The whole public discussion about whether Christians and other believers should be praying for Christopher Hitchens, currently stricken with throat cancer, strikes me as a rather unfortunate exercise. Surely it goes without saying that he should be prayed for, but surely it would be better if the people doing the praying kept it to themselves a little more. Talking about it all the time can seem a bit smug, or even Pharisaical. You may recall that Jesus had some rather sharp remarks about this sort of thing:
… And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
I’m glad to see, though, that Hitchens himself — at least judging by his comments in this interview with Hugh Hewitt — is responding to the prayer campaign with forbearance, grace and even gratitude. It would be forgivable, I think, if he took the opportunity to raise one more middle finger to his longtime foes. But instead, we have this:
I think that prayer and holy water, and things like that are all fine. They don’t do any good, but they don’t necessarily do any harm. It’s touching to be thought of in that way. It makes up for those who tell me that I’ve got my just desserts … I wish it was more consoling. But I have to say there’s some extremely nice people, including people known to you, have said that I’m in their prayers, and I can only say that I’m touched by the thought.
Quite well said, I think. Let’s hope (and yes, pray — but quietly, quietly) that such graciousness is rewarded with many more years of life.
Friday, July 16, 2010
Praying for Christopher Hitchens
From Ross Douthat: