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Mayor Pete unmasks evangelicals like Pence

Tribune Content Agency logoTribune Content Agency 4/12/2019 By Bill Press, Tribune Content Agency
Mike Pence wearing a suit and tie: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at the United Nations Security Council in New York on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. © Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA/TNS U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at the United Nations Security Council in New York on Wednesday, April 10, 2019.

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

Whether he wins the Democratic nomination or not, whether he's elected our next president or not, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg has already made one great contribution to American politics: He's exposed the total hypocrisy of Mike Pence and so-called Christian Evangelicals who blindly support Donald Trump.

As Buttigieg said on "Meet the Press" last Sunday, "I can't believe that somebody that was caught writing hush money checks to adult film actresses is somebody they should be lifting up as the kind of person they want to be leading the nation." Or, he could have added, as bona fide Christians, are they really professing loyalty to a man who bragged about grabbing women by their genitals and getting away with it?

Among Evangelicals, even his most ardent supporters have a hard time explaining why they cling to Donald Trump despite his disgusting, immoral, and decidedly un-Christian personal behavior. Their latest ploy is the King Cyrus defense, aka "vessel theology." 2,500 years ago, it was Persia's pagan King Cyrus who allowed Jews to return from captivity in Babylon and rebuild their temple in Jerusalem. Like God once used Cyrus, Evangelical leader and Trump supporter Mike Evans explains, God is now using Trump, "this flawed human being like you or I, this imperfect vessel, and he's using him in an incredible, amazing way to fulfill his plans and purposes."

Which is total nonsense. Notice: no Evangelicals made the Cyrus argument when that "flawed human being" and "imperfect vessel" was a Democrat named Bill Clinton. Does it only apply to Republican sinners? Let's face it, Evangelicals hide behind the Cyrus defense because they're afraid to admit the real reason they support Donald Trump. In their minds, he may be an adulterer and serial sexual predator, but he promised to do, and has delivered on, the only thing they really care about: appointing judges to the Supreme Court who will overturn Roe v. Wade and reverse the court's recognition of same-sex marriage.

To them, nothing else matters. Trump can cheat on his wife, pay porn stars, say nice things about white nationalists, rip immigrant children from their parents and lock them up in cages, take health care away from people with pre-existing conditions, unleash a flood of personal insults on Twitter, or call people names they dare not repeat in front of their own children. Conservative Christians like Pence don't care. That's just the price they're willing to pay for Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

In so doing, as I argued in my book "How the Republicans Stole Religion," they turn Scripture upside down. Reverend Jim Wallis, founder of the social justice organization Sojourners, notes that there are 31,156 total verses in the Bible. Over 5,000 of them deal with helping the poor. Not one verse of Scripture deals with abortion. Not one, about gay marriage. Wherever these self-important Christians got their sense of priorities, they didn't get it from the Old or New Testament.

But that's not Buttigieg's only good move. He's also done a great service in educating Pence and other right-wing Christians about LGBTQ Americans, which is a lesson Pence still hasn't learned. Remember, this is the same Mike Pence who, as governor of Indiana, signed legislation making it OK for businesses, in the name of Jesus, to refuse service to gay customers.

That's not only anti-American it's contrary to the promise of universal equality enshrined in the Constitution. But, as Buttigieg points out, it's also fundamentally anti-Christian, because it presumes that God Himself, who created us all, would invite us to discriminate in favor of some of his children and against others.

Nobody exposed the fallacy of that thinking better than Buttigieg: "Speaking only for myself, I can tell you that if my being gay was a choice, it was a choice that was made far, far above my pay grade," he told a gathering of the Victory Fund in Washington. "That's the thing I wish the Mike Pences of the world would understand. That if you have a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my Creator."

Bravo for Pete Buttigieg. Many would argue that it's human genetics, not divine intervention that determines whether one is gay or straight. But, regardless, for too long, we've had to suffer phony prophets like Mike Pence from the religious right. Isn't it refreshing to finally have a true leader -- from the religious left!

(Bill Press is host of a nationally-syndicated radio show, CNN political analyst and the author of the new book, "Trump Must Go: The 100 Top Reasons to Dump Trump (And One to Keep Him)," which is available in bookstores now. You can hear "The Bill Press Show" at his website: billpressshow.com. His email address is: bill@billpress.com. Readers may also follow him on Twitter at @bpshow.)

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