Last week Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders transformed a rather mundane confirmation hearing for the deputy director for the Office of Management and Budget into high political theater, pronouncing the nominee unfit for office due to his religious beliefs. Sanders highlighted a couple of sentences from an article Vought published last year at The Resurgent, in which he made a theological argument about the exclusivity of Christ in salvation in defense of his alma mater Wheaton College. Controversy surrounded Wheaton after it fired a political science professor for claiming that Muslims and Christians “worship the same God.” She made the comment in defense of her decision to don the Muslim hijab for Advent in solidarity with Muslims. What did Vought write that made him feel the Bern of the fiery wrath of the socialist senator?
“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 other words, Vought expressed standard orthodox Christian doctrine about the exclusivity and centrality of Jesus Christ in salvation. From the perspective of Christian theology, there is nothing revolutionary or inflammatory in the statement. But that didn’t stop Sanders from trying to gin up controversy. The senator asked Vought if he thought the statement was Islamophobic, and then proceeded to interrupt every answer Vought attempted before finally pronouncing him unfit for office.
“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.”—Senator Bernie Sanders
This is where the story takes a left turn into hypocrisy. In declaring Vought unfit for office because of his theological convictions Sanders revealed he is actually the one unsuited for his post. First, Sanders is imposing a religious litmus test for public office in direct violation of Article VI of the Constitution. But even more interesting is that by the senator’s own standard he should have nothing to do with public policy.
“In a democratic society, founded on the principle of religious freedom, we can all disagree over issues, but racism and bigotry—condemning an entire group of people because of their faith—cannot be part of any public policy.” — Spokesman for Senator Sanders, June 8th statement
Sanders declared someone “not what America is supposed to be about” because he believes what all orthodox Christians have believed for 2,000 years: the exclusivity of Jesus Christ in salvation. In other words, Sanders condemned an entire group of people—Christians—and, therefore, by his own reckoning he should not be part of any public policy. I can only assume we’ll be seeing his resignation letter shortly.
Our story then veers right into gullibility. The overwhelming Christian response to Sanders’s hostile questioning could be summed up in two words: No fair! Having ceded pluralism to the secular progressives, Christians are now shocked to learn that they do not intend to be particularly pluralistic with us. It’s almost as if they are playing to win. This situation reveals that one of their chief victory strategies is to continually move the goalposts. The Left has been playing this game for decades. They start out claiming that all they want is X and would never dream of demanding Y, and you’re such a silly extremist for even thinking that we would. Of course, as soon as they get X they begin yelling for Y, and conservatives begin drawing up the terms of their next surrender. Every time progressives move the goalpost conservatives end up compromising again in their direction, which means they aren’t actually conserving anything, but are just chopping down Lantern Waste just a little slower than the Calormenes. The most obvious example of this play was the same-sex marriage movement, which just a few years ago was the of-course-not-we’d-never-demand-marriage-we-only-want-civil-unions movement. Of course, once they got civil unions they wanted marriage in some states, and once they got marriage in some states they wanted it in all of them. And the day after Obergefell they began screeching for so-called transgender rights. It should now be obvious to us all that if you give them the bathrooms they’ll burn down the whole house. Taking it back to Bernie, the Left started out crusading for religious tolerance and pluralism—we just want to be included, man—but in the end they declare Christianity obscene, immoral, dangerous, and “not what this country is supposed to be about.” Christians should see the game they are playing and start playing back.
A good place to start would be to recognize the central tenet of secularism—neutrality of the public square—is also the central lie of secularism. It is a myth, up there with Prometheus, Pandora and “if you like your plan you can keep your plan.” All political systems are necessarily theocratic. The question is not whether we will have a god, but rather which one will we have. We can have Secularism with its dark-cloaked high priesthood of the Supreme Court or we can have Jesus, but we will have a god. This much is inescapable. What we witnessed last Wednesday, then, was a battle of the gods, fought under the fluorescent lights of a United States Senate committee hearing. Honestly, I would have chosen a more exotic locale for a cosmic clash, but such is life under the Administrative State. This is precisely the place where we must assert the Lordship of Jesus Christ, for this nation and all nations belong to Him.
Knowing God through His Son, Jesus Christ, is exactly what America is supposed to be about. Senator Sanders would do well heed to Psalm 2:12,
“Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”