September 26, 2008
One of the late Sam Francis’ many lapidary phrases was “gemlike sychophancy,” a term he used to describe William F. Buckley’s embarrassing fawning over Norman Podhoretz. A perfect example of such gemlike sychophancy appeared earlier this week in NRO, in Michael Potemra’s breathless post claiming that Christopher Hitchens actually believed in God, because he said mankind cannot do without the “numinous,” and was merely offended “by the inadequacy of our attempts to outline God’s will—and especially at the lameness of the metaphors we use to describe Him.” In fact, so pure is Hitchens’ righteous indignation at the “moral and intellectual failings of the various religions,” that he merits comparison to St. Augustine and will enjoy the Beatific Vision: “When he meets the real God, he will not be disappointed . . . .he will find the one in whom we cannot rest ‘until we rest in thee’ (to quote another famous person who converted). And he’ll finally have mercy on believers—we were, after all, doing our best.” Later on, in another post, Potemra praised Hitchens’ “passion for human rights” and his “(almost Kantian?) passion for the moral law.” Of course, in his lavish praise of Hitchens, Potemra was merely following in the footsteps of NRO’s house theologian Michael Novak, who, in his review of Hitchens’ careless and dishonest “God is not Great,” termed Hitchens a “Treasure,” praised him as an exemplar of “moral heroism,” described him as a “public protagonist of solidarity and compassion,” and termed him a “brave and good man.”
What is wrong with Potemra and Novak? Is groveling before the enemies of Christendom a requirement for advancement at National Review these days? Hitchens, after all, spends a considerable portion of his time spewing contempt for Christianity and attempting to destroy the faith of Christians. To take just three notable examples: he has said, of Mother Teresa, “I wish there was a hell for the bitch to go to,” he has praised Lenin’s murderous suppression of Russian Orthodoxy, and he has said, of believers generally, ?I can?t stand anyone who believes in God, who invokes the divinity … I mean, that to me is a horrible, repulsive thing.? Are these the words of a “brave and good man?” Do they call to mind Immanuel Kant and St. Augustine?
One wonders, finally, what Hitchens would have to do to get Novak and Potemra to express more than the mildest disagreement with him.
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