By: R.J. Moeller
It has been nearly three years since I sent my first electronic mail (some say "e-mail") to my second favorite Jew of all time. As an evangelical Christian, my respect and admiration (some say "obsession") with syndicated columnist and radio talk show host Dennis Prager may have appeared to most observers as strange and out-of-place. Since my introduction to Mr. Prager in 2005 - I was sitting on a roof in Marion, IN painting shutters to help pay my college bills and happened to have a small radio tuned to a talk radio station hanging from a nearby ladder - I have never thought twice about the theological, geographical, and generational differences between us.
For me, Dennis Prager has always represented two things: truth and clarity. He is, and remains, a man of ideas.
Ideas and their study, cultivation, and dissemination are what get me out of the bed most mornings. They mean everything to me, and it takes only a few minutes of listening to The Dennis Prager Show to know Dennis feels the same way.
That first email I sent in the fall of 2008 was probably four or five paragraphs long, and contained what I felt was the clearest articulation of why it was I so appreciate this man and his show. I've always been an auditory learner. I've always connected intellectually with what I hear over the radio (and now podcast) in a way that television and movies and teachers standing in front of chalkboards never could match.
I told Dennis in that email that he was my favorite voice of reason on my favorite medium of communication. I told him that when he spoke, I heard the wisdom of the ages cascading forth from my ear-phones or car stereo. I told him that his unapologetic defense of Judeo-Christian values and free market economics on the air and in his weekly columns had inspired me to start writing during and since college. I told him that I had begun turning dozens of friends, family members, and total strangers on to his work. I told him I believed in what he was doing and hoped one day to meet and work alongside him in the cultural battle that is unmistakably being waged in family rooms, schoolrooms, and board rooms across the country.
Okay, so the e-mail was a little over-the-top. I figured the guy would probably never read it, and truth be told, I wrote my thoughts out more for myself than anything else. These were my true feelings, ones I truly wanted to express, but it's a little awkward to recite such a laudatory soliloquy of sorts (intended for a 60 year-old Jewish man from Los Angeles) out-loud to your buddies over some buffalo wings at a sports bar watching the Cubs get spanked by the only team with a worse record than their own.
Writing it out made the most sense. Once I had written my thoughts out, it made even more sense to actually send them along to the man who inspired them.
To my surprise, not more than a few days later, I had a response in my inbox from both Dennis Prager and one of his employees. I still have both correspondences saved. The first, from Dennis himself, simply said:
"Dear R.J.- Thank you for your kind words. They meant a lot to me. Keep writing and always feel free to use anything I've said or written in your own work.
The second e-mail, from his assistant, was e-ven better.
I saw your note to Dennis and told him about it. He had me read it out-loud to him and was very moved by it. You made his day."
I made his day? By this point I had a pretty good case to make that if anyone's day had been made, it was mine. What a thrill! This man who I had entrusted so much of my intellectual training to for the previous three years, this man who had turned me on to some of the best thinkers and authors of our time, had been moved by my humble attempt to thank him for his efforts and applaud him for his courage to do what he does with grace, patience and dignity. Those two emails gave me the emotional coal I needed to burn the fire inside my creative engines for at least a year.
You see, I'm the kind of person who thrives on being reminded every so often that I am on the right path. A nice note, a kind word or a knowing nod from someone I love and/or respect goes such a long way with me. Perhaps it is because deep down I have a sensitive ego, and I desperately crave hearing positive affirmation. I know at least part of it has to do with the fact that I am terrified of wasting the time God has given me on this earth. I need to know I'm heading in the right direction.
When you put as much time into your own intellectual development and writing skills as I have since graduating Taylor University in 2005 - sometimes neglecting my Greek homework from graduate school to read Paul Johnson's Modern Times because Dennis had recommended it on his radio program that day as one of the books that most shaped his thinking as an adult - you can't help but worry that all those hours spent reading alone in a dimly-lit basement in Arlington Heights, IL, long after everyone else is asleep, might not be worth it. That you may in fact have wasted your money, your time, your family's time, and your friends' patience. You begin to worry that God's will for your life may not involve Mark Steyn columns and G.K. Chesterton essays and Michael Medved tapes chronicling of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
I may have worried about such things, perhaps even lost some sleep over them, but if I'm being totally honest, deep down, even back in 2008, I knew it wasn't true. I knew God had plans for my life that would require me to be a student of everything from popular culture to history to economics and, of course, theology. And I somehow knew that Dennis Prager would one day play a role in taking my passions for these things and turning them into legitimate work that could pay my bills.
And when you think about it, isn't that the "American dream"? Not all the "Keepin' up with the Jones'" and "Greed is good" garbage Hollywood condescendingly masquerades as being what hard-working Americans "really want", but I mean being able to have the chance to get paid to do what you love? People in probably 90% of the world never get that opportunity, but that is the dream.
Well, that whole "one day" Dennis will help me find my calling thing has now turned into "this day".
During the past few years, and since that initial email, I had stayed in touch with Dennis and had even been invited to visit him at his studios in California a handful of times. But honestly, I had no idea what would come of the friendly, but casual, relationship I had developed with Prager over that time period.
This past Monday, August 15th, while on my trip to Los Angeles to meet and interview the likes of Andrew Breitbart, Rob Long, Adam Carolla, and Walter E. Williams, I was privileged enough to once more sit in on the live broadcast of The Dennis Prager Show from Glendale, CA. After the show had wrapped, I chatted with Dennis about ways to get his message out more effectively to people under the age of 30. At one point, he smiled, looked me right in the eyes, and said, "R.J., you are a man of ideas and I want you on my team."
It had come full circle. Dennis Prager, the man who, apart from my father (Dr. Robert L. Moeller), has had the most influence on my worldview and passion for cultural engagement, identified in me the very thing I go on a daily basis to Dennis for.
Without wanting to sound melodramatic, when Dennis said those words to me it was as if Clarence the Angel himself had appeared to tell me that, although I hadn't always been able to see it, God had had a plan for my life.
A few minutes later, still reeling from the overwhelmingly kind affirmation I had just received, I was offered a job by Dennis' producer (fellow New Trier High School alum, Allen Estrin) to immediately begin working for the show, helping run Prager's blog, social networking sites, and YouTube Channel (Prager University).
I start Monday.
For now, I'll be working from Chicago because most of my duties involve the on-line universe. But eventually, and sooner rather than later, I am moving to Los Angeles.
I don't know where things go from here, but I know things will never be the same. My life has changed forever. It is the start of something big.
You hope and you pray and throw your heart and soul into something and you never really know if it is going to work out. I'm not genius. I'm not an expert. I'm not even that good of a student. School has always been a struggle for me. In the classroom, I have been a perpetual under-achiever since 8th grade when I found out that girls didn't have cooties and some even liked funny athletes who treated them kindly. I've worked in church ministry, human resources, small business offices, country clubs, pizza places, and even helped run a dog-walking business last summer. Nothing has ever satisfied me like writing this blog and doing my podcast has.
With this new job, I am, for the first time, going to be doing what I love more than anything in this world. Apart from my faith in God and my love for my family, nothing matters more to me than the defense and articulation of Truth. My goal isn't Republican victories at the ballot boxes, but the utter and profound re-awakening of the hearts and minds of young people in this country. As Dr. Albert Mohler puts it, a "culture shift." I want to affect real change that leads to a re-shuffling of the nation's priorities.
God, Family, Country (and in that order).
Working for Dennis allows me the dual luxury of pursuing this goal and doing so under the banner of someone I believe in.
As for A Voice in the Wilderness and The RJ Moeller Show podcast (as well as my work for American Enterprise Institute and Americans For Prosperity), nothing changes there. We're still fully armed and operational. That stuff has always been what I do on my own time anyway. The only thing that changes is that my day job will now be Prager-centric (a fact some would argue has been already the case for years).
I have more stories to share about my trip to Los Angeles and the other adventures I had in the Golden Bear state, but today I simply wanted to share this good news with you, my readers. I thank all of you who have supported and encouraged me over the years. I hope to live up to the trust many have placed in me. You're all invited along for the ride, and I hope to see many of you along the way the rest of journey.
Here we go.
"The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him."
— G.K. Chesterton