The Conversation

In Mike Pence, US evangelicals had their ’24-karat-gold’ man within the White House

Mike Pence has remained one of many solely constants within the usually chaotic Trump administration.Variously described as “vanilla,” “steady” and dependable to the purpose of being “sycophantic,” he’s, within the phrases of 1 profile, an “everyman’s man with Midwest humility and approachability,” and in one other, a “61-year-old, soft-spoken, deeply religious man.”That humility and loyalty has been examined in latest days. “I hope Mike Pence comes through for us,” Trump informed supporters at a rally on Monday, seemingly underneath the mistaken perception that Pence might overturn the election consequence. But presiding over the Electoral College vote rely at a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, Pence broke with Trump’s needs and confirmed Joe Biden as the following president, upsetting the ire of Trump. Balancing the ticketThroughout the previous 4 years, the vp has supplied a putting distinction to the mercurial, abrasive temperament of his commander in chief. Indeed, in his acceptance speech on the 2016 Republican National Convention, Pence joked that he’d been chosen as a result of Trump, together with his “large personality,” “colorful style,” and “lots of charisma,” was “looking for some balance on the ticket.” Commentators have already attributed Pence’s steadiness to his Hoosier roots and his “savvy political operator” abilities. But it’s his non secular beliefs that maybe inform his politics and elegance greater than anything; as Pence has oft repeated, he’s “a Christian, conservative and Republican – in that order.” In a 2011 profile throughout Pence’s run for Indiana governor, famous state political columnist Brian Howey remarked, “Pence doesn’t just wear his faith on his sleeve, he wears the whole Jesus jersey.”It isn’t a characterization that Pence has shied away from. “My Christian faith is at the very heart of who I am,” Pence mentioned through the 2016 vice presidential debate.Richard Land, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and present president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, informed the Atlantic in 2018, “Mike Pence is the 24-karat-gold model of what we want in an evangelical politician. I don’t know anyone who’s more consistent in bringing his evangelical Christian worldview to public policy.” But as a scholar of U.S. faith and tradition, I imagine that Pence’s religion and political identities are extra advanced than these statements counsel. In truth, one can hint three distinct conversion experiences in his biography. Three-point conversionGrowing up in an Irish Catholic household with 5 siblings, working-class roots and Democratic political commitments, Pence attended Catholic faculty, served as an altar boy at his household’s church, idolized John F. Kennedy and was a youth coordinator for the native Democratic Party in his teenagers.It was as a freshman at Hanover College in 1978 that Pence skilled an evangelical conversion whereas attending a music pageant in Kentucky billed because the “Christian Woodstock.”For some years afterward he remained lively within the Catholic Church, attending Mass commonly, serving as a youth minister and critically contemplating becoming a member of the priesthood. At the identical time, he and his future spouse Karen had been a part of a demographic shift of Americans 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,” as an in depth good friend put it.By the mid-Nineties he was a married father of three who recognized as a “born-again, evangelical Catholic,” an uncommon time period that has precipitated some consternation amongst each evangelicals and Catholics.In subsequent interviews, Pence has spoken freely about how his 1978 conversion gave him a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” that “changed everything.” But he has tended to keep away from labeling his non secular views when pressed, referring to himself as a “pretty ordinary Christian” who “cherishes his Catholic upbringing.” He has attended nondenominational evangelical church buildings together with his household since at the least 1995. Pence’s political conversion was extra clear lower. Though he voted for Jimmy Carter within the 1980 presidential election, he shortly got here to embrace Ronald Reagan’s financial and social conservatism and his populist enchantment. In a 2016 speech on the Reagan Library, Pence credited Reagan with inspiring him to “leave the party of my youth and become a Republican like he did.” “His broad-shouldered leadership changed my life,” he mentioned. Pence has regularly in contrast Trump to Reagan, arguing that they have already the identical “broad shoulders.”Pence ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1988 and 1990, and the second bruising loss precipitated a 3rd conversion, this time in political fashion. In a 1991 printed essay titled “Confessions of a Negative Campaigner,” he described himself as a sinner and wrote of his “conversion” to the idea that “negative campaigning is wrong.” Between 1992 and 1999, Pence honed his mix of household values and financial conservatism in an eponymous conservative discuss present.The present’s recognition supplied a springboard to a profitable run for Congress in 2000. During his six phrases within the House, Pence acquired a fame for “unalloyed traditional conservatism” and principled opposition to Republican Party management on points like No Child Left Behind and Medicare prescription drug growth. Religious actsIn addition to his “unsullied” fame as a “culture warrior,” he additionally attracted consideration for following the “Billy Graham Rule” of avoiding assembly with ladies alone and avoiding occasions the place alcohol was served when his spouse was not current. During the 2016 vice presidential debate, Pence mentioned that his total profession in public service stems from a dedication to “live out” his non secular beliefs, “however imperfectly.”One of these beliefs is his opposition to abortion, grounded in his studying of explicit biblical passages. As a congressman in 2007, he was the primary to sponsor laws defunding Planned Parenthood, and did so repeatedly till the primary defunding invoice handed in 2011. “I long for the day when Roe v. Wade is sent to the ash heap of history,” he mentioned on the time.In 2016, over the objections of many Republican state representatives, he signed essentially the most restrictive set of anti-abortion measures within the nation into regulation, making him a conservative hero. Among different issues, the invoice prevented ladies from terminating pregnancies for causes together with fetal incapacity akin to Down syndrome. Although opponents succeeded in getting the invoice overturned within the courts, Indiana remains to be seen as one of the anti-abortion states in America.As vp, Pence additionally forged the tie-breaking Senate vote to permit states to withhold federal household planning funds from Planned Parenthood in 2017.Pence has additionally been an outspoken opponent of LGBTQ rights. He opposed the inclusion of sexual orientation in hate crimes laws and the tip of the army’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” coverage. He likewise supported each state and federal constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage, and expressed disappointment on the 2015 Obergefell choice, which required all states to acknowledge such unions.At the identical time he has been a powerful supporter of “religious freedom,” notably for Christians.In March 2015, as Indiana governor, he signed the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act “to ensure that religious liberty is fully protected.” The act ignited a firestorm of nationwide controversy: Critics alleged that it will enable for people and companies to legally discriminate towards members of the LGBTQ group. Under strain from LGBTQ activists, liberals, enterprise homeowners and reasonable Republicans, Pence signed an modification every week later stipulating that it didn’t authorize discrimination. Staked famePence’s non secular and political biography mirrors key political and non secular shifts over the previous 40 years, from the rise of the non secular proper and its rising affect within the Republican Party to the conservative coalition of evangelicals and Catholics throughout denominational traces, to the legacy of the “outsider” celeb president.These threads converge in Mike Pence, whose “24-karat,” “unalloyed” conservative credentials had been instrumental in rallying evangelical voters behind Trump within the 2016 election and whose loyalty to Trump appears to have already lastly damaged with the stunning occasions of Jan. 6 and whose political future is now unsure.This article was up to date on Jan. 7, 2021 to soak up latest occasions in CongressThis article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit information web site devoted to sharing concepts from educational specialists. It was written by: Deborah Whitehead, University of Colorado Boulder.Read extra: * Why Trump’s Senate supporters can’t overturn Electoral College outcomes they don’t like – right here’s how the regulation really works * What’s subsequent for American evangelicals after Trump leaves workplace?Deborah Whitehead doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or group that may profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their educational appointment.

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