Whether Donald Trump completes two full terms and surpasses Ronald Reagan as America’s oldest president, or declines to run in 2020, or -- as many Democrats pray –- resigns or is removed from office, 58-year-old Vice President Mike Pence will be a fixture in your future.
Pence is an obvious prospect for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024 if not 2020. He runs a bit better in first-year job approval ratings than Trump, who was averaging a limp 39 percent at realclearpolitics.com just prior to the “[bleep]hole” racial furor.
The current issue of The Atlantic magazine offers a religious spin on the VeeP that gets second billing on the cover under the headline “God’s Plan for Mike Pence.” (The writer, McKay Coppins, also provided an online obit for LDS Church President Thomas Monson.)
The Pence piece, though weighing in at 8,000 words, leaves room for more depth from an enterprising religion reporter. Mention of the vice president’s conservative Christian zeal is a frequent tic in the news media, but as Coppins accurately observes: “For all Pence’s outward piousness, he’s kept the details of his spiritual journey opaque.”
Other writers have sought to fill in the Catholic and evangelical blanks but, oddly, the vice president is as religiously mysterious in his own way as the unconventional president who ushered him into the limelight. Some aspects regarding this would-be future president that journalists should fully explore and explain.
So, for starters, is Pence still a member of the Catholic Church? Presumably he’d be on the rolls of St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in his hometown of Columbus, Indiana. (That parish absorbed the former St. Columba Church, where Pence served as an altar boy.) Does he ever attend worship there or at any other Catholic churches? How does he now view the religion he once ardently followed?
As an undergrad at Indiana’s Hanover College, the VeeP left his devoted Irish clan’s faith, saying “I gave my life to Jesus Christ” in evangelical Protestant style while attending a Christian rock concert in Kentucky.
The New York Times took a fairly good shot at this conversion episode the week that Pence joined the GOP ticket in 2016. Typically, Pence declined to grant the Times an interview about his religious pilgrimage. There’s more to tell about that experience, the factors that led up to it, and its aftermath, including the later influence of his wife Karen and how they raised their three children.
Coverage has been spotty about Pence’s church affiliation(s) and other Christian activities during his decades as an attorney, talk-radio host, member of the U.S. House and governor of Indiana.
In recent times, Mike and Karen have frequently attended worship at College Park Church, a megachurch in Indianapolis with an $11 million budget led by a dozen pastors. This congregation itself is well worth a sidebar.
All College Park members are committed to belief in the Bible as “the verbally inspired Word of God, inerrant in the original manuscripts and the sufficient and final authority for all matters of faith, practice, and life.”
Does the vice president agree? Is he one of those College Park members? In what other churches has he held memberships? While in D.C. as a House member and vice president, has he regularly attended church? If so, where, and if not, why not?
Finally, and inevitably, there are those morally convoluted incidents involving a president that Pence religiously (so to speak) supports, which are causing a troublesome split among fellow U.S. evangelicals.
The Religion Guy suspects this Trump question is a major reason it will tough for any religion writer to obtain an all-important interview with the Vice President himself for a solid article, following preparation through quality time with his intimates and insiders.
MAIN ART: Screenshot of the title page of this article at The Atlantic website.