It seems that in the western world there is one category of people not particularly allowed to voice an opinion; one category of people that should be denied office at all costs.
Would that be people with a track record of lying to the public? No. People with a track record of breaking their promises? Nope. People with a history of political violence? Nope again.
What about people who come from a tradition which established schools for all children, brought an end to slavery, built hospitals and hospices, elevated women’s rights, fought racism, put an end to widow burning and cannibalism, alleviated poverty, and much more?
Absolutely—they shouldn’t be let within a beagle’s gowl* of anything political—who knows what sort of damage they might do! Former American Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders typified this attitude last week. He was part of a panel interviewing nominees for the role of deputy director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.
The problem for Sanders was that nominee Russell Vought had once written that Muslims stand condemned before God because they don’t acknowledge Jesus as the way to God. Sanders pressed him and pressed him on this issue of condemnation, despite the fact that it’s been standard Christian belief for the last 2000 years, and not to mention that Islam teaches the same only in reverse.
Importantly, Vought spoke of how Christians view those of different beliefs, saying, “As a Christian, 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 couldn’t accept it. Apart from losing the head and shouting at Vought; apart from forgetting that the Constitution of the United States precludes the discrimination Sanders was making, Sanders concluded that Vought was unsuitable for office, and that “this nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.”
This nominee—who holds a view that 41% of Americans hold—isn’t what this country is about. Or at least, he doesn’t fit with the direction folks like Sanders want to go. So, without seeming to grasp the irony, Sanders condemns him and all like him. As far as he is concerned they really have no place in America. A whole swathe condemned—I thought that’s what he was objecting to! Is it hypocrisy, irony, or intolerance?
I originally wrote this piece at the start of the week, but as I come to publish it on Gentle Reformation news has moved on, and this week has seen the resignation in the UK of Tim Farron from his role as leader of the Liberal Democrat party. He was hounded and pressured to change his views on abortion and sexuality. At one stage in the election campaign he buckled, but now it seems as if his nerve has steadied, and his perspective been regained.
He said, “To be a political leader… and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible’s teaching, has felt impossible for me.”
He went on to say, “I want to say one more thing: I joined our party when I was 16, it is in my blood, I love our history, our people, I thoroughly love my party. Imagine how proud I am to lead this party. And then imagine what would lead me to voluntarily relinquish that honour. In the words of Isaac Watts it would have to be something ‘so amazing, so divine, (it) demands my heart, my life, my all’.”
He is a man who would rather follow Christ than lead his country. Yet nonetheless he was hounded out of his role.
But why all this hostility? There is an intolerance, a subconscious fear, of biblical Christianity. Why is that? It’s because it confronts people with what they know to be true and try to suppress: that there is a God. Christians who live like there is a real God to whom they will one day give an answer have brought the greatest benefit to this world, but they bring the greatest threat to our hopeless dreams of self-sufficiency, and so they will not be tolerated. You can believe what you want, but just don’t believe Christian stuff. And if you do, certainly don’t live it out publicly.
Yet that’s just what the world needs, for God is real whether we want to admit it or not.
* [Ulster Scot's phrase denoting the distance at which a hunting dog may be heard--ie. not very close!]
PS. I was amused at an editor’s note in one newspaper following Tim Farron’s statement. Sadly bemused because so religiously illiterate are people that the allusion had to be explained. And amused that the gospel gets to be set out for all to read—it is a great commentary on why Christians take the stands they do.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The final quote is a reference to the 1707 hymn, When I Survey The Wondrous Cross. For the uninitiated, here are the words…
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
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