When Russell Vought was nominated for a position requiring Senate confirmation, I doubt he expected to find himself in an “inquisitional interrogation” about his faith in Christ. Senator Bernie Sanders questioned and denigrated Vought’s view that Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God.
Sanders, reared in a Jewish family but non-religious, was not only offended but angered by Vought’s belief in the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. He went so far as to accuse the nominee of being “Islamophobic.” Emma Green of The Atlantic corrected his inappropriate use of the word “Islamophobic” by pointing out that there is nothing in what Russell Vought said that would indicate any fear of Muslims. She wrote: “He does not think their faith is satisfactory for salvation … and many Muslims might say the same thing about Christianity.”
Muslims do, in fact, say that. Their Qu’ran makes it crystal clear that Christians, Jews, and other non-Muslims are Infidels bound for hell.
How do we as Christians respond to Bernie Sanders and people like him? First and foremost, we must curtail our own anger and do what Russell Vought did. He remained admirably cool, calm, and composed while answering the pointed and inappropriate (from a Constitutional standpoint) questions!
Second, let’s tickle our minds by imagining what Christ might say to the Vermont senator, reminiscent of Lee Strobel’s 1994 book entitled What Would Jesus Say To Rush Limbaugh, Madonna, Bill Clinton, Michael Jordan Bart Simpson, Donald Trump, Murphy Brown, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, Mother Teresa, David Letterman and YOU. What would Jesus say to Bernie Sanders?
Let’s picture Jesus intercepting Senator Sanders while on his way to the U.S. Senate. Just as Jesus spoke to Saul, He questions the questioner: “Bernie, Bernie, why are you persecuting Me (Acts 9:4)? Why did you, in the words of David French, launch a ‘direct and aggressive attack on Vought’s religious beliefs’ and go so far to assert he ‘is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about?’ Who do you suppose founded this country? Were they not mostly Christians who would have answered your questions as he did?”
I envision Christ looking at the senator with great compassion as He asks: “Bernie, why did this nominee’s Christian faith make you so angry? Please tell me!”
We, too, must want to hear from the Bernie Sanderses why our faith so irritates and infuriates them. I love the article in Christianity Today (June, 2017, pp. 41f) about how to “argue with your mouth shut.” Tim Keller, retiring pastor of a New York City congregation “known for its outreach to the religiously unaffiliated (like Bernie Sanders), recently shared his thoughts on how evangelicals could better connect with skeptics.
Keller said: “We could do a better job of patiently listening. And we should not talk until we can represent the skeptic’s viewpoint with empathy so that a skeptic friend says, ‘Yes, that is my hang up; I couldn’t have put it better myself.’ Only then should we try to recommend the Christian faith to them.”
What do we know about Bernie? He had three Polish relatives who died in Nazi concentration camps. He was reared in a Jewish home, went through his Bar Mitzvah, and worked on a kibbutz in Israel, but says he is “not actively involved in organized religion.” Why has he walked away from the faith of his fathers?
Although he has said, “I want to be treated with dignity and respect” and “I want other people to be treated with dignity respect,” he did not treat Russell Vought and his Christian faith with dignity and respect. Why?
Christ might ask: “Bernie, would you cross-examine a Muslim who believes every Jew, Christian, and non-Muslim are infidels deserving of hell? If not, why? Do you understand the basic beliefs of Christians and Muslims?”
Perhaps Christ would ask: “Bernie, since you say you believe in God, may I ask you Who do you think I am? Do you believe that I love you and everyone else, as recorded in the Bible? Do you understand that the Bible tells Christians that I have commanded them to go unto the ends of the world sharing their faith, hope, and My kind of love and forgiveness with everyone?
“You may have a problem with Christians who don’t always live up to My standards, but do you have a problem with My standards – the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount? Can you conceive of a greater love than for Me coming to live among people, to suffer with them, and to die for them, even those who hated and despised Me?”
Finally, I picture Christ asking the senator these final questions: “Bernie, why is it that Christian volunteers are the most numerous and generous group when it comes to hands-on-helping the abused, the homeless, the lonely, the sick, and the enslaved by working in food pantries, meals on wheels programs, soup kitchens, free dental clinics, clothes closets, rehab centers and support groups, literacy classes, homes for the homeless, shelters for abused women, and disaster relief teams? What other secular or religious group is on the front lines working tirelessly to rescue women from the slave trade, building orphanages, digging wells, and operating clinics and schools in the neediest ‘third world’ countries? Can you name a more loving, self-giving, and life-changing group than the Clapham Christians?”