Reflecting on the 'debate' between Christopher Hitchens and Lorenzo Albacete

Monday, my friend (I only have one – the jr. high youth pastor who is also named Tim.  Yep, I have to employ people for them to be my friend. And yes, he was required to attend with me and drive with me). Anyway, we to a debate between Christopher Hitchens and Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete.  It was a free event at The Pierre Hotel in Manhattan sponsored by the Templeton Foundation’s “The Big Questions” Series and the Washington Post’s “On Faith” program.  I received the invitation through Socrates in the City.  The debate lasted for a little over an hour and was moderated by Sally Quinn of the Washington Post and Jon Meacham from Newsweek.

The Monsignor began by expressing the admiration he had for Hitchens and that he liked his best selling book, God is Not Great. I thought this was a nice gesture but as the debate developed, his extreme kindness got frustrating for me (and for many others).  The problem was the Monsingnor kept agreeing with Hitchens.  At first I thought he was being polite, then I speculated he might be “ropa-doping” him Ali Style and was about to counter him with some great upper cut point – but that never happened.  Now, I don’t want to see something that belongs on the Jerry Springer show but this was not an interesting debate.  Nor did it seem interesting to Hitchens who eventually tried to push the Monsignor to a point of difference.  Finally after Hitchens dropped the F-bomb the Monsignor told him not to be flippant (as Hitchens accused him of being earlier in the debate).  It was a great stand that lasted a little longer than an agnostic’s prayer.

What was that I wanted to see?  A debate or a discussion or  something that combined wit and courage.  As a new friend pointed  out, the idea of debates are outdated.  He may be right, however  couldn’t we manage some kind of intelligent discussion with sharp  and articulate disagreement?   Certainly I did not have some deliusion  that the guy would be so good that Hitchens would fall on his knees  and repent but was hoping for a discussion.  In the future, I’d be  interested in seeing a guy like Hitchens “discuss matters” with a guy like Tom Wright.