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My Debt to Mike Adams

The outspoken, courageous conservative criminologist and prolific writer Mike Adams has died at age 55. Tragically, he took his own life, struggling under an unbelievable burden he has borne for years now as a result of the fact that he stood up so fearlessly to the bullying of the increasingly irrational leftist orthodoxy that dominates academia.

The way in which the mainstream media is reporting his passing, however predictable, is a disgraceful scandal. It shows nothing more clearly than what Mike has been saying for years: our elite culture has gone off the rails, and its vicious fury in demolishing those who stand against it grows more depraved every day.

The contribution Mike made to the ongoing fight against the would-be tyrants in our educational institutions was profound, and it is now being summed up and honored by many others in detail.  The centerpiece of that contribution was the victory he won in a major battle for First Amendment protection of heterodox opinion in higher education against his former employer, the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, when its faculty, administration and board denied him promotion for the transparent reason that they hated his politics and his religious faith. In the wake of that victory, he gave a moving speech summarizing the story at a conference of the Alliance Defending Freedom, which litigated the case. If you have never heard him speak, you should watch that video immediately. Its message is pristinely beautiful.   

But the story I want to offer about Mike is not about his public writing and work. It is personal. I never met him face-to-face, regrettably, but he was my friend. More than a decade ago, our relationship started with an antagonistic exchange—a testimony perhaps to the pugnacious attitude that we shared. I publicly criticized in strong terms a talk he gave on the campus where I teach, and he responded in kind with the vigor he always showed in taking on critics. We were both uncharitable, and we both soon enough realized it. Reflecting on his response, I realized that I had seriously mischaracterized his position and I reached out to him. Coincidentally, I wrote that first email to him the day after Christmas. Based on that happenstance, I ended the note with this:

Please accept my genuine wishes for a wonderful Christmas…I am more or less an agnostic at this point in my life, although this is complicated too…but that doesn't for a moment prevent me from understanding the beauty of the message of reconciliation and peace that the birth of Jesus represents for believing Christians. I was raised in that tradition and have derived comfort even since leaving the faith from some of our cultural principles that derive centrally from Christianity. It's in that spirit that I extend my hand to you.

His magnanimity in responding was instant and complete, notwithstanding the fact that he was at the time dealing with several heartbreaking issues in his family that he briefly described to me. He closed his first email to me with these pregnant words:

Your note was a great Christmas gift and I thank you from the bottom of my heart…It shows that I was terribly wrong about you and that I owe you an apology. But I believe it shows something more than that. I believe it shows that God is still at work in your life. I hope I am right in my suspicion that God is pursuing you and will not relent until you are safely home. Your friend, Mike Adams

We kept in touch over the next few years and I learned much about the seriousness and vigor of his Christian faith. I could share many concrete examples that give the lie to the ludicrous claims currently being made about his ‘hate’ of this, that, or another group. He wrote to me, for example, of his involvement in his church’s evangelical work in parts of Africa devastated by ethnic and civil wars, and the concern and love he evinced for the suffering souls there was palpable and obviously sincere. 

We several times thought we might have an opportunity to meet, at a conference or a talk, but it never happened. Time went by and life went on. Our emails got less frequent. We were both busy. How I wish now that I had been less busy and that I had found the time to reach out to him more often.

Over the last year or so, slowly, painstakingly, haltingly, I have come back to the faith of my youth. That story is far too long to tell here but suffice it to say that this was made possible mostly by things outside of myself. One of the things that encouraged me ceaselessly over this time was the collection of Mike’s emails, which I saved—and that first one, especially, in which he joyfully, hopefully told me what he suspected about where I was headed. 

A month ago, I reached out to Mike again, after a long absence, having read about the most recent push by his critics to silence him, which ultimately culminated in his forced retirement from teaching. I had not yet told him of my renewed faith, so I shared that news, and thanked him for the role his words played in it. He wrote me back immediately:

Alexander, I wept as I read this…Would you consider allowing me to post this on my personal Facebook page? I believe this may inspire some people…I’m just blown away by your email…God bless you, brother! You don’t know how much you have made my day.

I told him he had my blessing to post it. He thanked me and promised a longer response to some other matters we had discussed in short order. Those were the last words I received from him. 

I do not know exactly what was going through Mike's mind in the past month. Suicide is a terrible transgression against the value of the human person, and he certainly knew that as a Christian. Some who claim to be his allies in the fight against the radical left have been quick to judge him for this act and distance themselves from him. I cannot and will not do that. I have studied suicide as a scholar and I know how much that escapes the control of the victim, even the victim who like Mike is a committed Christian, is typically involved in such a desperate act.

The pressure on Mike must have been unbearable, with the full intensity of Wokeism 2020 closing in to do its worst—to ruin his reputation, and his ability to earn a living and bring to his adoring students a perspective they are increasingly unlikely ever to encounter on a college campus. I have faced much less intense versions of that for my own refusal to comply with the tenets of academic woke orthodoxy, and I know how lonely it can feel. The people who tirelessly worked to destroy him cannot judge him, nor can I or anyone else in this world.   

I offer this then as a testimony to the goodness of this man, to thank him again, and to challenge the spiteful ghouls who are at present dancing on his grave and repeating the wicked lies they have told about him for years. Unlike those people, I knew Mike Adams, and because I knew him, I loved him and I will miss him terribly.

Alexander Riley

Alexander Riley is a professor of sociology at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania.

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MMinAR
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We've lost some wonderful people recently but Mike departing this side was the most painful for me. We had a couple exchanges back in the aughts, wish I could dredge them up from the ether. What a great fighter he was, I've missed him every day since I heard. If he did in fact do the deed himself, I can't imagine his state of mind. God speed Mike M
 
 

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