With Donald Trump strongly committing himself to pushing much of the evangelical agenda as president of the United States, you may be wondering what is the religious affiliation of Governor Mike Pence, Trump’s Vice-presidential running mate.
Governor Pence was raised, educated and baptized a Roman Catholic, but during a Christian music festival in Kentucky, became a “born-again Catholic, or as he would often say, and “evangelical Catholic.” “I gave my life to Jesus Christ,” he recalled years later, “and that’s changed everything.” That decision would redefine Mr. Pence, making him an evangelical Christian and one of the country’s most outwardly religious and socially conservative legislators. He broke with the Roman Catholic Church and the Democratic Party as a result, two of his Irish Catholic family’s most central institutions.
Pence was the youth coordinator for the Bartholomew County Democrats in Illinois. He, along with his four brothers were also alter boys at their church, St. Columba, and attended its parochial school. They were at church six or seven days a week. “Our life revolved around the church,” said Gregory Pence, one of Mr. Pence’s two older brothers.
While at Hanover College, Mr. Pence felt something was missing from his spiritual life. “The Catholicism of his youth, with its formality and rituals, had not given him the intimacy with God that he now found himself craving.” He even considered becoming a priest.
“He was part of a movement of people, I’ll call it, who had grown up Catholic and still loved many things about the Catholic Church, but also really loved the concept of having a very personal relationship with Christ,” said Patricia Bailey, a law colleague in the mid-1980s in Indianapolis.
Mr. Pence’s wife, Karen, was also part of his faith journey. A strong Catholic Christian, when they met in law school at Indiana University, once they started seriously dating, she bought a gold cross with the word “yes” engraved on it, and kept it in her purse until he proposed.
Mr. Pence would pray with colleagues at the law office each morning. And by the “mid-1990s, Mr. Pence and his wife were attending an evangelical church in Indianapolis.”
Mr. Pence used to vote democrat, but eventually gravitated to the Republican Party because of its staunch opposition to abortion back in the 1980s. His evangelical Christianity is now the driving force behind his political agenda. He’s made a name for himself as governor by working to remove federal funding from Planned Parenthood, and to preserve legal protections for conservative people with convictions about serving gay couples.
“Pence doesn’t simply wear his faith on his sleeve, he wears the entire Jesus jersey,” Brian Howey, a political columnist in Indiana, once put it.
“During Mr. Pence’s days on Capitol Hill, he would not attend events without his wife if alcohol was being served. Fellow representatives sometimes joked about the need to clean up their language when he appeared.” (NYT)
Mr. Pence would not even engage in attack ads, having sworn off negative campaigning after running a particularly nasty and unsuccessful congressional race earlier in his political career. “Christ Jesus came to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all,” he wrote after the election, quoting a line from Scripture.
“Today, Mr. Pence and his wife often worship at College Park Church, an evangelical megachurch in Indianapolis with three huge video screens, colored spotlights and Christian bands. On Sunday, the day after Mr. Trump formally introduced Mr. Pence as his running mate in Midtown Manhattan, they sat in the balcony of the theater-style auditorium there, standing and clapping in rhythm with the music.” (NYT)
Gregory Pence said he did not see his brother’s turn to evangelical Christianity as a rejection of their Catholicism, but rather as a reflection of the fact that he had different spiritual needs.
And about Mr. Trump, his three wives, course language and casino empire, he simply quotes scripture. “Judge not lest ye be judged.”
Obviously Mr. Trump chose Mr. Pence as his running mate, to secure the support of his evangelical base. Will this lead to more evangelical political power? Probably so. If the duo is successful in reaching the White House, there could well be a substantial change in the way governmental America relates to Christians and the implied “wall of separation” in the U.S. Constitution’s first amendment.
Now that religious liberty has come under assault from the secular left, will it soon come under an equal and opposite assault from the religious right? Remember, every principle of the U.S. Constitution will be repudiated. See Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 5 page 451.