[Warning: The following post will likely be of interest only to Canadians, and even then . . .]
Prompting a media frenzy–frenzy, I tell you–John Stackhouse was recently named editor-in-chief of the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper, one of Canada’s two “national” newspapers (along with the National Post). My life thereby just got slightly more complicated.
For I’m John Stackhouse, and so is he. And we’re hard for some people to distinguish, at least on first encounter. I mean, what are the odds that a country as small as this one would generate two people with the same first name and this odd surname whose lives and careers actually overlap as much as ours do? So let’s get this thing straight once and for all.
I’m older–by a few years. Thus John Stackhouse (me) was graduating from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, just as, yes, John Stackhouse (him) was entering. I’m also pretty sure I wrote for the Globe (op-ed) before he did (as staff journalist).
Our stories intertwine still further. I’ve enjoyed a meal with John here in Vancouver, but I had a very nice lunch many years previously with his father at Hart House, University of Toronto. For his father is Dr. Reginald Stackhouse, former principal of Wycliffe College (and former Member of Parliament) and a theologian–as I am. (In fact, I’ve spoken in the Wycliffe chapel beneath a fine oil portrait of Principal Stackhouse). And Reginald also writes for the Globe from time to time.
It gets stranger still. I once gave a lecture at the Vancouver Public Library at which a bookseller had a display of my books–and one of John’s as well. People asked me to autograph books afterward, including his. So I had to say, “This is a fine book, and I’m glad to sign it, but I didn’t write it!”
We’ve both been on radio talkshows during which a listener has read one of the other’s books and wants to talk about it. “No,” I have to say, “I didn’t write that book on world poverty.” “No,” he has to say, “I didn’t write that book on the problem of evil.”
In his second book, furthermore, I actually show up as a character. In Timbit Nation, his coast-to-coast travelogue, John Stackhouse hits Vancouver just as John Stackhouse and his family are on the front page of the Vancouver Sun in a controversy over the local amusement park exploiting Christian apocalyptic imagery in their new ad campaign. So that story constitutes part of his chapter on this area.
It finally had to happen: John Stackhouse quotes John Stackhouse, which he did when he wrote about Christian churches for the Globe and talked to me about what made some churches succeed while others didn’t. We agreed afterward that it was just too weird for him to quote me, and I’ve spoken to him journalistically only “on background” ever since!
John is a superb, multiple-prize-winning journalist and I’m delighted that he has ascended to one of the chief positions in his profession. I wish him the very best in his new, extraordinarily demanding job.
But if, as has sometimes happened to each of us already, I get another one of his speaking invitations, and this time it’s a particularly prestigious and lucrative one, well, who could fault me for accepting it–all unawares that there is actually another John Stackhouse out there?