DiscoverThe Ezra Klein ShowFrom politician to priest
From politician to priest

From politician to priest

Update: 2020-05-287


I first met Cyrus Habib at a conference a few years ago. You don't forget him. He's a Rhodes scholar. Iranian-America. As lieutenant governor of Washington state, he was the youngest Democrat elected to statewide office in the country. And he's blind.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I read a piece in the New York Times that I didn't expect: Habib, who had a clear shot to be the next governor of Washington, is leaving politics to become a Jesuit. He is going to take a vow of obedience, of poverty, of chastity. He is going to give up his phone for years. And most fascinating of all, he doesn’t think of it as an act of sacrifice. “I don’t see it as a shrinking of my world,” he told the Times. "I see it as a shrinking of my self.”

That is not something you read every day. So I asked Habib if he would come on the podcast and talk to me about this decision. The result is a remarkable conversation about Habib’s intertwining faith and political journeys, what you can and can’t achieve through political service, whether religion is the modern counterculture, how the forces of meritocracy and achievement ensnare even their winners, what it means to lead a life of joy, whether freedom comes through choice or constraint, the Jesuit theory of social change, whether a decision like this is selfish or selfless, and so much more.

This conversation takes a bit of a winding path. But where it goes is really, really worth it.

Book recommendations:

The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything by James Martin

Tattoos on the Heart by Greg Boyle

Far from the Tree by Andrew Solomon

Laudato Si' by Pope Francis

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From politician to priest

From politician to priest