A few day ago, Senator Bernie Sanders questioned Russell Vought’s beliefs regarding salvation. Here’s Vought’s questioned belief:
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.
Sanders didn’t like this belief. Here’s a bunch of stuff Sanders said to Vought and others as reported by Emma Green (see here):
“In my view, the statement made by Mr. Vought is indefensible, it is hateful, it is Islamophobic, and it is an insult to over a billion Muslims throughout the world,” Sanders told the committee during his introductory remarks. “This country, since its inception, has struggled, sometimes with great pain, to overcome discrimination of all forms … we must not go backwards.”
I understand that you are a Christian. But this country is made up of people who are not just—I understand that Christianity is the majority religion. But there are other people who have different religions in this country and around the world. In your judgment, do you think that people who are not Christians are going to be condemned?
And later Sanders concluded:
I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who is what this country is supposed to be about,” Sanders said. “I will vote no.”
Sanders’ comments led a few pundits to decry the imposition of a religious test, something they deem to be unconstitutional. Another writer notes that this religious test is meant to ensure theological universalism (see here ), which sounds about right. But why is Sanders so interested in theological universalism? As I see it, Sanders’ test for theological universalism is used to further the eschatological and soteriological end of modern, progressive liberalism. Hear me out.
In the past, liberalism had been largely restricted to the political sphere: A politician and citizen can have his theological beliefs, whatever they might be, so long as he doesn’t screw around with another person’s natural rights or political liberties, or implement some form of unjust, political discrimination. Consequently, on this model, a president could be a Roman Catholic, believing that Protestants and Muslims are hell-bound, which could be a tolerated belief inasmuch as it didn’t lead him to mess around with natural rights and commit unjust acts of political discrimination. Now if God did send Protestants and Muslims to hell, while sending Catholics to heaven, then His action would be a discriminatory act toward some religious believers, but the regulation of admission into heaven is not within the jurisdiction of the liberal state, which thus puts the question about the propriety of that discriminatory act outside the scope of the state’s concern and competence. Thus, on this model, the liberalism of the state is restricted to the state – the particulars of salvation is God’s business. That’s the more traditional way of thinking about things.
But modern, progressive liberalism is something different and new. Its insistence of pluralism and resistance against discrimination expands beyond the public and the politician spheres, encroaching upon private belief and the theological domain. For the progressive liberal, the idea that the most perfect end of mankind (heaven) is reserved for Christians alone, while everyone else goes to hell, is repugnant – it is the greatest and most egregious act of discrimination imaginable, even if it were God’s choice. That cannot be permitted. The progressive liberal therefore extends the traditional imposition for the state not to discriminate to God Himself; hence, even the supernatural realm is subsumed into the liberal order. In this way, there exists an eschatological and soteriological project for liberal progressivists, one that is indeliby religious in character.
With this in mind, Sanders’ test for theological universalism makes better sense. For Sanders, the progressive liberal state must fight against all forms of discrimination, even that which might exist within the hereafter. Thus, if you’re a theological particularist, then you conflict with the religious presuppositions of the liberal state and its goal, becoming more of an obstacle to its end. And that is why Vought was tested for theological universalism – it’s the only theology consistent with Sanders’ progressive liberalism. In other words, Sanders tested Vought because Sanders wanted to see if Vought was a heretic, but not a heretic of any Christian faith. Sanders does not give a poop about conformance to Christian doctrine, after all. Instead, Sanders wanted to see if Vought was a heretic of liberal progressivism. And when that was confirmed, Sanders rejected him.
If my analysis is right, then the ideals of equality and non-discrimination are herein treated as gods, worshipped and imposed. So if the Constitution prohibits a state religion, as the liberals enjoy telling us, then maybe it is time they look at what’s evolving within their own ranks. Begin with Sanders.
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