Renée Graham

The immorality of Mike Pence

Illustration by Lesley Becker/Globe Staff; Adobe; Globe file photo

Vice President Mike Pence is a Christian. So were all those immoral people who, for centuries, used their religion to crucify others.

No, this is not a castigation of Christianity, or those who honestly attempt to live up to its foundational ideal of loving their neighbor as they love themselves. This is about that virulent strain perverted by people like Pence, who sharpen dogma into a weapon and love only those who look like them and share the same venomous beliefs as they do.

This was on hideous display as Pence and a group of fellow Republicans visited an overcrowded migrant detention center in McAllen, Texas. With icy condescension, Pence didn’t bother making eye contact with men crammed so tightly into a fenced cage that there was no room for all of them to lie on the concrete floor that now serves as their bed. This was after weeks of Democratic legislators, human rights advocates, and even the Trump administration’s own Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General decrying the deteriorating conditions for thousands suffering prolonged detention.

Pence, who describes himself as a “Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order” showed no mercy for those locked flesh against flesh in cells meant to hold half as many people. The men chanted “no shower, no shower,” implying they had not been allowed to bathe for weeks; a reported stench seemed to prove their point. When one man said, “We are not terrorists. We are humans,” Pence ignored him. Clearly, Pence’s Christian compassion isn’t available to brown people from foreign countries locked in cages.


More than two years into this presidency, it’s absurd to ask why white evangelicals have remained this administration’s most loyal constituency. Those in doubt need only look at the vice president, whose selective faith is the cornerstone of his political life.


In 2016, Trump chose Pence to shore up his support among religious conservatives, especially after he showed his ignorance of the Bible when he referred to one of its books, Second Corinthians, as “Two Corinthians.” Pence’s tinny morality — he even refuses to eat alone with any woman other than his wife — looked like a shortcut to the evangelical support Trump’s campaign sorely needed.

In his new book, “American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump,” Tim Alberta, Politico’s chief political correspondent, says Pence’s talent for presidential “bootlicking” earned him the moniker “the Bobblehead” from fellow Republicans — because of his tendency to nod along with everything Trump says.

Trump is an evil, bombastic dolt. Pence is more diabolical. He’s a mediocre man who found his hustle — and power — in Scripture and sanctimony. He uses God as his wingman to promote his boss’s odious policies that harm and punish vulnerable populations, whether it’s women demanding agency over their own bodies, children separated from parents, or kids who’ve died in US custody on the Trump administration’s watch.

For Pence and his ilk, this is the will of God at work. Of course, that was also the belief of those who legislated the enslavement of black people; created Jim Crow laws to violently and legally subjugate African-Americans; justified apartheid in South Africa; fostered anti-Semitism; and promoted “manifest destiny” to the detriment and devastation of indigenous peoples that still resonates today.


Religious fervor has always been a convenient mask for immorality. It’s not a coincidence that the most potent symbol of the Ku Klux Klan is a burning cross.

At least as I learned it in Sunday school, Pence’s behavior would be seen anathema to Christianity, unless one considers how often this religion (like most of the world’s religions) is used by con men to destroy lives, upend cultures, and instill a myopic vision created by earthbound egos and agendas.

At the Texas detention center, Pence asked a group of children, “Are they taking good care of you here?” One child said, “Sí,” as if any answer other than “yes” was an option. Pence later declared these children are receiving “excellent care,” and denounced any other interpretation as “dishonest.”

Pence is every white evangelical Trump supporter. He’s full of lies and false piety designed to dupe allies and, in particular, break the backs of those he despises. Forget God. Trump is his lord and savior. And if a corrupt, racist, lying, accused sexual predator gets Pence closer to the theocracy he craves, he would ditch our democracy, or what’s left of it, in a fetal heartbeat.

Renée Graham can be reached at renee.graham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.