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An exchange between Senator Bernie Sanders and the potential deputy White House budget director, Russell Vought, who is an evangelical Christian.

David French provided a transcript:

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: 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: 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: 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: 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: I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.

Article VI of the US Constitution forbids what Bernie Sanders is doing, declaring that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

Senator Sanders’s spokesman issued a statement that same day:

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.

Russell Moore has commented:

Senator Sanders’ comments are breathtakingly audacious and shockingly ignorant—both of the Constitution and of basic Christian doctrine. Even if one were to excuse Senator Sanders for not realizing that all Christians of every age have insisted that faith in Jesus Christ is the only pathway to salvation, it is inconceivable that Senator Sanders would cite religious beliefs as disqualifying an individual for public office in defiance of the United States Constitution. No religious test shall ever be required of those seeking public office. While no one expects Senator Sanders to be a theologian, we should expect far more from an elected official who has taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution.

For further analysis of the exchange, see Emma Green’s piece.

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14 thoughts on “Bernie Sanders to Traditional Christians: Your Beliefs Are Indefensibly Hateful and Insulting, and Not What This Country Is Supposed to Be About”

  1. Tim Keene says:

    The question from Bernie Sanders needs to be located in its appropriate discourse. Is it a theological question or a political/social question? If it is the lattter, Russell Vought can reasonably say that he does not condemn Muslims. On the contrary he loves them. If it is a theological question, then Russell Vought can say that he does not condemn anyone. The responsibility for justifying or condemning belongs to God alone. And this God so loved everyone, including all Muslims, that He sent His Son to die for them.

    1. C says:

      Yes!! Beautifully written and refreshing comment. We as Christians must remember that others may mis-interpret the intent behind our words when they do not have the same theological background. It appears that perhaps “Condemned” to Bernie Sanders means something different than what we as Christians understand it to be. It seems a missed opportunity when we as Christians go into defensive posture instead of exploring what misunderstandings might be in play. A missed opportunity to display the love of Jesus Who invites all into the beauty of knowing Him as Savior instead of misrepresenting Him as Condemner.

  2. Thanks for this post.
    1. This is a man who was running for the highest office in the land, in the USA. And he fails to know the basics of what Christians teach concerning salvation through Christ alone.
    2. And he fails to know, and so to realise, what is public knowledge, that there is no religious test for office in the US political system.
    3. And on top of that, he presumes to know, but does not know what sort of people his nation, the USA, is “supposed to be about”.
    Being only an atheist, or only a person who has no doctrinal allegiance to Jesus Christ…..

    No, That is not what the country was supposed to be about.
    Fail, on three counts, Bernie.

    Amazing, the arrogance.

    1. Cédric says:

      I don’t disagree with you on these 3 points, but I hope you realise that the current president utterly fails these three tests too:

      1) I’ve never asked God for forgiveness.
      2) We need a muslim ban.
      3) I love Vladimir Putin.

      The far left is bad with respect to Christianity, but the right today is not any better.

  3. Mark Corbett says:

    I wrote a blog post on this where I consider it not from a political point of view (which is valid), but in the broader and deeper context of how Christians should respond when there is cultural pressure for us to keep quiet about our beliefs. If interested, you may read it here:

    1. Bill says:

      Why do Christians always have these *-ophobic labels thrown at them? I’m not even talking about the misrepresentation of the root itself, as if Christians have anything to fear. No, Christians are generalized as haters, even though Christians generally show love, compassion and mercy.

      It’s almost as if some people are Christophobic.

  4. Norris Harrington says:

    I find it odd that an atheist of Jewish birth would attack a Christian while defending the Islam that wants to kill them both.

  5. jeff says:

    Forget the part where you are wrong about Article VI, which states that a religious test shall never be required to hold office, and simply explain what part of, “racism and bigotry—condemning an entire group of people because of their faith—cannot be part of any public policy” is unamerican.

    Bernie is saying there exists Jews and Muslims, who are also Americans, and that public officials aren’t supposed to be playing favorites.

    Religious snowflakes are the worst kind.

    1. Dan says:

      Jeff, you completely missed the point: Vought answered a question about theology. Nothing in that answer suggests that he would play favorites with respect to his public obligations. In fact he explicitly stated “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 . . .” Given what I’ve just quoted, exactly what is your disagreement with Vought?

  6. Claire says:

    In other words… religious convictions above all are discriminatory and hateful. And if you insist on having them, you are unfit.

  7. Bruce deWane says:

    Without agreeing or disagreeing with EITHER of these men nor the object of their disagreement, I would assert and believe that ALL religions discriminate constantly against all others. In small communities in rural America I defy any person that is not of the Christian faith to successfully nominate for public office or to be elected. The prejudice is permeated in the mentality of the electorate and those that control the political mechanisms. This applies as well in other nations and their electorates or governments. It’s the nature of politics, religion and cultures to divide peoples and create conflict as it’s all about power and control. Religion of any type is one of the primary causes of global conflict and human misery – any religion – as religion as a system of belief is a human construct. I do not begrudge anyone’s right to belief -just their attitude that others should suffer for not believing as the rest of the herd. One can be as one with God as a singular entity without organized religion to dictate how that belief should be embraced or exercised in ones life.

  8. Layni Shepherd says:

    Whilst there is some argument that Sanders is implying a Religious test, there is so an argument for outing bigotry and hatred. The Religious test must so be viewed that if one person is being appointed because of a Religion. The test can be spoken or unspoken. As with the travel ban, parse words as much as they like every court has found a Religious test implied. Anti Abortionist Congressional members like Trey Gowdy and the Vice President himself have noted their Religious objections to abortion. Should they not recuse themselves for defining a Religious test for the support of a law ? Sanders is doing no more or no less than any Senator who reviews his decision based on who brings God to the table of politics.

  9. Richard says:

    It has saddened me to read the many comments by Christians in the wake of this exchange last week. It is not my purpose to be critical of Mr. Vought, however I wonder how the exchange would have gone if he had responded to the question of whether muslims or Jews or others are condemned by simply saying that it is his belief that ALL men of every religion are condemned. There is a huge majority of those who identify publicly as Christians who reject the idea that any human is condemned by God. Senator Sanders exhibits a common misunderstanding between a person or group being condemned by Christians and condemnation by God. We followers of Christ must be clear about the condition of all men and show the love to all men that their ears may be opened to the gospel.

    The Constitution should not be our refuge. It is too easy to hide behind the laws of our country and claim “rights.” We know that we will be hated for the name of Christ and that includes agnostics like Sanders and Christians who reject the notion of lost mankind needing a Savior instead of an example.

    If we boldly proclaim the entire gospel we must not leave out, or water down, the doctrine of Substitutionary Atonement. As long as Senator Sanders doesn’t know he is lost he cannot know he needs a savior.

    I don’t know how I would have responded to Sander’s questions. Clearly Vought was caught off guard and answered as best he could. I only hope and pray that if questioned in the public square I will be prepared to give an answer for my faith.

  10. Laurence kendall says:

    I’m neither Christian nor Conservative.But what’s fair is fair. And Mr. Vought clearly said that he believes that all people should be respected and treated fairly. If that is the case than that’s good enough for me. While Senator Sanders has a history of making probing and divisive comments in his defense I might add that he is of Jewish extraction and what happened to the Jewish people during World War 11 must never happen again. Most Jewish people living in our country have friends and relatives that were killed by the Nazi’s. So you cannot blame a Jewish person for being hyper vigilant for anything that even remotely smacks of religious intolerance. We have free speech in this country. Senator Sanders voiced concerns. Mr. Vought says that he is tolerant of other faiths and I believe him.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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