The pandemic lockdown of the past couple of months afforded time to catch up on my reading. I managed to delve into a book one of my kids gave me for Christmas, “The Faith of Mike Pence.”
The volume, written by Leslie Montgomery (Whitaker House, 2019), examines the influence of Pence’s faith journey during his years of public service.
Many would be surprised to learn that Pence, well known as an evangelical Christian who describes himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order,” grew up in an Irish Catholic home in a family that consistently voted Democratic.
It was during his college days at Hanover that he became involved in evangelical Christianity, committing his life to Christ during an Ichthus Christian music festival in Kentucky and continuing through his adult life as he took a look early on at entering public service.
Pence obtained a law degree and went into practice with a prestigious Indianapolis law firm, along with radio commentary. During his law school days he met and married Karen, beginning their faith journey together.
Three people associated with Anderson University are among Pence’s longtime associates. He worked with Mark and Patricia Bailey at the law firm and has maintained a friendship with them (Patricia now chairs the AU board of trustees). And Jim Dodson, an associate pastor of the Community Church of Greenwood, involved Pence in an accountability and Bible study group.
Mike was encouraged to run for Congress in 1988 against popular Democrat Phil Sharp. He lost, running again in 1990 but falling victim to pressure to run a negative campaign, which not only was foreign to Pence’s nature but failed miserably. He returned to radio with a talk show in the mold, but definitely not the style, of Rush Limbaugh.
Pence’s successful bid for Congress would come in 2000. He was thrust into congressional leadership as a freshman representative by 9/11. Twelve years later many were urging him to seek the presidency, but instead he was elected Indiana governor – and without running a single negative ad.
Then came the lightning-rod issue of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which he neither initiated nor pushed but which he supported and signed. Similar measures had passed in Congress and in several other states, but this time the gay and lesbian community made it a major issue.
As a potential second term approached, he instead was Donald Trump’s choice for vice president. Pence’s supporters almost unanimously believe his selection made the difference.
Controversy rose again in 2018 in a discussion on “The View” over Pence’s faith and his assertion that he talks to God. Joy Behar’s implication that Pence’s “hearing voices” was tantamount to mental illness stirred national reaction, bringing a private apology from Behar.
Through it all, the Pences’ faith has been evident. And one of his longtime friends, Doug Deason, commented, “He’s going to be a great president.”
We shall see.