Kris Mineau, R.I.P.

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Kris Mineau died on September 3rd. A heroic pilot during the Vietnam war, a missions pastor at his church, and the leader of Massachusetts Family Institute for 15 years, Mineau was the embodiment of what the famous missionary Eric Liddell in the movie Chariots of Fire called “muscular Christianity.”

He was a faithful, brave, and honorable Christian soldier. He served his God, his family, and his country with distinction. He died at age 80 at his home in Tulsa, Oklahoma with his wife of 57 years, Lura, and his family at his side after a long and courageous battle against ALS – Lou Gehrig’s disease.

He fought the good fight as a Christian warrior – both in physical and spiritual warfare. And he was the polar opposite of the caricature of the Massachusetts Puritan:  he was always full of joy and warmth, and had a quick wit. Despite frequent verbal assaults from the left, targeting him as “hateful” and “bigoted,” or a “homophobe,” Kris was unfailingly humble and patient, never responding in kind.

He was born in Germany during World War II and emigrated with his family to America when he was about 8. He graduated from Worcester Academy and later the United States Air Force Academy. As a pilot, Kris flew more than 100 missions in his F-4C Phantom II jet over North Vietnam in 1968, as a member of the famous “Wolf Pack” – a unit renowned for its aggressive and successful tactics in destroying enemy MIGs. The fact that he survived those 100+ missions of North Vietnam – at a time when so many of his fellow pilots were shot down by surface-to-air missiles and enemy fighter planes – was a tribute to his skill and courage.

A year later, while stationed in England, he was flying an F-4 Phantom when a mechanism on his plane failed. From an altitude of 15,000 feet, the plane nosedived at the speed of sound. His electronic weapons officer in the rear seat successfully ejected. But despite repeated efforts, Mineau’s seat would not fire.

The jet plummeted 1,000 feet a second, seconds from crashing. Mineau cried out, “Please, God, help.” At that moment, the ejection seat finally fired. He bailed out with his jet travelling at a supersonic speed of approximately 700 miles per hour. His parachute opened less than 1,000 feet above the ground – far less than what was considered safe given the technology of the time. He survived the hard landing, but all four limbs of his body were terribly broken. He spent the next year in the hospital and underwent multiple major surgeries during the next six years.

His miraculous survival brought him to a robust Christian faith and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, his physical recovery took many years. His doctors told him that he would never fly again. But five years later, the Air Force declared him medically fit for flight status, and in 1976, Mineau started flying again. This time, his plane was the F-15 Eagle, a remarkable jet fighter that could reach speeds of Mach 2.5 (approximately 1,875 mph). Mineau attained the rank of Colonel and retired from the Air Force in 1992.

Kris then spent three years in Saudi Arabia as a U.S. Air Force contractor, assisting in building F-15 air bases. During this period, he and his beloved wife, Lura, would bring Bibles and Christian tracts into Saudi Arabia, which was forbidden by Saudi authorities. Eventually their activities were discovered, and the Saudis forced them to leave the country.

Back in the United States, Mineau attended Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Massachusetts, graduating in 1999 with a master’s degree in divinity. He dedicated the next 15 years of his life to Christian ministry and public service – first as Missions Pastor at Trinity Evangelical Church in his hometown of North Reading, Massachusetts, where he preached the gospel of Jesus Christ in one of the most secular regions in America.

In 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court handed down the Goodridge decision, which legalized same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriage had previously been celebrated in some churches and secular ceremonies, but this was the first time in America that homosexual marriage was sanctioned by the government. Kris encouraged members of his church to become active in the effort to allow the citizens of Massachusetts to vote on this issue, as the Bible and all of Christian teaching clearly define marriage to be between one man and one woman in a sacrament instituted by God.

Because of Mineau’s leadership on this issue and his understanding that faith is not just a private matter but is critically needed in the public square, several of us on the board of trustees of Massachusetts Family Institute asked Kris to become the interim president and chief executive officer. (The previous chief executive officer had decided to run for Congress in 2004.) Massachusetts Family Institute was and still is the leading voice in the Commonwealth for the family and for Judeo-Christian values in the public square. Kris welcomed the opportunity to try to influence Boston in positive ways for the common good. As the battle over homosexual marriage heated up, it became increasingly clear that Kris was a wonderfully gifted leader in this struggle. In short order, the board asked Kris to serve Massachusetts Family Institute as permanent president and chief executive officer.

The next four years saw Kris lead the initiative to allow the citizens of Massachusetts to vote on this great moral and political question:  was state-sanctioned marriage to be defined as marriage between one man and one woman or not?  It was crystal clear to Mineau that it should. Among his arguments, he noted Jesus in the Bible explicitly affirms that marriage is to be between one man and one woman; therefore, should not America, founded more than 400 years ago as a Christian nation, and still with a majority of citizens identifying with traditional Judeo-Christian values, continue to define marriage as it is defined in the Bible?

In 2004, Kris spearheaded a petition signature drive to amend the Massachusetts Constitution to explicitly define marriage as solely between one man and one woman. Working with more than 1,200 Catholic and Evangelical churches, as well as a host of other organizations and individuals, the Vote on Marriage campaign collected more than 170,000 signatures. It was and remains the greatest signature drive in the history of Massachusetts.

To make the statewide ballot in Massachusetts, the initiative petition needed approval from at least 25 percent of a “constitutional convention” consisting of the 200 state legislators (40 state senators and 160 state representatives) during two legislative sessions in a row, under the Massachusetts Constitution. That means the marriage petition needed to get the votes of at least 50 state legislators during the 2005-2006 legislative session and the 2007-2008 legislative session, in order to make the November 2008 general election ballot for the voters to decide the matter.

The Democratic majority in the Massachusetts legislature did everything they could to avoid holding the vote mandated by the state’s constitution. Finally, after winning multiple lawsuits filed in federal and Massachusetts court, including a lawsuit by Governor Mitt Romney charging that the legislature was bound by the state constitution to act on the proposed amendment, the Marriage Amendment in early January 2007 received 62 votes – well more than the 50 votes needed. Kris and his team were tireless in persuading legislators to do their duty – after Democrats had shamefully refused to vote on various proposed constitutional amendments repeatedly during the previous 25 years.

In these days where the country is so polarized and the left often calls conservatives “fascist” or “semi-fascist,” the refusal of the Democratic majority in the Massachusetts legislature to follow the rule of law is a stark reminder of who the real fascists are.

The new legislative term featured 57 legislators who had committed to vote in favor of the Marriage Amendment, seven more than was needed. But during the next several months, pro-same-sex-marriage advocates engaged in a huge lobbying effort, spending at least $3.5 million to try to persuade, cajole, and intimidate opponents. Local political figures took part in the effort, including Governor Deval Patrick and Massachusetts House Speaker Sal DiMasi. So did national figures such as U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton, and U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

It worked. While Kris led a broad coalition seeking to allow the citizens to vote on this great moral issue, he was unable to counter the huge resources which the Democratic opposition advanced. When the day of the crucial second vote came in June 2007, the Marriage Amendment got only 45 votes – five short of what it needed. Ten legislators switched sides, and two pro-vote legislators were absent. Political elites chose to deny Massachusetts citizens the right to decide how they would be governed.

I was privileged to work with Kris Mineau for many years and considered him a great friend and a partner in the effort to advance the Judeo-Christian worldview in the public square. He believed that faith was not just a private affair. Instead, he believed that it was right and proper for the Christian faith to permeate the public square for the public good – just as Martin Luther King Jr. and William Wilberforce did. Kris believed that the family is one of the most critical institutions in any society. As Michael Novak said, “Marriage, the family unit, was the original department of health, education and welfare.” If the family falls apart and increasing numbers of children do not have a mother and father at home, the country’s fortunes will surely decline – sooner or later.

Kris loved America, his adopted home, and was a great patriot. He believed, as Lincoln wrote, that America is “the last best hope of earth,” and he dedicated much of his life in efforts to work for the common good.    

Kris Mineau did not fit the caricature of the Bible-thumping pastor and public policy leader. He was unfailingly polite, courteous, humble — yet fiercely courageous. He was a fighter pilot, an evangelist in Saudi Arabia, the shepherd of his congregation, and a public policy leader.

Kris was a man of action, admired and beloved by many, many folks in Boston. We may not see a man of his caliber in this state for a long time. He will be greatly missed.   

An Endowment Fund in the name of Kris Mineau has been established at Massachusetts Family Institute, and for those so inclined, here is a link to contribute. Donations will be used to further the causes Kris believed in and spent much of his life serving.

Kristian Michael Mineau, United States Air Force


Robert H. Bradley is Chairman of Bradley, Foster & Sargent Inc., a $5.5 billion wealth management firm that has offices in Hartford, Connecticut and Wellesley, Massachusetts. Read other articles by him here.


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