By now, you may have heard about the recent U.S. Senate hearing of Russell Vought who has been nominated by President Trump to be Deputy Director of White House Office Management and Budget. Typically, such a confirmation hearing would never come close to moving the needle for the American public, but Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders ensured that the hearing would make headlines.
Setting the Stage
Back in late 2015 and early 2016, Wheaton College found itself in the middle of a controversy after one of their professors publicly stated that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Wheaton’s faculty are required to sign a statement of faith, and the professor’s Facebook post raised questions about her alignment with that statement.
The political science professor, Larycia Hawkins, and the school eventually decided to part ways, and Wheaton faced a lot of social backlash throughout the entire process.
In that context, Russell Vought wrote a piece defending Wheaton’s decision to investigate Dr. Hawkins based on the theological differences between Islam and Christianity.
Sanders cited these key sentences from Vought’s piece during the hearing:
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.
In terms of religious discussion, these types of statements are not rare. Different religions regularly delineate between themselves and the adherents of other faiths. Those who do not hold to the tenets of a given faith are thought of as being unfaithful to God. Members of differing faiths deal in such absolutes.
That Vought maintained this basic view of religious difference (and an orthodox Christian view of salvation) obviously appalled Senator Sanders as he continually cut off Vought as he tried to explain himself, eventually raising his voice to the point of yelling at the nominee.
Take a few minutes to read the transcript and watch the video. In the end, the senator votes “no” and says that Vought is “not someone who this county is supposed to be about.”
The ACLU posted a statement (presumably before the hearing) that raised concerns about Vought, suggesting that his “views threaten [the] very freedom” of religion in the United States. Ironically, it would be Vought whose religious liberty would be challenged.
Russell Moore was right to condemn Sanders’s line of questioning as an unconstitutional religious test, but aside from the legal issue, there is a blatant contradiction within Sanders’s attitude toward Vought’s Christianity.
Sanders condemned Vought because Vought condemned Islam, and the basis for Sanders’s condemnation was apparently tolerance. Because of Vought’s intolerance, Sanders would not tolerate Russell Vought.
There is an obvious logical contradiction there that underscores a blatant hypocrisy in Sanders’s dealing with Vought during the hearing.
Aside from the contradiction, however, something else from the exchange also stood out.
Vought attempted to defend himself by arguing that, even though he believes Muslims stand condemned before God, all persons are made in the image of God and are worthy of respect. This theological truth (which The Atlantic impressively recognized) directly affects, in Vought’s own words, how he views and treats other people.
Sanders, however, would interrupt him before he could make that point clear. In fact, just about any time Vought started to share his religious views, Sanders silenced him almost as if he was afraid to even hear the Christian worldview explained.
Fear on the Left?
Perhaps some may say that such a religious discussion should not be held on the floor of a Senate hearing, but the content of Vought’s faith was directly relevant to Sanders’s question. In the end, it was Sanders who raised and continued to press the issue of Vought’s Christian faith.
Ultimately, Sanders decried Vought’s views before he even asked the question. Then, Sanders continued to denounce Vought’s views without even listening to what he had to say. That, in reality, is the definition of bigotry and intolerance.
It begs the question: “Is the Left afraid of Christianity?”