Bernie Sanders and the New American Religious State
According to Bernie Sanders, it would seem you cannot serve as a public official unless you have the correct religious beliefs. In his eyes, incorrect religious beliefs can now disqualify you from office.
The Atlantic put out an article yesterday that highlights a recent confrontation between Democratic Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Russell Vought, President Trump’s nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, during Vought’s confirmation hearing. Sanders was taking him to task over a statement Vought made regarding his Christian faith a year prior:
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.
In regards to this statement, Sanders said “In my view, the statement made by Mr. Vought is indefensible, it is hateful, it is Islamophobic, and it is an insult to over a billion Muslims throughout the world.” You can read the full Atlantic article to get the rest of the exchange, but here was Sanders’ conclusion:
“I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who is what this country is supposed to be about. I will vote no.”
Sanders took Vought’s statement as a direct attack against Muslim people instead of taking it for what it was: a claim for the exclusivity of Christ. If we take Jesus’ words to heart, Vought’s statement is not out of line at all. Jesus himself claimed in John 14:6 that “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the father but through me.” He also says in John 3:18 that “Whoever believes in [the Son] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” Muslims deny that Jesus is God, so in the eyes of Jesus, the Bible, and millions of Christians around the world, they stand condemned. This is a basic tenet of Christian faith. Muslims also would claim exclusivity to their faith – most believe Christians stand condemned. Sanders’ outrage seems particularly one-sided. The postmodern “Christianity” Sanders would tolerate is best embodied by the statement fellow Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen made during the hearing:
I’m a Christian, but part of being a Christian, in my view, is recognizing that there are lots of ways that people can pursue their God
The moral and religious stand Sanders took with Vought is alarming. As the Atlantic article pointed out, Article VI of the U.S. Constitution states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Yet here is Senator Sanders opposing Trump’s nominee because of his traditional and orthodox Christian beliefs. Should this thought-pattern continue and spread, no Christian will be allowed to serve as a public official in government unless they renounce the exclusive saving faith preached by Jesus. If people are going to be prevented from serving office because they have the wrong religious views, then we have entered a new American religious state. Let’s call Bernie Sanders’ actions what they are: religious persecution.
Christians more and more are feeling the pressure to conform to the thought-pattern of our western culture. To claim that Jesus is the only way is increasingly being viewed as narrow-minded and backwards. We should prepare ourselves to face increased opposition in school, at work, and within our own families as this postmodern state religion takes a stronger hold. If we are not prepared to take a stand for what is true, we are doomed to conform as so many churches have already done.
Paul warns us in 2 Timothy that in the last days, difficult times will come. He describes the belief of people as “holding onto a form of godliness yet denying its true power.” I think this perfectly describes the modern spiritual climate – Christianity is good and all, as long as you agree that all religions are equally valid and no one is going to Hell. Paul, writing to Timothy in this passage, offers some encouragement that we ought to take to heart as well:
12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. – 2 Timothy 3:12-15