Mike was a walking library of political hope. In my early years of working in conservative policy circles, most of them peppered by some religious spice, I often found myself confused by theo-political unions that seemed more cynical than fruitful. I’d come to Christian faith in the context of an aggressively secular New England prep school, followed by a Wheaton education that began from theology, not ideology. To me, notions of the religious right and religious left seemed cheap at best, damaging at worst. Mike would see my consternation before the awkwardness of melding the City of God with the City of Man, hand me a stack of books to read, and every day afterward check up on my progress. We discussed Mark Noll and Nathan Hatch’s The Search for Christian America, Peter Berger’s The Sacred Canopy, Michael Novak’s The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, essays by Walter Russell Mead, Josef Joffe, Os Guinness, Francis Fukuyama, and Jacques Ellul. “You’re basically getting paid to get a graduate school education,” Mike would say. “Take advantage of it.”
His reading lists granted oxygen to a soul starved to understand her place as a Christian in political waters. But Mike also introduced me to the living map of Washington. His facility with DC’s social and institutional architecture continues to guide my own approach to understanding and interacting with new cities. He introduced me, too, to the craft of journalism and research, and to the art of connecting people to ideas and to one another. Mike’s tastes were unusual, in that they combined broad curiosity with confident judgment. He had a special radar for people of integrated excellence—mind and soul—and his speed dial included scholars of sociology, religion, physics, and history, statisticians employed by Gallup and Pew, an array of college presidents, and newspaper columnists from across the ideological spectrum….
Mike leveraged this impressive social and intellectual capital to create something that became the iconic culmination of who he was: the Faith Angle Forum. Founded in 1999, the Forum is a twice-annual, two-day breather for journalists to go deep with select scholars on the undercurrents of the day: terrorism and religious extremism, scientific empiricism and spiritual mystery, race and religion, technology, same-sex marriage, voting patterns among the faithful, social inequality. The goal is to grant a reprieve from the tyranny of the 24/7 news cycle and, in a coastal Florida setting, subvert stereotypes and fortify the reporting and commentary on religious believers, religious convictions, and the ways in which religiously grounded moral arguments affect American politics and public life.
Talk to any journalist who’s attended the Faith Angle Forum, and you’ll hear words like “irreplaceable,” “provoking,” “enlightening” and “a game-changer.” It’s served as the gateway for countless reporters from the likes of PBS, NPR, Time Magazine, Newsweek, The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, and RealClearPolitics to encounter the deeper currents underlying the news, peeling them apart in an intellectually rigorous, dialogue-driven circle….
Read it all.