Asked at the Reagan Library whether he will enter the presidential race, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gave an interesting answer. Citing the example of Ronald Reagan, he stated: “I know, without ever having met President Reagan, that he must have felt deeply in his heart that he was called to that moment, to lead our country.”
Christie seemed to say that, unlike Reagan, he isn’t feeling a call to enter the presidential race. That’s a telling statement that merits unpacking. And as the guy who wrote the book on Ronald Reagan’s faith, perhaps I can help out Christie here.
For Reagan, the call in his heart came from himself, from his country, and from his sense of God’s will. I imagine that Christie, likewise a religious man—a serious Roman Catholic—is seeking a call from those same sources.
It is correct to say that Ronald Reagan felt called by God. But Reagan’s thinking was always more complicated than that. Reagan spoke constantly, throughout his career, of what he and his close friend and colleague Bill Clark (a devout Catholic) called “the DP”—i.e., the Divine Plan. Reagan prayed to discern God’s will, but he knew that discernment is a tricky business.
Reagan felt that only in retrospect could one best (or better) detect God’s intent. Only after the fact could he confidently see the hand of God in winning the presidency, taking on the Evil Empire, standing at the Berlin Wall, and meeting with Pope John Paul II and Gorbachev and Thatcher and Lech Walesa and on and on.
What Ronald Reagan possessed was a strong sense of good vs. evil, right and wrong, and, most significant of all, recognition of the need to respond to a nation (or at least a political party) that was calling him.
Governor Chris Christie may not ever fully feel a call from God to be president. But he may be getting a call from his party and from America. And that may be the voice he needs to heed right now.
For Catholic Exchange.com and Ave Maria Radio, I’m Paul Kengor.