Mike Cromartie was one of the finest men I’ve ever been privileged to call a friend. We all decry virtue signaling in our age – and it’s a good description of a certain kind of vanity. Mike never signaled his virtue, he just lived it. But please don’t imagine a plaster saint. Mike, who served as Vice President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and ran the Evangelicals in Civic Life and Faith Angle Forum programs, was funny and lively and loved sports, and politics, and gossip.
Early in life, he had what must be the least likely stint of any Washington, DC think tank denizen: He worked as the mascot for the Philadelphia 76ers. He’d hop the train up to Philly, enter the locker room, and don his special costume as the players were getting into theirs. At halftime (do they call it that in basketball?), he would entertain the crowd with dances, pratfalls, and visual gags.
Yes, that was the fellow who brought many a Washington figure to conferences on the intersection of faith and politics, authored a number of serious books, and seemed to know everyone in Washington.
In fact, it might be one of the saving graces of this city that so many people in it were so drawn to Mike Cromartie. He was not a senator or a TV star. He wasn’t wealthy. He was not a cabinet official. He held no power of the kind that usually attracts people. His power derived only from the warmth of his personality, the depth of his intelligence, his wisdom, and his love of God and country.
Mike’s Christian faith was never syrupy. He was clear-eyed about life and people. When we’d discuss this or that person who had behaved in a seemingly inexplicable way, Mike would say “I’m never surprised by weakness or sin, just by virtue.”
In all the years I knew him, I never saw Mike say a rude word to anyone. On the contrary, to lunch with Mike was to watch the waiter or waitress fall in love. Before the hour was over, Mike would know the person’s name, where they grew up, and their hopes and dreams. His generosity of spirit was a wonder.
Mike was one of the first friends I made in Washington. For the past two years, he was just two doors down the hall at EPPC. I’m Jewish, but when I think of the ideal Christian, Mike is the person who seems to fulfill it most completely.
My heart aches for his wonderful wife Jenny and their three children. Rest in peace, dear friend.