Secretary Pompeo: The Imperfect Christian Leader

On October 11, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo delivered a speech at the 2019 American Association of Christian Counselors World Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. He titled his remarks, “Being a Christian Leader.” [1] Below are the key parts of that speech followed by comments on ways in which he has not been such a leader.

Pompeo’s Speech

“We [all] talk to people through hard times.  We find ourselves in the middle of disputes and we seek to mediate them and try and identify their root causes.  We try to keep conflict minimized, at bay. . .  [T]he missions that you all have, it sounds a lot like the diplomacy that we at the    State Department and my team engage in every day.  .  . we’re both appealing to the hearts and minds to change behaviors.  As believers, we draw on the wisdom of God to help us get it right, to be a force for good in the life of human beings.” (Emphasis added.)

“ I want to . . . [talk] about what it means to be . . . a Christian leader in three areas.” (Emphasis added.)

“Disposition. [W]hat’s the attitude with which we approach each of these challenges? . . . How you carry yourself is the first area of Christian leadership.” Scripture calls us to be ‘transformed by the renewing of [our] minds.’  . . . I try every morning to try and get in a little bit of time with the [Bible].  I need my mind renewed with truth each day.  And part of that truth . . . is to be humble.  Proverbs says, ‘With the humble is wisdom.’” [Prov. 11:2.] (Emphasis added.)

“Every day, as Secretary of State, I get a real chance to be humble, because I get to see the great work that my team is doing . . . [and] am also confronted with highly complex problem sets, and I need wisdom to try and make the right calls.  I need to admit what I don’t know and try to learn it, to ask the questions that others might find obvious and be unembarrassed, and to accept conclusions when the facts are presented that might go against whatever preconceived notion that I might have had. Every day, as Secretary of State, I get a real chance to be humble, because I get to see the great work that my team is doing. . . [and] am also confronted with highly complex problem sets, and I need wisdom to try and make the right calls.  I need to admit what I don’t know and try to learn it, to ask the questions that others might find obvious and be unembarrassed, and to accept conclusions when the facts are presented that might go against whatever preconceived notion that I might have had. . . . wisdom comes from a humble disposition.” (Emphases added.)

Forgiveness is also important facet of disposition. We should all remember that we are imperfect servants serving a perfect God who constantly forgives us each and every day.  He keeps using us . . . to do a higher work.  And my work at the State Department, as it is for those who work alongside of me, is to serve America each and every day.” (Emphasis added.)

“Dialogue—how we speak with others– is also an important part of being a Christian leader. As the Book of James says: “’Everyone should be quick to listen, and slow to speak.’”

Speaking with foreign leaders reminds me “that sound relationships absolutely depend on open ears.  Good listening means more than just hearing; it means not rushing to judgment before you hear every side of a particular fact set.  This comes through so clearly in Proverbs, which say, ‘The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.’  Let’s make sure we understand the facts.  When we have that, we can begin to move forward and heal and solve problems.” (Emphasis added.)

After I’ve collected data, I . . . begin to speak fundamental basic, simple, small “t” truths.  Colossians talks about this.  It says, ‘Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer to each person.’” [Col. 4:6] (Emphasis added.)

Truth telling [is] what I try to do publicly as we lay down President Trump’s foreign policy to keep Americans safe and secure.” (Emphasis added.)

And I’m especially telling the truth about the dire condition of religious freedom around the world. America has a proud history of religious freedom, and we want jealously to guard it here.  But around the world, more than 80% of mankind lives in areas where religious freedom is suppressed or denied in its entirety.” (Emphasis added.)

The Secretary then commented on the absence of religious freedom in China, Iran, northern Iraq and bragged about the State Department’s Second Ministerial on International Religious Freedom.

“Making Decisions. The Bible calls us to be faithful in our stewardship of whatever it is that we have been privileged to hold onto, no matter how much or how little.  We have to be faithful in every single circumstance.” (Emphasis added.)

“International organizations will try, from time to time, to sneak language into their documents claiming that abortion is a human right.  And we’ll never accept that.”

“I pray you’ll help hurting people stay immersed in God’s Word.  By remaining humble.  By showing forgiveness.  By listening intently and carefully and thoughtfully.  By not rushing to judgment in complicated matters.  By being a faithful steward. By using your time with intentionally.”

“And I pray you’ll do these things not out of your own strength, but by relying on, as Paul says, ‘Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we are able to ask or to imagine.’”

Comments

These words are thoughtful and inspiring. But Pompeo as Secretary of State has failed to live up to his own words.

One instance, pointed out in a prior post, is his unceasing criticism of Cuba. Other such failures are his recent implicit disavowal of his May 2017 Senate testimony that Russian hackers working for the Putin government had interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign; Pompeo’s initial feigned ignorance of the infamous phone call between President Trump and the new President of Ukraine when Pompeo had actually participated in the call, as he subsequently was forced to admit; Pompeo’s implicit acceptance of the President’s illegally soliciting foreign investigation of a political rival; Pompeo’s implicit acceptance of the President’s insertion of Rudolph Giuliani as an actor in U.S. foreign policy; and Pompeo’s attempts to prevent State Department personnel from testifying in the House’s impeachment inquiry.[2]

Another failure is Pompeo’s lack of integrity, as Tom Friedman, the New York Times’ columnist, discussed in a recent column. This conclusion was justified by Friedman “because Pompeo has just violated one of the cardinal rules of American military ethics and command: You look out for your soldiers, you don’t leave your wounded on the battlefield and you certainly don’t stand mute when you know a junior officer is being railroaded by a more senior commander, if not outright shot in her back.”

That cardinal rule was violated by Pompeo’s “cowardly, slimy behavior as the leader of the State Department.” This was especially true in his failure to speak up and defend the excellent U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. As John Sullivan, the current Deputy Secretary of State, stated at his October 30 Senate confirmation hearing to become the next U.S. Ambassador to Russia, that she had served “admirably and capably” as Ambassador to Ukraine and that he believed  that Giuliani had been “seeking to smear Ambassador Yovanovitch or have her removed.”

Pompeo, however, never said that. Instead he let her “be stabbed in the back with a Twitter knife, wielded by the president, “rather than tell Trump: ‘Sorry, Mr. President, if you fire her, I will resign. Because to do otherwise would be unjust and against my values and character — and because I would lose the loyalty of all my diplomats if I silently went along with such a travesty of justice against a distinguished 33-year veteran of the foreign service.’”

Friedman buttressed this opinion by referring to recent comments by “two now retired, longtime State Department diplomats, Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky, . . . [when they said,] ‘At the very least, Pompeo enabled the smear campaign to go unchallenged, acquiesced in the Giuliani back channel effort with Ukraine and failed to say a word in defense of Bill Taylor, George Kent or Marie Yovanovitch. These are breathtaking acts of craven political cowardice and beneath the dignity of any secretary of state.’”[3]

At a November 18 press conference, a journalist challenged Pompeo on this issue: “There are a lot of questions about why you have not chosen to speak up publicly in defense of your employees, including those who testified before the impeachment inquiry.  Can you explain why you haven’t chosen to make comments in their support?” Pompeo gave the following demonstrably false response: “I always defend State Department employees.  It’s the greatest diplomatic corps in the history of the world.  Very proud of the team.”

Pompeo at this press conference also dodged pointed questions about specific foreign service officers. One asked for his opinion on President Trump’s tweet about Ambassador Yovanovitch during her testimony at the impeachment inquiry; Pompeo’s  response: “I’ll defer to the White House about particular statements and the like.  I don’t have anything else to say about the Democrats’ impeachment proceeding.” Another question was whether he thinks “Ambassador Taylor  has been an effective envoy of . . . [Ukraine] policy and if he is going to remain in his job, or if the President has lost confidence in him.” The response: “State Department’s doing a fantastic job.”[4]

Friedman believes the basic reason for this Pompeo failure to support foreign service officers is his desire “to run for president after Trump — and did not want to risk alienating Trump.” Pompeo, the self-proclaimed Christian, thereby failed to heed the warning of Mark 8:36:  “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, but lose his soul?”

Therefore, this blogger joins Friedman’s conclusion: “So it’s now clear that Pompeo had not taken an oath to defend and protect the Constitution. [Instead he] took an oath to defend and protect Donald J. Trump and Pompeo’s own future political career — above all else — and that’s exactly what he’s been doing. Shame on him.”

=============================

[1] State Dep’t, Secretary Pompeo: Being a Christian Leader (Oct. 11, 2019);  Pompeo faces criticism for giving speech on being a ‘Christian leader,’ The Christian Post (Oct. 15, 2019).

[2] Jakes, Pompeo Defends Trump’s Ukraine Conspiracy Theory, N.Y. Times (Oct. 5, 2019); Fandos, Barnes & Shear,  Former Top State Dept. Aide Tells Impeachment Investigators He Quit Over Ukraine, N.Y. Times (Oct. 16, 2019); Horowitz & Pérez-Peña, Pompeo Confirms He Listened to Trump’s Call to Ukraine President, N.Y. Times (Oct. 2, 2019); Wong & Sanger, Pompeo Faces Political Peril and Diplomats’ Revolt in Impeachment Inquiry, N.Y. Times (Nov. 6, 2019).

[3] Friedman, Mike Pompeo: Last in His Class at West Point in Integrity, N.Y. Times (Nov. 18, 2019); Miller & Sokolsky, Marie Yovanovitch got smeared, Where was Mike Pompeo?, CNN.com (Nov. 16, 2019).

[4] State Dep’t, Secretary Michael R. Pompeo Remarks to the Press (Nov. 18, 2019).

 

Another Powerful Worship Service about Vocation

Westminster Presbyterian Church
Westminster              Presbyterian Church

The February 9th worship service at Minneapolis Presbyterian Church again was focused on vocation. Only two weeks prior the service also was focused on vocation.[1]

Music played an important role in the service, starting with these two organ preludes:

  • “Jesus Calls Us O’er the Tumult” was written by Emma Lou Diemer (b. 1927), a composer of many works for organ and other keyboard instruments, orchestra, chamber ensembles and voice. With B.M. and M.M. degrees from Yale University and a Ph. D. degree from the Eastman School of Music, she is Professor Emeritus at the University of California Santa Barbara. Later in the service we sang the hymn by that name with a different melody as discussed below.
  • Aaron David Miller, a renowned concert organist and composer and the Music Director and Organist at House of Hope Presbyterian Church (St. Paul, Minnesota), composed “The Summons.”

Thereafter two hymns reinforced the Sermon by Rev. Dr. Timothy Hart-Andersen, the church’s Senior Pastor, “What Happens When Jesus Calls?” that will be covered in a subsequent post.

The music for the hymn “Jesus Calls Us [O’er the Tumult]” was composed in 1887 by William Herbert Jude (1851-1922), an English organist and composer. Its words are from 1852 by Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895), a female hymn writer and poet and a member of the Church of Ireland, an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion. Here are the words:

1 ”Jesus calls us, o’er the tumult
Of our life’s wild, restless sea;
Day by day His sweet voice soundeth
Saying, ‘Christian, follow Me;’”

2 “As of old, apostles heard it
By the Galilean lake,
Turned from home and toil and kindred,
Leaving all for His dear sake.”

3 “Jesus calls us from the worship
Of the vain world’s golden store;
From each idol that would keep us,
Saying, ‘Christian, love Me more.’”

4 “In our joys and in our sorrows,
Days of toil and hours of ease,
Still He calls, in cares and pleasures,
‘Christian, love Me more than these.’”

5  “Jesus calls us: by Thy mercies,
Saviour, may we hear Thy call,
Give our hearts to Thy obedience,
Serve and love Thee best of all.”

The other hymn, “Will You Come and Follow Me,” had a traditional Scottish melody with words written in 1987 by John L. Bell and Graham Maule to celebrate the vocation of a youth volunteer. Bell is an ordained Church of Scotland minister and hymnwriter and a member of the Iona Community and its Wild Goose Resource Center.[2] Maule is also at the Center where he focuses on innovative lay training and education (theological and artistic) and lay involvement in worship. These are their words:

  1. “Will you come and follow me
    If I but call your name?
    Will you go where you don’t know
    And never be the same?
    Will you let my love be shown,
    Will you let my name be known,
    Will you let my life be grown
    In you and you in me?”
  2. “Will you leave yourself behind
    If I but call your name?
    Will you care for cruel and kind
    And never be the same?
    Will you risk the hostile stare
    Should your life attract or scare?
    Will you let me answer pray’r
    In you and you in me?”
  3. “Will you let the blinded see
    If I but call your name?
    Will you set the pris’ners free
    And never be the same?
    Will you kiss the leper clean,
    And do such as this unseen,
    And admit to what I mean
    In you and you in me?”
  4. “Will you love the ‘you’ you hide
    If I but call your name?
    Will you quell the fear inside
    And never be the same?
    Will you use the faith you’ve found
    To reshape the world around,
    Through my sight and touch and sound
    In you and you in me?”
  5. “Lord, your summons echoes true
    When you but call my name.
    Let me turn and follow you
    And never be the same.
    In your company I’ll go
    Where your love and footsteps show.
    Thus I’ll move and live and grow
    In you and you in me.”

A careful reading of this hymn reveals that the first four verses are Jesus’ call to every individual asking whether he or she will come and follow Him while the fifth verse is the individual’s response to the Lord’s summons.

On February 9th the congregation and choir sang the entire hymn, but I think it would be more powerful and participative if a solo tenor or bass sang the first four verses with the congregation and choir singing only the fifth verse.


[1]  Prior posts have discussed that service’s (a) Prayer of Confession; (b) an anthem beginning with the words “God be in my head;” (c) passages from the Bible’s book of Acts and the sermon’s drawing on them for comments concerning the vocations of Tabitha, Peter, Lydia and Paul; (d) a passage from Paul’s epistle from a Roman prison and the sermon’s drawing on them for comments about the preacher’s and her people’s vocations; (e) a hymn, “How Clear Is Our Vocation, Lord;”  (f) another hymn, “Give Thanks, O Christian People;” and (g) an anthem, “Forth in They Name, O Lord, I Go.” Clicking on “Westminster Presbyterian Church” in the Tag Cloud at the top right of the blog will give you all of the posts about the church in reverse chronological order of posting.

[2] The Iona Community is a dispersed “Christian ecumenical community working for peace and social justice, rebuilding of community and the renewal of worship.” It has three centers on the Isles of Iona and Mull off the west coast of Scotland. Its Wild Goose Resource Center seeks ”to enable and equip congregations and clergy in the shaping and creation of new forms of relevant, participative worship.”