Thursday, November 6, 2008


Wilson Link

A rather appropriate poem in light of the election.


You lift up kings and throw them down.

At Your Word, congresses and parliaments are tumbled into confusion and the babble of tongues, pundits, and 24 hour news coverage.

You throw the ocean against the shore,

And sometimes that shore is inhabited.

Mothers cry and children are lost.

Their surviving men curse the God in whom they will not believe.

Your hand touches the tops of mountains

And deep within the earth

Rocks melt and vault toward the sky.

The planets circle, and their harmonic anthems fill the desolate places.

In a gift not anticipated, You give pets to children—in this case, a large, soft, floppy-eared rabbit, a rabbit with deep, brown, emotional eyes.

And your prophets have promised that one day the children will play with the cobras.

Nice Link

Redistribution of wealth

Today on my way to lunch I passed a homeless guy with a sign the read “Vote Obama, I need the money.” I laughed.

Once in the restaurant my server had on a “Obama 08" tie, again I laughed–just imagine the coincidence.

Suddenly, it hit me. An experiment is in order.

I asked the server, did he really believe that Obama's platform was a good one? Yes, he did.

When the bill came I decided not to tip the server and explained to him that I was exploring the Obama redistribution of wealth concept.

He stood there in disbelief while I told him that I was going to redistribute his tip to someone who I deemed more in need – the homeless guy outside. The server angrily stormed from my sight.

I went outside, gave the homeless guy $10, and told him to thank the server inside as I've decided he could use the money more. The homeless guy was grateful.

At the end of my rather unscientific redistribution experiment I realized the homeless guy was grateful for the money he did not earn, but the waiter was pretty angry that I gave away the money he did earn, even though the actual recipient needed the money more.

I guess redistribution of wealth is an easier thing to swallow in concept than in practical application - at least if it is your wealth that is being redistributed.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Part 1

On the Road with Atheism

Christopher Hitchens squares off with Douglas Wilson.
Nate Wilson | posted 10/31/2008 09:43AM

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Day 1, October 29, 2008

Last year, Christianity Today hosted a lively online debate between pastor and author Douglas Wilson (my father), and Christopher Hitchens, popular author and leading atheist. Both authors have a flair for the humorous and the literary, and the popularity of their debate led to its publication as a book (from a Christian publishing house). Is Christianity Good for the World? was released last month, and now both authors are on the road, debating and discussing the topic in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. Because of the uniqueness and value of their exchanges, a documentary film crew is following them, led by MTV music video director Darren Doane.

As for me? I'm tagging along. Day one was remarkable. The two men met in the morning over coffee, debated in a town hall-style encounter at the King's College in the Empire State Building, signed copies of the book in the Union Square Barnes & Noble, and then divided for different events of different flavors in the evening. Hitchens debated Rabbi Wolpe in Temple Emanu-El — said to be the largest Jewish house of worship in the world — while my father addressed the atheist clubs of Columbia and NYU in an event called "Stump the Preacher Man."

But to be honest, the most interesting moments have all been outside the formal events — discussions over meals, in cabs and elevators. Both men share a love of poetry (over lunch, they gave an antiphonal recitation of "Jabberwocky"), a love of the English language and the well-turned phrase, and have spent a good ten minutes spouting favorite lines from the British writer P. G. Wodehouse to mutual laughter. And both men have a respect for each other — though clearly not for their conflicting opinions of God and the nature of the world.

At the King's College debate, Hitchens professed disdain for the biblical admonition to "love your enemies," calling it total nonsense. And yet, as he appears in Christian forums, wrangling with a Christian man, that is exactly what he is experiencing firsthand. The exchanges are heated. No punches have been pulled, and no one is pretending like the gulf between atheism and Christianity is anything but dark and profound. Yet underlying it all, there is an affection shown to him that is just as profound.

Hitchens said he wanted all his enemies destroyed. Wilson countered with qualified agreement, saying that God destroys all his enemies, but doesn't only destroy them in the traditional way, as understood by man, but also destroys his enemies by making them friends.

Last night, the two will debate "Beauty and the Existence of God" at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.
And you will be hearing more from me.

Copyright © 2008 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.

Part 2

On the Road with Atheism II

Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson, together again.
Nate Wilson | posted 11/03/2008 10:03AM

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Day 1, October 29, 2008
Day 2, October 30, 2008

The morning began with New York City heaving its traffic in the normal way. With cameras tagging along, Hitchens and Wilson found themselves a coffee shop and settled into conversation. But before long, they were shuffled into a cab, and were off grid-locking their way to a heliport, a chopper to Philadelphia, and a debate at Westminster Theological Seminary.

The Phillies had won the World Series the day before, and it was evident everywhere in the city—even in Van Till Hall, the venue for the debate. Phillies jerseys, tees, and caps were crowded in beyond the room's capacity. Both men were given Phillies hats beforehand and Wilson produced his early on, promising the audience that he would put it on if he began to lose the debate (as a sure-fire way to win back the crowd).

After two days of travel and laughter, agreement and disagreement, meals and missed meals (in plenty and in want), the men began their debate with a stronger mutual rapport than the previous day. They both drew laughter from the audience throughout the discussion, but also regular laughter and acknowledgement from each other.

Substantively, Wilson began by claiming that if you deny the existence of God, you banish any standard of beauty or aesthetic criticism from the world. Nothing is more beautiful than anything else. In response (and ironically) Hitchens waxed eloquent about the marvels of reality. He became positively poetic as he paid tribute to stars and black holes and what he believes to be the inevitable destruction of our planet (at the hands of the Andromeda Galaxy).

But he didn't stop at poetry. When describing the Event Horizon of a black hole, he ceased to sound like a rationalist and began to sound more and more like a mystic—referring to the transcendent majesty of the thing itself (as it is imagined by some modern scientists) and reveling in the sci-fi idea of being able to simultaneously see both the past and the present, standing and ceasing to exist at that brink where space and time and light descend into darkness. It was odd, coming from the empirical rationalist, and he seemed unable to believe that in Christians, such thoughts (or visions) would stir up the desire to worship and obey the Artist behind such astonishing art.

Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson both marvel at the same creation, and they turn to the same words and poetry to describe that creation and its effect on them. The difference, and never so stark as in this debate, is that one man reacts into extreme gratitude and thankfulness for the marvels of reality, while the other struggles to prevent that reaction, but is unable to even check his use of religious language and vocabulary in doing so.

Copyright © 2008 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.

Wilson and Hitchens Courtesy of CT

To see the article in its original context, click on my title.

On the Road with Atheism III
Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson walk into a bar ...
posted 11/04/2008 11:34AM

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Day 1, October 29, 2008
Day 2, October 30, 2008
Day 3, October 31, 2008
Washington D.C.

On the final day of their frenzied tour (handing out copies of Is Christianity Good for the World? at every stop), tired of being prodded and wired and filmed and helicoptered, Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson were trundled into a train in Philadelphia and headed south for the District and their final climactic event. The organizers of this tour (and accompanying film) had not wanted to end with a formal debate. All too often, formal debates are the rhetorical equivalent of two fighters shadow-boxing in opposite corners struggling to impress the crowd with their respective bobs and weaves, but never actually meeting anywhere in the middle—anywhere where noses might end up bleeding. While this had not been true of the tour up to this point a different tone was needed for the finale.

Martin's Tavern in Georgetown was selected for the venue. This would not be an event involving blue blazers standing behind podiums beneath spastic fluorescent lighting. Nor would there be a moderator. The two men sat on stools at one end of the restaurant, the bar at their backs, and they faced off in front of a packed (and eating and drinking) house.

The guest list was necessarily tight, and the room was a blend of theologians and journalists, skeptics and believers, students and authors, as well as friends of both men and roaming cameramen.

The discussion was meant to focus on morality and (this being the final event), it was clear that Wilson would not be content unless Hitchens left with the truth wrapped around his neck. For his part, Hitchens attempted to maintain that morality is innate in humans, an evolved feature in a higher primate.

Wilson challenged the authority of any such morality, saying that it could evolve along and morph along with any other biological feature, simultaneously pushing Hitchens on his admission that the desires to rape, pillage, and murder was equally "innate" in the species. He insisted that Hitchens explain how he (or any man) could determine the difference between a moral and immoral act if both were simply byproducts of evolution.

Hitchens slipped and shifted and evaded, but he was never let off the hook, and he could never successfully answer the question. The atheists in the audience grew antsy, chomping for their own shots at Wilson, and soon enough the floor was opened for questions. One after one, they attempted to do what Hitchens could not—show an authority for their morality, or show that they did not need no such authority—and one by one they failed.

The collegiality between the men continued, though both exchanged barbs more pointed and meaningful than humorous.
Hitchens is an intelligent man. But an intelligent man without the truth is no better than, well … a higher primate.

Copyright © 2008 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


The entire book, epilogue et al, is now up. Very worth reading, in an O'Connoresque way. It is a satire of the modern Christian church in America, and is painfully and gloriously accurate.

Wodehousian Fun