In the first episode of her new podcast, Vice President Mike Pence’s daughter Charlotte Pence Bond opened up about her spiritual journey as the daughter of devout Christian parents and how she went through her own born-again experience to realize what it means to live for Christ.
Her new podcast program is called "Doubting It" and aims to be the “start of a conversation” to encourage listeners not to shy away from their spiritual doubts.
“I think that doubt is something that most people experience when they are kind of going through their faith journey or they are figuring out what they believe,” the 27-year-old graduate student at Harvard Divinity School, said.
“It can be common … to have these questions, especially if you are raised in a religious household, in a household where everybody around you might be very devoutly religious. That can be kind of intimidating because when you get out into the real world, it can be a little different and look a little different.”
Bond, who got married last December, spoke about how she grew up as a middle child in the home of Mike and Karen Pence, whom she said both grew up Catholic but have since become nondenominational Protestants.
Today, Bond is in the second year of a master’s program in theological studies. During her studies, she said, she has noticed a “shift” among millennials and people her age having a “different view of religion and faith,” with a lot of people saying “they are into spirituality over maybe an organized religion.”
“I wanted to really dig into that and figure out why. I honestly don’t think I did, I don’t know if we ever really will,” she said. “There are so many things that go into why a generation is different from another one. But what I have noticed, at least a little bit of my theory about why millennials tend to be ‘less religious’ than other generations, I think is maybe partially to do with this doubt idea. We aren’t talking about the questions that we have.”
Although her parents have always been open to discussing any doubts or questions she had about the faith and have taught her and her siblings that a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ was essential,” Bond stated that she felt as if for many years, she “wasn’t really living for Christ.”
In college, she said she wasn’t really living in a way that she should have been as a follower of Christ.
“I think I have really looked back at that time that I think I thought, ‘OK, I am a Christian but I don’t have to follow all of the rules. I don’t have to do all of these things that they tell you to do in youth group or small group or CRU or InterVarsity,’” she said.
“I went to those things and I did not act like a Christ follower on the off days, I guess on the days that I wasn’t surrounded by people who were. I really was kind of living a little bit of a double life. I was trying to get away with hanging out with people I shouldn’t have been hanging out with, doing things I shouldn’t have been doing and thinking that ‘I can still believe this but I just don’t have to follow these rules.’”
At the time, she said she felt as if the Bible was “kind of antiquated” because it was “written a long time ago.”
“That was really kind of my thought process. I think that looking back, it wasn’t that anything was missing in religion or Christianity for me. Something was missing in me, in my heart,” she stated. “I wasn’t fully there.”
Bond said that at times, she “almost didn’t want Christianity to be the truth” because that would mean she would need to change the things that she was doing and the people she was hanging out with.
“That was going to mean a drastic shift in my life,” she stated. “It was going to mean that I was going to have to answer to this God and I was going to have to lose relationships, which I did, in order to follow Him and follow after Him wholeheartedly.”
Her “conversion” happened when she traveled to England to study for a year during her junior year in college. For the entire year, she said, she only went into a church once. For most of the year, she thought to herself: “I am not doing this Christianity thing.”
According to the podcast host, she even turned down invites from friends to go to church services.
“I started reading atheists’ writings and literature. I was close with professors who were agnostic or atheist. I just started kind of trying it out,” she said. “I didn’t fully turn away from my faith but I wanted to see if I really needed it. Looking back on that year, I looked back over this journal I kept and I noticed in the journal all of the times that things of significance happened and I felt the need to write them down.”
“A lot of times it had been when I would come across a Bible verse or something had happened that clearly involved God and clearly involved another encounter with religion in some way,” she added. “What I really realized is that during that entire year, I was running away from God very actively. But the entire year, He was running after me.”
At the end of the year while on an airplane during one of her last trips before her return to the United States, she recalled that she started to cry while she was listening to a worship song.
“I just felt this overwhelming presence around me,” Bond detailed. “I really can’t describe it as anything other than that. I felt that God was accepting me back. It was almost this literal feeling of falling into somebody’s arms that has forgiven you, saying: ‘I still want you. I still want you back even though you ran away from me. I still want you.’ That was really when I completely gave my life to Christ.”
When she returned from her trip abroad, she began reading her Bible as if it was the “first time” she had ever read it and often asked her parents about things she read.
Bond said she also reconnected with some of her Christian friends who were there for her during her spiritual journey.
“They were watching me live this double life, loving me through it and seeing me on the other side of it and seeing me as this born-again Christian,” she said. “I really felt like after that experience on the plane, I couldn’t deny it anymore. I couldn’t pretend like it wasn’t real.”
Bond said that she knew she could no longer continue to live the way she was living and had to make changes.
“I lost friends, moved on from relationships and kind of figured out who I was in Christ and who I wanted to be with Him at the center,” she explained.
“During this time abroad, that was really a time in my life when I was given the liberty and the freedom and the space to have doubts, to have questions, to wonder … if this is something that I believe and to what extent. The biggest realization I had was that Christianity was real and I couldn’t be halfway in. I couldn’t have one foot out the door all the time.”
Bond encouraged listeners that having spiritual doubts and questions is acceptable and something the Bible speaks on in the New Testament.
“Matthew 7 says, ‘Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be open to you. For anyone who asks, receives. The one who seeks finds. And to the one who knocks, the door will be opened,’” she recited. “I love this verse because it talks about how it is OK to ask and we wouldn’t be asking a question and we wouldn’t be knocking and seeking if we didn’t have doubts.”
She noted that the verse implies that it is OK for believers to admit that they don’t know everything.
“Trusting God doesn’t mean that we never have doubts,” she stressed. “But we have to be honest about our doubts.”