Vice President Mike Pence rallies for Republicans in Oakland County, Monday, Oct. 29, 2018, at the Oakland County Airport in Waterford, Mich. (Tanya Moutzalias/Ann Arbor News-MLive.com via AP)
CPAC has long been an event that brings conservatives from all over the country together to see their favorite personalities and spend some time surrounded by like-minded Americans who share an excitement about their country.
There is no greater display of American pride and voter enthusiasm at any CPAC event than when – in a Republican administration – a member of the executive branch shows up to greet the people, meet the people, and speak to the people. On Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence spoke to a packed house in National Harbor. Security was tight (if not a bit chaotic) but the energy was high. CPAC attendees were buzzing.
Pence was expected to give an inspiring speech, and he did. But what was most notable about watching the Vice President speak was his demeanor and his countenance.
When conservatives are chastised for voting for Trump, a common response is , “We’re not voting for a pastor” and that is true. It occurred to me while watching Pence that even though we are not voting for a pastor, America may indeed have gotten one anyway.
We’re all very familiar with Pence’s faith. He’s been ridiculed for it and insulted over it. Naturally he has been undeterred. Listening to his speech from the media pit, a conversation began to bubble up as he delivered his remark. There was a common theme…Pence sounds like a pastor.
No one meant it in a sarcastic or insulting way. There was a comfort to his locution, a gentleness to his delivery and a wisdom in his remarks. While Trump is the firebrand, Pence is the steadier. While Trump is the visionary, Pence is the man who keeps the vision grounded. It isn’t just in how he turns to scripture to inspire his audience, but also in how he encourages those listening to do the same, without apology or shame.
Pence’s speech had the feel of a Sunday sermon in the atmosphere of a pep rally. He admonished the president’s detractors without degrading them. He praised the president’s actions without idolizing them. He reminded his audience that while there are very serious issues at stake in the here and now, he and all of us are simply servants – of our families, our God, our great nation. In the media pit, a common word began popping up to describe Pence’s demeanor…comforting.
Someone who isn’t a conservative -or is perhaps the Never Trump type of conservative – might read this description and find it to be sycophantic, but the fact is that Pence absolutely does project that presence. When Trump took him on as a running mate, the combination seemed odd. Now that we’ve had a few years to see this all play out it has become more and more obvious the value Pence carries into the White House. Trump has shaken things up in a way we’ve never seen before. Even for his greatest fans it can be disconcerting from time to time. Pence’s presence provides a comfort and steadiness that actually makes it easier to enjoy Trump’s bombastic nature. And Pence is a genuine Christian. His faith is no secret and he and his wife have lived it out publicly their entire marriage.
The Pence’s are a regular fixture on the pro-life scene. They pray publicly, they attend church regularly. While the popular left-wing talking point on their type of faith is that it is discriminatory and bigoted, in actuality the Pence’s have represented a gentleness and openness that can be found all throughout the gospel accounts. The left likes to joke about Pence electrocuting homosexuals but the Pence you see swearing in Kristen Synema or greeting Americans of all persuasions and ethnicities is pretty much the same across the board. I defy anyone to find a clip of Pence being anything but gracious, good-humored and kind. He lives out the gospel message in a way that is compatible with his job and it shows. And of course there is his much ridiculed personal policy about interacting privately with members of the opposite sex. This is offensive insanity to modern popular culture, but a very common practices among both Jews and Christians and particularly among religious leaders from both those communities. It all adds up to an odd type of comfort that ends up feeling more pastoral than political.
Americans don’t vote for a pastor, but maybe in a funny way we have actually done just that.
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