Mike Pence has never soft-pedaled his religious affiliation. Indeed, he has described himself as “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order,” which suggests that he answers to a considerably higher power than Donald Trump. Yet his faith shouldn’t be mistaken for the folksy creed of, say, Mike Huckabee, let alone George W. Bush’s brand of Methodist uplift. In “Exiled,” Meghan O’Gieblyn takes a close look at Pence’s evangelicalism. The vice president and his coreligionists view modern life through the Old Testament narrative of the Babylonian exile, during which the Jews spent seventy years in virtual bondage, mourning the destruction of Jerusalem. Pence, too, considers himself part of an embattled minority—a strange view, perhaps, in a country that is approximately 70 percent Christian. This theology of banishment and persecution shapes every aspect of Pence’s life, and may be ever more pertinent as he inches closer to the Oval Office.
In her latest Easy Chair column, Rebecca Solnit peers at the contagion of our profoundly wired world and wonders whether it’s time to disconnect. On a similar note, Rick Moody recounts “Seven Years of Identify Theft,” during which Nigerian hackers stole his money, his good name, and his very sense of self. His remedy, too, is to take a huge step back from the digital abyss: “Better the human interaction, with all its morbid and fleshy complexities, than the perfect fantasy of the fleshless and fungible and shadowy life of the web.” In “The Pictures,” Stephen Koch writes about the photographer Peter Hujar, whose postmortem reputation was resurrected by the author, and whose images—of plants, animals, and supremely idiosyncratic human beings—are, in Koch’s words, “whole, beautiful, and his own.” There is also a shrewd, funny look by Will Ford at resistance in Tibet, in which Buddhist monks push back against the Chinese occupiers by the worldliest of tactics: building a hotel.
Elsewhere in the magazine, we have “Nothing But,” in which Geoff Dyer examines the pitfalls and potholes of memory, and a long poem by Juliana Spahr, “A Destruction Story.” In Readings, Jacqueline Rose plumbs the myth of motherhood, Rachel Cusk takes us to a fictional dinner party, and we learn some of the shapes of UFOs spotted by Americans over the past two decades (including Chevron, Boomerang, Teardrop, and the terribly old-school Blimp). Last but not least, we have brainy reviews by Lidija Haas, Jonathan Dee, and Elizabeth Lowry, plus a sharp and surprising work of fiction by Souvankham Thammavongsa. It’s another corker, folks—have at it!