Dangerous ideas

A friend drew my attention to an Australian programme called Q&A in which four figures engage in a moderated discussion responding to audience questions (for British readers, think Question Time; not sure what the American equivalent would be, if there is one). The panelists on this occasion were Germaine Greer, Peter Hitchens, Hanna Rosin and Dan Savage. This particular episode can be watched here (with a complete transcript). Please take into account that the language of a couple of participants is sometimes vulgar and a little graphic.

Peter Hitchens, as many will know, is the brother of Christopher Hitchens, and seems (I hope that this is fair to him) as provocatively and intelligently to the right on the political spectrum as his brother was to the left. I watched with interest as Hitchens fought his corner for the duration of the programme. My point here is not on what topics or in what way or to what extent I might agree (or not) with Peter Hitchens, and I do not think his tone always does him many favours, but I appreciated his clarity and courage. I also cannot speak to his personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ as a Saviour and King.

Nevertheless, his answer to the final question of the night (found at 57 minutes and 48 seconds on the video) is illuminating (although the discussion about epiphanies at 00:52:28 is also fascinating). The final question was:

Which so-called dangerous idea do you each think would have the greatest potential to change the world for the better if where [sic] implemented?
Watching and/or reading the various answers alongside and in contrast to one another, and the reactions of the other panelists, is instructive.
TONY JONES: Dan, let's start with you.

HANNA ROSIN: Oh, that's a hard one

DAN SAVAGE: Oh, my [deleted].

HANNA ROSIN: You got to give us a minute to think about that.

DAN SAVAGE: Population control. There's too many [deleted] people on the planet. And I don't know if that's a - you know, I'm pro-choice. I believe that women should have the right to control their bodies. Sometimes in my darker moments I am anti-choice. I think abortion should be mandatory for about 30 years. That's a dangerous idea. She wanted a dangerous idea. So throw a chair at me.

TONY JONES: That is a very dangerous idea.

HANNA ROSIN: I actually have to think about it for a minute. I have to think about it.

TONY JONES: Okay. Let's go to Germaine.

GERMAINE GREER: Well, I'm always in the same place. The most dangerous idea, the one that terrifies us the most, is freedom - to actually be free - is, to most human beings, disorientating, terrifying but it's the essential bottom line. If you want to be a moral individual you must be free to make choices and that includes making mistakes.


PETER HITCHENS: The most dangerous idea in human history and philosophy remains the belief that Jesus Christ was the son [sic] of God and rose from the dead and that is the most dangerous idea you will ever encounter.

DAN SAVAGE: I'd have to agree with that.

TONY JONES: Just quickly, because I think you can't really leave it there, why dangerous?

PETER HITCHENS: I can't really leave it there? Because it alters the whole of human behaviour and all our responsibilities. It turns the universe from a meaningless chaos into a designed place in which there is justice and there is hope and, therefore, we all have a duty to discover the nature of that justice and work towards that hope. It alters us all. If we reject It, it alters us all was well. It is incredibly dangerous. It's why so many people turn against it.

TONY JONES: Hanna Rosin?

HANNA ROSIN: I'm tempted to say something about the Jesus Christ but being the Jewish one on the panel I'll let that one go. Given our conversation today, I think I'm going to go with we should watch our children less. We live in a culture which follows our children around, is obsessed with safety, decides everything for our children, doesn't let them have any freedom. Doesn't let them wander. Doesn't let them go anywhere or do anything by themselves and we should, in fact, do less with our children, not more.
I am currently working on a piece for an upcoming conference about public Christianity, and found this helpful statement from Herman Bavinck: "Christians need not hide from their opponents in embarrassed silence; the Christian faith is the only worldview that fits the reality of life." Whatever your political convictions and affiliations, and whatever Peter Hitchens' true spiritual allegiance, he is right about this: if Christ Jesus is the Son of God who died and rose again, everything changes. It is the most dangerous idea. The people who ought to be most clear about this, by what we say and how we live, are true believers.