Commentary: Mike Pence’s false martyrdom

By John Krull 

INDIANAPOLIS – For a guy who is only one heartbeat away from the office he’s coveted his entire life, Mike Pence spends a lot of time feeling sorry for himself.

The vice president of the United States was at it again a few days ago.

Speaking at the commencement for Liberty University, Pence delivered what is, for him, a familiar lament.

John Krull, publisher,

“Throughout most of American history, it has been pretty easy to call yourself Christian,” Pence told the graduates. “It didn’t even occur to people that you might be shunned or ridiculed for defending the teachings of the Bible. But things are different now.”

This is well-worn ground for the vice president.

Looking through his darkly lit lens, Pence has argued, in tireless and tiresome fashion, that he and other social conservatives somehow are being persecuted if they are not allowed to use the power of government and law to persecute others.

Specifically, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens.

The vice president says he and his fellow believers seek to ostracize and punish these fellow citizens because the Bible commands them to do so. And whatever the Bible says, they must do.

Others – most recently South Bend Mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg – have called into question the intense focus on sexual orientation Pence and his crowd have drawn from their biblical studies.

It’s a fair point.

The New Testament, in particular, has little to say about homosexuality. The single reference is drawn from a Greek translation of the original text and is itself open to multiple interpretations.

The Bible – and, again, the New Testament particularly – has much, much more to say about caring for the poor and the sick, but that didn’t stop Pence from, as governor, refusing to accept pre-school funding for the indigent or denying thousands of Hoosiers access to health care so he could score some political points.

But let’s be generous and grant the vice president his main contention.

Because he calls himself a Christian – his words – if the Bible tells him to do something, he must do it.

Well, there’s a pretty important admonition in the Bible against adultery. It’s one of the Ten Commandments.

The language is clear: You shall not commit adultery.

Except it doesn’t seem so clear to the vice president when his political interests are at stake. Speaking at the same Liberty University nearly three years ago after the man for whom Pence works – President Donald Trump, then as now a married man – had been caught boasting on tape of sexually assaulting women, the vice president said it wasn’t a big deal. He urged his fellow evangelical Christians to vote for the man who bragged about groping women without their consent.

“Shortcomings are no excuse for inaction,” Pence said.

The vice president has made his peace with ignoring the Bible’s teachings regarding adultery.

If he hadn’t, he wouldn’t be working for Donald Trump.

The same goes for another commandment – the one that says we should not bear false witness. President Donald Trump passed a significant milestone not long ago. He told his 10,000th easily demonstrable lie since taking the oath of office.

The vice president seems to have grown comfortable with working for – and defending – a man who tells lies only slightly less often than he takes breaths.

Mike Pence and his fellow social conservatives like to shield themselves with the Bible when their political or public policy positions are questioned or criticized. They like to say that their faith drives their political convictions.

But it’s clear that there are some parts of the Bible they are more than willing to ignore when those divine instructions come into conflict with their political ambitions.

At those times, faith doesn’t drive their political convictions as much as their political convictions drive their sense of religious obligation.

They pick and choose some parts of the Bible to honor and some parts to overlook yet try to use the whole thing as a cloak to hide their search for votes and power.

Then they complain when someone notices what they’re doing.

That’s what Mike Pence doesn’t understand – or pretends not to understand.

It’s not his faith most people criticize.

It’s his hypocrisy.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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