Bernie Sanders has always been willfully ignorant of economics — regularly ignoring or denying the cost of the “free” services he wants taxpayers to provide. Last week he demonstrated a willful ignorance of religious freedom as well.
Quoting an article written for a Christian blog, Sanders repeatedly asked Russell Vought (nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget) if he thought all Muslims “stand condemned.” After a tense exchange in which Vought asserted his commitment to treat all persons with respect, Sanders still concluded, “I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who is what this country is supposed to be about. I will vote no.”
It is hard for me to believe that Sanders did not understand the “got cha” game he was playing. From the theological idea that failure to believe in Jesus as savior means that one “stands condemned” in the eyes of God, Sanders concluded as a matter of public policy that Vought’s Christian beliefs meant he personally condemned all Muslims.
But as Sanders surely knows, the practice of Christian faith is governed by two overarching commandments for human beings: to love God with one’s whole heart, soul, mind and strength and to “love your neighbor as yourself.” In terms of behavior, Christians believe that condemnation is God’s province, not ours.
By converting Christian theological beliefs into personal bigoted condemnation of all non-Christians, Sanders and other progressives think they can erase the freedom of religion so cherished by generations of Americans. In their eyes, and in the eyes of many liberal courts, assumptions of bigotry will always overrule the right to religious belief.
We have already seen the erosion of the rights of religious people to refrain from participating in activities on the basis of conscience. Two recent examples are the forced participation of private businesses in gay weddings and government mandates that insurance for employees must include contraception and abortifacients.
Ironically, a simple examination of Muslim theology will reveal very similar ideas about Allah’s condemnation of nonbelievers. Through Sharia Law, some of this condemnation has resulted in horrific abuse in the hands of human beings. Surely Senator Sanders knows this, too — but you are not likely to hear him label a Muslim as bigoted. That’s because progressives perceive Muslims as part of the oppressed class, not the oppressor. Oppressed groups, by definition, cannot be bigoted, according to progressives. While all-white graduations would be viewed as oppressive by progressives, for example, all-black graduations are not.
It’s important to grasp this central tenet of progressivism. From the oppressed/oppressor point of view, logical argument is dismissed as a tool of the oppressor. That is why a reasoned dialogue about religious freedom with Sanders is as improbable as a similar dialogue at Evergreen State College about racism.
Carol Frenier is a resident of Chelsea, Vermont.