I actually did submit the following letter to Senator Sanders through his official government website. As you can see below, I did ask for a response, and if I ever do receive one, I am going to publish it unabridged for you to see and evaluate. [Senator Sanders did respond to my letter June 22, 2017. I made it its own blog post. You can view that post here.] If you did not see the video of this interaction, I encourage you to watch it here before you read my letter so that you understand the context.
Dear Senator Sanders,
I write to you as a concerned citizen of the state of Vermont who heard your recent comments regarding the religious beliefs of the President’s nominee for the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget Russell Vought. Your assassination of Mr. Vought’s character and his ability to be a public servant seems highly inappropriate and hypocritical especially when couched within the language of tolerance in your own comments.
You seemed determined to paint to Mr. Vought as Islamophobic. You mentioned his statement published In The Resurgent as evidence of this so-called fear or hatred of Muslims. “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.”
Mr. Vought is a Christian, so he believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. In Christian theology, rejecting Jesus Christ leads to condemnation, not at the hands of man as you seemed to suggest but rather at the hands of God. Mr. Vought believes in the truth of Christianity and the authority of Biblical passages such as John 3:18, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” This is not Mr. Vought bringing condemnation on Muslims by any means, but he is expressing what he believes is God’s plan for salvation. In order to escape condemnation, one must believe in Jesus Christ.
Is it not then a logical conclusion that if it is obviously good for people to escape condemnation, then a deficient theology is going to be any theology that rejects Jesus Christ? This does not come out of a fear or hate of Islam, but if the world is the way that Christians believe it is, then there is one way to escape condemnation. Out of compassion for the rest of humanity, it is vital for the Christian to spread this news about the way to have a relationship with Jesus Christ that provides not only an escape from condemnation but many more benefits that I do not have time to go into right now without taking us way off-topic.
Mr. Vought’s statement therefore is not condemnation of Muslims were [should say "or"; my typo in my original letter] Islamophobic by any means. Rather, it is an evaluation of the circumstances of this world and a recognition that from a Christian worldview, it is vitally important to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. If Christianity is true, then obviously Islam is a deficient theology because it does not acknowledge that fact. To be fair, if Islam is true, then Christianity is a deficient theology because it falsely attributes divinity to Jesus Christ.
It is not hateful or discriminatory to state the obvious that certain worldviews have irreconcilable differences. It is also not hateful or discriminatory to embrace a particular worldview and that does not affirm all other worldviews as true.
By virtue of being a Christian, Mr. Vought believes certain things about the world like what I have outlined above. Muslims believe certain things about the world as well, and it is not hateful or discriminatory for them to believe those things. They can indeed believe that Jesus Christ is not the son of God. I believe they are wrong as would Mr. Vought, but in this great country, we have the ability to freely choose our own religion.
In fact, you expressed your religious beliefs in a Democratic Town Hall as I recall by saying, “We are in it together.” While I kind of think you dodged a politically dangerous question during that encounter on CNN, your worldview is obvious, and there are certain truths that come along with that worldview that are irreconcilable with other worldviews. For example, if I hypothetically believed that I had no responsibility for loving my neighbor, my belief would be irreconcilable with your worldview. If that is your religion, then I think that you would say that my religion is indeed deficient because I’m not recognizing one of the core ideas of your religion. It is simply an observation and a statement of fact based on the way that you view the world.
That’s why I said at the outset that I find your position to be hypocritical to say the least. You are accusing Mr. Vought of being hateful and prejudiced. You are using an article he wrote explaining factual differences between two different ways of viewing the world to say that he is incapable of holding public office because he actually holds a particular belief to be true. Besides being perhaps unconstitutional by suggesting a type of inverse religious test required to hold public office, you yourself hold beliefs about the world as well. You are very passionate about the beliefs that you subscribe to. Your fire was what made the Democratic primary worth paying attention to. You inspired a generation because you believe in certain issues like the dangers of climate change or the necessity of single-payer healthcare. Not that I agree with you on everything you believe, but clearly a lot of people did.
The issue is that when you hold certain beliefs, you are espousing a particular worldview, and that worldview is inevitably at odds with other worldviews. That is a simple fact and a basic observation. However, holding these beliefs does not make you incapable of performing this particular job of civil service. There is nothing about being a Christian that would make Mr. Vought incapable of fulfilling the duties of the job that he has been nominated for. Perhaps there are other reasons to not support him; I’m not here to debate that. I think it would be inappropriate to have a mosque hire a Christian as imam since that Christian would not support the beliefs of the organization hiring him. I think it is inappropriate for a church to be pastored by someone who does not believe in Christianity since a leader needs to espouse the beliefs of his organization. However, for a job of civil service, there is nothing inherently religious about this particular job. You provided no evidence that his Christian values would make him unable to fulfill the specific responsibilities of this job but rather focused on the fact that he holds those beliefs as enough of a reason in and of itself to disqualify him from civil service. That is blatant religious discrimination, and that is wrong and in fact intolerant.
Senator Sanders, I am going to be publishing this letter on my website, Entering the Public Square (www.enteringthepublicsquare.com), tomorrow morning, Friday, June 9, 2017. I would love to publish a response from you as well at some point, and I will happily add it to the bottom of my post to let my audience see your ideally clarification on what you were implying. I know that you have people in the office to handle these things for you, and I know that you are a very busy man. I am sure I am going to get a form letter response.
However, as one of your constituents, I thought it was my duty to write you and let you know how your letter came across to the people that you are supposed to represent. I hope that this letter finds its way onto your desk and you might be able to address these concerns that I and many others around the United States have about your treatment of this nominee.
If you want to oppose Mr. Vought on policy issues, I of course respect your right to do that as a Senator. That is what you are in Washington to do. However, you made the impression that he failed your religious test for public office, and that is simply wrong.
Thank you for time,
[Senator Sanders did respond to my letter June 22, 2017. I made it its own blog post. You can view that post here.]