Thursday, July 15, 2010

No Prayer Requests for Christopher Hitchens Here

A report that "despite Hitchens’ well-known hatred for Catholicism, the 'vast, vast majority' of Catholics who have reported on his disease in the media have urged people to pray for him" — Prominent Priest: People Should Pray for Christopher Hitchens. Mark Shea made such an appeal — Christopher Hitchens Needs our Prayers. You won't find one here, however.

Why not? Do I want him to suffer a slow, painful death, and to burn in hell for all eternity? Of course not. I don't even want him to suffer a slow, painful death, which, before the end, is finalized by a dramatic deathbed conversion. And of course it's not the prayer I find problematic, but rather such a mass prayer requests for a celebrity, for a couple of reasons.

First, it all seems very evangelical. I can almost hear "the call to mobilize prayer warriors" or some such silly phrase. Such calls to mass prayer also say more about the callers than the recipient of the prayer, as if to say, "Look at what nice people we are, even praying for someone who doesn't like us." What's more, I very much doubt the sick man in question welcomes these initiatives. Rather, they probably just make him feel all the sicker. "Pitiful, these irrational mammals!" I can almost hear him scoffing.

"But thou when thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret: and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee," we are told in Gospel According to Saint Matthew. This seems good counsel in this case. Pray in secret, and send Hitch a get well card.

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15 Comments:

Blogger Stephen Hand said...

You are such a good man, Joshua, and I know you are motivated by good intentions. But here we will disagree. St. Paul presided over the persecution of Christians in general and murder of St. Stephen in particular. But I believe St. Stephen and others must have been praying for Saul, just as the Lord forgave his murderers from the Cross.

Maybe you will reconsider and pray for the conversion of a man in what must be his darkest hour. "Love hopeth all things" (1 Cor 13). It's not sentimentalism, only the realization that grace can open hearts.

1:18 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

I am praying for him. I'm just not making a public show of myself praying for him to show how much like Ned Flanders I am.

2:01 PM  
Blogger Procopius said...

Abostidiileyloutely!

2:16 PM  
Blogger Mark P. Shea said...

I get prayer requests all the time and post them. The request to pray for Hitchens was one. Unless you think it's making a show to post any prayer request, I don't see the problem. To me it just seems neighborly.

2:46 AM  
Blogger Mark in Spokane said...

Agreed. As someone who needs lots of prayers myself right now, I am all in favor of praying for someone who is sick. But I see Joshua's point as well -- we shouldn't pray for the sake of publicity, we should pray in the quiet of our time with God.

7:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I am praying for him. I'm just not making a public show of myself praying for him to show how much like Ned Flanders I am."

No, but right now you're making a public show of how you're praying for him even though you're not making a public show of it. It's rather like standing on a street corner and shouting, "I won't pray here because *I* pray in my room out of sight!"

~Bonifacius

9:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Prayers are useless.

10:31 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Bonifacius, you're right, but if I don;t confess to praying for him, I would only give more ammunition to the atheists. Here's what I would have liked someone to say:

"Hitch has esophageal cancer, strangely appropriate for someone who's made of career of regurgitating poisonous bile against Holy Mother Church and God Almighty. Nevertheless, we entrust him to Divine justice and mercy."

Or something like that. Everyone should know to pray when we hear of these things in the news.

Anonymous, thank you for making my point. I'm sure Hitch agrees with you, for now... Suffering, Catholics believe, can be redemptive.

10:52 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Mr. Shea, thanks for weighing in. Maybe I was just in a grumpy and particularly contrarily mood. I understand why you post prayer requests, being a popular blog, I just hope those folks are offering up masses and whatnot.

10:54 AM  
Anonymous m.z. said...

You were right the first time. Don't feel the need to apologize.

It reminds me of letters I receive every now and then from monasteries offering to say a mass and pray for some relative of mine. Helpfully they include a donation envelope and have reminded me that support from the faithful is the only way they survive. Nothing quite so heart felt as a form letter sent to 10,000 other people bought from a company I purchased a product from or something like that. There is something creepy about seeking comfort from a faux-community, like those found online. As soon as my grief ends over George Tiller being shot, I'll grieve for Hitchens's cancer. There is only so much faux-grief I can manufacture.

11:33 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Well said, m.z. Don't forget to grieve over Kim Jong-il's stroke and dementia.

I worth noting that Peter Hitchens, a fine Christian gentleman of the old type, hasn't made any mention of his brother's illness on his blog, nor tried to mobilize prayer warriors.

11:44 AM  
Blogger Thesauros said...

As I remembered in one of my own posts on the subject, I'm sure Chris would rebut any attempts to pray for him with, "Don't forget to sacrifice a cow for me."

Sadly this is an event where it really does require the Holy Spirit to pray for me.

12:08 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

"Don't forget to sacrifice a cow for me."

Now that's a line I'm sure he'd wished he had said! I'm reminded of Father Benedict Groeschel's offer to write a book in defense of atheism, because the latest crop have been so poorly written.

6:30 PM  
Blogger Terry Nelson said...

Excellent post - MZ is right - no need to retract, explain, or apologize. Many of the same people seem to be making a public show of praying for Mel Gibson as well.

1:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'right now you're making a public show of how you're praying for him even though you're not making a public show of it. It's rather like standing on a street corner and shouting, "I won't pray here because *I* pray in my room out of sight!"'

Self-referential humor is the last refuge of the computer scientist.

Someday I'll make a self-referential semantics so "heavy" that I won't be able to lift it.

5:11 PM  

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