Secretary of State Shares His Faith Journey, Discusses Religious Freedom, How His Faith Influences His Job, and What He Hopes to Accomplish While in Office

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo delivers remarks in the Press Briefing Room, at the Department of State on March 25, 2020. | State Department/Freddie Everett]

There has arguably never been a secretary of state who has been more upfront and vocal about his faith in Jesus Christ than Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a former Republican congressman and former Presbyterian church Sunday school teacher. 

As the nation’s top diplomat, the 56-year-old has not shied away from speaking about how his faith has influenced his life. He has on many occasions spoken at Christian conservative conferences during his time as secretary and even gave a speech last year promoted by the State Department on “Being a Christian Leader.”

He also brought up his evangelical faith last year during a speech in Muslim-majority Cairo, Egypt, where he said that he keeps a Bible in his State Department desk to remind him of “God and His word and the truth.” In August, he gave his Republican National Convention speech from Jerusalem.

But with his vocality about his faith comes criticism from political opponents who claim that he is “overtly religious” and have accused him of blurring the lines of church and state.

On Tuesday, The Christian Post interviewed Pompeo over the phone about his faith upbringing, how he developed a closer relationship with God as a young adult and how his faith has impacted his calling at the State Department.

Below is the edited transcript.

Christian Post: Can you give us an overview of what your faith was like as a child? You’ve said in the past that it wasn’t really until you got to West Point that you began to take your faith seriously. Can you give me an overview of what it was like as a kid?

Pompeo: I grew up in Southern California. My parents took me many Sundays to the First Christian Church of Santa Anna. It wasn’t, as I recall in middle school and even high school, it wasn’t a central part of my life.

There was Sunday school and that was about it. I was going to be an NBA basketball player. There was a time when I would have been about 18 or 19 when I was a freshman at the United States Military Academy at West Point when I first began to take my walk with Jesus seriously.

There were a couple of cadets that were a little bit older than me that brought me to a Bible study and it’s a faith journey that I have been on ever since.

CP: What happened in that Bible study? Was there a particular passage that was discussed? What resonated with you there? 

Pompeo: If I remember correctly, it was every Sunday, it was in the early afternoon. There was just a small group of us. It couldn’t have been more than 13, 14 or 15 older cadets and then 10 or 12 of us from the freshman class.

We would get together and there would just be fellowship. We would do some reading from the Bible, talk about what was going on in our life. It gave me the first chance to really step back and evaluate the time in my life when I think I could seriously begin to contemplate what that meant and accept Jesus Christ as my Savior.

CP: How did your life change at that point? Did your actions change? Did you think more about how you could help others? What were some things that happened?

Pompeo: It’s now four decades on. It impacts everything that I have done, whether that’s the way I have been in my marriage with Susan or how I have done my best to raise our son, Nick, or as a soldier or small businessman or member of Congress now serving in the executive branch as CIA director and secretary of state.

It’s been a central part of my understanding of how human beings should treat each other and the things that He calls us to do in the way we are supposed to behave in this world.

CP: How did your faith continue to grow after leaving the Army?

Pompeo: I ended up after I got out of the Army [in 1991], I went to law school on the east coast. Three years after that, I headed back to Kansas and became very active in the church there in Wichita — Eastminster Presbyterian Church. I was a deacon for a period of time. Along with my wife, Susan, and another couple, we taught fifth grade Sunday school for a number of years there.

It was great. It was a chance for us to give back in the same way that those two older students helped me come to understand a little more deeply about Christianity. I was able to try and help fifth graders to get a grasp on it as well. 

CP: Being secretary of state, your schedule is packed on a day-to-day basis. How do you have time to study the Bible, attend church, find time for prayer? 

Pompeo: I am pretty disciplined about it, although attending church has proven to be more difficult in the last year-and-a-half or two as I travel a good deal. The church that we attend here wasn’t open for a good long time during COVID, so Susan and I would watch it online, sometimes watching our home church back in Wichita at Eastminster Presbyterian.

But in every place I have been, I was busy when I was a small business owner, but in every place I have been, I have managed to find a place, whether that is 10 or 15 minutes at the beginning of the day or when I am traveling on an airplane to grab some time to read Christian works and writings or to read the Bible itself and take just a moment to pray.

I think I get to it every day. I always manage to try and find just the set of moments, even if it is just going up in the elevator — a moment to pray and think about it and remind myself of these central understandings of how we have been called to live.

CP: It’s been hard for you these last couple of years but is there a certain church that you attend in Washington D.C.?

Pompeo: Yes, we have gone to church (a Presbyterian church) in McLean, Virginia.

CP: You have also been part of the Bible studies with other cabinet members. Has that been an integral thing for you while serving as secretary to set aside that time? 

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith