Praying for Christopher Hitchens

Only months after visiting Biola last year, Christopher Hitchens has been diagnosed with throat cancer. The Christian community has responded in many different ways, as Arthur Daniels, Jr. outlines.



Christopher Hitchens visited Biola last spring to participate in a debate with Dr. Craig Hazen. | Kelsey Heng

On April 4, 2009, Dr. William Lane Craig and atheist author Christopher Hitchens held a debate at Biola University. Personally, I did not attend the debate because after reading parts of Hitchens’ book “God is Not Great,” I did not take him very seriously.

From what I heard about the debate from both atheists and Christians, and from listening to parts of the debate online, Hitchens had his atheist arguments politely and intelligently annihilated.

However, Hitchens now fights a battle with far greater stakes–– he has throat cancer. In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on August 5, Hitchens spoke frankly about the cancer and the contradictory responses he’s received from Christians.

When Cooper asked Hitchens what he thought about the fact that people were praying for him, he responded, “There are people praying for me to suffer and die and they have lavish websites relishing my [demise]. And then there are people, much more numerous I must say, and nicer, who are praying either that I get better, or that I redeem myself and make peace with the Almighty–– that my soul gets saved even if my wretched carcass does not. And some pray for both. In fact, September 20 has been designated “Everyone Pray for Hitchens Day” on one website.’”

Hitchens went on to say that he doesn’t tell people to stop praying for him, and that if it makes them feel better they have “my blessing.” He also added that he will not be participating in this prayer event.

There are two things I find sad about this. First, it saddens me that people claiming to be Christian would pray that Hitchens would suffer and die from cancer. One blogger even argued that the cancer was God’s “revenge” for his outspoken atheism. I am no fan of atheism, and even have my own apologetics website fighting atheism and cults. So, when I found out Hitchens had cancer, I had two responses. At first I thought “Ah ha, that’s what he gets for fighting against God.” But then I was immediately reminded by the Spirit of Jesus’ words “love your enemies,” and Paul’s words “If your enemy hungers, feed him” (Matthew 5:44; Romans 12:20). Since my own father was abruptly taken from my family by pancreatic cancer in 2007, my heart began to overflow with compassion for this “enemy” of the cross.

The second thing that saddens me about Hitchen’s situation is his response to this battle. In the interview, he made a point to state that the only way he would convert on his deathbed was if he were no longer lucid.

Cancer takes no prisoners and will not be as gracious or reasonable as Dr. Craig was in their debate last spring. And even in the midst of his struggle, which may usher him into the God’s presence sooner than anticipated, Hitchens still refuses to admit the possibility that a God exists who can cure him of the physical and spiritual cancer attacking his body and soul.

I would hope that the entire Biola community, as well God-fearing people in general, would join me in prayer for the total healing of this man. Of course, we’d all love to see God rescue his body and soul–– giving Hitchens a powerful testimony. But even if this does not occur, it is still right to love Hitchens, for in this is fulfilled all the law and the prophets (Matthew 5:44-48; 22:37-40; Luke 10:27-37). On September 20, and even before, let’s pray for Christopher Hitchens.

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