Mike Pence Entered College a JFK Democrat. By the Time He Left, He Was a Reagan Republican


This article was sponsored by “The Faith of Mike Pence.”

When Mike Pence entered college in the fall of 1977, he was a Roman Catholic, John F. Kennedy Democrat, but by the time he left, he had become an evangelical Christian, Ronald Reagan Republican.

In her new book “The Faith of Mike Pence,” Leslie Montgomery chronicles some key moments during these years that shaped the future vice president’s life.

Pence credits being raised in a devout Irish Catholic home with laying the foundation that led to his decision to follow Jesus Christ while he was a freshman at Hanover College.

“I was blessed to grow up in a family that was in church every Sunday,” Montgomery quotes Pence saying. “Mom and Dad had strong faith, but for me, I found something missing as I came up and I went off to college and had largely walked away from the faith that I was raised to believe in.”

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Pence’s curiosity about Christianity was piqued by some of his fellow students at Hanover.

“I began to meet young men and women who talked about having a personal relationship with Jesus,” Pence said. “While I cherished my Catholic upbringing and the foundation that poured into my faith, that had not been part of my experience.”

Mike Stevens — a fraternity brother at Phi Gamma Delta, who was also raised Catholic — was one of the people speaking into Pence’s life during his freshman year.

“He started asking a lot more questions and he started reading the Bible a little bit,” Stevens told Montgomery. “I don’t think he read the Bible very much prior to coming to college. He started digging into the scriptures and it started becoming more real to him. It was a different approach to the Christian faith than he had growing up.”

Pence also began attending campus Christian meetings.

In the spring of Pence’s freshman year, Stevens invited him to go to the Ichthus Music Festival in neighboring Kentucky.

Andrew Murray, another fraternity brother of Pence’s, described it as sort of a “Christian Woodstock” featuring some popular contemporary Christian artists, like Phil Keaggy, DeGarmo & Key and Andraé Crouch, and speakers.

“I heard lots of great singing,” Pence said, “and I heard lots of wonderful preaching. And Saturday night, while sitting in light rain … my heart finally broke with a deep realization [that] what had happened on the cross, in some infinitesimal way, had happened for me.

“And I gave my life and made a personal decision to trust Jesus Christ as my Savior.”

Pence’s fraternity brother Jay Steger recalled seeing a significant change in his friend following that weekend.

“It wasn’t a step, it was a leap. But it fit him well,” Steger said. “It fit the way he thought about things and as he began to live into it, it unleashed a deep passion in him.”

Stevens noticed a new “peace” about Pence, though he still remained a fun-loving jokester.

After his Ichthus experience, Pence referred to himself as a “born again, evangelical Catholic” and became an active member of faith groups on campus like Hanover Christian Fellowship.

Friend Patricia Bailey said that he “was part of a movement of people, I’ll call it, who had grown up Catholic and still loved many things about the Catholic Church, but also really loved the concept of having a personal relationship with Christ.”

Pence would meet his wife Karen at a Catholic service in Indianapolis five years later, while he was a law student at Indiana University. He was a regular attendee of a non-denominational evangelical church during this time.

The future Indiana governor not only made a major faith decision during his college years, but he also switched political parties. He was inspired by the presidential candidacy of a popular former California governor and Hollywood star.

“I started to identify with that kind of common-sense conservatism of Ronald Reagan,” Pence said.

He remembered seeing a commonality in their shared Irish heritage, midwestern roots and even Reagan’s move from the Democratic Party to the GOP.

“Before I knew it, I decided I was a Republican,” Pence said.

The old adage is that college is the best time to test ideas and find out what you truly believe.

Pence did just that and it fundamentally changed the direction of his life.

The Faith of Mike Pence book

Order your copy today of “The Faith of Mike Pence” to learn more about the most fascinating aspect of our nation’s second in command.

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