The Heroic Courage Of Mike Pence

Jun 25th, 2022 | By | Category: Featured Issues, Politics & Current Events

Former Vice President Mike Pence has never hidden his faith in Jesus Christ or his values and standards as a Christian.  In terms of loyalty to the president over his four years of service (2017-2021), Pence was exemplary.  But, when faced with the brutal realties of the insurrection on 6 January 2021 and the pressure he was feeling from the president, his faith gave him the stability and forthrightness to do the right thing—to stand for truth and to defend the Constitution.  Let’s think together about the heroic courage of Mike Pence on that fateful day in January 2021.

In the words of one profile, Pence is an “everyman’s man with Midwest humility and approachability,” and in another, a “61-year-old, soft-spoken, deeply religious man.”

Pence often characterized himself as “a Christian, conservative and Republican – in that order.”  “My Christian faith is at the very heart of who I am,” Pence said during the 2016 vice presidential debate.  Richard Land, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and current president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, told The Atlantic in 2018, “Mike Pence is the 24-karat-gold model of what we want in an evangelical politician. I don’t know anyone who’s more consistent in bringing his evangelical Christian worldview to public policy.”


Deborah Whitehead summarizes his spiritual growth:  “Growing up in an Irish Catholic family with five siblings, working-class roots and Democratic political commitments, Pence attended Catholic school, served as an altar boy at his family’s church, idolized John F. Kennedy and was a youth coordinator for the local Democratic Party in his teens.  It was as a freshman at Hanover College in 1978 that Pence experienced an evangelical conversion while attending a music festival in Kentucky billed as the ‘Christian Woodstock.’  For some years afterward he remained active in the Catholic Church, attending Mass regularly, serving as a youth minister and seriously considering joining the priesthood. At the same time, he and his future wife Karen were part of a demographic shift of Americans who ‘had grown up Catholic and still loved many things about the Catholic Church, but also really loved the concept of having a very personal relationship with Christ,’ as a close friend put it.  By the mid-1990s he was a married father of three who identified as a ‘born-again, evangelical Catholic,’ an unusual term that has caused some consternation among both evangelicals and Catholics.  In subsequent interviews, Pence has spoken freely about how his 1978 conversion gave him a ‘personal relationship with Jesus Christ’ that ‘changed everything.’ But he has tended to avoid labeling his religious views when pressed, referring to himself as a ‘pretty ordinary Christian’ who ‘cherishes his Catholic upbringing.’ He has attended nondenominational evangelical churches with his family since at least 1995.”  He also attracted attention by following the “Billy Graham Rule” of avoiding meeting with women alone and avoiding events where alcohol was served when his wife was not present.  During the 2016 vice presidential debate, Pence said that his entire career in public service stems from a commitment to “live out” his religious beliefs, “however imperfectly.”

  • One of those beliefs is his opposition to abortion, grounded in his reading of particular biblical passages. As a congressman in 2007, he was the first to sponsor legislation defunding Planned Parenthood, and did so repeatedly until the first defunding bill passed in 2011. “I long for the day when Roe v. Wade is sent to the ash heap of history,” he said at the time.
  • “In 2016, over the objections of many Republican state representatives, [as Indiana’s governor] he signed the most restrictive set of anti-abortion measures in the country into law, making him a conservative hero. Among other things, the bill prevented women from terminating pregnancies for reasons including fetal disability such as Down syndrome. Although opponents succeeded in getting the bill overturned in the courts, Indiana is still seen as one of the most anti-abortion states in America.  As vice president, Pence also cast the tie-breaking Senate vote to allow states to withhold federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood in 2017.”
  • Pence has also been an outspoken opponent of LGBTQ rights. He opposed the inclusion of sexual orientation in hate crimes legislation and the end of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. He likewise supported both state and federal constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage, and expressed disappointment at the 2015 Obergefell decision, which required all states to recognize such unions.
  • In March 2015, as Indiana governor, he signed the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act “to ensure that religious liberty is fully protected.” The act ignited a firestorm of nationwide controversy: Critics alleged that it would allow for individuals and businesses to legally discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community. Under pressure from LGBTQ activists, liberals, business owners and moderate Republicans, Pence signed an amendment a week later stipulating that it did not authorize discrimination.
  • Speaking before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in 2009, then Representative Pence linked his support for Israel with his faith: “Let me say emphatically, like the overwhelming majority of my constituents, my Christian faith compels me to cherish the state of Israel.”


On the morning of 6 January 2021, Vice President Pence and his team (Greg Jacob, his chief legal counsel; Marc Short, his chief of staff; and Chris Hodgson, his director of legislative affairs) began their day with prayer.  In the afternoon, while in a secure location beneath the Capitol, the team again reached for their Bibles.  And at 3:00 AM, after the electoral votes had been certified, the team shared verses.  Specifically, in the tunnels below the Capitol, under the “war scene” as one Capitol Police officer described it, Vice President Mike Pence and members of his team pulled out their Bibles. “My faith really sustained me through [the attack],” says Greg Jacob, Chief Counsel for VP Pence.   “Daniel 6 was where I went, and in Daniel 6, Daniel has become the second in command of Babylon, a pagan nation that he completely faithfully serves. He refuses an order from the king that he cannot follow and he does his duty in — consistent with his oath to God. And I felt that that’s what had played out that day.”  After praying and waiting, Pence and his team safely returned to the joint session of Congress. Pence fulfilled his constitutional duty by certifying the election results during the joint session that lasted until 3:00 A.M.   Mark Short, former Chief of Staff to the Vice President, recalls a Bible verse he sent to Pence following the Joint Session:  “At 3:50 in the morning, when we finally adjourned and headed our ways, I remember texting the Vice President a passage from Second Timothy chapter four verse seven about, ‘I fought the good fight. I finished the race. I have kept the faith.’”  Bible verses and prayers exchanged between Pence and his aides on the mornings of 6 and 7 January 2021, can be credited with bolstering them when, just as they had vowed, he defied the president and certified the 2020 election results.


In a flurry of phone calls (on 5 and 6 January 2021) and later in numerous public speeches, the president had some not-very-nice words for his vice president, Mike Pence, calling him a “coward,” a “wimp” and a “pussy” for not doing what he wanted him to do—refuse to certify the electoral votes, which would then declare him to be president, not Joe Biden.  Pence would not budge. Trump sent lawyers and emissaries all urging Pence to break the law. Pence would not.   As Maureen Dowd correctly argues, the president “sparked the mob to seek vengeance against Pence the same way Henry II sparked a crew to murder Thomas Becket, the archbishop of Canterbury, in 1170. According to legend, after Becket defied Henry by excommunicating bishops supportive of the king, Henry muttered something to the effect of, ‘Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?’ Four knights immediately rode to Canterbury Cathedral and sliced up Becket.”  By 2:26 pm that day, an angry mob with baseball bats and pepper spray chanting “Hang Mike Pence” came within 40 feet of the vice president.  Kathleen Parker observes, “Pence certainly showed great courage when he insisted upon remaining at or near the Capitol that day, especially considering that some members of the assembled rioters and protesters were clearly keen on killing him. In preparation, the mob had constructed a wooden gallows featuring a noose intended for Pence’s neck. Video shown during the hearing captured Trump supporters chanting ‘Hang Mike Pence! Hang Mike Pence!’ . . . Courage in the face of fire is surely commendable.”


Throughout much of his adult life, Mike Pence has represented Jesus Christ well.  He is a man of integrity, confident faith and heroic courage.  Despite the loyalty he exhibited toward his president for four years, that president turned on him, shamed him, mocked him and put his life in jeopardy.  But the faith of Mike Pence, encouraged and reinforced by his three staff members that momentous day, did the honest, right and courageous thing.  I am thankful for Mike Pence.  He represented His Savior well that day!

See Deborah Whitehead in Colorado Arts and Sciences Magazine (6 January 2021); Emily McFarlan Miller, Religion News Service (24 August 2020); Kathleen Parker in the Washington Post (17 June 2022); Maureen Dowd in the New York Times (18 June 2022).

Comments Closed