Kerry Knott, 50, is well aware of Washington's propensity for moral failings, and for its occasional redemptions. Today, he's focused on the latter. As president of Springfield's C.S. Lewis Institute, Knott leads an organization devoted to teaching and mentoring Christians on how to better articulate their own beliefs and to live out their faiths in public and private life. Prior to his current position, Knott spent 26 years on Capitol Hill, first as the chief of staff for former House Rep. Dick Armey, R-Texas, and then as a lobbyist for Microsoft and Comcast. He shared with The Washington Examiner by e-mail thoughts on faith, career, and why the first takes precedence.
Do you consider yourself to be of a specific faith?
I'm a "mere Christian," as C.S. Lewis put it. Other faiths are largely about working your way to heaven. Christianity, properly understood, is about God's plan of redemption through faith in his son, Jesus. What could be better news than to have the Lord of the universe reach out and offer us eternal life? It's without doubt the greatest gift ever.
The worlds of politics and lobbying hardly are regarded as models of Christian values at work. How did you ensure, on a daily basis, that your work was not at odds with your values?
I worked on Capitol Hill for 14 years and 12 years in the corporate lobbying world. It is essential, through daily attention, to stay grounded in your core beliefs. We've all heard stories of lobbyists or politicians breaking the rules, but the same thing happens in every line of work. We live in a fallen world with fallen people, so what else should we expect? We should all seek to do our work with integrity, excellence and humility. We should be willing to say no to improper things and speak up when culture or policies pull you in the wrong direction. I applaud those working inside and outside government to make our nation a better place, including those who disagree about what makes our nation great. Spirited debate is a defining aspect of our nation.
Many people struggle for years with decisions to switch careers. What was it that led you to leave politics and lobbying to lead the C.S. Lewis Institute?
I read "Half Time" by Bob Buford almost 10 years ago, which talks about a midcareer switch from success to significance, and a seed was planted. I began to feel pulled, gradually, in the direction of a full-time ministry role. When I left Comcast, I was able to accelerate this transition. Earlier this year I was exploring a variety of ministry roles when the institute position was presented. Since I had been through its programs and served on the board, I knew it had a meaningful mission. After lots of prayer and discussion, I made the switch.
As president of the institute, you must have a favorite among C.S. Lewis' works. What is it? And what do you think it could teach today's Washingtonians?
I find "The Weight of Glory" to be particularly powerful. Lewis' compelling description of how we are too easily pleased with earthly pleasures; his vivid picture of drinking from the fountainhead of heaven; and the reminder that we should love our neighbor because all of us are immortal creatures made by God, are powerful reminders to me every time I read this short sermon.
At your core, what is one of your defining beliefs?
I believe in doing the research and following the truth, wherever it takes me. I've seen people put huge amounts of energy into reflection about their career, their choice of spouse, their kid's education, etc., but they don't take the time to explore what they believe about God and why. If the Bible is true, which I believe, then we must take it seriously. If it is not, it should be ignored. When I hear people say "everyone will go to heaven," or "all religions are the same," I want them to back that up. A feel-good belief system may seem OK, but how will that hold up if we have to stand before our creator one day? What a tragedy it would be to go about our lives pursuing nothing but earthly success to find out one day we missed the most important question in all of life.
- Leah Fabel