by Bill Lehto
For example, take Mike Pence’s recent religious rationalization for continuing to support Donald Trump while many fellow republicans have abandoned ship. It’s clear that Trump needs the evangelical vote, and adding Pence to the ticket was an obvious appeal to that group. But given Trump’s seemingly anti-Christian speech and actions, both past and present, should he continue to count on it? How can the evangelicals continue to support someone who vulgarly brags about groping women? Forgiveness is the answer, according to Mike Pence. Pence is asking Christians to forgive, as Christ forgives. One example, from an Oct 10th rally in North Carolina in which Pence is appealing to evangelical voters:
"My faith informs me that we’re to hold up a godly standard, and that we are to live godly lives, but it also informs me that we all fall short of the glory of God. … I believe in grace. I have received it. I believe in it. I believe in forgiveness. And we’re called to forgive as we have been forgiven. And last night [at the 2nd presidential debate], my running mate, he showed the American people what was in his heart. He showed humility to the American people."
Such targeted forgiveness! Do Bill and Hillary Clinton receive Pence’s forgiveness for their sins? If so he doesn’t mention it. And what about Trump? He doesn’t seem the forgiving type, as he has recently made attacking Bill Clinton’s past misdeeds the center of his campaign, including dragging out Bill Clinton's accusers in a press conference and bringing them to the debate. And isn’t acknowledging one’s sins part of the Christian forgiveness formula? Does dismissing bragging about sexual assault as “just locker-room talk” count as acknowledgment? Is that humility? The contrast between Pence’s words and Trump’s behavior, between Pence’s fairytale view of Trump and the actual Trump, is so comically striking.
So, Pence and company, where does the forgiveness end and accountability begin? We are electing a president after all, not deciding on treatment vs. jail time for someone. Trump famously said that he could shoot someone in middle of 5th Avenue and not lose any voters. Perhaps he was on to something. Wouldn’t that be forgivable as well, as are all sins? Does forgiveness trump all accountability?
Bill Lehto is the publisher at Freethought House and editor of Atheist Voices of Minnesota.