As the Mueller investigation inexorably grinds on, the possibility of impeachment continues to be discussed. Many on the left welcome this result and believe that the consequent elevation of Mike Pence to the presidency would be preferable to the current Trumpian state of affairs.
Personally, I’m not so sure. Although Mr. Pence looks and sounds presidential, there’s no guarantee that he would be a good choice. After all, he is a self-declared evangelical Christian and could be more dangerous than Donald Trump.
For some reason, Americans are loath to carefully examine a presidential candidate’s religious beliefs. There was a time when one’s faith could be fatal to one’s political aspirations, particularly prior to the 1960 election of John F. Kennedy as America’s first Catholic president.
However, once Kennedy assured the nation that “the separation of church and state is absolute” and that “no Catholic prelate would tell the president how to act”, everyone seemed satisfied that his religion no longer was an issue. Since then, there has been a wealth of presidential candidates of varying faiths including a Mormon, a Quaker, a Baptist, a Greek Orthodox and even another Catholic and few, if any, voters have considered that an issue of importance.
Contrary to JFK’s assertion, if a presidential candidate is devoutly religious, I seriously doubt that he or she can clearly separate matters of faith from matters of governance. It may not have been a major problem for Kennedy since he did not seem overly concerned about following the tenets of Catholicism. But where someone is a devout believer and his faith is unorthodox at best, there could definitely be a problem.
In the case of Mike Pence, the issue is particularly troubling because Mr. Pence is strongly guided by his faith, a faith that could lead to disastrous consequences for the country. Already we have seen evidence of how his evangelical beliefs have affected his governance such as voting to defund Planned Parenthood, voting to block the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and, while governor of Indiana, signing that state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act and a severely restrictive anti-abortion law.
What’s worse, however, is how Pence’s faith could affect America’s foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East. As a devout evangelical, Pence no doubt believes in the second coming of Christ and possibly even the rapture. Now some might say what’s wrong with that since that’s just his personal religious belief and many religions have peculiar articles of faith.
What’s wrong with that is that Pence’s faith directly affects his position on Israel. Given that evangelicals believe that the formation of the state of Israel was foretold in the Bible and that it is a precursor to the end times and the eventual second coming of Christ followed by a thousand-year reign of peace, it is likely that a President Pence would do everything in his power to promote that end.
He has already made it crystal clear that he unconditionally supports Israel including recognizing Jerusalem as its capital and reducing America’s foreign aid to the Palestinians. Remember, this is a man who refuses to dine alone with a woman other than his wife and has, in the past, quoted scriptures in support of different policy arguments. Given that, it seems quite likely that the Bible’s apocalyptic predictions would guide his foreign policy as president.
Mike Pence thinks Jesus “tells him to say things.” In other than an evangelical Christian context, such a statement would be delusional. Even then, for the rest of us, it is seriously troubling. What if he’s one of those nutty evangelicals who feel divinely guided to hasten the end of the world as we know it?
Given that possibility, I’d seriously think twice before hoping for Donald Trump’s impeachment. For now, it’s probably better to keep the crazy but uber-secular Trump in the White House and just hope for the best.