Jerry Brown: politician or yogi?

If I read one more story about Gov. Moonbeam taking over for the Governator ... But fear not, this wonderful profile of the once-again Gov. Jerry Brown by the Mercury News' Bruce Newman is no such story. Granted, it starts out by referencing one of the Terminator's famous remarks -- "I'll be back" -- but from there it avoids the pop culture references and instead looks at the very real apocalypse creeping up on California.

In the process, Newman weaves Brown's circuitous religious journey with his political meanderings.

Beetle-browed and battle-scarred, he is the last man standing from his previous gubernatorial campaigns: His two opponents have been dead for a combined 25 years. Brown, on the other hand, has been born again.

After he left the Jesuit seminary six years short of ordination, he explained, "I sit here in poverty, but it isn't real poverty. "... I decided I wanted to get into the world." He's in it now. And the poverty Brown will face after he's sworn in Monday as the state's 39th governor -- an alarming deficit of nearly $28 billion -- is very real. ...

During a 16-year journey through the electoral wilderness that lasted until 1998, when he won the mayor's job in Oakland, Brown's belief in himself remained unshakable, friends say. But his faith in a higher power lapsed, then was reshaped into something combining the conservative strictures of the Jesuits -- sometimes known as "God's Marines" -- with Zen Buddhism's "transcendent wisdom."

What emerged from that restless period was part mystic, part martinet -- a law-and-order liberal with a dog named Dharma.

In a way that no other newspaper story I have seen does, Newman goes on to detail just how Brown made it back to the Governor's Mansion (though I think he has chosen, again, to not live there) and how his ever-changing religious beliefs played a role in that.

Brown, who attended St. Ignatious High School, has long been fond of quoting religious leaders. I suspect he even sees himself as a bit of a sage. Newman, after discussing these propensities, quotes St. Ignatius himself. And then dives right back into the politics-as-religion aspect of Brown's spirituality.

I could go on and on, quoting that section and every other one in this excellent story. But GetReligion readers would be better served to just read it and those who are religion reporters should take note. There are not a lot of political personalities like Jerry Brown, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a politician whose political journey hasn't either been motivated by religious beliefs or served as a substitute for them.

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