In the wake of all the commentary on Capitol Hill last week, there was one exchange that especially caught my attention. Let’s first attempt to extract some of the emotion that tends to skew our objectivity, as the two persons involved, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Russell Vought, are potentially polarizing figures. Sanders, even though seemingly authentic, is potentially polarizing because he’s a little too comfortable with socialism; and Vought — not that most know who he is — is potentially polarizing because he’s a nominee of Pres. Trump, and many currently oppose anyone or anything advocated for by Trump. The two were discussing Vought’s nomination as Deputy Director at the White House Office of Mgmt. and Budget (OMB) — important, but not dire to our existence. Note their exchange last Wednesday afternoon…
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 (interrupting): “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 (interrupting): “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 (interrupting and now 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 (still interrupting): “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: (turning away from Vought) “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.’”
Remember that Russell Vought has been nominated for the OMB, the office whose most prominent function is to produce the President’s budget. To Bernie Sanders, aspects of Vought’s faith impair his ability to work on a budget.
Is Christianity now a litmus test? Are some suggesting Christianity is a value system that is lesser, wrong, or in this case, actually disqualifying? And how in our humongous, democratic melting pot, does Christianity make one not what “this country is supposed to be about”?
With all due respect, it concerns me that in a land marked by its bold freedoms, that an elected government official would equate any man’s faith as what we are “not about.” This, therefore, may have been the most troubling hearing on the Hill last week.