BreakPoint: Michael Cromartie (1950-2017)

The Apostle to the Fourth Estate

After a brave battle with cancer, Michael Cromartie went home to be with the Lord last week, a loss that all of us here at the Colson Center felt keenly. Cromartie was a leader who set an example of Christian faith in the public square for the rest of us to follow.

He was a vice-president at the Ethics & Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. He directed the Evangelicals in Civic Life program, and the Faith Angle Forum. And, he was a member and, eventually, chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom during the George W. Bush administration.

Plenty of people who have impressive resumes like that are rarely cited as examples for the rest of us to follow. However, I cite Michael without hesitation, because of the way that he lived at the intersections of faith, culture, and politics. He was rightly called an “Apostle to the Fourth Estate,” meaning, the media.

In a moving appreciation of Cromartie, Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker noted how he “felt strongly that the public’s perception of journalists as unfriendly toward religion and especially evangelical Christians… was a reflection of the media’s lack of exposure to and understanding of America’s faithful rather than willful animus.”

Case in point: In the late 1990s, while the Southern Baptist Convention was debating the relationship between men and women, a New York Times reporter called Cromartie for an explanation of what was going on.

When he pointed to Ephesians 5, the reporter interrupted him, “‘Who’s the author of that? Who wrote it? Who published it?’” As Cromartie told Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard, “I realized I’d have to start at the beginning.”

And that’s what he did. The result was the “Faith Angle Forum,” whose goal is to “strengthen reporting and commentary on how religious believers, religious convictions, and religiously grounded moral arguments affect American politics and public life.”

Of course, this is far easier said than done, and how Cromartie pulled it off is yet another example of his worth following. For starters, the Forum’s events were held “miles removed from Washington’s ideological battlefields.”

Second, according to the Christian Post, he created “a space in which you could share and listen in an atmosphere of mutual respect,” where you could “disagree without being disagreeable.”

And he understood that knowing about Christians and Christianity was impossible if you don’t actually know any flesh-and-blood Christians, as opposed to those outliers and caricatures you read about in the media. So socializing played as important a role as lectures and formal discussions.

Of course, this only helps if those flesh-and-blood Christians are the kind of people worth knowing. As the Christian Post put it, Cromartie, “along with his mentor Chuck Colson,” modeled a “political style that was thoughtful and winsome . . . building bridges with an eye toward the public good, rather than an accumulation of political power.”

None of this is possible, of course, without confidence in the truth of Christianity, a confidence that Abraham Kuyper was correct when he said that every square inch of creation was under Christ’s sovereign rule.

Michael Cromartie had that confidence, in his work, in his life, and in his battle with cancer. And so should we, even in the midst of cultural chaos. Ultimately, that the restoration of all things is God’s work, not ours. We cooperate, but it’s still His work. So we have no need to worry, or fret, or to be angry when things don’t go as we would like.

Including in the untimely passing of someone as important to that work as Michael Cromartie.

 

Check out the BreakPoint podcast for Warren Cole Smith’s 2015 interview with Michael Cromartie about Michael’s work with the media and his work for Chuck Colson.

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Michael Cromartie (1950-2017): “The Apostle to the Fourth Estate”

Check out the links in our “Resources” section to read more about the remarkable work and legacy of Michael Cromartie.

 

 

Resources

Remembering Michael Cromartie, A (Mostly) Gentle Advocate for Christ
  • Napp Nazworth | Christian Post | August 29, 2017
To brother Cromartie, with love
  • Kathleen Parker | Washington Post | August 29, 2017
Michael Cromartie, Who Guided Journalists on Religion, Dies at 67
  • Sam Roberts | New York Times | September 1, 2017

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  • James

    “perception of journalists as unfriendly toward religion and especially evangelical Christians… was a reflection of the media’s lack of exposure to and understanding of America’s faithful rather than willful animus.””
    While this may be true in the case of a few individual journalists here and there scattered across the landscape, it is extremely naïve to the point of disingenuous to claim that journalists and journalism has not been captured by a spirit of Marxist Post-Modernism that explicitly and knowingly and deliberately hates God, hates normal people, hates the truth and hates the light and loves the darkness. And please don’t tell me that I shouldn’t answer hatred with hatred, I know that. What I’m saying is it is stupid and dishonest to tell ourselves that these people do not hate us and that they know exactly why they hate us and they aren’t going to stop hating us if we try to “Church-Splain” the gospel to them. They know the gospel and they have rejected it and they want us dead, and they want our children dead. You may not care if you die but don’t you care if your children are murdered by these people?

  • BLBeamer

    The appalling ignorance displayed by the reporter regarding Ephesians is symptomatic of why the press is generally so bad at what they do [insert the obligatory boilerplate “not all journalists yadda-yadda-yadda”].

    When the Columbia University School of Journalism and others repurposed journalism away from the 5 W’s to a vehicle for advocacy of the (mostly) left-wing world view and presuppositions of the journalism professors, the ignorance of the above reporter was a direct consequence. Journalists no longer have to actually know anything and what they do know they possess 100% certitude simply because they think it is so.

    I worked in the backroom of a small newspaper in the 70’s and I would often hear the reporters discuss their stories. They were curious and wanted to find out as much as they could to make the story interesting. There is way too little of that attitude now.

    I believe a college degree in “journalism” is a hindrance to being a good reporter.