Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 07, 2009

DVD Review: Collision: Christopher Hitchens vs. Douglas Wilson: Is Christianity Good for the World? (2009).

In my law school class last week, we discussed the newly released DVD, Collision: Christopher Hitchens vs. Douglas Wilson: Is Christianity Good for the World?

On the surface, this might appear to tangential to a legal course. Au contraire.

At the end of this DVD, Hitchens makes an insightful comment about the United States' legal system. He critiques American culture by observing that debate is "very poorly conducted" here. He cites two examples to support his argument. First, he points to Congress with its series of speeches, but no engagement. Second, he skewers television talk shows with the converse--people yelling at and past each other. I added a third: talk radio (on both sides of the political spectrum) mostly operates as an echo chamber with callers simply feeding back the views of the hosts, or telling them what geniuses they are.

Hitchens carves out one notable exception to this dearth of debate: courtrooms. He finds them founts of argument evolving with evidence, concepts and arrangement in symmetry. Agreed.

In this DVD, however, Hitchens and Wilson strive to add a new source of debate: philosophical dialogue. This DVD compiles exchanges of these participants from their 2008 book tour loosely around the question asked in their book, "Is Christianity Good for the World?" I say loosely because the discussion routinely veers beyond this singular question, but generally represents a clash between atheist and Christian worldviews.

Familiar with Hitchens through his books and other writings as well as his performance in similar debates, and generally regarding him as one of the most skilled communicators walking the planet, I frankly wondered whether Pastor Wilson would be up to this task. While others have criticized his performance, I think apart from a couple of missteps he held his own. Even Hitchens regards the two as "reasonably well matched"--high praise.

Despite some excesses, such as a Rocky-style intro, as if two pugilists were entering a ring, and some bizarre, jarring camera angles, graphics and editing, the DVD still captures the essence that makes this debate entertaining. There are real and respectful exchanges of ideas that can inspire the audience to greater understanding and engagement with important issues.