Fifty years ago I had a conversion experience. It was the summer of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. John F. Kennedy was president. I found my political inclinations moving left.
The move was partly an aesthetic matter at first. Kennedy was personally attractive and a decorated war hero, and he had a beautiful wife and children. But his book Profiles in Courage, about American politicians who had voted their conscience against prevailing public opinion and paid the price, also captivated my imagination. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship and his own personal martyrdom had shown the radical social and political implications of following Jesus. Kennedy’s book seemed a secular illustration of Bonhoeffer’s point.