Good morning, it's Friday, July 16, 2021, the day of the week when I reprise quotations intended to be uplifting or educational. Today's lines come from Michael Cromartie, an inclusive evangelical Christian whose death four summers ago left a void in the intellectual life of Washington. His family and friends miss him still, but so do an array of journalists, whether secular or spiritual, conservative or liberal -- or old-school independents like me.
Mike's birthday would have been this week. I knew him well and wrote about him when he died. His dual professional passions were drawing attention to religious persecution around the world and helping U.S. journalists writing about the intersection of faith and politics to know at least a little about the former. The result was the Faith Angle Forum, now led by Josh Good. Its important work continues.
Mike Cromartie was raised as a progressive and became more conservative as he aged. He was not partisan, however. His approach was ecumenical when it came to politics or faith. And he could gently poke fun at posers in either party, as he did in this 2015 speech while passing along a tale about a Republican and a Democrat eating together in the Senate dining room.
"You know, the problem with you Democrats is you don't know … anything about religious doctrine or any religious believers," said the Republican. "I would give you 20 dollars right now if you can recite the Lord's Prayer."
"Sure, I can do that," replied the Democrat, who bowed his head and murmured, "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep."
With that, the Republican reached into his pocket, pulled out a twenty and said, "I didn't think you could do it."
This apocryphal story was told a mere two months before Donald Trump induced snickers at Liberty University by asserting that a verse in "Two Corinthians" was "the whole ballgame." (Trump's failed attempt to sound biblically literate did, however, prompt a clever retort from Ted Cruz, who quipped that it was from an old joke, "Two Corinthians walk into a bar…")
Mike Cromartie followed politics closely enough that he heard that exchange and was amused by it. Ultimately, however, he encouraged us all not to be too caught up in partisanship or one-upmanship. Here is how he put it in a 2010 interview: "It's too easy in this town to get so stirred up ideologically that we forget our prior commitments. The dead are not raised by politics."
What did he mean by that? He continued: "There are some things that transcend politics that are more urgent than winning political victories. It's always very important, when Christian politicians reach across the aisle, that if their opponent gets sick in the hospital, then they should be the first people there to see them."
Judging our leaders by that standard, you can see why Mike Cromartie could appreciate Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell. If that made him a rare bird, well, that's our fault, not his. Then again, he didn't have his head in the sand about the state of American political discourse. Asked a month before he died by Politico's Daniel Lippman to describe his morning routine, Mike replied, "Pray. Read the news. Then pray all the more!"
And that's our quote of the week.
Carl M. Cannon is the Washington bureau chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.