David Horowitz is a 66-year-old polemicist of the first rank. Once a scion of the left, he's now its scourge. His numerous books have take-no-prisoner titles like The Politics of Bad Faith or Left Illusions. Having sat with him in several discussions, I can't imagine him surrendering to anyone or anything.
Last week Encounter Books published David's new effort, The End of Time, which shows the side of him that emerged four years ago when he discovered he had prostate cancer. Radical surgery has given him a "reprieve" that should allow him to battle for many more years, but The End of Time includes poignant reflections on a relentless enemy of both liberals and conservatives.
Almost 55, I'll soon be only one short of David in both digits of our ages, and close enough that his words resonate with me: "Think of death as a horizon that travels with us, until one day we reach it, and it becomes us. We vanish in an eye-blink, leaving behind only a little vacancy, like the wake of a ship."
I hesitate to comment on personal thoughts, but I've seen over the years that David makes his thoughts public with the goal of provoking comment. So here goes: With all the similarities in our family backgrounds and political movement, there is a difference between us: David thinks the ship is lost at sea. Through God's kindness, I don't.
As poetic evidence of lostness, he quotes the teaching in Psalms "that all flesh is grass and that each of us is like a flower in the field that flourishes and dies: 'The wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.'"
Yet David doesn't quote the next verse of Psalm 103: "But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him." That makes all the difference. Love drives out lostness.
Upon his medical delivery, David writes, "I could not easily dismiss this idea of a grace unseen. . . . I had been felled by a cancer and was still around to talk about it. But . . . the biblical point was that the Creator gave us free will to determine our fates. Why would He intervene to change mine?"
Hmm. Maybe that's a discussion point concerning smoking and lung cancer, but does our own free will give us prostate cancer? Doctors say that's a time bomb ticking in every man. For that matter, does our free will give us oxygen to breathe and a planet to live on? If our very lives are dependent on God, why should not the times of our deaths be also?
David questions what heaven could be like: "Do we really want eternity to think about what we have done and how we have failed? Or does God make it all up to us when we are dead, so that we are forgiven, and forgive others, and forget?"
The next-to-last chapter of Revelation answers that God 'will wipe every every tear.' But the news is even more immediate: How often do some things that happened several years ago, and provoked bitterness at the time, seem unimportant when we meet our former adversaries again? How much more so would that be in heaven?
David writes, "Our feeling that we have a place in the world is a . . . pretense that makes an otherwise unendurable existence bearable and at times even happy." He's right to think that we are not at home, but even his concern about theodicy, the problem of evil, does not make it unreasonable to think that we are here for a reason. (That topic requires more discussion at another time.)
Near the end of the book David reports a conversation with his wife, who believes in God and tells David he's arrogant. He agrees: "I had no answer. I was arrogant. If there was a God, how could I, in my mere mortality, know His plan?" He tells her, "I'll think about it," and she replies, "I don't want you to think. I want you to open your heart."
That's wise advice. But at some point, if David's heart is open, he will need to think about it again. That's when someone will need to say to him, "Go ahead and think. Belief in God makes sense."