Nat Hentoff, a New Yorker with large biblical commitments...

(Tim) Last week, Nat Hentoff was laid off at the (Greenwich) Village Voice. This brings an abrupt end to Hentoff's fifty year run there, appropriately and affectionately titled "Fifty Years of Pissing People Off" by fellow Voice columnist Allen Barra in his recent tribute to Hentoff.

Hentoff started as a staff writer for the Voice back in 1958. His dismissal fifty years later coincides, almost to the day, with Louis Menand's short history of the Voice that ran in the current New Yorker. Beyond the Voice, Hentoff has also published in the New Yorker, Wall Street Journal, JazzTimes (his best-known work may be as a jazz critic and historian), and Atlantic Monthly.

I note the dismissal of Hentoff, as well as the profile of the Voice in the current New Yorker, because this past week I've been enjoying a Christmas gift received from a friend in New York City who knows me well. A former member of Church of the Good Shepherd while studying at IU's School of Music, Regina Scow sent me an autographed copy of The Nat Hentoff Reader which I've been relishing this past week.

So far, I've read a short piece on jazz clarinetist, George Lewis; a longish one on my longtime favorite, Merle Haggard; some superb essays on racism in America including a good profile of Ken Clark titled, "The Integrationist;" and a rare glimpse of the racial suffering of Louis Armstrong in "Louis Armstrong and Reconstruction." The book also reprints Hentoff's classic essay exposing the practice of infanticide in America today titled, "The Awful Privacy of Baby Doe." I'll never forget reading it when it first appeared back in 1985. When I finished the piece, I remember feeling deep gratitude for Hentoff's leadership and courage.

I've been a fan of Hentoff for years now, largely (but not exclusively) because of his heroic defense of the First Amendment, the newborn, and the unborn. Interesting trio, aren't they? Imagine someone who tenaciously defends the First Amendment against the depredations of p.c. nannies also tenaciously defending the unborn and newborn against oppression and murder. He'd have to be a Christian, wouldn't he?

Well, in this case not...

When awarded the "Defender of Life Award" by the Human Life Foundation a few years ago, Hentoff described himself as "a Jewish, atheist, civil libertarian, pro-lifer."

Through the years, I've had a few heroes. Mud and Dad. Mother Teresa. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Malcom Muggeridge. John Cardinal O'Connor. Iain Murray. Paige Patterson. Joe Sobran. They're all Trinitarian theists.

Then there's Nat Hentoff.

While reading Hentoff's essays, I've been thinking about preaching in New York City, wondering how it is that abortion can't be mentioned in the pulpit of a PCA church while a Jewish atheist writing for The Village Voice can be one of our nation's principal defenders of the newborn and unborn, growing his reputation and influence while running anti-abortion pieces in the pages of publications like The Village Voice, the Atlantic, and Human Life Review (see his superb piece on euthanasia titled, "Come Sweet Death").

How ironic.

Honestly, people could learn as much about the character of God--His love for mercy, justice, and truth, for instance--by reading Hentoff's Reader as they could by reading most of the books written by evangelical luminaries found on the New York Times' bestseller lists.

Here's a teaser from a "greatest hits" piece by Hentoff that ran in the Voice on July 16, 1985:

Much has been made of Dr. Bernard Nathanson's The Silent Scream, a film of the killing by abortion of a 12-week-old unborn child. I've seen all of it once, and parts of it several times. I do not see everything he says I should see. I also think, as I have told Nathanson, that he deflects the impact of the film by focusing on the question of whether the fetus can feel pain and did indeed scream, silently. There are experts on both sides of that argument, and the debates obscure the main issue. The question of fetal pain is less important than the actual dismemberment of this living being. . . .

Ah, but good liberal pro-choice folk deny that this was really a human being. In 1973, the Supreme Court had said it was not. Just as in 1857, the Supreme Court had said that people of African descent had "Never been regarded as a part of the people or citizens of the State, nor supposed to possess any political rights which the dominant race might not withhold. . . . "

The majority of the Supreme Court, back then, had actually seen these black people but did not see them as human. They saw them as property to be disposed of in any way the owner chose. And now, although the Supreme Court and the other pro-choicers can see into the womb through ultrasound—or have seen color photographs of what's in there in widely available books—they do not see the unborn as human, and they strongly advocate the killing go on and on.

If only the pro-choice Left could think of the fetus as a baby seal, in utero.

One final observation.

While reading Hentoff, I've had a recurring thought that, if I had a day in New York City to meet and share conversation concerning the nature and character of God with someone who's well-known across the city--someone who's a real leader and makes his living off the use of words--I'd choose Hentoff. Two other Jews would come in a close second, both of whom have also done stellar work in defense of the unborn: Marvin Olasky and Bernard Nathanson.

But there's no one else.

If you have the name of some other well-known leader in New York City to propose--say a man who has shown great courage, whose name is a watchword across the city because, like Job, he is known for his defense of the weak and oppressed, for standing up for justice and mercy--please let me know. Especially if he's a Protestant pastor.

Comments

"Honestly, people could learn as much about the character of God--His love for mercy, justice, and truth, for instance--by reading Hentoff's Reader as they could by reading most of the books written by evangelical luminaries found on the New York Times' bestseller lists."

Is that supposed to make me want to read Hentoff's writings?

All I found on the New York Times' bestseller lists was:
The Shack, by William Young
90 Minutes in Heaven, by Don Piper
The Purpose Driven Life, by You Know Who
The Purpose of Christmas, by You Know Who
and my favorite,
Love Your Life, by Victoria Osteen

You're not setting the bar very high...

Actually, I wasn't thinking of any of those evangelicals, hard though that may be to believe.

Steve Schlissel comes to mind.

What I consistently find among Christians who claim to be pro-life but go on to say things such as pastors shouldn't preach on it, or we shouldn't be single issue voters, or outlawing abortion would hardly reduce the numbers plus women might die from coat-hanger abortions, or I think it's wrong but who am I to force my morals on others and blah, blah, blah--across the board, I have found that such people are not truly pro-life at all! When pressed, they turn out to be quite pro-choice, though they would not call themselves that.

A case in point: A character calling himself Spud Tooley commented several times on a Justin Taylor post on abortion(http://theologica.blogspot.com/2009/01/number-of-abortions-since-1973.ht...)calling himself pro-life but saying all the old lines about "What has a Republican president ever done to help abortion?" and "You people don't even care about those who died in Iraq like I do" and "You talk about babies dying but what about people dying from a bad economy

[BTW, the economic problem triggered by the housing market was undisputably caused by democratic idealogy, see Would the Last Honest Reporter Please Turn on the Lights, written by a registered Democrat, but an honest one http://www.ldsmag.com/ideas/081017light.html

but I digress]

So then Mr. Tooley writes this:

"Overturning roe v wade, while it may happen (it won't), will not solve the problem, and you know it. again, it will come down to upper-class whites and the residents of 'blue' states having access, while poor blacks - the ones most in need of efforts to REDUCE unwanted pregnancy - continue to languish in the 'have-nots'."

This is so typical, I could have written his script for him. I've heard it so many times it makes me think of subliminal brain-washing. All of them, claiming to be pro-life, with their "compassionate" way of solving the problem, their "new" ideas to end abortion, so unlike the stale old ideas of the useless republican party, all of them, when pushed, admit they think that abortion is good.

And they think it would be so unfair that the rich white people would be able to find some black-market abortionist to murder their baby while the poor babies wouldn't have the same opportunity to be slaughtered. This would be barbaric in their mind; the poor babies have every bit as much a right to be slaughtered as any upper class white baby! Equal opportunity killing for all.

Tim,

Ouch.

I'm curious. When you post articles like this, do you ever get correspondence from any PCA pastors in Manhattan?

Bill
Nashville

Dear Bill,

It could be any city in America, and any PCA pastor--including me. I find if I preach to myself, I am helpful to others. It's always hard to speak about sin--and particularly terrible sins like abortion.

But no, for the most part, I simply don't hear from PCA pastors anywhere.

Warmly,

"If you have the name of some other well-known leader in New York City to propose--say a man who has shown great courage, whose name is a watchword across the city because, like Job, he is known for his defense of the weak and oppressed, for standing up for justice and mercy--please let me know. Especially if he's a Protestant pastor."

Would you get upset with me if I mentioned Pastor Tim Keller?

>Would you get upset with me if I mentioned Pastor Tim Keller?

No, I'd be delighted.

Tim,

While Marvin Olasky was born Jewish, he is a Christian now. Not sure if that is what you meant or not.

>Not sure if that is what you meant or not.

Yup.

> they do not see the unborn as human

Yes, and there's a word for people like that:

"inhuman"

1 a: lacking pity, kindness, or mercy : savage b: cold, impersonal c: not worthy of or conforming to the needs of human beings

2: of or suggesting a nonhuman class of beings

[merriam-webster.com]

i'm honored that you (or someone) quoted me, but essentially only did name-calling and not addressing any of the points raised. i can say '2+2=4' over and over, and if your only comeback or defense of your own position is to claim i've been 'brainwashed,' so be it. it doesn't change the truth.

at some point, those who call themselves 'pro-life' will see the hypocritical stance they take in support of various policies, not all related to abortion.

plus, they will realize that the only victory where abortion is concerned is to work to reduce the number of abortions being done.

until then, go on making no difference in these lives you hold so precious, content to vote every two or four years for the candidate who is 'pro-life', and be content that you did your part.

when, in the end, you did nothing.

(you did get one thing right: i am quite a character...)

mike rucker (aka spud tooley)
fairburn, georgia, usa
mikerucker.wordpress.com

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