Senator Bernie Sanders had an interesting exchange with White House deputy budget director nominee Russell Vought. Religious liberty defender David French writes about it in National Review.
First, French’s rough transcription of the dialog:
Sanders: Let me get to this issue that has bothered me and bothered many other people. And that is in the piece that I referred to that you wrote for the publication called Resurgent. You wrote, “Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned.” Do you believe that that statement is Islamophobic?
Vought: Absolutely not, Senator. I’m a Christian, and I believe in a Christian set of principles based on my faith. That post, as I stated in the questionnaire to this committee, was to defend my alma mater, Wheaton College, a Christian school that has a statement of faith that includes the centrality of Jesus Christ for salvation, and . . .
Sanders: I apologize. Forgive me, we just don’t have a lot of time. Do you believe people in the Muslim religion stand condemned? Is that your view?
Vought: Again, Senator, I’m a Christian, and I wrote that piece in accordance with the statement of faith at Wheaton College:
Sanders: I understand that. I don’t know how many Muslims there are in America. Maybe a couple million. Are you suggesting that all those people stand condemned? What about Jews? Do they stand condemned too?
Vought: Senator, I’m a Christian . . .
Sanders (shouting): I understand you are a Christian, but this country are made of people who are not just — I understand that Christianity is the majority religion, but there are other people of different religions in this country and around the world. In your judgment, do you think that people who are not Christians are going to be condemned?
Vought: Thank you for probing on that question. As a Christian, I believe that all individuals are made in the image of God and are worthy of dignity and respect regardless of their religious beliefs. I believe that as a Christian that’s how I should treat all individuals . . .
Sanders: You think your statement that you put into that publication, they do not know God because they rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned, do you think that’s respectful of other religions?
Vought: Senator, I wrote a post based on being a Christian and attending a Christian school that has a statement of faith that speaks clearly in regard to the centrality of Jesus Christ in salvation.
Sanders: I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.
This is a disgraceful and unconstitutional line of questioning from the man who came close to being the Democratic nominee for president. He’s not only imposing a religious test for public office in direct violation of Article VI of the United States Constitution, he’s gone so far as to label this decent man — who’s seeking to serve his country in a vital role — as “not someone who this country is supposed to be about.” Vought expressed entirely orthodox Christian beliefs. There is nothing “extreme” about his statements, and they mirror the statements of faith of countless Christian churches and schools across the land. Are these believers also not fit for public office?
The Christian view is, of course, that some people choose to separate themselves from God’s presence in the afterlife because of their refusal to respond to God’s revelation of himself in the time they have while they are still alive. People could respond to general revelation and the moral law written on their hearts, or if they are able to, they could investigate deeper, studying scientific evidence or historical evidence. But each person is morally obligated to seek the truth about God as he really is. God reveals himself to those who seek him.
Surprisingly, many people with advanced degrees and great careers and great wealth want nothing to do with seeking the truth about God’s existence and Jesus Christ. I know. I work next to brilliant software engineers who have utterly stupid and ignorant opinions about God’s existence and the historical Jesus. And they go their whole lives chasing health, wealth and fame rather than buckle down with the books and look into these things. They would prefer not to look into these things and that’s why they remain separated from God eternally, after they die. God isn’t grading people on whether they go to a good college, marry, have a great career, make lots of money, have lots of kids, and send their kids to great colleges to become doctors (wonderful though all that is). God is concerned about whether you know who he is, whether you accept what Jesus Christ is has done for you in history, and whether you love God in your priority-setting and decision-making.
Disagreement with non-Christians does not make Christians mean to non-Christians. You can just look at Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan to see how Christians are supposed to treat people that we disagree with about religion. In this life, Christians are called on to love their neighbors – including their neighbors of other faiths or of no faiths – as themselves. In fact, historically speaking, one of the main reasons why Christianity expanded so quickly is that early Christians took the obligation to love their neighbors so seriously. Unlike Democrats, we didn’t outsource caring for the poor and the sick to the government. Instead of being “generous” by spending other people’s money, we were generous with our own money. This is foreign to most Democrats, who typically give nothing to charity, but make a big show of spending taxpayer money – money that they never earned themselves.
Some people may ask, “what about those who have never heard of Jesus?” For the problem of those people who have never heard of Jesus before they die, we have the middle knowledge solution. Christians love people who disagree with them, and we hope and pray that they will take the time to investigate these matters for themselves so that they come to a true worldview. I pray for non-Christians – this is a normal part of the Christian life. Disagreeing with someone doesn’t mean that you treat them badly. For the problem of those who are not able to search out the answers from science and history, God will judge them on their response to God’s existence in nature – which everyone has access to. The design of the universe is one of the reasons given by people for an intuitive belief in a Creator and Designer, and we all have the moral law written on our hearts.
What about Sanders? Is he tolerant of other religions? Does he treat people of other religions well? My opinion based on what I know of Sanders is that Sanders is an atheist, and so he is in disagreement with the factual claims of every religion on the planet. They’re all wrong, according to Sanders. We’re already seeing a lot of attacks by secular leftists against Christians using government as a weapon. Sanders would take it up a notch, by actually preventing Christians from serving in political roles. To me, that seems like what Hitler did to the Jews in Nazi Germany – drumming them out of positions of influence solely because their religion differed from his own pagan religion.
Very interesting for me now, to think back to the Christians I knew who supported Bernie Sanders in the Democrat primary last election. Why did they do it? Sanders has virtually no positions in common with what the Bible teaches. Not just on social issues, obviously, but also on fiscal and foreign policy issues. He is the complete anti-Bible politician. I believe that the main reason that some Christians supported Bernie Sanders is because they wanted to feel good about themselves, and be perceived as “generous” by other people around them. They did not want to do this by spending their own money and time to help others. They wanted to feel good and look generous by having Bernie Sanders steal other people’s money and time to “help” others through enormous government spending and borrowing from future taxpayers. They wanted to take money away from individual taxpayers who earned the money by working, and let the secular leftists in government spend it on buying votes from their favored special interest groups. It was all about envy, theft and coveting. Things that no real Christian would ever choose when voting for President.