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The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice (1995)

by Christopher Hitchens

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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8423020,009 (3.85)39
Recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, feted by politicians, the Church and the world's media, Mother Teresa of Calcutta appears to be on the fast track to sainthood. But what, asks Christopher Hitchens, makes Mother Teresa so divine? In a frank expose of the Teresa cult, Hitchens details the nature and limits of one woman's mission to the world's poor. He probes the source of the heroic status bestowed upon an Albanian nun whose only declared wish is to serve God. He asks whether Mother Teresa's good works answer any higher purpose than the need of the world's privileged to see someone, somewhere, doing something for the Third World. He unmasks pseudo-miracles, questions Mother Teresa's fitness to adjudicate on matters of sex and reproduction, and reports on a version of saintly ubiquity which affords genial relations with dictators, corrupt tycoons and convicted frauds.… (more)
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» See also 39 mentions

English (27)  German (1)  Portuguese (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (30)
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
I've heard of Christopher Hitchens for years, but this is the first time I've read anything by him. In this book, he takes on the iconic Mother Teresa and exposes the duplicity in her messages. His claims are well documented and supported by people who have worked with Mother Teresa.

If it is true that her missions provide inadequate care for the dying while she has accumulated millions in donations, that is, in my mind, a criminal act. If she, and her church, were really concerned about the poor, they would not advocate so strongly against contraception.

Where I disagree with Mr. Hitchens is when he talks about forgiveness...and whether Mother Teresa has a right to forgive -- among others -- him. I think we all have the right to forgive what we perceive to be wrongs against ourselves and those we love. Forgiveness, to me, is a personal thing.

This book opened my eyes to two facts. First, the saying that religion is the opiate of the masses. I realized more fully that most of the powerful elite -- not just the leaders of various religions -- want the poor to be faithful. This helps maintain the power inequality in our western societies. China seems to have a different perspective, seeing religion as a rival to the state. So, the book broadened my thinking about who benefits from religion

Secondly, the book can be read as a testament to the lack of investigative journalism. Mother Teresa is good, so no major news media seems to have looked into the story of her financing or life. ( )
  LynnB | Jan 30, 2021 |
It's always a joy to read Hitchens. This essay is not too controversial by today's standards but I guess it will still have the capacity to offend some. Sadly, those people are unlikely to ever read it. ( )
  nick4998 | Oct 31, 2020 |
When you read a book and you can hear the author's voice clearly in your mind... I miss Hitch. Short, interesting read. ( )
  authenticjoy | Mar 29, 2019 |
We should always be careful who we place on a pedestal, and we should always keep our eyes open when we do. Mother Teresa is the best example of this - she is regarded as a saint by so many, and yet - why? In this longform essay, Christopher Hitchens sets himself the task of demolishing the mythology of the Albanian nun, and so proves himself the ultimate iconoclast along the way. A quick read - but then everything Hitchens wrote is a quick read, it's so good. ( )
  soylentgreen23 | Feb 19, 2019 |
Perhaps a little short - as others have said, it would have been good to see Hitchens take twice as many pages to eviscerate Mother Theresa. Nevertheless, Hitchens is always a great read and he covers the topic reasonably completely. ( )
  adam.currey | Sep 24, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Christopher Hitchensprimary authorall editionscalculated
Mallon, ThomasForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prebble, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Edwin and Gertrude Blue; saintly but secular.
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Who would be so base as to pick on a wizened, shrivelled old lady, well stricken in years, who has consecrated her entire life to the needy and the destitute?
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, feted by politicians, the Church and the world's media, Mother Teresa of Calcutta appears to be on the fast track to sainthood. But what, asks Christopher Hitchens, makes Mother Teresa so divine? In a frank expose of the Teresa cult, Hitchens details the nature and limits of one woman's mission to the world's poor. He probes the source of the heroic status bestowed upon an Albanian nun whose only declared wish is to serve God. He asks whether Mother Teresa's good works answer any higher purpose than the need of the world's privileged to see someone, somewhere, doing something for the Third World. He unmasks pseudo-miracles, questions Mother Teresa's fitness to adjudicate on matters of sex and reproduction, and reports on a version of saintly ubiquity which affords genial relations with dictators, corrupt tycoons and convicted frauds.

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