On respectability and accomodation

Douglas Wilson has a very fine piece on the death of Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) in Christianity Today. Smack in the middle comes this gem, as Wilson  speaks of the relationship he developed with Hitchens during a debate tour (which turned into a book):

“So we got on well with each other, because each of us knew where the other one stood. Eugene Genovese, before he became a believer, once commented on the tendency that some have to try to garner respect by giving away portions, big or small, of what they profess to believe. ‘If other religions offer equally valid ways to salvation and if Christianity itself may be understood solely as a code of morals and ethics, then we may as well all become Buddhists or, better, atheists. I intend no offense, but it takes one to know one. And when I read much Protestant theology and religious history today, I have the warm feeling that I am in the company of fellow unbelievers‘ (The Southern Front, pp. 9–10). Ironically, the branch of the faith most interested in getting the ‘cultured despisers’ to pay us some respect is really not that effective, and this is a strategy that can frequently be found on the pointed end of its own petard. Respectability depends on not caring too much about respectability. Unbelievers can smell accommodation, and when someone like Christopher meets someone who actually believes all the articles in the Creed, including that part about Jesus coming back from the dead, it delights him. Here is someone actually willing to defend what is being attacked. Militant atheists are often exasperated with opponents whose strategy appears to be ‘surrender slowly.'”

Not much to add to this, I suppose, other than to say that these are wise words for a communion that has become chronically allergic to debate of any sort.

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