Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who identifies politically as a socialist, tore into President Donald Trump’s deputy budget director nominee Russell Vought for calling Islam, back in 2016, a “deficient theology,” and for maintaining steadfastness in his Christian faith in the face of the crossfire that ensued.
Let’s cut to the chase here. Ultimately, Sanders announced he wouldn’t vote for Vought because Vought wouldn’t renounce his Christian faith. That’s a religious imposition — a religious test.
And it’s one that Sanders imposed.
Here’s how the fireworks went down.
Back in 2016, Vought wrote in the Resurgent, a conservative blog: “This is the fundamental problem. 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.”
Sanders dragged that out and set it on the confirmation table as proof positive Vought was anti-Muslim.
He asked Vought if he thought that statement was Islamaphobic. And Vought’s reply?
“Absolutely not,” he said. “I’m a Christian and I believe in a Christian set of principles based on my faith. That post … 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.”
In other words: Hey Bernie, you’re not only taking the quote out of context. But you’re taking the quote out of context and trying to plop it into a a more general discussion about Islam as a whole.
The Atlantic — the left-leaning Atlantic, no less — put it this way: “Quoted in the context of his piece, Vought’s statement about Muslims carries a different meaning from what Sanders was implying: He was deconstructing [fired professor Larycia] Hawkins’ theological claims about the relationship between Islam and Christianity.”
Vought, as the Atlantic pointed, was simply trying to show Hawkins’ pro-Islam statements “created ‘serious theological confusion’ about ‘what it means to be in relationship with or know the one, true God.”
Sanders, of course, didn’t take that context into consideration and simply pulled out the part where Vought described the basic tenets of Christian belief — which as put forth in John in the Bible, where Jesus tells that “the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
Sanders demanded explanation. And again, Vought explained, “Again, Senator, I’m a Christian and I wrote that piece …”
Annoyed, Sanders cut him off and asked whether he thought Jewish people ought to be condemned as well.
“Senator, I’m a Christian …” Vought said, again interrupted.
“I understand that you are a Christian,” Sanders yelled. “But this country is made up 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?”
The exchange went on for a bit, with Sanders thundering and Vought meekly replying — but in the end, the senator suggested that the belief that those who reject Jesus stand condemned is not “respectful of other religions.”
Vought was quite polite — quite humble and biblically sound in his replies. But here’s a sharp rebuke of Sanders’ line of questioning: Do you think Muslims who want to cut off the heads of Christians and those of faiths other than Islam are “respectful” of other beliefs, of other religions?
Right. Don’t go there. Because when it comes to Christians standing firm in their faith, that’s discriminatory. When it comes to Muslims standing firm in their faith — however murderous that stand might become — that’s freedom of religion.
“I would simply say,” Sanders said, at the end of his questioning of Vought, “that this nominee is really not someone who is what this country is supposed to be about. I will vote no.”
Vought was just too Christian for Sanders’ tastes.
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