Put your hands together and bow your heads. Let’s talk about prayer and our politics.
I really want to understand.
During the third of the Jan. 6 House Hearings on June 16, there was a moment where Rep. Pete Aguilar’s questioning of Greg Jacob, former Vice President Mike Pence’s chief counsel, inexplicably turned to prayer.
PETE AGUILAR: Mr. Jacob, we heard earlier that you and the Vice President and the team started January 6th with a prayer. You faced a lot of danger that day. And this is a personal question, but how did your faith guide you on January 6th?
GREG JACOB: My faith really sustained me through it. I, down in the secure location, pulled out my Bible, read through it, and just took great comfort. 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.
AGUILAR: It spoke to you?
AGUILAR: At the end of the day, [Pence’s chief of staff] Marc Short sent the Vice President a text message with a Bible verse. Here’s what he told the select committee.
MARC SHORT (via videotape): 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.
AGUILAR: He started his day with a prayer and ended his day with a Bible verse. I’ve fought the good fight. I finished the race. I’ve kept the faith.
I see what Aguilar was going for here. Casting a spiritual light on the former Vice President’s actions is an interesting approach. I’m sure for some this was a warm and fuzzy moment. For others, a blip.
But for me? It opened an introspective can of worms. I am, after all, a bit of a navel gazer and make sport of active listening. I believe in a Great Creator. I respect and admire many people of faith.
However, what gave me pause during this part of the hearing is the framing. Because if I’m, say, God, and looking at the big picture of Pence’s life or even just a bigger slice of his time as Vice President, my train of thought would be something like this:
Did you hear nothing I said before Jan. 6th? Remember when you asked for my guidance on joining a presidential ticket with a misogynist, racist con man at the top? I don’t recall endorsing that. But, giving you the benefit of the doubt, perhaps you felt you’d bring grace to that ticket and be a good influence on the grifter you hitched your train to. You had to see pretty quickly that wasn’t working out, though, right? I kept whispering in your ear, “Do the right thing. Stand up for democracy. Millions of people are counting on you.” But your President kept finding ways to divide people and you kept on praying, ignoring my answers, and supporting him.
Even when you knew the twice-impeached, power-hungry sore loser was going to incite violence at the Capitol and ask you to pull an illegal, unconstitutional move instead of ushering in an orderly transfer of power, you stayed quiet. I was shouting in your ear at that point, Mike. Shouting for you to go public and expose him. I sent you Dan Quayle and Judge Luttig to advise you to put on the brakes and end the madness. I’m glad you listened. It saved your nation. But good grief, I’m hoarse.
As we move forward, maybe you can reflect on what prayer is and how it works. Timing matters. Listening to your better angels, as we like to say up here, doesn’t have to mean at the last possible second. (See Bill Barr story for more on that). You can choose doing the right thing over accruing more power. You can open your mouth and lend your voice to the good people trying to get to the bottom of Jan. 6th. Some citizens are calling you a hero, Mike, but you know in your soul you don’t deserve it. You did the very least a Christian man should do in the face of adversity. I hope my honesty was helpful, and good luck.
There you have it. Religion and faith and morality, oh my.
In a notable contrast, on the same day as the hearings, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi navigated the topic of her own faith and how it comes to bear on her job when asked if she agrees with Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis on abortion: “What I agree on is that whatever I believe, agree with the popes on, is not necessarily what public policy should be in the United States as people make their own judgments, honor their own responsibilities, and tend to the needs of their families.”
Let’s pray that outlook outweighs all others in the land, honoring our freedom of religion. And that those who take the time to pray also pause to listen to the answer in a timely manner.
We need all the help we can get. Amen.