A Tale of Two Journalists

Christopher HitchensImage via Wikipedia 
Much media attention has been given in recent days to the life and death of Christopher Hitchens and so there is not much to add.
I would echo the words here from Fr. James Martin.
Malcolm MuggeridgeImage via WikipedI don't know if many of you will remember Malcolm Muggeridge but I was struck by some of the similarities and differences between these two immensely talented journalists , writers and broadcasters and media personalities.

Both were known for their wit and profound writings, often at odds with the prevailing opinions of the day.

I would love to have seen them head to head in a discussion about faith because their massive intellects would have been perfectly matched.

Muggeridge spent most of his life as an agnostic, Hitchens as an atheist. Muggeridge was born in 1903 and died in 1990, Hitchens was born  in 1949.

Both men were often wrong and could be infuriating in their arrogance but admirably they were unafraid to swim against the stream of the status quo and certainly provoked some serious thought and discussion. 

Muggeridge was ubiquitous on television, radio, and in print journalism. As a young man he chronicled the decline and fall of the British Empire from locations like India and Egypt.
As a socialist writer, he went off to the Soviet Union in search of paradise and was expelled for reporting on the truth he found: lies, genocide, and the dark truth about the dictator the West still thought of as "Uncle Joe" Stalin. 

During World War II, he was a pioneering British spy. He took a boring, timid magazine intended for doctor's offices and turned it into one of the edgiest journals of political and cultural satire of his time, helping to inaugurate a revolution in political journalism.

He was one of the first television personalities to stop treating politicians and others in authority with deference and instead became a leading model for "adversarial" journalism.

In 1953, he dared to call the obsession with the British Royal Family a "soap opera" and got banned from the BBC for two years for doing so.

I didn't always agree with some of Muggeridge's views on Christianity.
Sometimes he was an insufferable bore !

I thought he lacked a sense of humour and missed the point completely when he erroneously believed  the Monty Python film, The Life of Brian to be blasphemous.

Both men were influenced in their views on faith and religion by Mother Theresa.

In Hitchens view, Mother Theresa was a self promoter, too willing to take money and he wrote vociferously and acerbically against her. Muggeridge however was impressed by her.

The spiritual beliefs of these two men branched into two divergent paths : Hitchens died an atheist, and Muggeridge converted to Christianity at the age of 66 and to Catholicism at the age of 79. largely because of the influence of Mother Teresa

Muggeridge's last book, Conversion, published in 1988 and recently republished, describes his life as a 20th century pilgrimage – a spiritual journey. Muggeridge was a controversial figure – known in earlier life as a drinker, heavy smoker, and womaniser, but when he converted to Christianity he became an ardent campaigner against what he saw as the moral and sexual laxity of the late 1960's.

When I read about Hitchen's death I looked for a book by Muggeridge and found an old one buried deep in my bookshelves and have been reading it for the last week of Advent. 
The one thing that always did impress me about Muggeridge was the way he was able to honestly and often very humbly describe the path that took him from agnosticism to Christian faith.

There are many parts I would have like to have quoted from as it is a moving and in places extraordinary account of one man's journey from doubt to faith. 

But I couldn't find all the extracts I wanted to quote from on the internet so I have chosen this one piece and typed it out .

"In earthly terms, death is the only certainty. All my mortal mind can know for sure is that this hand, writing these words will falter and become inert, and the intelligence choosing and arranging them become inoperative. Flesh and intelligence equally doomed shortly to extinction after so brief and fleeting an existence- no more than a dragonfly's, with its bright wings and exquisitively precise movements darting about in the sun.

As the psalmist says, We spend our years as a tale that is told..... and are soon cut off, and we fly away. This strange inescapable fact is common to every living creature, from a bacillus to a Michelangelo; the tale varies but the outcome is the same. 

Confronted with it, we may rage, despair, induce forgetfulness, solace ourselves with fantasies that science will in due course discover how we came to be here and to what end, and how we may project our existence, individually or collectively, into some Brave New World spanning the Universe in which man reigns supreme.

God's alternative proposition is the Resurrection- a man dying who rises from the dead. Like Pascal with his famous wager I close with the offer and say : "Done !", joining in the joyous shout that has echoed through the Christian centuries: "Christ is Risen!"

That the Resurrection happened, and that in consequence of it Jesus's followers who had scattered drew together again, resolved to go about their Master's business, seems to me to be indubitably true.

Likewise Jesus's claims to be The Light of The World, and His related promise that through Him we may be reborn into new men  and women, liberated from servitude to the ego and our appetites into the glorious liberty of the Children of God. 

Compared with these tremendous certainties, dubieties about the precise circumstances of Jesus's birth, ministry, death on the cross and continuing presence in the world seem sterile and unprofitable.

Either Jesus never was or he still is. As a typical product of these confused times, with a sceptical mind and a sensual disposition, diffidently and unworthily, but with the utmost certainty, I assert that He still is. 

If the story of Jesus had ended on Golgotha, it would indeed be of a man who died, but as two thousand years later, the Man's promise that "where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them", manifestly still holds, it is actually the story of a Man Who Lives."

Taken from the book Jesus, The Man Who Lives by Malcolm Muggeridge 1975.

I like to think of both men meeting in the afterlife and imagine the discussion between them would be a lively and humorous exchange.

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