Christians find joy in Hitchens’ cancer
In the title above, I stopped myself from putting the word Christian in quotation marks. Given that this post is about a right-wing blogger’s unalloyed joy at Christopher Hitchens’ cancer diagnosis, it seemed appropriate to parody this malevolence by describing it as “Christian”. But, of course, Hitchens and history has taught me better that that: the evil of Christianity does not need, nor does it deserve, any kind of ironic disclaimer.
George Berkin is a blogger for the New Jersey Star-Ledger website — code, of course, for genius. Judging by an extremely cursory (but not cursory enough) review of his “writings”, Berkin is a stock-standard American conservative fundamentalist Christian. Like his ideological counterparts, he spends much of his energy devising new ways to vent his racially-inspired hatred of Barack Obama without using the “n” word. Recently, he has taken sides with a 54 year old masseuse who alleged in the National Enquirer that former VP Al Gore sexually abused her (if he did, then Gore must really have thought the world was coming to an end).
Now Berkin turns his flaccid guns at Hitch, who recently cancelled a book tour in order to undergo a course of chemotherapy for cancer of the esophagus, an especially virulent form of the disease.
He begins his post by calling it “God is Great to Christopher Hitchens” and writes:
It seems against common sense to say this, but might I suggest that this turn of events shows that God is kind even to those who spend their lives fighting against him.
Has ever one sentence contained so much about which to be so enraged? But, wait, there’s more:
It is a cliché that there are no atheists in foxholes — or in cancer wards. It is a cliché because, human nature being what it is, there is a lot of truth to it. People do tend to wait until they are in big trouble (foxholes) or until the last minute (cancer wards) before they get serious about spiritual, end-of-life, matters.
He appears to be making the argument that god is doing Hitch a favour by giving him a chance to convert before he kills him. Oh wait. He doesn’t appear to be making that argument — he is actually making it.
It would be a huge blow to Hitchens’ ego (as it is to any ego) to admit that he’s been wrong these many years. But Hitchens’ rebellion against God has been so public that God may require a very public humbling.
But maybe God is doing it this way because he desires that Hitchens give up his “god,” that is, Hitchens’ pride in being different from the run-of-the-mill mortal. Maybe God is doing it this way so that Hitchens can encounter the God he has been denying for so long, before eternity sets in.
Berkin’s thesis is that god has blessed Hitchens with cancer to humiliate him and force out of him a public recantation. But what if none is forthcoming? Berkin has the answer:
Hitchens is a talented and creative writer. But I suspect that it is precisely his talent and creativity – and his awareness of his talent – that may make it especially difficult for him to fess up: maybe there is a God. (Of course, I don’t know that he will “fess up.”)
The extent to which a proposition is unfalsifiable, Hitchens loves to point out, is the extent to which it is a weak one — and it is hard to imagine a better example. To Berkin, Hitchens will either (a) publicly recant and embrace Jesus or (b) privately recant, embrace Jesus but refuse to “fess up”. Hallelujah. If god were a gambling deity, he would like those odds. (It begs the question, though, would Jesus look kindly on a conversion that the dying man is too embarrassed to admit?)
No-one has encapsulated the evil of the Christian fantasy better than Berkin, both in his misanthropic vision of a vindicative and homicidal god and in the despicable gloating served up in his name.
As Hitch himself might say, one can only wish for a moment that there was a hell for the likes of George Berkin to rot in.