The life of Michael Cromartie, who passed away last week, pushed journalists and religious communities alike to strive a bit harder to provide authentic representations of faith in America.
With his passing, continuing that work is all the more important.
During an era in which trust in certain journalists and media personalities has wavered, Cromartie stood out as a committed Christian who understood that thoughtful, nuanced coverage of faith-based communities was not only possible but also something he could help bring to fruition through his work at the Washington D.C.-based Ethics and Public Policy Center.
With regard to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns this paper, Cromartie played a unique role in curating conversations between intelligent Latter-day Saint voices and journalists to foster increased understanding during a period of heightened media attention on Mormonism.
Starting in 2007, in anticipation of Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s 2008 bid for the presidency, Cromartie brought in Latter-day Saint historian Richard Bushman to his “Faith Angle Forum.” In the run up to the 2012 Republican Convention, he hosted Harvard’s Clayton Christensen alongside the managing director of LDS Church public affairs, Mike Otterson, to discuss the “promise and peril of the Mormon moment.” Over the years, other Latter-day Saint scholars such as Brigham Young University's Robert Millet and Notre Dame’s David Campbell have helped journalists navigate topics surrounding Mormon-Evangelical relations and Mormonism’s place within American political life.
Similar dialogues about a wide range of faith groups have elevated the coverage concerning religion, dispelled misconceptions and helped bring better clarity about lived faith, and the unique contributions of individual believers.
Politics and religion are too often taboo topics better left at the door during family gatherings. But, Cromartie’s work, as an ambassador of faith to the media and political influencers, helped curate the kind of conversations that one writer said were among "the most pleasant,” as well as “the most instructive, experiences in journalism."
Indeed, he wasn’t just a go-to source for thought leadership on the Christian perspective, he was also able to show “even to non-believing intellectuals” how the Christian life is, as one writer put it, “a rational decision.”
As society slips deeper into secularism, and religion is viewed through a default lens of skepticism in some circles, Cromartie’s work and life stands as a testament of hope that divergent cultures and communities can find common understanding through civil dialogue and the hard work of meaningful conversations. While many will mourn the loss of Michael Cromartie’s participation in the public dialogue on faith in America, in reality his voice will only be lost if believers and journalists cease the conversation.