The Criminologist Who Discovered Churches

Political scientist John DiIulio followed the data to see what would save America's urban youth.
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Strange bedfellows #1: John DiIulio (di-YULE-ee-oh) was the first in his family to attend college. Moreover, he was the one in a million to escape his ethnic working-class neighborhood in South Philadelphia to become a political science professor—at Princeton, of all places, an Ivy League university that exudes tradition and quiet dignity. DiIulio still talks with a regular-guy accent. He dresses like a building inspector. As a Princeton colleague told the New Yorker's James Traub in a comment that tells on both DiIulio and Princeton, "He loves playing the South Philadelphia thug made good."

Strange bedfellows #2: John DiIulio, a certified academic superstar, writes op-ed pieces for the New York Times and the Washington Post. He holds posts at leading think tanks. If you take American Government 101, you stand a fair chance of using DiIulio's textbook. Lately, however, he spends considerable amounts of time hanging out with black preachers from the toughest neighborhoods of Philadelphia and Boston. In his car, he listens to tapes of his favorite 84-year-old African-American Pentecostal minister, Benjamin Smith. He has, in fact, listened to Ben Smith so much that he can do a fair imitation of his preaching riffs.

Strange bedfellows #3: Consider the Italian-American Catholic who attended parochial schools, yet rarely, after he left home, attended church. Think of a man who grew up with nuns yet never, ever talked about religion with his friends. Now imagine him convening white evangelical Christians the likes of Gary Bauer and Jim Wallis, along with Ron Sider and Ralph Reed and Charles Colson, trying to cajole them, inspire them, shame them for God's sake to band together in a religious coalition to help the inner-city ...

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