By John Krull
INDIANAPOLIS – An email blast from the head of the Indiana Republican Party demonstrates just how determinedly dumb our political discourse has become.
The subject line of the email from state chairman Kyle Hupfer read: “Your Vice President is under ATTACK.”
John Krull, publisher, TheStatehouseFile.com
The promiscuous use of capital letters is supposed to signal that the GOP should be very, very upset. Clearly, someone – in this case Democratic presidential hopeful and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg – has done something awful to Mike Pence.
What did Buttigieg do?
Well, he said at an LGBTQ Victory Fund gathering that he wished the vice president had a little more complete comprehension of both sexual orientation and theology.
“There were times in my life,” Buttigieg said, “when if you had shown me exactly what it was inside me that made me gay, I would have cut it out with a knife.”
But, he added, if he had been “cured,” he said, “the best thing in my life, my marriage, might not have happened at all. Thank God there was no pill. Thank God there was no knife.”
Then he mentioned Pence.
“If me being gay was a choice,” Buttigieg said, “it was a choice that was made far, far above my pay grade. And that’s the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand—that if you’ve got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”
That doesn’t sound like an attack to me. It sounds more like a plea for understanding.
But, if Buttigieg intended to lash out at Pence – Hoosier vs. Hoosier – the question of who threw the first punch would be relevant.
Pete Buttigieg didn’t support a mean-spirited proposed constitutional amendment that would have prevented Mike Pence from marrying the person he loves.
But Mike Pence did that, by supporting a ban on same-sex marriage.
Similarly, Pete Buttigieg didn’t go on national television defending a measure providing legal cover for bigoted business owners to deny Mike Pence service.
No, Mike Pence did that, by endorsing the misnamed Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
But even that sort of schoolyard “he-started-it” rationalizing reduces what is an important discussion to the level of absurdity.
Hupfer and Pence aren’t approaching apoplexy because Buttigieg questioned Pence on public-policy grounds. They’re used to that.
No, Pence, Hupfer and their allies are freaking out because Buttigieg’s comments take issue with Pence on grounds of faith.
And it’s about time.
For too long, social conservatives such as Pence have acted as if they have monopolies on piety and devotion to God. They have behaved as if their religious fervor should immunize them from scrutiny. Anyone who questions – or, heaven forbid – criticizes them isn’t engaging in honest inquiry or debate, but instead is attacking God and persecuting them.
But the truth is that there is scant support in the New Testament for the jihad the religious right has waged against our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender neighbors.
Homosexuality isn’t even mentioned in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Nor does the word “homosexuality” appear in the letters of James, John, Jude or Peter. Ditto for Revelation, Hebrews and the Book of Acts.
In fact, the only possible mentions of homosexuality in the entire New Testament are glancing ones that can be translated in several ways and may not refer to homosexuality at all.
This is not a small point.
Vice President Pence says his faith animates all his actions.
If that’s true, then it’s valid to inquire about that faith – and to challenge the vice president to provide evidence supporting his beliefs, especially if he’s using his faith to justify denying other citizens equal rights and equal opportunities.
That’s what makes fulminations such as Hupfer’s email blast so idiotic.
If Mike Pence truly believes Jesus Christ wants him to make life more difficult for gay people, then he should be able to make a New Testament-based case for doing so.
And, if he can’t, using all the capital letters in the alphabet won’t change that fact.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.