Did you happen to see the Bernie Sander’s salvo last week against an important point of Christian doctrine?
Last week in a Senate confirmation hearing for Russell Vought, President Trump’s nominee to be deputy director of the White House Office Of Management And Budget, Sanders attacked Vought for words he had used in an article from 2016 where he defended Wheaton College for its firing of a professor who asserted that Muslims and Christians worship “the same God”.
The quote in question was this: “Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ, and they stand condemned.” Vought then cited three Scriptures including a quote from Jesus, which supported his argument that not all are saved, which of course is a key tenet of Christianity.
Bernie however went ballistic on this point, assuming – quite wrongly – that he understood what Vought meant by the word “condemned”, that it was a slur of derision or hate-speech, instead of a very distinct and critical part of the Christian belief system, which when understood rightly, promotes compassion and a loving urgency to share the “good news” of Jesus with others. Continuing with his ignorance, when the dust settled, Sanders said, “This nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.”
The exchange reminded me of what the early Christians faced as Rome began to target Christianity for persecution, by compiling a laundry list of false accusations against them – that they were “atheists” (because they only worshipped one God), and cannibals (because they “ate flesh and drank blood” in their worship rituals). Christian leaders went to great lengths to explain true Christianity to Roman officials, one of the most famous being the great treatise “Apology” written by a lion-hearted third-century attorney, named Tertullian.
The fact that this analogy can even be raised points to something very unsettling. While on the one hand, the Sanders-Vought exchange is almost humorous (were I in Vought’s shoes I might have said, “Mr. Sanders, is a Sunday School lesson really what you want to have right now? Because I’d be more than happy to go there if you wish”). On the other hand, Sander’s ignorance of the classic idea of hell (believed still in some fashion by most Americans) – that there will be a divine accounting one day of our beliefs and actions – so much so that he finds this belief intolerable and worthy of political disqualification, reveals how much our culture continues to drift from its biblical moorings.
It’s a classic liberal riposte. Bernie condemns a man he accuses of being condemning. The apostles of “tolerance” become vehemently intolerant of anyone holding a traditional Western view of morality which stands in the way of their progressive, enlightened view of humanity. People who believed what everyone believed a mere ten years ago (including Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton), that there are two sexes, and that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman, are now labeled as bigots, and haters, and radicals who must be silenced.
All to say, we need Tertullians to arise in this generation, sooner rather than later. You might look at Bernie as just a crotchety, old coot, a novelty, an entertainment. But I promise you, behind him are hundreds more, and once they come to power, they will use it.