Christopher Hitchens on Jesus for President

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Christopher Hitchens has to be one of the most miserable human beings on the planet. Still and all, one never need wonder precisely what he thinks. In an essay today denouncing Christmas, he turns his attention, if only for a moment, to the “red letter Christian” movement. Of a recent review in the Weekly Standard, Hitchens writes:

“The second essay is a review by Mark Tooley of a terrible-sounding book called Jesus for President by a terrible-sounding person named Shane Claiborne. You know the sort of thing very well: Jesus would have been a ‘human shield’ in Baghdad in 2003; the United States is the modern equivalent of the Roman Empire. It’s the usual ‘liberation theology’ drivel, whereby everybody except the inhabitants of the democratic West is supposed to abjure violence. (To the question of whether the plan to kill Hitler was moral or not, Claiborne cites no less an authority than the Führer’s own secretary to claim that “all hopes for peace were lost” after the 1944 attempt. That, as should be obvious even to the most flickering intelligence, was chiefly because the attempt was a failure. What an idiot!)”

Now, Hitchens’ response doesn’t tell us whether or not Claiborne is right about Jesus. If the Bible did give us the Jesus as Che picture some of our friends present (or the Jesus as Rush picture some of our other friends would prefer), Hitchens would still hate him. Hitchens is a professional curmudgeon (this was, after all, an essay against Christmas). More importantly, Hitchens just hates Jesus (and so did every one of us, prior to our respective roads to Damascus).

But that’s just the point.

I suspect Hitchens’ response to warmed-over liberation theology is quite similar to the majority report. It appeals to disaffected religious people who want to keep Jesus, but have the vibe of whatever Utopian movement is the order of the day. Those who think politically reconceptualizing Jesus is going to make him more attractive to unbelievers are as naive about human nature in apologetics as they are about…well, how to stop Hitler.

If the Jesus of the Bible is a leftist revolutionary, then, by all means, viva la revolution. But, if not, then let’s hear him in all his complexity, let’s love the people who hate him, and try our best to put the two together.

Only when we see how lost we are, we can find our way again. Only when we bury what’s dead can we experience life again. Only when we lose our religion can we be amazed by grace again.


About Russell Moore

Russell Moore is Editor in Chief of Christianity Today and is the author of the forthcoming book Losing Our Religion: An Altar Call for Evangelical America (Penguin Random House).