Friday, December 26, 2008
Chris Hitchens, Christmas, and Christians
The Blogosphere rages on. Much is being said regarding Chris Hitchens' anti-Christmas tirade. But they might do well to consider Hitchens and Kierkegaard as brothers under the skin, in their attacks on the inauthentic nature of the organized Church. They say that Hitchens reveals the bankruptcy of atheism, and of anti-theist arguments. That he misses the power of archetypal myth is his tirades against Christianity and Christmas, making the claim that if the post-Cavalry body were located, all the world's meta-questions would be changed radically. Yes, he may be missing the point here. But I think there is one profound philosopher, who considered himself perhaps the only authentic Christians in existence in his time, who would very much side with the spirit of Hitchens' tirade: Kierkegaard.
Kierkegaard considered Christendom to be the opposite of authentic Christianity, and he wore himself to an early death at age 42 with his own cigar-smoking, drinking and decidedly Hitchens-like presentation. He was the Socratic gadfly in the body of Christianity, par excellence. So philosophers like Ross Douthat and others who sneer at Hitchens, ought to brush up on their Kierkegaard: Edifying Discourses, The Journals are the best. Kierkegaard would not be anti-Hitchens.
Kierkegaard on Christianity and Christmas:
""Christendom has done away with Christianity without being quite aware of it."
"The official preaching of Christianity is in no way the Christianity of Christ or the New Testament."
"Christianity has long stood in need of a hero who, with fear and trembling before God, would forbid the reading of the Bible. This is something as necessary as preaching against Christianity itself. "
"All have their little family of Mary and Joseph and worship their llittle Christ child; this is foolishness and blasphemy, and the true Christian is not concerned with marriage or child but with freedom."
~The Journals ~
Those who have read Kierkegaard's Attack on Organized Christendom know that he considered the Church and its holidays as a colossal hoax and blasphemy against an authentic encounter with Christ. His existential belief in the individual against the crowd and his assertions on this in his writings leave no doubt that he considered the Church and all within to be the machinations of a crowd-machinery which was in his own words, "the true crucifier of Christ". Thus it is important for philosophers who sneer at Hitchens to recall the similarities between this post-modern attack on theism and the solitary Dane who might well seek Hitchens out for a drink and a smoke, were he to be transported suddenly into our own age. A hater of sysems - and he attacked Hegel relentlessly - Kierkegaard would be sympatheric to Hitchens' impatience with the sentimental bleating of many defenders of Christianity in our midst.
Addendum: Just in the way of additional thoughts, Nietzsche says:
"A stroll through a lunatic asylum proves that faith proves nothing."
"The very term 'Christian' is a confusion; in reality, there was one Christian, and he died on the cross. There have been no Christians at all. . . what has been called Christianity is an historical self-misunderstanding which grew cruder with each step. . . "