Paul  Kengor

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is being urged to seek the Republican presidential nomination. There is a genuine groundswell for Christie.

Asked this week at the Reagan Library whether he will enter the race, Christie gave a very 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.

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, is seeking a call from those same sources.

Well, as the guy who wrote the book on Ronald Reagan’s faith, perhaps I can help out Christie here.

It is correct to say that Reagan felt called by God. But Reagan’s thinking was always more complicated than that. Ronald Reagan spoke constantly, throughout his career, of what he and his close friend and colleague Bill Clark (who had been with Reagan since the California gubernatorial years) called “the DP”—i.e., the Divine Plan. Reagan prayed to discern God’s will, but he knew that discernment is a tricky business. He was happy to place his life and career in “God’s hands,” not knowing where precisely, and when, that would lead him. To cite just one example of many, Reagan felt a call of some sort in 1976, but lost his presidential bid that year. When he lost, he told his family and friends that the loss must have been God’s will.

Reagan felt that only in retrospect could one (better) detect God’s intent. He learned this as a boy from his mother. It never left him.

“God had another plan,” Reagan later put it. That plan, that divinely laid “fork in the road” that his mother always talked about, apparently included winning the presidency in November 1980, getting shot in March 1981, taking on the Evil Empire, standing at the Berlin Wall, meeting with Gorbachev and Pope John Paul II and Thatcher and Walesa, and on and on.

What 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.

Gov. Christie and his fellow Republicans and conservatives would agree that, in Reagan’s case, things worked out for the best, just as Reagan’s mother always said they would—in “God’s time,” and according to “the DP.”




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