In Defense of Bernie Sanders

Bernie_Sanders_(I-VT)I have long opposed Bernie Sanders’ socialist, anti-constitution, and anti-family agenda. Yet I feel the need to come to the senator’s defense on the issue of religious tests.

On Wednesday, the Senate Budget Committee held its confirmation hearing for Russell Vought, President Trump’s recent nominee for deputy budget director. Sanders aggressively interrogated the nominee during the hearing about an article he had written after his alma matter, Wheaton College, a private Evangelical college in Illinois, forced out a professor for making curiously unorthodox doctrinal statements about Islam. Specifically, Sanders found this excerpt from Vought’s article particularly offensive:

“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 asked Vought whether he believed the statement was Islamophobic, to which the nominee responded by explaining that his article was written in accordance with Wheaton College’s statement of beliefs and traditional Christian doctrine. Vought then proceeded to clarify that he, as a Christian, believes Jesus Christ is central to salvation.

Sanders, clearly offended by Vought’s religious beliefs, told the committee that he would vote against confirming the nominee.

Many on the political left and right alike were horrified that Sanders would choose not to support a presidential nominee merely because of the nominee’s religious beliefs. In an article published by The Atlantic, Emma Green accuses Sanders of creating “a religious test for Christians in office.” Writing for National Review, David French commends Bernie Sanders “to brush up on his civic education and remember that religious freedom belongs even to citizens (and nominees) he doesn’t like.”

Despite these hyperbolic claims, it’s important to realize that Bernie Sanders isn’t creating a religious test by refusing to support Vought’s nomination.

It’s true that Article VI of the Constitution bans religious tests for “any office or public trust under the United States.” It certainly would be unconstitutional for Congress to pass a law prohibiting Christians from serving in elected federal offices. Similarly, Congress could not require that all elected officials belong to a particular denomination or ascribe to certain theological beliefs.

However, Bernie Sanders isn’t advocating the enactment of laws forbidding Christians from holding office. Instead, he is simply exercising his right as a citizen and senator to withhold his support for a presidential nominee with whom he disagrees, an action that is unquestionably allowable under Article VI.

An historical anecdote may better elucidate this point. When early Americans worried that Muslims, atheists, or pagans might be elected to federal office, Justice James Iredell, a George Washington appointee to the U.S. Supreme Court, assured his apprehensive countrymen that it was unlikely that the voters would ever elect candidates with religious beliefs the voters believed to be aberrant:

“But it is objected that the people of America may perhaps choose representatives who have no religion at all, and that pagans and [Muslims] may be admitted into offices. . . . But it is never to be supposed that the people of America will trust their dearest rights to persons who have no religion at all, or a religion materially different from their own.”

Although the Constitution forbids the federal government from employing religious tests for federal officeholders, the people are left free to support or oppose candidates on the basis of religious beliefs.

In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” during this last election cycle, Republican presidential nominee Dr. Ben Carson adamantly declared that he would not agree with “putting a Muslim in charge of this nation” because Islam is inconsistent with the Constitution. Unsurprisingly, hysterical liberal journalists began accusing Carson of imposing an unconstitutional religious test.

Just like Carson has the right to oppose a Muslim presidential candidate, Sanders has the right to object to a Christian presidential nominee, even if his only reason is because he finds Christian theology reprehensible. While our Constitution bans the federal government from implementing religious tests for officials, it thankfully allows the people and their representatives to consider whether someone’s religion makes him or her unfit for the office he or she is seeking.

Our nation’s founders unquestionably believed that the people’s right to judge a candidate’s religion is essential to their function as voters. We shouldn’t argue otherwise.


This article was originally written for the Family Policy Institute of Washington.


 

The Bible and Income Inequality

300px-day_3_occupy_wall_street_2011_shankbone_5During the 2016 presidential campaign, Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders built his platform on the promise of reducing economic inequality. He repeatedly proclaimed his belief that “the issue of wealth and income inequality is the great moral issue of our time.”

While “income inequality” is a favorite rallying cry for socialists everywhere, the Bible doesn’t denounce wealth or material possessions, nor does it indicate that economic inequality is somehow morally wrong.

Many of the Bible’s great men came from considerable wealth. Instead of condemning these men for their affluence, the Bible seems to laud their riches. For example, Abraham “was very rich in livestock, silver, and in gold” (Genesis 13:2, NKJV). Similarly, King Solomon’s treasures were unequaled. After Solomon asked for wisdom and knowledge to rule over Israel rightly, God promised to give him “riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings have had who were before you, nor shall any after you have the like” (2 Chronicles 1:12, NKJV). Likewise, before the devastating events of Job’s namesake book unfolded, he was more prosperous than anyone else in the East. Furthermore, God doubled Job’s wealth after his period of tribulation (Job 42:12).

We can use our resources and property for many moral purposes. These moral purposes include providing for our family’s needs (1 Timothy 5:8), investing and saving for the future (Ecclesiastes 11:2; Proverbs 21:20), voluntarily giving to those in need (Hebrews 13:16; Proverbs 21:13), and providing for the work of the church (Proverbs 3:9; Philippians 4:15-18). But it is also morally good for us to use our material possessions for our own enjoyment, offering thanksgiving to God for all He has provided. Paul tells us as much, writing that God “gives us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17). Yet many people criticize those who live in abundance as if it is morally wrong to have more material things than others.

The Parables of the Minas (Luke 19:11-27) and the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) serve as relevant biblical case studies. In these parables, a master who is leaving town gives talents or minas (denominations of money) to each of his servants, telling them to “engage in business until I return.” When the master returns, he finds that two of his servants invested his money and made a profit, but one of his servants unwisely refused to invest his money and failed to make a return. The servant who made the greatest return on investment is given the greatest reward, whereas the servant who declined to invest his money has his property taken from him. Through the means of divine providence and the laws of economics, God acts the same as the master in the parable. God has given larger tasks to some people that require many resources, and He has also given smaller tasks to others that need fewer resources. Our responsibility is to be faithful stewards of the resources and opportunities God has given us, trusting in His sovereignty without envying those who have been given more.

What causes inequality? Assuming there is no fraud or theft, inequality results from only three things:

First, inequality often results from some people working more hours than others. King Solomon affirmed this truth: “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread” (Proverbs 12:11, ESV). Conversely, those who work fewer hours live in less abundance since laziness leads to poverty (Proverbs 6:10-12). Unsurprisingly, a study by the Brookings Institution found that the poverty rate would decrease by 42% if all poor families had one full-time worker earning the same hourly rate he or she makes now.

Second, inequality arises when one person is more productive, and uses resources more efficiently, than another. The person who can produce 50 units per hour will receive a bigger reward than the person who can produce only ten units per hour. Like the servant in the Parable of the Talents who doubled his master’s money through prudent investing and being more productive than the others, those who exhibit greater industry receive a larger reward.

Third, inequality develops when one person produces goods or services that are more highly valued. Engineering and medicine pay more than many other vocations because there is greater demand for engineering and medical services. Using another example, Tony Award-winning actors get paid more money than those working in local musical theaters because society is willing to pay more to watch them perform.

Economic inequality reflects God’s design for the world. Not only has God unequally distributed aptitudes, abilities, and opportunities to men, but he has also structured the laws of economics to reward those who produce goods and services that are highly valued by others, as well as those who use their resources productively and efficiently.

This inequality also provides us with many opportunities to glorify God. Those who have been entrusted with “one talent” can glorify God by faithfully stewarding the resources He has given them, relying upon God’s provision without complaining or envying others who have more. On the other hand, those who have been entrusted with “ten talents” can glorify God by using their resources to build wealth, give generously to the church and the poor, and offer thanksgiving to God for the blessings He has provided.

Contrary to the arguments of Bernie Sanders and others, wealth and income inequality is not “the great moral issue of our time.” Economic inequality reflects God’s design for society, not a moral aberration needing to be eradicated.


This article was originally published by Baptists for Liberty.