It was another day and another public hearing.
There are hundreds of them every year.
Most of them are boring, uneventful and part of the routine grind of government in our nation’s capital. The media half reports, senators half listen, if they’re there at all, and witnesses drone on.
On this day, however, it was different.
Russell Vought had been named by President Trump to be the deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.
An unknown nominee chosen for a non-controversial bureaucratic post in the executive branch. Hardly the sort of choice or office to ignite a firestorm.
Then Senator Bernie Sanders, the plain-spoken Vermont socialist who swept America’s college campuses in his uphill but impressive insurgent campaign for president last year against the Hillary Clinton establishment, decided to make a point.
Sanders questioned Vought about an op-ed piece he had authored about Muslims.
Mr. Vought is a born-again Christian and graduate of the evangelical academic flagship Wheaton College. In 2016, a Wheaton professor insisted that Christians and Muslims “worship the same God.” The professor was ultimately fired for expressing a view in stark violation of Wheaton’s Statement of Faith and Educational Purpose.
That statement, like similar professions of faith in virtually every single church and institution in America that regards itself as authentically Christian, says that personal salvation and eternal life are secured through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
Christians do not regard this core belief as incendiary, inhumane, defamatory, cruel, unkind or un-American. They see it instead as a basic and non-negotiable tenet of their faith, grounded in the scriptures, openly professed by the Christian Church for centuries and self-evident in the teachings of Jesus about himself.
To deny this belief is to renounce Christianity.
Christianity is centered on Jesus Christ – his incomparable deity, his miraculous virgin birth, his sinless life, his sufficient atonement, his glorious resurrection, his undeniable perfection, his eternal word, his unchallenged omnipotence and his imminent return to earth.
This why our religion is called Christianity.
This is theology. This is doctrine. This is sacred writ. This is personal religious convictions. This is freedom of conscience.
This is not politics or ideology.
Since Russell Vought, as a devout Christian, believes all this, he wrote an article defending his alma mater’s decision to fire the heretical professor.
In his op-ed, Vought 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.”
This is what provoked Senator Sanders at Mr. Vought’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Budget Committee.
This champion of collectivism and the all-powerful State, from his seat in the Senate, repeatedly – and with heightened irritation, and then outright anger – demanded that Mr. Vought either renounce his beliefs or admit he’s an Isamophobic racist and a bigot for believing that Jesus is the only way to heaven.
When Mr. Vought calmly explained that he is a Christian and this is his faith, Sanders announced:
“This nominee is really not someone who is what this country is supposed to be about. I will vote no.”
Bernie Sanders had conducted his own religious inquisition, demanded the witness recant his false beliefs and swear allegiance to the God of Tolerance.
When Mr. Vought declared, in essence, “here I stand; I can do no other”, Sanders pronounced his sentence:
Russell Vought is not qualified to hold any office in American government.
Because Russell Vought is a Christian.
When Sanders saw he had created a front-page story – and none too flattering – he began to back-peddle. But he stopped short of admitting his own flagrant intolerance and bigotry – or his patently unconstitutional error.
Nor did the Vermont senator apologize to Mr. Vought for his arrogant, demeaning and brow- beating tirade.
As we approach our annual celebration of American liberty, it might be a good time to remember that our nation’s founders, true libertarians, sought, in every possible way to protect the new American republic from fiery and narrow ideologues like Bernie Sanders.
Because Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, Hamilton and Madison had the wisdom and foresight to know such religious intolerance had no place in a free land of free people.
This is not “what this country is supposed to be about.”
The founders adopted an individual Bill of Rights and placed it in the American Constitution. The first liberty the First Amendment guaranteed was freedom of religion. This included “the free exercise” of religious belief.
The founders further sought to protect Americans from inquisitors like Bernie Sanders by expressly and absolutely prohibiting any “religious test” for holding public office.
When John F. Kennedy addressed a convocation of Southern Baptists in Houston skeptical of his Catholicism during his 1960 campaign for president, he declared that he would disavow neither “my views or my church in order to win this election.”
He then told the Protestant clergymen that if “40,000,000 Americans lost their chance of being President on the day they were baptized, then it is the whole nation that will be the loser …”
With Peter and the apostles in Acts, Russell Vought made it clear he would obey his God rather than bow to the State.
Bernie Sanders sounded “a fire bell in the night.”
His is a sign of things to come.
May each of us be prepared to give an answer and to make our choice.
Our founding fathers did no less.