If your political sun has been rising and setting on the cage match between Donald Trump and James Comey, there’s an ominous little story that you might have missed. In an otherwise-uneventful Senate hearing for Russell Vought, Trump’s nominee to be deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, Bernie Sanders launched a direct and aggressive attack on Vought’s religious beliefs.
I won’t transcribe the entire exchange (you can read it in my Corner post on the matter), but Sanders aggressively took issue with a piece Vought authored at The Resurgent, which defended Wheaton College’s decision to terminate a professor who declared that Muslims and Christians “worship the same God.” The post is well-written, and it expresses orthodox Protestant Christian theology. It also contains a passage that apparently infuriated Sanders: “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 the Senate hearing, Sanders called this statement “Islamophobic,” and, with his voice rising, challenged Vought’s fitness for office. Eventually, he all-but-declared Vought un-American. He concluded his remarks by declaring that, “This nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.”
Sanders’s tirade was certainly outrageous: Article VI of the Constitution prohibits religious tests for public office, and he blatantly violated the language and spirit of that prohibition in Skewering Vought. But it was also instructive: This is what happens when our national polarization breeds both ignorance and intolerance, and when intolerance trumps even the rule of law.
First, let’s deal with the ignorance. It’s plain from the tone and content of his questioning that Sanders has no idea of the basic beliefs of orthodox Protestant Christianity. It’s also plain that he has no idea of the basic beliefs of the Islamic faith that he’s defending. This was the interrogation of a man confident that he’s dealing with an extremist, a religious nut job who needs to be exposed. Sanders obviously has no idea that even millions of Democratic voters would nod along with Vought’s analysis, seeing it as self-evident. (After all, Christ himself declared, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through me.”) He also seems to be oblivious to the fact that the Islamic faith that he defends offers its own, competing, exclusivity. (One wonders: Would he grill an Islamic nominee in a similar fashion?)
Sanders isn’t just ignorant of the orthodoxy of Vought’s argument, though. He’s also ignorant of its religious, cultural, and political implications. He sees a statement that any person “stands condemned” perhaps as license to discriminate against or oppress unbelievers. But properly understood Evangelical Christian belief dictates that a person should love, respect, and, if necessary, even die for the lost, as Christ Himself did.
Sanders’s ignorance then leads directly to intolerance. He personifies the arrogant contempt for Evangelicals that so often marks the secular American elite. They don’t understand Protestant Christian theology. They read the worst stories of Christian behavior and presume that those stories fairly represent Evangelical beliefs. So they try to drive Evangelicals from the public square, and in so doing they become the intolerant scolds they imagine their foes to be. They hate Christianity, and use political power to try to suppress its influence. They presume that their Christian opponents would do the same. Thus, they spark the exact kind of religious conflict that the founders sought to avoid.
On this point, Article VI could not be more clear:
As I watched this, my jaw dropped.
This guy is going into the Dir of Office Management & Budget.
He’s a NUMBER CRUNCHER.
His religious or political views will never be part of his analysis of bills.
A religious litmus test is illegal and absurd.
And Bernie is one of the very last people I would want defining what constitutes acceptable beliefs for working in Gov’t.
Not only was Bernie acting the bigot, since he is so ignorant of religions, he was acting the Ignorant Bigot.
Sanders is a total socialists just most all liberal demacrats are totaly dictated to a Soviet America
Don’t know why the left is so panicked chicken little style over Russia…Bernie IS the USSR. Stalin and Lenin would be proud of him
I’d love to hear Bernie’s take on the child sacrifices taking place TO THIS DAY in Africa among business people.
Daddy needed money.
Daddy sold his daughter.
Businessman bought her to kill for business success.
These are the people in the boats heading into Italy and Greece (then into all over Europe.)
And I thought Laotians killing and eating stray cats was bad back when they 1st got to So Cal!
ever wonder is bernie suffers from syphilitic brain syndrome 2ed stage?
This statement isn’t only a condemnation of Muslims. It’s a condemnation of any and all religious or nonreligious persons who don’t buy the assertion that someone’s particular brand of Christianity is the only valid path to God.
While Russell Vought is entitled to believe whatever he wishes as a private citizen, Sanders is entirely correct to question this attitude in a nominee for Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the extent to which it might affect the performance of his duties.
The American Christian right includes a rather large component that do see their “orthodox” beliefs as a license to discriminate and oppress. They’re also totally convinced that doing so is somehow an expression of their own religious freedoms and God’s will. The “Republican Jesus” meme isn’t without a basis in reality. Some of them seem to believe Jesus put His Official Stamp of Approval on capitalism and materialism.
Should it have escaped your attention, the Trump administration has already empowered a number of such people. One happens to be Vice President. Another is now head of the Department of Education.
@Greg: Can you tell us how his religious beliefs would interfere with his duties.
And is this only path to God any different that the ONLY path to save the earth is CO2 elimination?
Why would Sanders even bring this up? do see the Antifa/resistance attacking anti-sharia law marches, does your side agree with FGM, and honor killings?
Has it affected the nominees job or career previously?
Please tryto answer at least one of these questions.
I have no use for religion-based intolerance and oppression, whatever their context. I don’t want the nation’s education in the hands of someone with a religious agenda that extends to education and textbook content. I don’t want justice administered in accordance with someone’s strict biblical interpretations that set oppressive social standards, any more than I want Sharia to have anything at all to do with our legal system.
I believe Sanders shares those views. I doubt if Trump has any genuine views on the subject at all. In my opinion, he’s just pandering to the Christian right in return for political support.
I guess, up till now, you’ve never heard of Christianity?
Here’s a hint Greg; its right in the name: CHRISTinanity. It is the belief in Christ and that belief is that Christ saves your soul. Similarly, Jews condemn those who believe Christ is the Messiah. Muslims condemn… well, everyone (but them).
Vought is not nominated for National Evaluator of Souls. Plus, he is not a liberal, who would use his personal prejudices to impliment law and policy. Just take a deep breath and calm down a little.
Everyone else, how long have you been around? Everyone knows liberals are allowed to be racist, bigoted and intolerant. It’s in their job description.