Michael Cromartie, a conservative Christian scholar whose willingness to engage across the political and spiritual aisle helped make him an unofficial spokesman for evangelicals and an indispensable resource for journalists, died Aug. 28 at his home in Arlington, Virginia. He was 67.
The Ethics & Public Policy Center, where Cromartie was vice president, said he had cancer.
Cromartie was a six-year member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, appointed by President George W. Bush in 2004, and a singular figure at the intersection of politics and religion. For three decades, he was a go-to source for journalists trying to make sense of the rise of the “moral majority” and the roots of evangelicals’ support — and opposition — to presidents from Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump.
He edited more than a dozen books on religion and politics, appeared on broadcast news and radio programs, and was interviewed by mainstream, conservative and liberal publications. He offered context on some Christians’ opposition to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race and the supposed biblical grounds for a pre-emptive strike on North Korea. (A bellicose passage in the book of Romans, he told PolitiFact earlier this month, does not exactly mean “bombs away.”)
“Mike Cromartie did more to ensure that American political journalism is imbued with religious tolerance, biblical literacy, historical insight, and an ecumenical spirit than any person alive,” Carl Cannon, Washington bureau chief of RealClearPolitics, wrote in a tribute to Cromartie. “No one is a close second.”
Cromartie, a former progressive who eventually came to describe himself as a “Christian in the evangelical, reformed, Anglican tradition,” was part of a wave of evangelical Christians who believed that engagement in politics and public life was a central tenet of the faith.
But while he described himself as right-of-center, he saw his role less as advocating for a particular position than as pressing for civil dialogue and increased understanding, particularly with journalists who were unfamiliar with evangelical Christianity or religion in general.
“I kept getting more and more calls from very smart writers who knew nothing about faith and religious beliefs,” he told the Weekly Standard in 2010. At one point, he said, he was interviewed by a New York Times reporter who asked him who wrote and published the New Testament book of Ephesians, as though…