A Christian—First and Foremost

Vice presidential candidate Mike Pence laid out his priorities in a straightforward, succinct manner during a speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention.

“I’m a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican—in that order.”

Pence and his wife, Karen, have stayed consistent with that message. As veterans of the political fray, the vice president and second lady knew what they were getting into when they accepted the offer from candidate Donald Trump. Pence became vice president in January 2017 after four years as governor in his home state of Indiana and 12 years in the U.S. House of Representatives representing the Hoosier state.

The vice president has fielded all of the “gotcha” questions and endured the popular caricatures that accompany being an evangelical Christian in Washington. 

He’s been relentlessly lampooned by the cultural elites because of his insistence on not meeting with or traveling alone with another woman besides his wife unless a third person is present—a practice some have called “The Billy Graham Rule” because Mr. Graham’s team adopted it early in their ministry. Lately, it’s taken on the moniker “The Pence Rule.”

The rule is now standard among most evangelical organizations. Yet the media could not help but mock or mischaracterize it on the campaign trail in 2016. 

Indiana political columnist Brian Howey once wrote, “Pence doesn’t simply wear his faith on his sleeve, he wears the entire Jesus jersey”—a charge Pence would likely own happily. 

And lately, Pence has endured the best efforts of Pete Buttigieg, the gay South Bend, Indiana, mayor running for the Democratic presidential nomination, to begin a war of words with Pence, to little avail.

“He knows me, but I get it,” Pence responded, noting the competition among Democratic presidential candidates to distinguish themselves from the pack.

The root of these issues for Mike and Karen Pence leads to Scripture, where, like evangelicals everywhere, they find divine guidance for life and godliness. It’s evidence of a decaying culture that a person’s Biblical beliefs drive headlines, and the Pences are in the eye of the storm in their roles.

For the vice president, it wasn’t until his college years that he began to explore what it meant to have a personal relationship with Christ. Pence grew up as a churchgoer, but a response from a fraternity “big brother” about a cross the frat brother wore around his neck started a chain of personal questioning for Pence.

Pence complimented fellow Phi Gamma Delta brother John Gable on his cross, to which Gable responded: “Remember Mike, you have got to wear it in your heart before you wear it around your neck.” 

A few weeks later, on a Saturday night in 1978, Pence went to a contemporary Christian music festival called Ichthus in Wilmore, Kentucky.

As he sat there in a light rain, he said his heart began to break with the deep realization that what had happened on the cross, “in some infinitesimal way, had happened for me.” He repented of his sins that night. 

“And I gave my life [to Christ] and made a personal decision to trust Jesus Christ as my Savior,” he recounted once during a question-and-answer session at the Church by the Glades in Vero Beach, Fla. 

During law school at Indiana University, Mike Pence met his future wife, Karen, and the two started attending a gathering of evangelical Christian students. 

Karen, a longtime school teacher, was the object of scorn from the left earlier this year when she announced she was taking a part-time position at the Washington-area Christian school where she formerly taught when her husband was a congressman. But when the news media discovered that the school, Immanuel Christian School, has a faith statement that requires employees to abide by Biblical sexual ethics, the radical left had a field day.

“What is outrageous,” the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins wrote in his “Washington Update,” “is the outrage over the fact that Karen Pence is going to teach at a school that believes the Bible it teaches.”

Longtime Virginia Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Virginia) told Decision that throughout Pence’s career in the House, as governor and now as vice president, he has consistently stood for the sanctity of human life, human dignity and religious freedom. 

Wolf credits Pence for keeping international religious freedom and human rights a top priority, noting the administration’s work with groups such as Samaritan’s Purse to aid the persecuted Christians and Yazidis in the Nineveh Plains of Iraq.

He should also be commended, Wolf said, for helping champion the prison reform legislation that passed last year. The late Charles Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship who came to faith in Christ in federal prison following the Watergate scandal, became a mentor and friend to Pence after Pence came to Washington.

“Chuck really thought a lot of Mike Pence,” said Wolf, noting that Colson repeatedly advocated for the kind of legislation that the Trump administration pushed through last year. 

“Mike Pence is a kind, honest, ethical Christian man. And we’re very blessed to have him in the White House,” Wolf added.

Franklin Graham posted these comments on Facebook March 5, after former vice president Joe Biden caught heat for calling Mike Pence a decent guy. 

“The truth is, there isn’t a more ‘decent guy’ than Mike Pence. And Vice President Pence personally stands for Biblical truth and values. He defends our nation and the rights of all citizens. Thank you Vice President Mike Pence for serving our nation with excellence and for setting an example that goes far beyond decency.”  

Pence often expresses thanks to those who pray for him, as he did at Church by the Glades. “The sweetest words that I or the president ever hear are across a rope line or as we walk through a public place. Someone will reach out earnestly and say ‘I’m praying for you.’ I just want you to know we all feel it.”

Photo: Courtesy of Mr. & Mrs. Pence