By Patrick Archbold
As the father of five children at the beginning of another school year, I will soon find myself on the receiving end of yet another macaroni necklace. I have been the recipient of many macaroni necklaces, some with sparkles and some with popcorn, although I am not sure how macaroni and popcorn go together. Truth be told, macaroni jewelry serves absolutely no earthly use and yet as a father, I hold it dear because its creation was an act of love.
Today, September 20th, has been dubbed by some, “Everybody Pray For Christopher Hitchens Day.” I, among many others, offer prayer today for Mr. Hitchens in his battle against cancer.
In his Vanity Fair article, Mr. Hitchens asked believers not to bother praying unless it makes them feel better. Although it does not make me feel any better, I still pray for him. I do lots of things that don’t make me feel better, some of them potentially useless, but I do them anyway. Love is like that.
So even if, in his mind, it serves absolutely no earthly purpose, I hope that at least Mr. Hitchens views our prayers as I view a macaroni necklace–a useless act of love.
Prayer for Mr. Hitchens is an act of love. Certainly I pray for Mr. Hitchens’ recovery, but I also pray he receives the grace of repentance. However, Mr. Hitchens supposes that any last-minute about-face on his part would be a cynical wager about the existence of God, and thus a cowardly act. I suppose it certainly could be, and agree that such an act would be utterly useless.
Pascal’s gambit, as Hitchens puts it, is “Put your faith in the almighty, he proposed, and you stand to gain everything. Decline the heavenly offer and you lose everything if the coin falls the other way.” Leaving aside that Pascal’s wager intends the gambit as the first step on a journey to real faith; Hitchens rejects any god that would reward such a cynical and cowardly act. I do too and I don’t pray for it.
I pray that before the end, whenever that may be, that Hitchens’ ‘irreconcilable doubt’ extends not only to God, but also to the path he has chosen. I pray that Mr. Hitchens, out of humility, asks a simple yet sincere question of the God he doubts. “If You are there and I have been wrong, please forgive me.”
None of us have done anything to merit such last-minute forgiveness, yet it is offered freely. Jesus went quite out of His way to make sure that we understood this one point. He told parable after parable to make this point. He suffered to make this point and in one of His last acts before He died, He forgave the criminal crucified next to him when he asked for it to make this point. In short, Jesus really wanted us to get this point.
“If You are there and I have been wrong, please forgive me.” Such a prayer may seem a completely useless act in the eyes of men. But I believe in a God who specializes in acts of love that seem useless in the eyes of men. I believe in a God who used a useless act of love in the eyes of men, the torture and crucifixion of his Son, in order to offer redemption to all mankind. I don’t know why, but love is like that.
So I pray, though it may be a macaroni necklace in the eyes of men, that Mr. Hitchens will do the same. I pray that he will pray. I pray that among all the moments of doubt, he will have a moment of humility, a moment of love. I pray that before the end, he will commit a useless act of love in the eyes of men. For in the eyes of the Father, there is no useless act of love.
Patrick Archbold writes for the National Catholic Register and is co-founder of Creative Minority Report, a Catholic website that puts a refreshing spin on the intersection of religion, culture, and politics. When not writing, Patrick is director of information technology at a large international logistics company. Patrick, his wife Terri, and their five children reside in Long Island, N.Y.