Sadly Mike Cromartie, longtime Vice President of the Ethics & Public Policy Center, has died of cancer. I’m privileged to have known him nearly 30 years, first meeting when he came to speak to a group I organized of Virginia United Methodists concerned about their denomination’s political witness.
Mike was uniquely at his best when advocating a thoughtful, careful, realistic, temperate, non-utopian and above all non-crazy Christian political witness, characterized by what he called an “Augustinian sensibility.” Here’s how he described it:
I mean that we need to adopt a form of Christian realism that recognizes that, because of the Fall, we live in a world that will remain sinful and broken until the end of time. While living in a broken world, our task, if it’s political, is to help the state curb that brokenness and that sinfulness in a way that aims toward justice. I use the phrase “Augustinian sensibility” to lean against a Utopian temptation for people on the Right or the Left who give the political realm more significance than it should be given.
So it’s a chastened view of politics, but it’s not anti-political. People should have firm, clear political convictions on what justice means, without becoming so ideologically wired that they have over-expectations for what can happen in the public policy realm. It’s a Christian cast of mind. Having that cast of mind can help nurture a form of Christian civility that is really important in these times, when we have a culture that is more shrill than ever.
Having worked as a young man for Prison Fellowship founder and Watergate personality Chuck Colson, Mike knew and understood Evangelicals well, all their faults, weaknesses, virtues and strengths. He knew their tendencies toward impatience, emotivism and apocalyptic assumptions, as well as their devotion to serving humanity and God. He successfully strove to articulate and channel their highest aspirations, especially their political expressions in Washington, DC.
As a contributing editor Mike joined our new Providence foreign policy journal, which shares his passion for an Augustinian sensibility in the arena of security and foreign policy. He spoke at our launch event in 2015. Here’s his video and we hope soon to post a transcript.
I implored Mike to write a book on an Augustinian sensibility. He smilingly agreed but never got to it. He was a great writer but it was not his primary vocation. Always full of frenetic energy, he was instead a connector and encourager of people. He knew everybody, and everybody knew him. Instead of writing about an Augustinian sensibility he lived it out. May God continue to bless the fruits of his faithful labors.Google+