Hendrick Hertzberg, political editor at the New Yorker, stirred souls and provoked questions, including ones about hell, faith, and abortion during a four-hour session with students Tuesday night.
Hertzberg, an outspoken atheist, opened the night with a succession of questions, beginning with “Do you believe there’s a God?” and building up to “Do you think someone who doesn’t believe Christianity will go to hell?” The room in Sanderson Hall grew tense as he asked for a show of hands after each question.
During the question-and-answer session, Senior Hoi Yuk Pang said, “You hear our arguments, and you have all your arguments against them, so why did you come here? It seems like you’re searching for the truth.”
Hertzberg agreed he was searching for truth, saying he felt drawn to the “vibrations” from Christians, Buddhists, and other theists.
Another students asked him how he could be pro-choice. Hertzberg replied that he wished evangelicals would be as protective of the lives of the born as they are of the unborn.
After a student quoted from the book of Romans, Hertzberg said he believed the Apostle Paul was a “closet queen.”
President Niel Nielson asked Hertzberg what evidence he would need to become a Christian. Pausing a moment, Hertzberg answered he didn’t know, but added it would have to be something miraculous. He also said he would be more inclined to believe if Christians acted differently than the rest of the world.
Hertzberg, dressed in black jeans, a black sweater, and boots he got while covering the 1988 campaign of George H.W. Bush in El Paso, fielded tough questions from students graciously. The session lasted until close to midnight, as a thunderstorm raged outside.
Chief speechwriter for former President Jimmy Carter, Hertzberg spent the first 45 minutes discussing the 2008 presidential election. He remarked that President-elect Barack Obama was the first man since Bobby Kennedy to ignite the electorate to such a degree of excitement.
Hertzberg visited campus Tuesday and Wednesday, appearing in one of Paul Morton’s history classes and having lunch with students Wednesday. He was invited on campus by Junior James Harrison, who met the man last May at the World Journalism Institute, a Christian journalism course in New York.