Hitchens, Cunningham & Hebrews 12 

Brian Worley

On June 29, 2010, one of Randal Cunningham's children, two-year-old son Christian, drowned in a hot tub while unattended at the family home in Las Vegas. The next day, news broke that Christopher Hitchens had postponed his Hitch-22 book tour to undergo treatment for oesophageal cancer.  

What connection do these two men have and what is compelling enough to write about here? Answer, Hebrews 12 and the warning/promise of the God of the Bible to rebuke, chastise, scourge those who are the children of God. I don’t want to be unfair, so here is the chapter and verse proof of what God intends to do to those that he loves.  

Hebrews 12: 5 – 8 (KJV)

5. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as children, MY SON, DESPISE NOT THOU THE CHASTENING OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN THOU ART REBUKED OF HIM. 6. FOR WHOM THE LORD LOVETH HE CHASTTENETH, AND SCOURGETH EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVETH.    7. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8. But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then ye are bastards, and not sons.

The Old Testament God gets the well deserved bad rap, but the New Testament God can be awfully harsh as well!  The scriptures plainly state that believers will be chastened and scourged by the Biblical God because he loves them so much! Lucky Christians! God’s punishment is confirmation that they are indeed people of faith. It is interesting to note that god in verse 8 calls those that he doesn’t chastise bastards. Note, Christopher Hitchens wasn’t chastised (even by Biblical standards) because he isn’t a believer! 

Hebrews 12 inclusion into the Bible sets up a “wait till your daddy gets home” scenario that “bad” little kids hear and fear. All of this could be avoided with the application of a little critical inquiry into the Bible itself! The bible is literature people, that’s it! Not reality, literature! Hebrews 12 has caused so much anguish, shame, fear and false guilt in the lives of believers because they allow an ancient book that they misunderstand to influence and control their lives.  

Randal Cunningham was a 4 time NFL All-Pro selection that played quarterback for the Eagles, Vikings, Cowboys and Ravens. Since retiring amongst other things he has gone into the Christian music business and is an ordained Protestant minister.  

My heart goes out to the Cunningham family! The pain and anguish that his family is having to deal with must be extremely hard to bear. This is a time for anyone that is close to his family to reach out and show love and support.  

To my knowledge, I might be the first non-theist to link these two and probably the only one to mention Cunningham publicly since the passing of his beloved son. While death and funerals are frequently visited subjects for the clergy, the benefit of ministerial experience probably doesn’t make it any easier for the Cunningham family to deal with. Ministers are people too! 

The most heart wrenching experience that this writer has ever had was when my cousin, Tony lost his infant child. He and his wife had a contractor come over to estimate a project at their home when they had temporarily lost track of their child. The contractor had just started to pull away when the gruesome unfolding of the discovery that their child was underneath of that truck. The Cunningham infant news brought about a re-visiting of my cousin’s tremendous grief!  

While non-theists allowed the grieving process to proceed without agitation towards the Cunningham family, Christopher Hitchens wasn’t afforded the same dignity and respect from some Christians. I don’t want to draw attention and thus publicize the crude remarks…let me summarize what those holding to a literal interpretation of the Bible may be thinking about Hitchens’ cancer. Some would be in awe of their god for giving an outspoken  Bible critic cancer in a location of his body that would greatly hinder his ability to vocalize anymore diatribes against faith. Crude? Yes, but this is the ugly side of fundamentalists! Damn ugly! 

Dear fundamentalist, your god of the Bible waits to torment unbelievers after they die in Hell. He will continue to enjoy that torment forever! Your god chooses to beat and chastise BELIEVERS while they are living in the HERE AND NOW! While your god can’t wait to get his hands upon Hitchens, wait he must! But let me ask you about Cunningham? 

What parent hasn’t temporarily panicked when you realized that your child wasn’t right beside of you like you thought they were? Oh what a relief and subtle reminder when you reconnect with your child that we were fortunate that our child is OK and that we need to be ever so attentive as guardians of our children.  

We are all human, all of us, whether we believe in a god or not! Our humanity should be guarded as well! Though these two men are upon two different extremes of the theism question, both should have someone come to their defense due to things that got muddled due to their association with religion. 

I haven’t met the Cunningham’s, but they are probably outstanding people that shouldn’t have to deal with whispers about what they might have done that caused god to either withdraw his protection over their family or what message god intends to send though this terrible ordeal. This is tough enough to deal with without any false biblical guilt being thrown in! I previous wrote about this subject of my cousin’s loss  in  The God of the Bible is a Sheep Beater .   

The Cunningham’s family pain ought to awaken curiosity, compassion and yes, critical inquiry to avert false guilt. Every minister knows that many people in the pews deal with anger towards the god that they profess to believe in. People of faith sometimes feel that they haven’t been treated fairly by the god that they believe in (often this feeling isn’t expressed publicly, but pastors occasionally talk with their parishioners about these subject matters). It is as if that “bad things shouldn’t happen to good people of faith…and that bad things should be visited upon those who don’t follow” their favored belief. Scripturally though, the Bible teaches that it rains upon the just and the unjust.  

Now to Hitchens. It is difficult to be neutral with Hitchens, he frequently evokes emotions and is a gifted if not brilliant writer that moves you one way or the other! Unfortunately, many believers feel that Hitchens is getting what is coming to him. Religion is very personal! So personal that it obscures the difference between criticism and ill will for people of faith.  

People mistake criticism for hatred.  Criticism of our thoughts, ideas, looks, appearance or anything else associated with our being is difficult for most of us to accept without thinking that the other person has intended to disrespect or belittle us. Ouch!!! Personal critical thinking and external criticism are merely measuring sticks reflecting what is or has entered into our minds. It is the elevator door button that allows us to elevate to greater heights if we can only strike a deal with our ego to allow us to climb higher for our own good. Most choose love, comfort and the road of least resistance rather than critical enquiry for self-preservation of the ego.   

 Ex-Minister visitors know that this writer has taken issue with the manner in which Hitchens has approached the faithful. With this said, I hope that within our freethinking community that my criticism of Hitchens isn’t misunderstood for hatred of a fellow freethinking bible critic? It’s a fair question! 

Cancer is vile and Hitchens needs every bit of support available in his fight. The contrast between Hitchens and the Cunningham family shows that people need support in tough times…regardless of their respective views upon theism.

Brian Worley    July 29, 2010   Ex-minister.org   All rights reserved.  

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