Duvalier's and Charles Keating, devout Catholic and convicted swindler -- all of whom were generous contributors to her cause.

In Murray Kempton's review of "The Missionary Position" (, he suggests that Hitchen's expose may even be the avowed atheist's ticket to an afterlife among the elect.

David Raber said...

I need to hear your response to antonio!

Meanwhile, my own observation, or actually an observation of someone smarter than me (I don't remember who) who pointed out that the American religious right represents less a type of Christianity, promoting specifically Christian virtues (such as loving your enemy) and more a type of civic religion, promoting solid traditional virtues (patriotism, "family values," etc.,) much like the civic religion of ancient Rome.

As I read the New Testament, Jesus would have us practice most of those solid traditional virtues-- and go well beyond them.

That sounds pretty good! Maybe I should write a book called "What Jesus Meant."