It may be the beginning of the end for religious freedom in the United States of America, at least for evangelical, Bible-believing Christians. Doubt me? Well, earlier this week, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) grilled President Donald Trump’s nominee for the position of Deputy Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget during the latter’s Senate confirmation hearings. To be expected, of course, so long as the grilling was over Russell Vought’s political or economic views. But that’s not what happened. Instead, Senator Sanders came after Vought’s religious views. For a sitting U.S. Senator (as well as a popular presidential candidate in last year’s Democratic Party nomination contest) to publicly and brazenly question an executive department nominee’s theology as a condition for public service should give all Americans serious pause.
In early 2016, Mr. Vought’s alma mater, Wheaton College, was rocked by controversy when one of its professors said Christians and Muslims worship “the same God.” In an article for Resurgent magazine, Mr. Vought defended Wheaton College’s statement of faith, writing that Muslims have a “deficient theology” and “do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ his Son, and they stand condemned.” Now this is certainly offensive talk in our postmodernist age of political correctness. And I fully expect many of my readers (since this blog is aimed at a wide audience, including people who do not share my Christian faith) will be appalled at such a statement. Nevertheless, what Vought said is basic Christian doctrine.
In the third chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus tells Nicodemus (and all those who, for the last 2000 years, have read John): “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18). There’s also John 3:16, John 14:6, Romans 10:9-10 and 13, and numerous other passages — all of which say that Jesus Christ is central to salvation.
The Bible is certainly offensive to many people. That’s why many people have tried to destroy it (unsuccessfully) over the years, but the Bible (and Christianity) have been around for 2000 years. And for most of that 2000 years, Vought’s beliefs would not have been considered controversial or revolutionary. But even if you find Mr. Vought’s religious beliefs offensive, even if you find the Bible offensive…that’s not relevant here. What’s most distressing is that this line of questioning even came up at a U.S. Senate hearing!
The U.S. Constitution clearly states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” (Article VI, Section 3). That means it’s unconstitutional for a sitting U.S. Senator to consider an executive branch nominee’s religious beliefs when deciding whether to consent to that person’s nomination. For a senator to do otherwise shows (at best) ignorance of or (at worst) defiance of the Constitution of the United States.
Has Senator Sanders not read the Constitution? Who cares what Vought believes regarding heaven, hell, salvation, and the like? It doesn’t matter! The only vested interest the government has in someone’s religious beliefs are whether those beliefs will drive a person to commit violence (that’s actual violence, not the verbal hurt-your-feelings, micro-aggression nonsense so many college campuses are worried about) against their fellow citizens or call for some kind of insurrection against the government. That’s it. A person can believe (and express his belief) in God, Allah, or the atheists’ favorite “Flying Spaghetti Monster,” and it shouldn’t be a matter of consideration for the U.S. Senate.
Thus far, it’s mostly conservatives who are upset at Sanders’ line of questioning, and that’s why I see the writing on the wall for the future of religious freedom. Most of those on the left side of the political spectrum seem to find this line of questioning reasonable and appropriate. If that’s the case, it’s only a matter of time before evangelical, Bible-believing Christians are no longer welcome in the public square.
In this blog, I normally try to steer clear of political commentary. This issue deserves our attention, however. What Senator Sanders did by raising Mr. Vought’s religious views is unconstitutional, un-American, and frankly bigoted toward Christians. Are we going to respect that part of the Constitution or not? Clearly, Senator Sanders is not. And, for that reason, this American is glad he is not our President today.