John 15:18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.”
Chapters 13-17 of the New Testament book of John record Jesus Christ‘s time alone with His disciples before He is crucified. It’s His time to teach them many truths of orthodox Christianity. In our verse for this week, Christ explained there would be many who would hate them because of who He is. Like many truths in the Bible, this also applies to today in America, even though our Founders worked to protect against it.
One of the ways our Founding Fathers built protection of religious freedom into the Constitution, as a requirement for anyone desiring to serve in the government, was with Article IV: “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. “
We witnessed a gross violation of Article IV when Senator Bernie Sanders publicly challenged Russell Vought on his Christian worldview as a test for whether or not he was fit to serve in government as President Trump’s nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. When any government official is sworn into office, they must take an oath to uphold the Constitution in its entirety. As we’ll see below, Sanders not only broke his oath to uphold Article IV, he demonstrated his ignorance of Christian theology and his intolerance for religious freedom.
Sanders: “Let me get to this issue that has bothered me and bothered many other people. And that is 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 includes the centrality of Jesus Christ for salvation, and . . .”
Sanders: “Do you believe people in the Muslim religion stand condemned?… Are you suggesting that all those people stand condemned? What about Jews? Do they stand condemned too?… In your judgment, do you think that people who are not Christians are going to be condemned?… ” “You think that… because they rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned,… that’s respectful of other religions?”
Vought: “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: “I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.”
In his article ‘Bernie Sanders Shows How Religious Intolerance Breeds Progressive Intolerance, National Review writer David French exposes the ignorance and intolerance of the irreligious: “Sanders’s tirade was certainly outrageous… but it was also instructive: This is what happens when our national polarization breeds both ignorance and intolerance, and when intolerance trumps even the rule of law.
First, let’s deal with the ignorance… Sanders isn’t just ignorant of the orthodoxy of Vought’s argument. He’s also ignorant of its religious, cultural, and political implications. He sees a statement that any person “stands condemned” perhaps as license to discriminate against or oppress unbelievers. But properly understood Evangelical Christian belief dictates that a person should love, respect, and, if necessary, even die for the lost, as Christ Himself did.
Second, Sanders’s ignorance then leads directly to intolerance. He personifies the arrogant contempt for Evangelicals that so often marks the secular American elite. They don’t understand Protestant Christian theology. They read the worst stories of Christian behavior and presume that those stories fairly represent Evangelical beliefs. So they try to drive Evangelicals from the public square, and in so doing they become the intolerant scolds they imagine their foes to be. They hate Christianity, and use political power to try to suppress its influence… They spark the exact kind of religious conflict that the founders sought to avoid.
We are living in a time in America, with its emphasis on being accepting to all beliefs, when Christians can expect a level of hostility if we stand up publicly for Jesus Christ as the sole Source for eternal life. Even to the point of ignoring our Constitutional rules for what is labeled the “greater good.” We shouldn’t be discouraged but energized – because it’s exactly what Christ told us will happen when He is the priority in your life. It’s another evidence Christ has given us for the substance of your faith.
“The Evidence of Faith’s Substance”, Article #251