A Tale of Two Brothers: Christopher and Peter Hitchens

A Tale of Two Brothers

In history and literature, there have been great sibling rivalries. Sibling rivalry is a common theme in the works of Shakespeare. A number of Shakespeare's plays display incidences of sibling rivalry including the way King Lear provokes rivalry among his three daughters. In The Taming of the Shrew, sisters Kate and Bianca are shown fighting bitterly. In Richard III, the title character is at least partially motivated by rivalry with his brother, King Edward. In As You Like It, there is obvious sibling rivalry and antagonism between Orlando and Oliver, and also between Duke Frederick and Duke Senior.

In John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, the brothers Cal and Aron Trask are counterparts to Cain and Abel of biblical renown. The Scriptures offer us the sibling rivalry of Jacob and Esau, and later Rachel and Leah vie for the affections of their husband Jacob. In his old age, the favoritism of Jacob for his youngest son, Joseph, contributes to Joseph’s brothers conspiring to sell him into slavery.

In modern times, great sibling rivalries have no doubt continued to be a reality, and we can find no better example of this than the Hitchens brothers. We have already offered up outspoken atheist and staunch progressive, Christopher Hitchens, for prayer. But we have not asked for prayer for his younger brother, Peter.

The reason that this offering of the “Adopt an Atheist Prayer Campaign” is asking for prayer for Peter (as well as for Christopher), is that these two brothers, like Esau and Jacob before them, represent two opposing worldviews. Jacob, like Peter, was a godly man who honored and desired the covenant promises of God. Esau, like Christopher, despised the things of God considering the promises of God no more valuable than a bowl of bean soup. In reality, Christopher is an avowed atheist and Marxist, while Peter is a Christian and a socially conservative journalist. Atheism and biblical faith are indeed diametrically opposed to one another. So both cannot be right.

It is ironic, but understandable, that Christopher (Christ-bearer in Greek) has fallen out with his brother Peter. It seems that Peter said that his brother had once joked that he “didn't care if the Red Army watered its horses at Hendon” (a suburb of London). This statement was vociferously denied by Christopher leaving the brothers at each other’s throats, figuratively speaking. The fact that Christopher is an avowed Marxists might lend credence to Peter’s memory of this decidedly communist-friendly quip.

And this is the reason I am offering them up before the throne of grace and requesting prayer for both brothers. Sadly, this is nothing new. The Messiah warned His disciples that, because of their faith in Him, families would shatter and they might even become enemies, one of the other, Matt. 10:34-36. This actually became the case in first century Israel as the Jewish believers in the Messiah were ostracized and eventually hunted down and brought back to Jerusalem for trial by their unbelieving counterparts in the Sanhedrin, the leaders of the supreme court of Israel, Acts 8:1, 9:1-2. The persecution was so fierce in the first century CE that the Apostle Paul had to take up an offering from the Gentile congregations to “help the poor saints in Jerusalem,” Rom. 15:26.

This separation between believers and nonbelievers continued as the gospel spread throughout the Roman empire, separating new Gentile converts from the former polytheistic religious roots. The persecutions continued down through the ages as the gospel transformed sinners into saints, children of darkness into children of light. During the Holocaust, believers sacrificed their safety and often their lives to hide and protect Jewish people from certain death. Still, others turned Jewish people and those who hid them into the SS for personal gain. Under communist pressure, children turned their Christian parents in to the communist authorities who then sentenced them to the gulags or worse. Some communist parents sent believing children away to reeducation camps. Today, ministries like Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) documents this on-gong battle between good and evil. They offer stories of present-day victorious faith in the face of great suffering taking place all over the world.

So, we are requesting prayer for both Christopher and Peter Hitchens. Unlike Cain and Abel, there can be a happy ending for these men. God can change the heart of Christopher the same way he changed the heart of his younger brother Peter. God is in the business of reconciliation. Jacob eventually reconciled with his estranged brother Esau, Gen. 33:4. It would be a wonderful example of God’s grace and mercy should He open the spiritually blind eyes of Christopher Hitchens. Then, Christopher, like Esau took hold of Jacob, could embrace his estranged brother Peter finding reconciliation and new life in the Holy One of Israel, Jesus Christ. Then Christopher Hitchens could fulfill the calling of his name. Then he would truly become a “Christ bearer.”