This past week Bernie Sanders had an exchange with Russell Vought over whether or it is appropriate for a public official to believe Jesus is the only way to be saved. I encourage you to watch from the above link. Sanders was upset about comments Vought made in relation to a debate occurring at Wheaton College, his alma mater. The debate centered around a professor at this Christian school claiming Muslims worship the same God as Christians. There were many layers in the exchange between Sanders and Vought which deserve careful thinking:
- Sanders’ line of questioning appears unconstitutional as he is asking for someone’s theological beliefs to determine eligibility for public office
- The exclusivity of Christianity in its assertion Jesus is the only way to God and what practical implications that should have on our public discourse
- Sanders’ apparent shock there are people who actually believe what Christ and Scripture teach as well as what the church has confessed for two thousand years
All those discussions should be had, but I want to focus in the worldview and reasoning behind the argument Sanders made in this exchange. Sanders' argument is illogical, inconsistent, lacks intellectual honesty, and is in the end a byproduct of a devout hostility toward Christianity. Unfortunately, these traits are all too common in the secular left of our day.
What makes this more pressing is Sanders should know better, he was almost the Democratic nominee for president after all. He had very passionate followers, even from those who identify as being evangelical. While some evangelicals were feeling the Bern, the feeling apparently wasn’t mutual.
Here is the statement we should consider from 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?
It is clear from his line of questioning, Sanders believes the claim that Christ is the only way to be saved is Islamophobic. In response we must ask, “What does it mean be ‘phobic’ of something?”
According to Sanders, being phobic of a people group amounts to thinking their beliefs are wrong, thinking you are right, and thinking these beliefs have an actual impact.
For example, Christians believe Muslims (and any other religion) are wrong because they reject Jesus as God and Savior. Christians believe they are right in their belief that Jesus is God in the flesh and the only way to be saved. Christians believe being right or wrong in this area will have significant impact on your future (heaven or hell). According to Sanders, such beliefs are Islamophobic.
We can safely deduce then, according to Sanders' worldview, Christianity is also Jewish-phobic, Hindu-phobic, Buddha-phobic, Atheist-phobic, etc.
Is this really what it means to be phobic?
If this is what it means to be phobic of others, to think they are wrong, you’re right, and it matters, then we are all phobics. Christians do believe Jesus is the only way because this is what Jesus taught, this is what Scripture teaches, and this is what the church has believed for 2,000 years. We believe we are right, and we are not the only ones who believe they are right.
If Christians are Islamophobic for believing they alone have access to salvation, then Muslims are Christo-phobic. Islam teaches Jesus is not God, they teach he did not die for our sins, and they teach salvation is not found in him. They believe Christians are wrong. They are in the same boat as Russell Vought.
According to Islam, you must follow the Five Pillars of Islam to be saved. One of those pillars is the confession that Allah alone is God (not Jesus) and Mohammed is his prophet. This confession excludes all Christians from salvation. Following Sanders' logic, Muslims are Christo-phobic and their beliefs are offensive to billions of Christians around the world. We could use the reasoning for every world religion and every worldview including the beliefs of the secular, relativistic left of which Sanders is a part.
The secular left often pretends they are above these religious squabbles, but all-the-while they hold their beliefs to be untouchable and absolute. If you disagree every path leads to God, then you stand condemned as a bigot. If you deny everyone is right, then you are wrong. This is the creed of relativism and at its core is the dogma that they are more right than everyone else.
Sanders clearly believes anyone who confesses Jesus as the only way to be saved is wrong, and that he is right. He believes so strongly Christianity is wrong and dangerous that he cannot even vote to confirm person to public office who confesses Christ as Savior.
By doing this, Sanders has done the very thing he vehemently condemns. He has made an absolute claim to truth, and to the truth about salvation. In doing so, he is saying Vought, and all who agree with him, are wrong. Where he diverges from Vought though is Sanders wants to discriminate against those who disagree with him by barring them from public office.
If to be phobic simply means to believe you are right, others are wrong, and it matters, then Sanders is the King of the phobics. According to his reasoning, Sanders is himself Christo-phobic and unfit for office because he thinks Christianity is wrong and that he is right.
It doesn’t stop there. If he truly believes no religion should make truth claims about salvation, then he must be against Islam as well. Sanders is then found to be Islamophobic and just as unfit for office as he claims Vought is!
At least Vought’s views were only offensive to one of the two largest religions in the world, while Sander’s is offensive to both. But I do not think we should hold our collective breath waiting for Sanders to resign from office. His reasoning conveniently does not apply to his own beliefs.
Leaving Sanders' reasoning behind, we should be able to disagree with others about important things and refrain from automatically labeling them as being phobic or intolerant. We need to relearn the virtue of civil disagreement, that is how to disagree with someone and still treat them with respect. Sanders has lost sight of that, along with most of Washington.
The Heart Behind the Reasoning
Seeing the absurdity of Sanders' argument and the inconsistency by which he applies it, we must ask ourselves the question, “Why do Sanders, and others in the secular left, zealously apply this reasoning to Christians, but not to Muslims or to themselves?”
The truth is Bernie thinks he is right. The truth is secular leftism is a religion which will suffer no rivals. It is fine if you call yourself a Christian as long as you bend the knee to their view of relativism. It is fine if you are a Christian as long as you do not actually believe Christian things. Secular relativism has it truth claims, its own prophets, its own goal, and its own rivals. And its chief rival is Christianity.
Why do Sanders and others target Christianity? Because it is public enemy number one. Why does it not apply this reasoning to Muslims and other religions? Because they see them as allies against the greater enemy of Christianity.
Sanders has shown us what he really thinks of any Christian who believes what Christ taught. Such a person “is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.” His words flow from his religious adherence to relativism [there is no absolute truth] and the religion of the secular left. This displays his own phobic ideas and discrimination against those who disagree with him as he thinks they are unfit for office and even unfit this country based on their religous beliefs.
Bernie wants you to know: If you dare to believe Scripture, this country is not for you. If you dare to believe Jesus, then you are unfit for public office. At least we now know what he believes, and how inconsistent his beliefs are.
If this is what it means to feel the Bern, count me out.