Vice President Mike Pence has deftly avoided questions about the calls from his boss, Donald J. Trump, on Twitter for Virginia, Michigan, and Minnesota to “liberate” themselves from the federal government’s own COVID-19 safety guidelines and open back up, public health be damned. Pressed on the Sunday shows, Pence once again weaseled his way out of a proper response.
Not a response one would expect as Trump’s loyal vice president, but a response befitting a man who has held himself out his entire life as a soft-spoken and respectful man of faith, a man who reads his Bible daily and prays. A man who as a member of Congress and then governor of Indiana championed “religious freedom” and biblically inspired “moral laws” (e.g. restrictions on abortion, banning of same-sex marriage, and reluctantly agreeing to authorize a needle exchange program in Scott County, Indiana in March 2015 after the epidemic centered there saw the number of people infected with HIV skyrocket) and was an ardent champion of states rights over a large and burdensome federal government.
That Mike Pence would be shouting from the rails at the president’s conduct, appalled at the kind of man he serves. That Mike Pence would recall the statement that Jesus made in Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.”
As a pro-life Christian myself, who believes in many of the same values that Pence professes, I was long a fan of his. I admired him when he served in Congress for being a faithful husband, a loving father, and one of the few politicians in Washington, D.C., who actually walked as he talked. He was unabashed about his faith, and it is true that he does not dine alone with women, not because he does not respect them, but from his viewpoint as a way to keep himself above reproach and honor his strict Christian orthodoxy.
That Mike Pence, the one that Kellyanne Conway worked for as a pollster, the one that she and I discussed many times as the ultimate “clean” politician, has sold himself to a man beholden to money, power, dishonesty, callousness, sexual peccadilloes with porn stars, adultery, racial animus, and wholesale disrespect of women.
Pence is not the only evangelical to succumb to Trump’s amoral spell. There is no way a man who lives his life as Pence has, does not see the moral bankruptcy of Donald Trump and his family of grifters.
Pence, the father of two daughters and one son, should be ashamed to be connected to such a man as Trump. Yet he comes each day before the cameras to peddle Trump’s reckless and feckless policies even as the coronavirus has killed 42,186 Americans on his watch, including my paternal great aunt, who died last week in a New Jersey nursing home.
I am not blaming Trump or Pence for the virus. What I do blame them for is the often callous and clueless way in which they have responded to this crisis, putting the economy, which we all want to re-open at the right time, over us, as human beings.
This is not the Pence that I thought I knew, the one who many, including his staunchest critics, admired for his seemingly unwavering moral compass and faith. Pence’s youngest daughter Charlotte penned a loving tribute to her father in her last book, Where You Go: Life Lessons from my Father. We keep a copy in our guest room. When Charlotte talks about the respect that she and her siblings have for their dad, I believe her.
And I believe the vice president when he talks about his faith and living as a “Bible-believing Christian.” I believe that he is an honorable person. That he has never cheated on his wife. Or done any of the very public, very ugly things that his boss, Donald J. Trump has done with pride and impunity.
But no man can serve two masters without loving one and hating the other. A man cannot say he loves God but serve under someone who clearly knows nothing of God.