Alumni Stories: Luther Abel ’12
You graduated from Sheboygan Christian School in 2012. What have you been up to since then?
In the words of the late, great Johnny Cash, “I’ve been everywhere, man.” I joined the Navy out of high school, and spent six years in as a mechanic, cryogenic tech, and military police. Deployed thrice, I saw most every country in southeastern Asia aboard the frigate USS Rodney M Davis and aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.
My wife, Emily, and I dated throughout my enlistment and were married in July of 2016. In the spring of 2018 I prepared to separate from the military, sending college applications to Northwestern, Lawrence University, and UW-Madison. Three days after leaving the Navy I started school at Lawrence, and it’s been an incredible school, with the small, intimate class sizes reminding me very much of SCS.
How did your SCS education prepare you for life beyond our walls?
My SCS education prepared me for life in many ways, I’ll touch on two of them here. The first is in matters of faith. The apologetics class — helmed at the time by Mr. VanDerPol — was crucial in wrestling with matters of faith and how a Christian must be at all times prepared and comfortable with defending our beliefs both courteously and robustly.
The second lesson: that it is often not what we know which ultimately leads to our success, but knowing whom we can ask for help. The communitarian aspects of SCS, from the apple pie sales to the rides to and from soccer practice generously offered by the Wilke, Otte, and Andringa families has in retrospect informed much of my world-view about the power of community to better support the development and flourishing of families than other(read: government) sources. Having spent six years working intimately with the US Government, I much prefer the voluntary associations I saw work so well at SCS.
SCS families might already be familiar with your name from your time at the National Review. Talk about how this internship came to be.
Since my freshman year of high school I have been at least somewhat interested in politics. I will readily admit my political views at the time were mostly informed by a contrarian nature.
I stayed in this track until I was in the Navy, quickly becoming disenchanted with government’s ability to effect change or even accomplish its already established duties with any level of competence. This brought me to reading National Review, specifically Jonah Goldberg, Ben Shapiro, and Kevin Williamson. I was in the Aft 02N2 Shop aboard the USS Carl Vinson reading a piece on National Review when I got to thinking, “Well, why couldn’t I write this stuff?” That’s where the thought stayed, until Lawrence.
My purpose for attending Lawrence was two-fold. First, I like small schools as they afford the most interaction with faculty, people with whom I would be able to network and secure quality Letters of Recommendation for grad school applications. The second reason was because Lawrence is a politically progressive school and I wanted to attend an institution where I’d be able to disagree with almost every student and faculty member, developing my rhetorical skills. Also, I’d be exposing my classmates to softly-spoken and level-headed conservative thought, as many are quite unaware that such thought exists having only ever been exposed to the blustery cable news and talk radio iteration of “conservatism”.
While on-campus I signed up to contribute as an op-ed writer for the Lawrentian, the student newspaper. This allowed me a larger platform and helped me hone my writing to the more concise and pointed style of writing used in journalism. This also gave me the confidence needed to take my work to the next level.
Fast forward to this past spring, when I sat down at a table in the Abel cottage and sent out internship applications to every political journal I could think of. If there wasn’t an internship page, I would send an e-mail to the editor. Ultimately, I heard back from six magazines and was offered an internship with two of them, one of which was National Review. To be offered a spot with really the premier conservative magazine, started by William F Buckly Jr. sixty years ago, was a dream realized.
During the span of my internship, I had twenty pieces published. I wrote about the importance of biblical education for college students, police reform, and the value of beater cars — in separate articles, mind. My best work was from when I flew out to Portland and covered the unrest there, interviewing locals, and attending the protests. It was an incredible opportunity, and a huge vote of confidence from my editor, Charles CW Cooke. For a catalogue of my work while at NR, click here. I’m happy to say NR has invited me to continue contributing as I finish out my time in school.
What are your next career plans moving forward?
My next career plans are to finish my final two years at Lawrence, apply to grad schools for advanced degrees in History and Literature, and apply for every open position in a journalistic institution. Given my advanced age of twenty-seven, I need to think seriously about the ROI of going to grad school given I’m a married man with domestic and financial obligations.
My ideal work would be to get hired as a roving editor, with my work consisting of covering the latest controversy in-person and editing the work of others. I find people endlessly fascinating, much more so than my own thoughts and opinions. With my work at NR, the road to such a career is not only possible, but likely to set me up comfortably.
However, while I am a dreamer — an English-major who intends to write for a living will understandably raise the eyebrows of realists and pragmatists — I’m actively earning my teaching certification while at Lawrence. Thus, should writing ever fail me, I have a career waiting for me to pick it up. Coupled with my technical expertise from my Navy days, starvation is highly unlikely.
You obviously love writing and thinking. Talk about how SCS prepared you to write, speak, and think.SCS boasts a phenomenal writing program, in large part thanks to Kevin Gesch. His instruction in the subjects of History, Literature and Creative Writing is the equal of Junior-level classes at Lawrence University, itself a quality institution of the Humanities.
As for thinking, God has given us the capacity to reason and SCS thankfully demands the exercise thereof. Mr. Gesch’s “History Topics”, the apologetics program, and Mr. Andringa’s advanced science instruction should be at the top of parents’ priorities for their child’s learning schedule. I understand enrolling in these courses may slightly ding GPA’s as they are indeed exacting, but I assure you each is well worth a slightly diminished grade average.
How was your faith formed in your time at SCS?
In 5th and 6th grade I had a bit of a faith crisis. Like some famous Luthers before me, the judgement of God weighed heavily upon me, along with the impending threat — as I saw it at the time — of Christ’s return before I was ready. It was the combined early apologetics instruction from Mr. VanDrunen, along with observation of my grandparents’ quiet and steadfast faith-lives that eventually led me from my angst.
What would you say was the biggest strength of your experience at SCS?
The community would have to be the biggest strength. The SCS family showed me grace, faith, patience, and so much more during my time there. Five of my groomsmen are SCS grads, a distinction not given because they had schooled with me but because I think every one was and is an upstanding individual, bettering and supporting me through their steadfast and virtuous natures — each in their own way.
What advice would you give to SCS students today?
Do difficult things. Better yet, do difficult things far away from everything and everyone you’ve ever known. It’ll make you more interesting, and others like to be around interesting people.
I strongly believe a Christian has a duty to suffer for a time, because through suffering we can better understand the difficulties others face. Sympathy makes you polite, empathy makes you friends.
Also, it’s up to you to make things happen for yourself. If you want something, ask God and ask those who can help you realize your desired result. National Review didn’t call me until I sent them an application. Lawrence didn’t enroll me until I applied. Self-pity doesn’t get results, calling the next person/school/institution does.
How can the SCS community connect with you?
I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org with any comments or questions. I’m happy to share more about my experiences — especially for those considering joining the military — or to elaborate on anything I’ve written here.