Monday, April 28, 2008

MICHAEL REAGAN: Keeping the Legacy Alive

Michael Reagan is the oldest son of our 40th President, Ronald Reagan. I had the privilege of meeting and interviewing him last week when he was in Tyler to speak at a luncheon for Arrow Child and Family Services.

Because I don’t really listen to talk radio, I was unfamiliar with his influence among conservative Americans. His radio broadcast airs on over 200 stations in the U.S. and is heard by a daily audience of 5 Million Americans. He is also heard around the world on

Michael’s latest book, Twice Adopted, describes his life growing up as the adopted son of Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman. His “second adoption” was when he was adopted into the family of God as a follower of Jesus.

I found myself bonding with him almost immediately because we both share a similar experience. I was sexually molested by a high school boy when I was in the third grade. I never told a soul, and I completely blocked out that painful memory until I was in my forties and found myself sharing it with people in my church. My willingness to share that painful experience empowered other people in our church to feel safe in sharing some of their hurts and hang-ups. Like me, Michael was sexually molested by the owner of his after-school day care center when he was in the third grade. He kept that information buried inside his soul until after he became a Christian in his forties.

The most poignant memories he shares are about when he first discovered that he was adopted. At first he was proud that he had been “chosen.” But after the kids at school started calling him a bastard, it damaged his self-image. Even as a young child he knew that there was something bad in the Bible about someone who didn’t know who their real dad was. When he found the verse, it shattered his world and turned him against God for the next 30 years.

In Deuteronomy 23:2 he read, “A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the Lord.” And yes, that’s the exact word that’s found in the King James Version.

As a child, he knew nothing about the Old Testament or the New Testament – and about how Jesus removed the curse of the Law. To him, it was just the Bible, and it turned Him away from God. From that day until he was saved he believed that God hated him and that everything bad that happened in his life was God just trying to make him more miserable.

From that point on, Michael incorrectly believed that God would never accept him, so he set off to do everything he could to “earn his way into hell.” When he used that phrase, I fully expected him to say, “earn my way into heaven.” But I guess when a guy thinks there’s no hope of heaven, he goes in the opposite direction. To get the whole story of his conversion, read his book – it’s WELL worth the price.

As I listened to Michael share his testimony, I couldn’t help but wonder, “How many hundreds (thousands) of people are there in East Texas who have the same mistaken ideas about God because they read a Bible verse out of context or someone told them something that turned them away from God?”

His journey back to God started when he married a Christian woman who prayed for him. She convinced him to go to church, which he did. But he attended for years before he gave his heart to Christ. He was at a church in California when his dad, Ronald Reagan, was President. People would always ask him, “How’s your dad?” Or “How’s Nancy?” Michael said not once did anyone at church ask him, “How’s Michael?” People just ASSUMED he was a Christian because he was sitting in church and opened a Bible – but he wasn’t there yet.

That part of his story also made me wonder how many hundreds of people attend our church (any church), and we make the mistake of assuming that they are Christians just because they show up. How many times do we ask hurting people about trivial things when what they really need is for someone to care enough to ask, “How are you doing, really?”

One of the greatest joys of my life is getting to meet really neat people, and Michael Reagan is certainly someone I’ll never forget. I’m thankful to know that we still have a Reagan around who is making a difference!

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