The story of how I came to occupy the intellectual space that I do is–to be honest–bizarre.
Of course, the story of how Joseph came to be the viceroy of Egypt is bizarre, too. It begins with a spoiled teenager who’s sold into slavery, which leads to hard work, prison, female-on-male sexual aggression, familial conflict, strange prophetic dreams, palace intrigue, and a developing ethical commitment to sound economics and governance for the common good (c.f., Genesis 37-45).
I’m not saying that my story is as interesting or important as Joseph’s. I am saying that there is biblical precedent for God using a strange sequence of unexpected, even traumatic, events to get people into the places where they can fully appreciate their identity and skills while serving a greater purpose. And, it just so happens that my story invovles many of the same or similar elements, even if in a metaphorical sense.
Like Joseph, I was spoiled but didn’t realize it. Instead, I had convinced myself that I deserved all of the things I’d been given in life–that somehow I was entitled to the many blessings I had received. My “coat of many colors” was existential and psychological and consisted in large part of my own ego. That ego caused me to neglect many of the most important blessings in my life. Most important of all was my family. Rather than seeing my family as a network of relationships that needs to be maintained, I treated them like just one more golden thread in my own psychic robe of entitlement.
The consequnce of my behavior was that my marriage had reached a point where it wasn’t clear that it could or should last. Although I claimed to be a Christian, I was not living my life–particularly as it related to my family–in a way that was consistent with what I claimed to believe. Suffice it to say, and skipping over a lot of personal drama, my marriage was critically damaged. In the Spring of 2012, my wife and I separated. The pain, anxiety, and distress I felt during this period was the worse I’d ever experienced. Consequently, I believed at the time that it was the worst experience of my life. But, as it turned out, it was one of the best.
One way to wake up a spoiled or entitled child is with a dose of reality. You take away all of the toys and gifts and luxuries that they’re used to. Doing this demonstrates in a tangible way that they are not entitled to these things–that much of what they have and have come to expect is a product of someone else’s grace, love, or indulgence. This is basically how I think of that period of my life–the separation from my wife, living alone, without all the things I had, up to that point, felt I deserved–it was God taking things away so that I could recognize his love, grace, and indulgence.
Instead, I rebelled.
Like Joseph, I had been sold into slavery. Except, it wasn’t my family that had sold me into slavery. It was me. I had sold my own heart, mind, and soul to the slavery of entitlement thinking that I had learned from the world, from the culture around me. The result was that my enslavers–myself and the culture–had carried me into a foreign territory where I would be imprisoned and alone. That foreign territory would itself offer me its own solutions. Like Joseph, I would be tempted to adulterate myself. Unlike Joseph, I capitulated. Not in a literal sense, but in a spiritual sense.
My rebellion was to look for answers and comfort outside the church, away from God. In the Old Testament, the prophets consistently use adultery, prostitution, and fornication as metaphors for apostasy and for chasing after false gods and religious systems. It was in this way that I adulterated myself.
I’ve always been a voracious reader and consistent writer. Alone, with what seemed to me to be no clear answers to my predicament, I embarked on a serious search for answers. I read religion–Buddhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Gnosticism, Islam. I read philosophy–Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, and everything in between and since. I read literature and mythology. And, I read about conspiracy theories and the paranormal.
My pathway to the conspiracy and paranormal literature–and how it led to my current intellectual pursuits–is where things start to get bizarre.
Labor Day weekend, 2012, I attended the Exeter UFO Festival in Exeter, NH. I went on a whim, with some encouragement from a writing friend, on the pretext that it would give me something to write about. In a way, it gave me something that I am still writing about. I went expecting to see, hear, and meet a bunch of tinfoil-hat types. And there were a few of those. But I also heard three presentations that stuck with me.
One was by a tenured professor in a public university who had done work with Steven Greer. His presentation was on the ways that UFOs and contactee experiences manifest themselves in spiritual ways. Another was about black-budget programs by the U.S. military that sought ways to harness psychic powers for purposes of espionage. The final presentation was about the extensive history of UFO-related events with and around American and international military operations.
Combined, these three presentations brought together important, related assertions:
- UFO and paranormal phenomena are real
- These phenomena manifest themselves as spiritual events or experiences
- The government knows both of these things and tries to exploit them, particularly the spiritual element, for its own purposes.
I’ve always been libertarian-leaning in political orientation, so these propositions caught my interest because of my own natural suspicion of governments. I immediately began a thread of research and writing that lasted for almost two years (my first stop after the festival was the esoteric section at the local Barnes & Noble). Although I had started moving away from religion and spirituality–having declared myself an agnostic leaning towards atheism–a UFO festival in rural New Hampshire had reintroduced me to the reality of the supernatural and its impacts on everyday life. Somewhere in the middle of that two years of research, I discovered a whole niche within fringe Christian communities that looked into these same issues. After all my rebelliousness and attempts to distance myself from Christianity, God used UFOs, psychic powers, and government secrecy to bring me back into contact with the Bible. But I still wasn’t fully ready to accept it and surrender.
Throughout all this, I was still looking for answers to my emotional and familial problems. I’m sure some of it was a process that took weeks, or months, but in my memory it’s like a lightning bolt. I remember thinking to myself, writing in my journal, and contemplating how evil the whole thing was–families breaking down, children and parents hurting–when it hit me: “How do you know it’s evil?” popped into my head.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, I had stumbled upon a basic form of the moral argument for God’s existence. This brought me to the doorstep of religious philosophy and Christian apologetics, a new research thread through which I read and contemplated my way back to Christianity. It’s also a research thread that fuels my life as a scholar.
I’ll skip over a lot more and just tell you: I’m still married to my wife. Our children are healthy teenagers, and we’re all active in our church and local Christian school.
Since all of that happened, I decided to go back to school, for several reasons. Initially, “going back to school” meant seminary, and in 2019 I completed a master’s degree in Christian apologetics. I did well and knew almost immediately that I wanted to continue on and earn a doctorate. Originally, I’d planned to do something in the area of theology and applied to a Ph.D. program in biblical studies. But as I got deep into the great thinkers–both Christian and non-Christian–I was struck by how closely one’s theological and metaphysical views were related to one’s political views. Most of the great theologians were also political theorists, and many of the great political theorists were also theologians. I’ve always been a law and government nerd (my undergraduate degree is in this area), so I withdrew my initial Ph.D. application and applied to a public policy doctoral program.
That is the basic story of how I got here. I apply my theological training in my study of public policy to explore the ways that religious thinking is linked to political thinking.
And don’t worry. I’m still into UFOs, aliens, and such. And believe it or not, that too is linked to the question of religion and politics.
What all of that means will, I hope, become clearer as I develop the material for this website.
Thanks for reading. I hope you’ll continue with me on this journey.