Last month at the National Book Festival, former First Lady Laura Bush revealed that her husband is currently reading Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. Thanks to word of mouth, heavy hitters eager to learn about the great Dietrich Bonhoeffer are reading Metaxas’s biography on the Lutheran pastor who gave up a comfortable, safe life to fight Nazism during World War II. He ultimately gave his life for the cause and was hung at Flossenburg Concentration Camp for conspiring to assassinate Hitler.
Metaxas has had a decidedly eclectic career. He has written for VeggieTales, several children’s books, and the Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God series. His books were first recommended to me by Ann Coulter, who calls him a “great Christian warrior.” I finally had the pleasure of hearing him speak at David Horowitz Freedom Center’s Restoration Weekend last year. He was interesting and witty, which isn’t easy when many attendees were just thinking about pool time (or maybe it was just me). A speaker on his panel remarked, “I didn’t know we were doing stand-up.”
His books are just as engaging. The Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God series is conversational and timeless. For instance, it contains jokes about the Jersey Shore despite being written four years before the show premiered. It’s also a primer for those interested in learning more about theology or those who have become complacent in their own faith.
As Coulter said, Metaxas is a warrior and his mission is making Christian theology more accessible to the masses. His mission is not about a particular religion, but about expanding humans’ relationship with God.
1. If there were a television channel that only showed one movie over and over, what movie should it be?
METAXAS: Alfie—the 1966 version starring Michael Caine and Shelly Winters. If that were showing constantly, abortion in America would become a rare thing indeed.
2. What’s one of your favorite movie quotes?
METAXAS: In Godfather II, when Hyman Roth is getting a slice of his own birthday cake, he says: “A smaller piece.” It’s obviously a call for fiscal restraint and limited government. Then there’s that scene in the fantastic cult classic Withnail and I (1986), the rotund ex-thespian Uncle Monty blows up at his cat: “You oaf! Once again, you’ve ruined my day!” It’s a bit like blaming Bush for the current economy.
3. In A Clockwork Orange, Malcolm McDowell is strapped in with his eyes propped open and forced to watch images until he was “cured.” If you could give President Obama, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Leader Harry Reid the “Clockwork Orange treatment,” what movie would you make them watch?
METAXAS: I think Mr. Smith Goes to Washington could work wonders.
4. What pop culture souvenir do you own that people would be surprised to learn that you cherish?
METAXAS: I have a letter than Woody Allen wrote to me, in which he calls my humor writing “quite funny.” But I also have a Spiro Agnew trash basket. Don’t make me choose.
5. What’s your current “guilty pleasure” non-news television show?
METAXAS:”The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.”
6. What do you remember most about going to the movies as a kid? How has that experience changed for the better or worse for your kids?
METAXAS: I didn’t go to the movies much as a kid, but when I was seven my grandmother took me to Radio City Music Hall to see Albert Finney in Scrooge. I still watch that movie every year and now my daughter loves it, too, and watches it with her friends all year long and sings the songs. When I was nine, my father took my brother and me to a drive-in to see The Godfather. I have no idea why he thought that would be appropriate, but still—to see a movie at a huge ornate theater like Radio City or on the vast screen of a drive-in is obviously not possible today. It’s a great pity, but the chopped-up multiplexes have killed that joy. Speaking of killing joy, when I was four or five my mother took me to see The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t. In retrospect, I see it as a brilliant and prophetic commentary on the current administration’s economic policies.
7. What was the first concert you ever attended and where did you sit and who went with you?
METAXAS: I saw the Stones at JFK Stadium in Philly in 1981. I went with two college friends and we sat close enough to see something, but not close enough to get sprayed by the fire hose Mick was wielding in his cherry picker. He was 38, which seemed hopelessly old to me at the time. I remember wishing I’d been able to see him in his prime. Shocking to think that was 30 years ago.
8. What is the last great book you read?
METAXAS: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. It’s terrific! What? Oh, I thought you said wrote. The last great book I read was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne. I love the classics. The last great new book I’ve read is The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith by Peter Hitchens, the brother of Christopher Hitchens. Spectacular.
9. If Republicans and Democrats had theme songs for 2010 what would they be?
METAXAS: For the Republicans, I’d choose the Wings hit, “With a Little Luck.” And for the Democrats, I’d choose another song from the same album: “Band on the Run.” Or perhaps even Elton’s John’s poignant “Candle in the Wind.” No, wait! “Waterloo” by Abba.
10. What’s the coolest thing you’ve been able to do because of your role in the political arena?
METAXAS: I got to speak at CPAC last year, on a panel with Phyllis Schlafly. In my speech I rather provocatively declared that “Jesus is Lord,” and was shocked at the response. I expected stunned silence. Instead, many of the young people cheered. Anyone who misunderestimates the importance of serious evangelicals and Catholics in the conservative movement will be making a big mistake.
11. What one thing would you do as President “just because you could”?
METAXAS: Get a $400 haircut on the runway and then blame the vast Right Wing conspiracy for drawing attention to it.
12. Tell me about the moment you decided to enter the political arena.
METAXAS: I was 16 and not yet conservative. I was somehow able to attend the 1980 Democratic convention in New York City. It was pretty lively. You’ll remember that Jimmy Carter had been challenged by Ted Kennedy, but had privately declared “I’ll whup his ass.” Two days earlier Ted Kennedy had given his famous speech. I was there on the last day of the convention and Carter spoke and at the end Kennedy appeared on the podium with him. I was struck at how small Carter was and how big Kennedy was. On TV everyone seems the same size. But being there in the same room as these figures really affected me. On the train ride back to Connecticut a friend asked me if I’d been bitten by the political bug and I had to say that I had. My liberal phase lasted until 1988, when I voted for Jessie Jackson in the Democratic primary (sic), and for Dukakis in the general election (very sic), but almost immediately thereafter I had a dramatic Christian conversion (see #10 above) and made a hard right turn and kept a-goin’. And here we are.