- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 16, 2001

Early in the pages of his book, Attorney General-designate John Ashcroft suggests a philosophy that could fit in with his confirmation hearings that begin today.
"For every crucifixion," he wrote in "Lessons From a Father to His Son," published in 1998, "a resurrection is waiting to follow."
After almost 30 years in politics and the loss of his Senate seat two months ago, Mr. Ashcroft is hoping the same pattern repeats itself.
After losing a congressional race in 1972, he was named Missouri state auditor a few weeks later. He lost a state auditor's race two years later, but won the state attorney general's race in 1976.
He became Missouri's governor in 1985 and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1994, but lost the seat in November. Last month, he was nominated by a victorious President-elect George W. Bush as U.S. attorney general.
"When you pursue noble things," Mr. Ashcroft wrote, "sometimes noble things pursue you." Through it all, he wrote, his two main sources of support were his father and his faith.
Mr. Ashcroft, 58, is a member of the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal denomination based in Springfield, Ill., that has 2.5 million members in the United States and about 35 million worldwide. Since its founding in 1914 in Hot Springs, Ark., it has slowly come to outnumber such long-established denominations as the Episcopal Church.
The country's largest church buildings and several of its prominent religious broadcasters have ties to the Assemblies of God.
Mr. Ashcroft's father, the Rev. J. Robert Ashcroft, was a leading pastor in the denomination and president of three denominational schools. Diagnosed with serious heart ailments, he clung to life long enough to see his son sworn in as a senator in January 1995, then died en route to his home in Springfield, Mo., a day later.
The younger Ashcroft dedicated his 1998 book to his father's memory. His co-author, Bellingham, Wash., writer Gary Thomas, said the senator took a personal interest in him.
"His humility is what marked me out," he said. "For a politician to take an interest in you is extraordinary. Usually, they want to use you to their ends.
"He's an extraordinarily intelligent man and a man of faith. He was able to travel in both circles without encountering the negative caricatures some people have of Pentecostalism."
In turn, his denomination regards the former governor, senator and would-be attorney general as a sort of favorite son, says Assemblies of God spokeswoman Juleen Turnage.
"We've encouraged our districts and churches to pray for him this week during the hearings," she said. "Our general superintendent sent out a fax last Friday to encourage district leaders to pray."
Known as one of America's more conservative Christian denominations, prominent members include James Watt, former secretary of Interior under President Reagan, as well as Linda Smith, a two-term Republican representative from Washington state who lost a Senate race in 1998. Rep. Todd Tiahrt, Kansas Republican, is also a member.
Political involvement is not pushed, but it is supported, explains the Rev. Charles Crabtree, assistant general superintendent for the denomination.
"We believe we need to be salt and light, not to bring our religious beliefs into the public arena, but to serve our government," he says.
Mr. Ashcroft graduated from the University of Chicago with a law degree in 1967 and started teaching on the faculty of Southwest Missouri State University. He was not planning on entering politics, he explains in his book, until then-Missouri Gov. (now Sen.) Christopher S. Bond tapped him to be state auditor.
Mr. Ashcroft may be personally even more conservative than his denomination, which is opposed to smoking and drinking, but allows some dancing.
"When he was first elected governor, there was a lot of jokes about him turning wine into water at the Governor's Mansion," Mrs. Turnage said. "At his first inaugural ball, he led his wife, Janet, down the steps and around the room, but he did not dance. A lot of our churches wouldn't be so strict."
Where Assemblies of God churches hold the line is in their belief in "gifts" of the Holy Spirit including divine healing, speaking in tongues and prophecy which first surfaced during the Jewish holiday of Pentecost, about 50 days after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Their use faded after several decades, but two millennia later, they reappeared at the dawn of the 20th century.
People who used these gifts became known as "Pentecostals" and because of their controversial nature, many practitioners were ejected from their churches. The clash between fundamentalist leaders and Pentecostals became so sharp through the 1930s that one fundamentalist famously called the Spirit-filled group the "last vomit of Satan."
The split between fundamentalism and Pentecostals is important to understanding Mr. Ashcroft's 1998 visit to Bob Jones University, a fundamentalist school that has been criticized for its anti-Catholic positions. Bob Jones has also been critical of Pentecostalism. Lately, it toned down its invective, says James Guth, professor of political science at Furman University in Greenville, S.C.
"They are separatists on doctrine and on political organization," Mr. Guth says. "But if it's a question of [Republican] partisan politics, they will invite a Catholic Pat Buchanan or a Senator Ashcroft, and there's no anti-Catholic or anti-Pentecostal perspective at all."
Nevertheless, Mr. Ashcroft's visit to BJU was a risk, says Doug Wead, an adviser to the Bush campaign and a liaison to religious groups in the administration of President Bush, the president-elect's father.
Bob Jones University "was not only attacking Catholics, but Pentecostals," he said. "It appalls me that pundits say Sen. Ashcroft didn't know about their anti-Catholic stuff.
"Ashcroft didn't go there because he was anti-Catholic, because Bob Jones attacked [Ashcroft's] own religion. A lot of conservative leaders were encouraged to see this fundamentalist group come out of their shell and invite in some of the very people they had been attacking.
"Ashcroft went there to share his message. It was a big step for them to invite a Pentecostal."
Mr. Ashcroft has been misunderstood before, Mrs. Turnage says, citing a prayer meeting in a home in the District in early 1995 when Mr. Ashcroft was anointed with oil by his father and several friends the week he became a senator.
"A lot of people are saying he anointed himself, but that's not accurate," Mrs. Turnage says. "Usually before John took any office, the family would gather around him and pray for him. In the Book of Acts, apostles laid hands on [evangelists] Paul and Silas. In the Old Testament, the kings were anointed to the office.
"Anointing is symbolic of the presence of the Holy Spirit and it's just a symbol of asking God's wisdom and help in carrying out the responsibilities of the office he has."


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