Secretary of State speaks on role of faith in American, international politics. Says faith was important role in Abraham Accords.
On Sunday, September 20, 2020, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. The Secretary of State spoke on his faith and the role it plays in his job as America’s chief diplomat.
“We know America is at its best when faith is in the public square,” Pompeo said. “We defend human rights inside of our borders and outside of our borders like no other nation in the history of civilization. And we’re not perfect. We get it wrong sometimes. Indeed, in America, our – some of our greatest failings have been when we didn’t acknowledge the place that faith must play in our lives.”
Pompeo warned that not every nation accepts the important role faith plays in the life of peoples around the world. He cited several examples including rising global competitor, China.
“Today, perhaps the most egregious example is the Chinese Communist Party,” Pompeo said. “Today in the western part of China, a place that none of us might know, a place called Xinjiang, more than a million Chinese have been forced into internment camps, being surveilled 24/7, forced sterilizations, forced abortions, today, in the world in which we inhabit. They are submitted – subjected to torture, and worse. It’s part of the Chinese Communist Party’s constant attack on faith. It’s a war on faith that’s been happening for decades. The United States for the first time in many years is taking this on under President Trump in a serious way.”
In the transcript below, Pompeo covers many topics including his time at the West Point and how a Bible study with older cadets led him to Jesus.
Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
Jack Graham, Pastor at Prestonwood Baptist Church
Prestonwood Baptist Church
via US State Department
MR GRAHAM: Well, I am so happy to be able to introduce to you Secretary of State of the United States of America Mike Pompeo, who first and foremost in his resume – and you’re about to hear an incredible resume – but first and foremost, he is a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ and a believer in our savior. (Applause.)
He was born out in California and ultimately landed at West Point, and he graduated at West Point first in his class at this great United States Military Academy, in 1986. (Applause.) He then – he then served as a cavalry officer patrolling the Iron Curtain before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Imagine that. And he also served with the 2nd Squadron of the 7th Cavalry in the U.S. Army’s 4th Infantry Division. So thank you for our service there, Mr. Secretary. And then he returned to the United States and entered Harvard, and he graduated from the Harvard Law School having been editor of the Harvard Law Review. He ultimately ended up in Kansas – back in Kansas – where he began a business, an oil and gas business, and he spent some time out in west Texas and east Texas. And while he is back to the great state of Texas, this Trump administration is taking really good care of the oil and gas business and we here in Texas, we really appreciate that, don’t we? (Applause.) They get it.
Ultimately, Secretary Pompeo ran for Congress out of Kansas and he was elected to the U.S. Congress and he served on very important committees, including Energy and Commerce and the House Select Benghazi Committee. That must have been extremely interesting. It must have prepared him for his next assignments in God’s call upon his life, which was the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, the CIA – America’s top spy. Mike. (Laughter.) Mike Pompeo. That was my James Bond effort right there. (Laughter.)
But so – and then he was sworn in as our great Secretary of State April 26th, 21 – 2018. And he has served with distinction as America’s chief ambassador, top diplomat. It’s a vital position. If you know your civics, you know that’s – that’s third in line to the presidency of the United States. That’s how close this is. He has the Cabinet. And I’m so glad that he does because he is a man with integrity, commitment, devotion to our country. And Mr. Secretary, you are among great friends today at Prestonwood Church. Let’s all welcome together Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (Applause.)
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good morning. Good morning, everyone. What a glorious welcome. I think I’m going to take that choir with me wherever I go. (Laughter.) Good things would surely follow.
Pastor Graham, thank you for having me here today. It’s been delightful to get to meet you. First Lady, nice to see you. My wife Susan and I for these past months, much like many of you, haven’t been able to go to church. We’ve been streaming our home church, Eastminster Presbyterian up in Wichita, Kansas, just a couple hours up I-35 from here. It’s not the same thing as gathering with our fellow believers. Those people at Eastminster are near and dear to our hearts. They’re our friends, the people we love to worship with. I was a deacon there. That was my first entry into politics. (Laughter.) And then I taught fifth grade Sunday School. Susan and I taught a class together there for a number of years. I would try and teach the boys scripture, which has been perfect to become Secretary of State. (Laughter.) Fifth-graders and tyrants around the world share certain common characteristics. (Laughter.) Having once had a fifth-grade boy myself, I was ready.
It – look, it put an enormous smile on my face to come in here today, to see the parking lot full of big trucks and to see the pews filled with Christian believers, followers of Jesus. This is the America that I know and the America that I love. It’s great to be with you all here today.
Just a little over three years ago, I was the director of the CIA. I was traveling to a pretty difficult, dark place in the world. I was – climbed off the airplane. It was in the middle of the night. Came down the steps and an older gentleman reached out his hand to me and we shook hands, and into my hand he placed a small palm-sized Bible, kind of tattered. I grabbed it. I didn’t know exactly what it was. I thanked him, said hello, and hopped on into my vehicle. I got in the – got in the car and opened it up, and there was a note from him inside the Bible. It said, “Mr. Director, you have been a light to me and to the world. Bless you.” I later learned that he was a State Department employee. I had no idea that someday I would lead his team. But I did know that for at least one person at that moment in time, I had been a beacon, I had been a light, I had shone for him.
I tell you this story because this is what I want to talk about today. It’s not because of something that I did. I tell you that story because it tells each of us about how we have a responsibility to model Christian behavior and to be a light unto the world.
I am now America’s most senior diplomat. I travel the world. I meet with people of many, many faiths. How America leads in the world is being watched. And there is an absolute responsibility to make sure that they understand our founding as a Judeo-Christian nation. And I believe deeply, with all my heart, that faith – faith in the public square, for each of us – faith in the public square is not only lawful, but righteous. That faith is not only powerful but required by the American tradition. And especially – especially in these challenging times, keeping faith in the public square is not simply acceptable, but it’s an imperative. Our President believes that and the senior leaders of America believe that, and we every day strive to help all of us, for all of us who have a responsibility to keep faith in the public square, whether that’s at home or at work or on soccer fields with our kids or at a PTA meeting. Wherever we may find ourselves, this is essential. It’s an essential part of the American tradition.
I know I’m in Texas. I know some of you think it’s a country. I know it’s not. (Laughter.) My team reminded me that, sir, you’re headed to Guyana, Suriname, Brazil, Colombia, and then you’re going to Texas. (Laughter.) And the original press release said “five countries, five days.” (Laughter.) It is an enormous privilege to serve as Secretary of State and a blessing – a blessing that none of us should forget that the good lord has bestowed upon us and that our founders enshrined in our documents, our core documents for us and preserved for us this right that comes not from governments. The fact that we are human beings; our founders recognized that. And these men – these amazing men back 240-plus years ago – enshrined it in our core documents that faith would in fact be in the public square. We need to live up to that each and every day.
They knew. They came from different faith walks themselves, but they knew. They knew that each of us had human dignity because we were – because we were created in the image of God. That certainly counts for us in America, but it counts for all people. It was George Washington who wrote, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” Think about that. They were fighting a revolution. They were working to build out a nation. And they turned to those central ideas upon which to build. They put protection of human dignity and human freedom at the heart of our founding documents. They knew that religious freedom, the capacity to worship in the way that you wanted, was central to the well-being of a nation. And to this day – to this day, while imperfect, America reflects this. Our State Department, the work that we do all across the world must reflect this as well.
I’ll give you a good example from just this week. I was in the northern part of Brazil, on the – near the Venezuelan border, and the refugees were fleeing from the brutal Maduro regime. And you saw Americans there, some of them working for the government, but many there volunteering. There was mission work taking place as well, providing humanitarian assistance help and a thoughtful prayer for those people who were in such difficult conditions.
We know – we know America is at its best when faith is in the public square. We defend human rights inside of our borders and outside of our borders like no other nation in the history of civilization. And we’re not perfect. We get it wrong sometimes. Indeed, in America, our – some of our greatest failings have been when we didn’t acknowledge the place that faith must play in our lives.
In America, we have a very broad understanding. If you have no faith and that is your choice, we rightly don’t permit a national government to establish a state religion. But everyone in this room knows what nations look like when religious freedom is stomped out and faith in the public square is eliminated.
There’s examples that are ongoing today. We see what’s happening in places like Cuba. Pastor Graham spoke about the fact that I served as a young soldier on the West German–East German border. I sat in my tank and I could see the sullen faces of the East German people who lived in a communist police state. We know the horrors of Adolph Hitler and his godless regime.
Today, sadly, millions and millions of people still live under regimes that want to banish faith from the public square, or any of notion of God from basic civic life.
Today, perhaps the most egregious example is the Chinese Communist Party. Today in the western part of China, a place that none of us might know, a place called Xinjiang, more than a million Chinese have been forced into internment camps, being surveilled 24/7, forced sterilizations, forced abortions, today, in the world in which we inhabit. They are submitted – subjected to torture, and worse. It’s part of the Chinese Communist Party’s constant attack on faith. It’s a war on faith that’s been happening for decades. The United States for the first time in many years is taking this on under President Trump in a serious way.
Earlier this summer, I read a pleading message from a Chinese woman whose husband is a pastor imprisoned in China. She wrote to me, quote, “Beloved brothers and sisters… I earnestly ask for your prayers for me and for my family. It has been over six months since has been incarcerated. At first, he would make phone calls, I’d hear from him from prison. He would let me know that he is okay. Now, the remaining hope that I have is painfully small, and my hope every day is to receive a three-minute phone call. All I have left is prayer.”
We should be mindful of our responsibility, our duty, our obligation, and our capacity to keep our faith, our light in the public square.
As Christians we’re called to do that. We have that responsibility. It’s fundamentally American too. We should pray. That’s the first of all things. I feel prayers. I get notes from people who say they’re praying for me. I can feel it. My wife, my son, we all appreciate it.
Of course, too, you should keep supporting the missionaries that come from your church and from others. They’re doing remarkable work. I see it as I travel all around the world. They are bringing salt and light to some of the darkest corners of the world. But you can also do it in simple ways. In every interaction that you have, whether you’re at church or at a Bible study, at your work, or wherever you may find yourself, exercise your right to religious freedom. Be open. Be clear about who you are.
Imagine millions of Americans of faith – all faiths – exercising these freedoms every day. The cumulative effect is massive. And it would empower me as the Secretary of State of the United States of America. You will be telling the world who we are as a nation. And too, you’ll give nations that are torn apart by religious conflict hope that people of different faiths can live in unity. This is something we do here that is uniquely American. We can pass that on all around the world.
If you hide your light in an open society like ours, that sends a terrible message to places that are more difficult, who have trouble or who are threatened if they choose to be bold in their faith. I’d urge every one of you to use your precious freedoms to do big things for our country alongside of doing big things for our kingdom.
Now, the world is watching us, and there will be naysayers. There will be critics. If you speak up about your faith, it is undoubtedly the case that someone will suggest that that’s not the right thing to do. But don’t be discouraged. It means you’ve got conviction and that you showed it.
I know this firsthand. I’m not a victim, but I’ve seen it. A previous national security advisor said that it was “problematic” that Mike Pompeo is “overtly religious.” The New York Times wrote a piece that my wife still gives me trouble about. It said – it says, quote, “no Secretary of State in recent decades has been as open and fervent as Mr. Pompeo about discussing Christianity and foreign policy in the same breath.” (Applause.)
My son, Nick, who’s almost 30 now, his primary function in life is to keep me humble. (Laughter.) He read that and texted me. He says, “Well, how many breaths are you supposed to take between the two?” (Laughter.) A reasonable question from a wonderful young Christian believer.
Look, connecting faith to America’s foreign policy is an imperative. It’s important. It’s a good thing. I was reminded of that just this week, just this past week on Tuesday. On Tuesday I was at the White House for a ceremony. The leaders of two Muslim nations made peace with the Jewish state of Israel. (Applause.) Many things that we did enabled that. The President made the decision to recognize this biblical land and Jerusalem as the rightful capital of that nation.
But in the end, those leaders, both in public and in private, made very clear that they were adamant that their faith was at the center of this accomplishment, what it is we were collectively able to achieve. Even though these nations had and likely will have disagreements on many things for time to come, I am confident that their faith was what drove them to be able to get to the right place to make these good decisions for both of their peoples. It is no coincidence that the historic agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Israel and Bahrain are known as the Abraham Accords.
Now, I know that God’s name can be invoked for evil, but we should welcome it when leaders across the world feel bound by a higher power, feel bound by a higher power to pursue harmony with other nations. It’s a glorious thing. It’s a deeply Christian thing. Faith strengthens American diplomacy. It doesn’t diminish it.
More good news. I’m not the only one at the State Department that believes this. Recently a group of light-shiners who work at the State Department started the first ever faith-based employee affinity group at the State Department. One of the faith group’s leaders came to me and she said, “Mike, before you arrived, we did not think it wise to gather around our belief in Jesus. Now, because of you, we know we must show the value added by people of all faiths to the State Department mission.” What a glorious thing. The right heart. (Applause.)
So don’t let anybody tell you that faith is disconnected from who we are as Americans. As I travel the globe from Israel to India, from South Korea to Senegal, world leaders always talk to me about their faith. And they tell their people about their faiths too. It’s at the center of lives all across the world. Indeed, it is in the places where faith is suppressed or targeted for total erasure that we see brutality and evil and where humanity is most oppressed.
We have a special responsibility to keep faith in the public square here in the United States of America. Look, I have this great blessing. I get to carry out this mission, this privilege to serve as America’s 70th Secretary of State. It’s only because of God’s grace in my life that I have had this chance. I keep on a table over on the right-hand side of my office a Bible. I try to dig into the Word each and every day. It’s a little harder as I get busier.
I use – there’s an elevator I ride every day into work. It’s about 20 seconds. I use that to bow my head and set myself for the day to pray when I’m in Washington. It’s consistent with what the Bible tells us in Galatians Chapter 6 Verse 9. It reads, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Look, I know these times are difficult. We’re getting our churches and our schools back open. This is fantastic. We will do this good work alongside the Lord. We have great help. It is his “power is made perfect in weakness.”
So here at Prestonwood, my friends, and everywhere else, don’t ever give up shining the light. Don’t ever walk away from an opportunity to put faith in the public square. Do walk with the Lord. And keep at it. Stay true. Keep believing. All of us together will make this nation a light unto the world.
Thank you for letting me be here today. May God bless each and every one of you. (Applause.)
MR GRAHAM: Thank you so much. Just what we wanted to hear and needed to hear, knew we would hear coming from you. I was just wondering – tell us a little bit more about how you got this Christian worldview. We’re in a worldview series right now talking about how we see the world through the lens of scripture, and I know that you have a worldview that is Christian and biblical, clearly. You’ve shared that.
How did that start for you? How did you come to know Christ in a personal way? You shared a little bit about that in the earlier service.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, a little more so. I grew up in southern California. I went to church. But I was going to be an NBA basketball star.
MR GRAHAM: There you go. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. So – but when I headed off to the United States Military Academy, in my freshman year there were two older cadets – they would have both been juniors, if I recall correctly – who were holding a bible study, and they offered cookies. I was all in. (Laughter.)
But more seriously, they brought me to Jesus and they taught me how to read the Bible. My walk with the Lord really began with them, and it has been with me ever since. And my faith grows as I travel around the world and I watch people. I’ll have people come tug on my sleeve and thank me for being a Christian, for being a leader. It reminds me of the centrality of who Jesus Christ is in my life, the responsibility that I have to share that each time I get an opportunity to do so, and reinforces my faith and understanding that it is only through him that good things will happen in the world.
MR GRAHAM: It’s really incredible for – to see how President Trump has surrounded himself with people like Mike Pompeo who are believers and followers of Jesus. (Applause.) Like Mike Pence, who you know quite well from the Midwest, Betsy DeVos, Ben Carson, of course, and our own Governor Rick Perry, who is here, now retired from the Cabinet. But it’s very important for us who are believers and followers of Jesus that we know people who are leading our country seek God and seek God’s wisdom, and thank you for doing that.
And this man’s light shines, and I can tell you up close and personal he’s warm, he’s winsome, just as he appears here. Thank you for being so genuine in your faith and open about your faith. That’s an inspiration for every one of us. If the Secretary of State of the United States of America can be an ambassador for Christ first, then I know we all can as well.
One of the key issues for us thinking about world view and our view of the world and the Bible is the sanctity of life. And you see it because life is valuable, because life is created by God, as you talked about. We believe life is sacred and that we are therefore very much pro-life. We – from the womb to the tomb, all the way through. That’s why we started two pregnancy centers plus a mobile unit. We’re saving babies and we say, Mr. Secretary, that we are pro-life in our beliefs and pro-love in our actions. And that’s salt and light that’s being – making a difference. That’s being an ambassador.
Tell us your views on life and the sanctity of life. I know you have some.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So you all have the right end of the stick on this, and that’s important. Never walk away from that. Never round edges on that central issue of human dignity and protecting every human life.
I get a chance to work on this now all around the world. We are an enormously generous nation. We provide humanitarian assistance all across the globe to some of the most difficult places, and we do real good. It is unfortunate that from time to time, under certain administrations, some of that money goes to underwriting the termination of life, to abortions. This President has said no, we’re not going to do that. And I, as the Secretary of State, get the chance to enforce that. We underwrite these places. We have to make sure that no U.S. taxpayer dollars, none of the money that you provide, will ever go to funding an organization that is connected to abortion. (Applause.)
MR GRAHAM: How many of you know that we have a Supreme Court vacancy now? And we are at the tipping point on the issue of life in America. We really are. I believe – I tell young people all the time – you hear a lot about millennials. I say, “You can be the generation that ends this holocaust in America,” and we’re getting close.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Amen.
MR GRAHAM: And we need to pray for our President as he appoints the next justice of the Supreme Court, pray that God will give him wisdom and that that will go well.
Let’s talk a little bit more about the Middle East. I know – in fact, we’ve met I think somewhere along the way, but I got to sit down with the President – with the Secretary, rather, and a few other Christian leaders in your office, in your conference room actually. And we talked about the situation in Jerusalem and moving the embassy there, but beyond that trying to create some kind of an agreement with the Arab nations and Israel. We had a time of prayer. The Secretary expressed his heart and intentions on that and now, as you mentioned, it’s happening. It’s happening with this recent agreement, the Abraham agreement.
Can you tell us a little bit more, a little inside scoop on some of that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: The Abraham Accords are the classic overnight success that took forever. (Laughter.) There had been so much work, and the President had made this such a priority. He first laid out his vision for peace in the Middle East. We then recognized that, in the end, the problem wasn’t the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis that was driving so much of the harm. It was the threat from Iran.
And when we made that shift, that we said we’re going to defend and we’re going to work with the people of Israel, we’re going to build our coalitions that respect and honor them and recognize their right to exist, that was the thing that unlocked the key that gave us this incredible opportunity. And now truly remarkable leaders of multiple faiths have said we recognize Israel’s right to exist; it is indeed the Jewish homeland, but we’re going to partner with them. We’re going to work with them. We will pray together. Right? Those of you who had the privilege to travel to Israel have seen, right? You’ve been to the Temple Mount. You’ve seen al-Aqsa Mosque. You’ve seen where these three religions come together.
And we now have an enormous opportunity to build out on what happened this week and hopefully create a lasting set of understandings that will create a much less dangerous Middle East and give Christians that are in places like Iraq and Christians that are in Syria and Christians who are in Lebanon a greater chance to practice their faith without being oppressed by their leaders. (Applause.)
MR GRAHAM: One of the things that we pray about is the blessing and the protection of God upon America. I thank you for your reference to the Founding Fathers. There are a lot of people who want to seemingly rewrite American history that somehow it started in a bad way and continues in a bad way. We love America and I know you do. (Applause.)
Tell us your thoughts of history a little bit and in this whole cultural, cancel culture environment that we’re in right now, how can we as Christians think well of our country and love our country? Can we love our country like we want to?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Amen, amen.
MR GRAHAM: Yeah.
SECRETARY POMPEO: We not only can, we must. It’s actually – Pastor Graham, it’s why I picked this topic this morning to talk about. I served as America’s diplomat to the world, but I am keenly aware that conflict and strife here in the United States undermines my capacity to be a beacon, to have this most exceptional nation in the history of civilization be that light to the world.
And so when I – to your point, when I see people suggesting that somehow this nation didn’t start with this founding in 1776, where our forefathers declared we’re going to make a more perfect union, and that we work on this every day and that we strive towards it, I think there’s two things. One, we have to do this in our civic life in the way we carry ourselves in the world; but second, we need to return to the founders’ central understandings about faith and how this Judeo-Christian nation is central to the world and we must stand with it and we can’t let anybody try and rewrite history to suggest otherwise. It is an absolute imperative that we stand on these traditions and continue to build them up. It’s for our kids and for our grandkids. It’s absolutely imperative. (Applause.)
MR GRAHAM: Yes. And how – this is an election year, and we all know that. Interestingly enough, in 2016, 25 million people who identified themselves as evangelical Christians did not vote. Many were unregistered to vote. Here at Prestonwood, we want you to register to vote. We pray that you will vote. We are asking you to vote.
What is our civic responsibility just to participate, Secretary, and how can we be involved and how can we pray for you, our President, and our country right now?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So we should pray that the elections that we’ll have in 40-some days now will be safe and secure and that everyone’s vote will be counted precisely once. (Laughter and applause.) And I just – I am reminded when I travel the world and we try to help countries build out election systems, and we spend a lot of our time in – I went to Guyana because they had their first democratic election in an awfully long time, and it was amazing to see the responses – people alongside the road for America coming to help them build out a democratic system in their country and to stand – when there was fraud in their vote counting to say we weren’t going to accept it, and we’ve – we worked to get it right. We have a responsibility.
As the Secretary of State I’m not allowed to do politics, but I can do duty, and it is everyone’s duty to be counted, to stand up and express your preference, the things that you want, and to go to the polling place and exercise that freedom that we have been given and that our officers and security teams will ensure that we have the opportunity to go vote. Go exercise that right and make sure every one of your friends does the same, and then the Lord will pass upon it and we will come out of this election a stronger, better nation. I am confident of that.
MR GRAHAM: Amen. (Applause.) So register and vote. We do pray for our President, Vice President, and you, Mike Pompeo, and the entire Cabinet. But we have a very unique privilege today to pray for this man that God has brought our way, and hasn’t he blessed us today just with his words? And thank you. (Applause.)
So I want you to stand with me and the Secretary, and I’m going to pray for him with you, and we’re going to ask God’s favor and faithfulness, which is always present, to continue to be upon him. I know God’s presence is with him, and we want to pray to that end.
Lord, we thank you that you have called us to be ambassadors, ambassadors for Christ, and that you have uniquely and strategically placed this man in his office and assignment, and in your providence and your divine plan he is there representing you, our nation, the Constitution. We thank you that he so overtly and openly lets his light shine. We pray for his wife, his son, his family. We pray that you would watch over him with your peace, body, mind, soul, and strength, that he would love you with all his heart and love our neighbors, neighbors here in this country and neighbors around the world that you’ve put in his heart to do.
Where there is despair, may he be a light of hope. Give him joy in this journey. Give him peace and make him a peacemaker. Lord, give him faith, the strength that he needs, to do the job that you have given him – a huge job, a big assignment. And literally, so often the weight of governments and the world and this country is on this man’s shoulders, so we pray that you would help him by your strength to bear this up and that his faith – so strong and true – would sustain him and give him wisdom. And as we honor him today, we thank you that he turns that honor back to you.
Lord, we pray for our nation. We pray for peace in the world. We pray for our President, President Trump and Vice President Pence, this Cabinet. And we pray, oh God, in the selection of a Supreme Court justice that your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven. We know your heart is for every baby, born and unborn, that you are the giver and the author of life. We pray that we could make a difference where we are. And oh God, we promise, we pledge to pray for Mike Pompeo and, Lord, that you will continue to use him for your glory in Jesus’ name, and everyone said, “Amen.” Amen. Thank you, Secretary. (Applause.)