Mr. Hitchens died of pneumonia resulting from esophageal cancer. According to all reports he died unrepentant of his official atheism. No Christian should be happy about his death. Aintsobad usually does not deal in absolutes in the matter of behavior, so it takes a bit to write the previous sentence.
Mr. Hitchens must be taken seriously but I often wondered if his British agnoticism was not equal parts commercialism and Cockney arrogance. The preachers who knew him often wrote about his fierceness in debate, his personal friendliness and, without saying, his great need for affirmation and kindness. Mr. Hitchens, like so many Brits, was the product of a broken home, an impotent church and a fading empire. He was the product of all his experiences and a lot of Johnny Walker Black. He wanted everyone to know he did not drink Johnny Walker Red.
Mr. Hitchens' atheistis best-seller, which I bought and read and keep on my shelf, to read when I want to be annoyed, was not as much atheism as just anti-church. He read our recent and ancient church history as many would read a political newsletter. His books on Paine and Jefferson were better, with their apparent love for America, his adopted country, on every page.
Mr. Hitchens never lost his anguish over the fading British church. He often attached undue signficance to the odd pronouncements of the Arch-Bishop of Canterbury, as though that emminence actually speaks for Christendom. Mr. Hitchens took extreme examples of religious atrocity or pseudo-religious statements (often out of context or applied with the most malicious intent), to denounce religion in general in a way that would scarcely be acceptable in a freshman logic class.
What should Christians take from Mr. Hitchens' (too short) life?
Certainly, destructive personal habits take a toll. Mr. Hitches drank, ate and smoked to excess. The portion of his life after he made his mark might have been a time of deep reflection for him. We will never know.
Early experiences matter. Mr. Hitchens' father left their family, his mother concealed her Jewish nationalism from the family and then committed suicide. He was early thrown on the values-empty British public education system, where God is decidedly unwelcome.
Self-destructive persons from difficult backgrounds can offer insights from their struggle. Perhaps they should not be taken as factum totum without close personal inspection.
Mr. Hitchens work does Christians this favor; he inspected us and shone a bright light on our inadequacies. Too many of us are not serious thinkers. When questioned at the point of our traditions, we stammer out of thoughtfulness too quickly. We may not stop talking but this only exhibits our inability to follow a reasonable stream of argument. When someone loudly attacks our assumed presuppositions with some mind boggling statement that is roughly the equivalent of the school yard, "Are not," we are perplexed to apopolexy.
For me, Mr. Hitchens jumped around in his arguments rather quickly, making emotional appeals he knew would score with his audiences quite because they had a religious (Christian) background. I wish someone had told him the church is not God and the Church of England is really not the One and Only church. Perhaps they did and I just did not hear it.
Aintsobad invites all Christian prayers for Mr. Hitchens' surviving family and friends. Apparently, he had many friends, a lot of them evangelical Christians.
Opinions expressed here are mine alone.