Putting Faith & Family First

Mike Pence talks about the importance of going home for dinner

Putting Faith & Family First

Mike Pence talks about the importance of going home for dinner

Mike Pence’s career has included hosting a talk radio program and serving 12 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, four years as governor of Indiana and another four as vice president of the United States. Even with the crushing workloads that have come with those roles, Pence has been intentional about prioritizing his faith and his family. It’s no coincidence that his career has been marked by integrity, Biblical wisdom and a calm civility that seems rare today. In December, Pence visited the Billy Graham Library to sign copies of his new book, cowritten with daughter Charlotte Pence Bond, Go Home for Dinner: Advice on How Faith Makes a Family and Family Makes a Life. After the book-signing, Pence talked with Decision about why going home for dinner is so much more important than it might appear.

Q: What kind of responses are you hearing from people about the idea of going home for dinner?

A: When you look at the way that the traditional family has frayed, and in many ways is in a state of freefall today, I’ve been very heartened at the response ever since this book was first announced. In this busy world in which we live and the professional world in which we’re constantly pulled in different directions, people have responded to the idea that carving out that time, whether it’s every day or a specific day—or as in our case, family nights together—can really make a difference. I think it’s a way that we can put feet on our faith and really strengthen our families.

Q: You write, “Our diverse politics is not just contributing to our lack of connection; it is a result of it.” Explain more about that.

A: Thinking deeply about this with my daughter who cowrote this book with me, I couldn’t help but think of the way that our politics has coarsened over the last generation. And at the same time, we have seen a decline in the amount of time that families are spending together—a decline in the tradition of having dinner together. It provoked me to think that it’s at the dinner table where we learn how to disagree agreeably and respectfully on issues that matter. 

I came from a big family—six kids—and once we all got into our teenage years, the dinner table became a vigorous place of discussion and debate. But there was always the guardrail that we never forgot that we do love each other here. And I’m not sure that it isn’t at the dinner table that, over the generations, Americans have learned how to deal with people we differ with and to never forget that we’re all Americans. So, I honestly think that if we revive the principle of sitting down together as a family, over time we’ll also revive civility in our politics.

Q: Where would you say our culture’s greatest vulnerabilities are, and how can family dinners help guard against those?

A: I think there’s an epidemic of loneliness in America today, which I think was certainly exacerbated by the pandemic, but it had been a trend for many years. When I came into this world in 1959, one in 10 American households had one resident, and now it’s one in three. That’s an exponential increase. The Bible says, “God puts the lonely in families” (Cf. Psalm 68:6). When we think about where we are as a nation, I think the loneliness fuels division in the nation.

We constantly look at who we are going to elect and what policies we are going to advance. But there are deeper solutions, and if we tend to those things, then I really believe that the right policies and the right leadership will emerge. The Bible says, “If the foundations crumble, how will the righteous stand?” (Cf. Psalm 11:3). If the foundations of the family crumble—and the priority of family continues to crumble in our society—no amount of legislation and no number of conservative leaders being elected will ever make up for that erosion. 

This book is meant to be a deeply personal reflection on how God has blessed our family through the choices that we’ve made—first, to put our faith in Him, and second, to take the Biblical principles in His Word and put them into practice on a daily basis. 

Q: You tell a story about your years in Congress, when your wife and kids would sometimes pick up tacos, and all of you would eat dinner together on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. What does it mean to you to look back on those times now?

A: Early on in our marriage, once our kids came along, I heard a sermon on Genesis 18, where God says He chose Abraham to see first to the members of his own household, so that the Lord would fulfill His purpose for him. We carry that principle forward to say, “How do we make sure that our family time together is a priority?” 

Mike Pence book signing at the Billy Graham Library, Dec. 14, 2023. Photo: Logan Ryan / ©2023 BGEA 

We never want people to think, reading this book, that we were Ozzie and Harriet, with Dad walking in every night at 5 o’clock. I was a member of Congress. I was a governor. I was vice president. My daughter put it well in a recent interview when she was asked, “Was your dad really home for dinner that often?” She said, “Well, there were many times that we had to figure out how to get together over dinner, or he just couldn’t be there because of votes in Congress or duties at the State House or at the White House.” But then she paused and said, “But we always knew he wanted to be there.” 

The story of our family grabbing tacos and coming down to the Capitol was a testament to my wife’s devotion to say, “OK, if you can’t make it home tonight, let’s pack the kids up, and we’ll run down to the Capitol building, sit on the steps and have a picnic.” I hope that people who feel called to public life or public service, or any number of unpredictable and challenging occupations, will see that if you take these Biblical principles and put them into practice, not only can your family survive; it can thrive. I look at my wife of 38 years and our three kids who are all thriving and walking in faith, married and building lives and careers of their own, and I hope people see in these pages that this is all possible if you make decisions that put family time first.

Q: You write that prioritizing faith and family can be costly. And the concept of putting family ahead of career goes strongly against the mindset of many people today. What would you say to convince them that God’s plan for families is good?

A: More than anything else, I hope that if people feel a hole in their life—if they haven’t yet reflected on the claims of the Gospel and Jesus Christ—they’ll read about our journey and the way my wife and I have built our family on faith, and see that if you build it on a foundation of faith, “He prospers His beloved even while they sleep” (Cf. Psalm 127:2). That’s one of my wife’s favorite Bible verses.

Putting our family first was not a barrier to our being able to experience an extraordinary life and career in service. I hope our little story encourages people that when we make God’s priorities our priorities, we’ll be blessed, and that faith makes a family and family makes a life.  ©2024 BGEA

Photo: Logan Ryan / ©2023 BGEA 

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