It's like rain on your wedding dayIn the Times Book Review, "Don't pray on me" by Jennifer Schuessler:
It's a free ride when you've already paid
It's the good advice that you just didn't take
Who would've thought... it figures ...
Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you
Life has a funny, funny way of helping you out
Helping you out.
When Christopher Hitchens announced recently that he would be undergoing chemotherapy for esophageal cancer, bloggers began debating whether it would be appropriate to pray for the famous atheist and author of “God Is Not Great.” “Hitchens MUST outlive Kissinger,” the British columnist Johann Hari wrote on Twitter, referring to the man Hitchens, in his memoir “Hitch-22” (No. 15 on the hardcover nonfiction list this week), calls a “liar, murderer, war criminal, pseudo-academic” and — perhaps most unforgivably — “bore.” But Hari added: “I forbid everyone from praying for him. He would HATE that.” While Hitchens himself doesn’t seem to have issued any official directives, prayers have rolled in from Elizabeth Scalia (no relation to the Supreme Court justice) at First Things, Greg Kandra at The Deacon’s Bench and Pat Archbold at The National Catholic Register. (Pray, but “keep it to yourself,” one commenter advised Archbold. “He will know the difference when he converts.”)
Jeffrey Goldberg, a colleague of Hitchens’s at The Atlantic Monthly, consulted the rabbinical authorities and decided that prayer was O.K. On his blog, Goldberg quoted the advice of David Wolpe, a Los Angeles rabbi who has publicly debated Hitchens on a number of occasions: “I would say it is appropriate and even mandatory to do what one can for another who is sick; and if you believe that praying helps, to pray. It is in any case an expression of one’s deep hopes. So yes, I will pray for him, but I will not insult him by asking or implying that he should be grateful for my prayers.” Meanwhile, one commenter on The Times’s ArtsBeat blog came up with a nontheological solution. “The small, blue glowing matter in my brain is beaming quarks to your vital spirit,” one “Coldheart” from Kingston, N.Y., wrote to Hitchens, adding — perhaps in a nod to the prayermongers — “Protect yourself at all times.”