Between Christ & Machiavelli

| July 9, 2016 | 0 Comments


George Mitrovich

No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.

– Samuel Johnson

One hundred and twenty-seven months ago I wrote my first column for the Sentinel. Not a single farthing has passed from publisher’s coffers to mine.

So, “blockhead” fits.

The exact number of words I’ve written is somewhere over 190,000; which, if published in book form, would result in a sizable volume of 775-pages (read any 775-page books lately?).

I’ve written about politics and society, foreign affairs and religion, media and sports; columns written from the perspective of a Kennedy/Dukakis Democrat, yet Orthodox Christian. (I note “Orthodox Christian” because too many conservatives believe it’s impossible to be both Christian and Democrat – especially a liberal Democrat. Wrong.)

Every month the Sentinel publishes my email address inviting readers to respond, but few do. That would be discouraging, save for those I meet along the way who tell me they read my column. Thus encouraged, I continue in my blockhead way.

At July’s end I will turn 81. Other than a number, it has no meaning to me. I continue as president of The City Club of San Diego and The Denver Forum, as well as chairing for the Boston Red Sox The Great Fenway Park Writers Series (as well as the Red Sox sponsored Great Washington Writers Series). I still play baseball (Marston Mets of the San Diego Adult Baseball League), mow my own lawn, and worship Sundays at San Diego’s First United Methodist Church (where, October 16, I will be the guest preacher; my sermon title, taken from Bruce Springsteen, “My City of Ruins”).

Recently, I have been saying (in Denver, Boston, and Washington, DC),  that if you take the four public forums I run and add up the total number of programs I’ve presented in the public interest over 86-collective years, you come to 1,876. But, memory being what memory is, I forgot The City Club of Los Angeles, which I started and ran for five years, or The Indiana Forum (for the law firm of Baker & Daniels), the total becomes 1,917. If you then add the private luncheons and dinners I’ve held, which precede many of the public events, the number becomes 2,777. (Is that a precise number? No, but you’re invited to challenge it.)

Beyond numbers and blockhead status, I do what I do because I have a need to do this; a need to be read or heard – or something. And, if I didn’t feel what I have to say matters, or enjoy doing it (most of the time), I wouldn’t, because, here’ the deal – I am not stupid.

If you ask how I came to run public forums? I am, ultimately, unable to answer. While I have met individuals who knew early on what they wanted to do with their livers, I am not one of those. I marvel at them, seriously, marvel, but I know that isn’t me.

The theme of the four public forums is the same – The Dialogue of Democracy. The theme embodies our purpose, to get people to think seriously about serious public issues. If you doubt that, then I suggest you scroll down the list of speakers who have graced the platform of The City Club alone ( You will doubt no more.

As to my writings, here in the Sentinel, or the 75 I’ve written for the Huffington Post, or God knows how many op-eds for American and Canadian newspapers, and a magazine or two along the way, I do not have the same certainty as to their significance compared to the public forums, whose importance I doubt not.

If I were more disciplined or ordered in my life I would have kept track of everything I’ve written – because you can do that, add up all your word – I think the number would exceed 500,000 words (which is a seat of pants calculation, because the number may actually be double that).

But, if you go with the plus 500,000, you have a 2,000-page book (which would be lovely, he said, in a three volume boxed edition).

Now, given the mercurial nature of my mind, I need to justify the title atop this column, “Christ & Machiavelli”:

As a confessing Christian of long standing (66-years) and a serious student of my faith; as someone who was at various times active in Youth for Christ, Campus Crusade for Christ, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, Navigators, etc., you should assume my knowledge is considerable – because it is. (I’ve added up the number of times I’ve been to church in my life and that number is greater than 10,000.)

Two churches, the Church of the Nazarene and the United Methodist Church, have been formative in my thinking and values. The debt owed both is incalculable.

It was my intent to become a preacher, and in that pursuit I entered the Methodist seminary at Clairemont, but with a wife and three children to support and limited resources, I was forced to drop out and consider other options (but I do preach, and have from some of America’s most distinguished pulpits, such as the National Cathedral in Washington, DC).

Journalism came first, the San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times (in sales), then as a reporter for the Whittier Daily News and as an occasional religion reporter for KABC-TV in LA, but then politics and government entered my life, as I was hired to serve as the administrative assistant to then California Lt. Governor, Glenn Anderson (in the last year of Governor Pat Brown’s eight years as the state’s chief executive – its greatest governor, ever).

That seminal experience led me to work as a press aide to Bobby Kennedy in the presidential campaign of ’68, and then to Capitol Hill in Washington for five years, where I served four members of Congress, two Democrats and two Republicans, Senator Harold Hughes of Iowa and Congressman Lester Wolff of New York; Senator Charles Goodell and Congressman Seymour Halpern, also of New York.

Hence the title, “Christ & Machiavelli,” two greatly different figures of history, but both of whom shared profound insights into the character of men and women, even while offering separate ways forward. And both of whom, ridiculed and scorned over the ages, remain large in our thinking, no matter how greatly different their realms and our times.

I will end this July musings, by leaving you with a quote from the late, and very great, William Stringfellow, a brilliant Harvard educated lawyer who had entreaties from most of New York’s largest law firms, but chose to open a store front in Harlem, intent upon serving the poor – which he did.

He too was a confessing Christian; an Episcopalian by choice, who also lectured and wrote books, and had a great following, influencing many across our land; of whom, it pleases me to say, I am one.

The quote that follows is from Mr. Stringfellow’s book, “Dissenter in a Great Society: A Christian View of America in Crisis.”

“In this world there is no such thing as neutrality about any public issue. To be sure, some societies permit greater freedom of involvement in public dialogue to their citizens and their institutions than do others, but in no society, least of all one which professes to be a political democracy, is abstinence from public controversy an alternative, or neutrality in public affairs an option.  Every citizen and every institution in involved in one way or another, either by intention or by default.”

Come November, we will vote for a new president. Do not be neutral!

George Mitrovich is a San Diego civic leader. He may be reached at,



Tags: , , , , ,

Category: Featured Articles, National News

About the Author ()

"Mine Eyes Have Seen"