News and Commentary

Bernie Sanders Reveals A Deep Progressive Animosity Toward Christianity

In the aftermath of the San Bernardino terror attack in December 2015, Larycia Hawkins, a political science professor at Wheaton College, wrote a Facebook post about “stand[ing] in solidarity with Muslims.”

The now-deleted post reads in part:

I stand in human solidarity with my Muslim neighbor because we are formed of the same primordial clay, descendants of the same cradle of humankind — a cave in Sterkfontein, South Africa that I had the privilege to descend into to plumb the depths of our common humanity in 2014 …

I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. … And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.

After the post gained attention, Hawkins was fired. Wheaton is a Christian college, and its faculty must “reaffirm” the school’s “statement of faith” annually.

The pertinent portion of the official statement is as follows:

WE BELIEVE in one sovereign God, eternally existing in three persons: the everlasting Father, His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, and the Holy Spirit, the giver of life; and we believe that God created the Heavens and the earth out of nothing by His spoken word, and for His own glory.

WE BELIEVE that God has revealed Himself and His truth in the created order, in the Scriptures, and supremely in Jesus Christ; and that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are verbally inspired by God and inerrant in the original writing, so that they are fully trustworthy and of supreme and final authority in all they say …

WE BELIEVE that God directly created Adam and Eve, the historical parents of the entire human race; and that they were created in His own image, distinct from all other living creatures, and in a state of original righteousness …

WE BELIEVE that the one, holy, universal Church is the body of Christ and is composed of the communities of Christ’s people.

Some have argued that Hawkins’ Facebook post didn’t violate the school’s statement of faith. This is irrelevant. As a Christian college, Wheaton has the right to terminate employees they believe are espousing heretical opinions. In fact, given their alleged mission, it would be morally wrong of them not to.

Fast-forward to last week.

During a Senate committee hearing, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) took White House deputy budget director nominee Russell Vought to task over an article he wrote in defense of Wheaton College (hat tip to National Review’s David French for the 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.”

Many have criticized Sanders for coming dangerously close to violating Article VI of the Constitution, which states quite clearly that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

Fast-forward yet again to Sunday.

Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union, Sanders defended himself during an exchange with host Jake Tapper:

TAPPER: “Senator, are you saying that someone is necessarily hateful and Islamophobic if they believe in their private life — express that in their private life — that the only path to God is through Jesus Christ?”

SANDERS: “No, absolutely not. Look, what our Constitution — one of the great parts of our constitution is to protect freedom of religion. You practice what religion you want — I do, Mr. Vought does. That’s what it’s about.

But at a time when we are dealing with Islamophobia in this country…to have a high-ranking member of the United States government essentially saying, ‘Oh, Islam is a second-class religion’…that seemed to be unacceptable as a government official. In terms of his freedom of religion comma he and every other American has the right to hold any point of view they want.”

You can read the piece in which Vought defends Wheaton here. It is entirely consistent with Christian teaching.

Vought writes in part:

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. In John 8:19, “Jesus answered, ‘You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.” In Luke 10:16, Jesus says, “The one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” And in John 3:18, Jesus says, “Whoever believes in [the Son] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

… Wheaton College has every right to insist that academic freedom be enjoyed within the broad parameters of their Statement of Faith. It also gets to insist on individuals within its community adhering to the Statement, what it means by the various affirmations, and the relative importance of each. Dr. Hawkins does not get to give her signature but elaborate her own meaning and interpretation for what she is signing. Furthermore, Wheaton’s administrators have a Biblical responsibility to ensure that students are not being taught error.

Sanders seems shocked that a Christian not only thinks that Jesus is the singular way to salvation, but is willing to state such an idea publicly. Despite Vought’s beliefs having no foreseeable impact on the job for which he’s nominated, Sanders is nonetheless disturbed that Vought would espouse such beliefs in writing and in his Senate testimony.

This is an important moment for Christians and conservatives because it reveals what progressives truly believe about Christians and Christianity.

In calling Vought’s statements in defense of Wheaton “Islamophobic,” Sanders is saying that Christianity at large is “Islamophobic.” Despite almost every major faith believing that the path to salvation lies in their God and in their methods, it is somehow wrong for Christians to state that publicly, according to progressives.

Christians are bigots; Christians are hateful; Christianity is wrong. This is the code running beneath statements like the ones made by Senator Sanders. In other words, have your little private faith, but it’s inappropriate and deplorable, and don’t you dare speak it publicly.

Many progressives believe this, but few have stated it so loudly. If this is a sign of things to come, and it appears to be, the sky looks dark ahead.