Michael Cromartie on Religion, the Media, and Think Tanks
Date: October 18th, 2015

Jay Hein on the Invisible Revolution. How did the secular and religious media react to the recent visit of Pope Francis to the United States?  And what does a think tank do to influence the national dialogue and policymakers on a variety of issues related to religion and faith?  These area a few of the questions we explore with Michael Cromartie, vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC.  A former research assistant to Chuck Colson, member of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, and founder of The Faith Angle Forum, Mr. Cromartie has a unique perspective on the world of faith, the news media, and public policy.

We begin with a lesson on the Scottish pronunciation of names.  Tony, being the football fan he is, mispronounces “Cromartie,” placing the emphasis on the wrong syllables, but Michael instructs him on the proper syllabic emphasis.  And then it is off to a discussion on the pope’s recent trip to the United States.  Instead of focusing on what the pontiff said, we look at how both the secular and religious media covered the event.  Michael points out that the media is fascinated by Francis due to his lack of ostentation, but the coverage of what was said was skewed towards the economic and climate message, but avoided the cultural issues that were part of Francis’s message.  We also talk about the liberal and secular nature of the national news media and the recent emphasis on “religious nones” and why a population that is seemingly becoming less religious would be so fascinated with this spiritual figure.  Michael also tosses in some of his thoughts on how the Protestant media covered the pope and how this opens a door for evangelicals to reframe their image in the public square.

Tony follows this discussion by probing Mr. Cromartie’s background, wondering how he ended up in a Washington DC think tank.  Michael reviews his high school and college experiences, including time living in a Christian commune, and how he surprisingly ended up working for Chuck Colson and getting mugged in Denver.  It is from there that he eventually became linked to the Ethics & Public Policy Center (EPPC) in Washington DC.  We then follow the conversation into the world of think tanks and discuss what the EPPC does and how it originated.  Tony asks about  how and whether such think tanks actually effect policy and Michael provides a number of examples of how EPPC attempts to slowly change the nation’s dialogue by bringing academics and policymakers together in a number of different forums.  We discuss two of these programs that Mr. Cromartie helped shape — the Evangelicals in Civic Life Program and the Faith Angle Forum.  As to the latter, Tony asks how the EPPC is trying to get journalists and academics to break out of the bubble they are in.  Michael presents some of his thoughts on this.

We finish the interview with some of Mr. Cromartie’s personal reflections on his own life experience and how this might be useful for a younger generation.  He notes that rather than trying to make a world-changing impact immediately when you are young, it is important to be “significant where you are right now,” which relates to being faithful in the ordinary tasks of life.  Recorded: October 9, 2015.



Michael Cromartie’s bio at the Ethics & Public Policy Center.

The Faith Angle Forum.

Evangelicals in Civic Life Program.

 Religion and Politics in America: A Conversation, edited by Michael Cromartie.

Religion, Culture, and International Conflict: A Conversation, edited by Michael Cromartie.

A Public Faith: Evangelicals and Civic Engagement, edited by Michael Cromartie.


Jeremy Lott on the Media’s Pope-O-Rama.

R.R. Reno on Pop(e) Francis.

Louis Bolce on the Media and Anti-Fundamentalism.

David Brody on the 2010 Midterm Elections and Religious Journalism.

Owen Strachan on Chuck Colson.

Jon Shields on Democratic Virtues and the Christian Right.

Jay Hein on the Quiet Revolution.

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