When Vice President Mike Pence, famously evangelical himself, addressed the Southern Baptist Convention on Wednesday, he erred heavily on the side of politics and only dabbled in the Bible.
The stump-like speech confirmed the fears of many at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Dallas, who felt that inviting Pence would divide a convention already working to move ahead after explosive abuse allegations. People opposed to bringing Pence aren’t necessarily anti-GOP, but felt that bringing any politicians in to address the convention was inappropriate.
“We were told he was going to bring a greeting,” tweeted Mark Wilke, a Southern Baptist pastor. “This feels like a stump speech. While I like him, feels out of place.”
And Pence did check off the stump-speech regulars. North Korea summit? Check. Jobs report? Check. First 500 days of action? Check. Religious liberty, new judges, restoring America on the world stage? Check, check, check.
Pence did make nods to religion, particularly his own evangelical awakening and the church shooting at Sutherland Springs outside of San Antonio. He and his wife, Karen, personally visited the victims.
“While strong American leadership has accomplished much,” Pence said, “[the president] and I both know that effective and fervent prayers of righteous people can accomplish much more.”
The convention messengers — those authorized by their local churches to attend and are able to vote and propose motions to be voted on — have already made their distaste for Pence’s visit known. Several messengers made motions on the floor Tuesday that would ban the annual meeting from inviting sitting politicians, or politicians entirely, or politicians who are not the mayor of the annual meeting’s host city.
Next up was the keynote convention speaker, Kie Bowman of Austin, a replacement for ousted Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president Paige Patterson. At least half the room made a speedy exodus.
“I know with your strong support in prayers,” Pence concluded, “with Donald Trump in the White House and God’s help, we will make America safe again, we will make America prosperous again, and to borrow a phrase, we will make America great again.”