Erick Erickson, a journalist and media personality known for his strident defense of conservative politics, says a period of suffering in his life led to deep reflections on faith, family and the lack of civility in current political discussions. Those meditations resulted in a book framed as a letter to his children that includes stories from his childhood, thoughts about how to endure suffering and his family’s favorite recipes.
Erickson sat down for an interview with the Biblical Recorder at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s (ERLC) 2018 National Conference in Dallas, Texas, where he participated as a speaker and panelist. He is editor of The Resurgent and radio show host for WSB Radio in Atlanta. He is also a Fox News contributor and doctoral student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.
What follows is a lightly edited transcript.
Q: You published a book last year, titled “Before You Wake: Life Lessons from a Father to His Children.” Will you tell us a little about the book and why you decided to write it?
A: In 2016, I very nearly died. I had an influx of multiple blood clots in my lungs, to the point that while I was lying in intensive care, the doctor saw the scans and asked if they had taken the body to the morgue. That day my wife was diagnosed with a genetic form of lung cancer.
Not long after, I told my wife, “You know, I don’t think I’m going to make it.” She burst into tears and said that she had made a deal with God, and if He was going to take one of us, it would be her. I couldn’t sleep that night, so I got up and wrote a letter to my kids.
I wound up putting the letter on my website and was later asked to turn it into a book. It is as much a confession as it is a biography and a way to leave my kids their favorite recipes.
Q: Many people say they don’t care for politics and wish they watched less cable news. But it’s your job to be engaged in constantly changing political conversations every day. How do you balance that with other parts of life, like being a husband and father?
A: Hobbies. You know, I used to be a 24/7 political animal. Nearly dying makes you appreciate living a little more.
I took up cooking more passionately than I had before. My wife bought me a camera and told me we were going to get fat if I kept cooking. So, now I take pictures of the food that I cook. I also bought a kayak, so I can go out in the middle of the lake where no cell phones can reach me. I like to sit and enjoy nature.
When I started writing about my family’s health struggles, a number of people reached out and said, “I read about this and I want to reconnect. I had completely stopped paying attention to you or politics.” That was an encouragement for me to write about other stuff.
Q: Anyone who follows you on social media knows you like to cook. Is that something you’ve enjoyed your whole life, or a hobby you developed?
A: People think I’m joking when I say this, but when I was five years old, I was such a picky eater that my mom got fed up and told me to cook. She would help me, but I had to cook for myself – if nothing else, to appreciate the amount of work that she put into cooking.
I love it. It’s a great distraction, and I have found over the years that fewer and fewer people are willing to cook or have the time to cook. So, by being willing to cook and invite people to eat, you can find new connections with people. Even people you disagree with politically, you can find common ground around a bowl of gumbo.
Q: At some point in the last few years, American politics seemed to transition from rough-and-tumble to an all-out brawl. How do you think Christians, especially those who work in politics or media, can speak into our culture in ways that bring hope and healing?
A: One of the big conversations in politics right now is that we don’t have to be civil, and there are Republicans and Democrats saying it. Civility in politics is not a tactic or strategy, it’s a sign of character. I think Christians in politics need to be willing to be civil when other people aren’t.
There’s an idea percolating in secular culture that you can’t win if you’re nice. I don’t think that’s true, and I don’t think Christians can surrender to that temptation. We’re supposed to reflect something more eternal than short-term politics.
Click here to watch Erickson’s keynote address at the 2018 ERLC National Conference, titled “The Suffering Family and the Goodness of God.”