While the whole world was glued to James Comey’s testimony, Senator Bernie Sanders was grilling Mr. Russell Vought, a Wheaton alumnus and President Trump’s pick for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, for his belief that Muslims “do not know God” and “because they have rejected Jesus Christ, His Son…they stand condemned.” Bernie gave a thumbs down to his confirmation, arguing that Mr. Vought’s belief made him an Islamophobe. It is an irrational connection which exposed the liberal hypocrisy, and it’s unavoidable self-contradiction: their tolerance’s intolerance.Sander’s attack shows a lack of historical nuance and self-awareness. I say this with sorrow because I voted for Sanders over Hillary, and if he was the Democratic candidate, I would have voted him and not Jill Stein, a mere statement vote against Trump. This feels like correcting a generous uncle blind about his own prejudices, his ignorance is part of the charm, but only to an extent.At first, Mr. Vought’s belief of Christ’s exclusivity is not the only idea in town. Though Evangelicals claim it as the orthodox belief, Evangelicals and secularists forget that the Church is older than the Evangelical movement, i.e., they are not the best representative of the orthodox Christian belief no matter the size of their voting bloc. Right from the start, Christians wrestled with the fate of those who did not know Christ, whether they were Old Testament patriarchs or Greek pagans. How could Abraham burn in hell when he was the progenitor of Christ? And Socrates calmly gulped poison and sacrificed his life over either compromising his ideals or fleeing judgment, much like how Christ gave himself to be executed when he could have riled the zealots or hid out in Galilee. The uniqueness of Christ didn’t logically lead to damnation of those who never got baptized in Christ’s name. In the letter to the Corinthians, you hear of people getting baptized for their ancestors. Honest theologians left it a mystery, saying yes, one is saved by Christ alone, and yes, one doesn’t know what happens to those who do not know Christ, and yes, that judgement belongs to Christ alone. Not only salvation but judgment belongs to Christ alone. In the “Divine Comedy,” Dante travels through the typical medieval typology of judgment, the three hierarchical layers: hell, purgatory, and heaven. There is lot more Christians in the sulfuric lake than pagans in Dante’s Hell; and his tour guide justifying God’s perfect judgment is non other than Virgil, a pagan author. Both Vought and Sanders could use historical lessons and learn to embrace nuances.Secondly, we are totally missing the tone of Christ’s claim to exclusivity. For before Christ, the belief was that only Jews could be saved. If you were not born a Jew, you were basically screwed. But Christ alone meant no matter how you were born, you had a chance to join God’s family. Ethnicity was no longer requisite and the door of salvation was flung wide open to every ethnicity, Jews and Gentiles. All they had to do was trust Christ. It made salvation easier than one’s ethnicity (which was impossible to change) or a pilgrimage (which was impossible for the poor). Christ alone was a doctrine to open doors, not to shutter them.Thirdly, even the most strict, even dour, interpretation of the exclusivity of Christ does not logically birth phobia. In fact, this doctrine sent many missionaries to foreign lands and languages, leading to cross cultural engagements that influenced all parties. The fear of judgment of others birthed compassion for them. They went to the ends of the earth (missionaries when to remote Amazon tribes where companies saw no commercial value) to preach Christ and save them. In preaching Christ, they imposed some of their own culture, which is inevitable; but most missionaries paid close attention to their new culture trying to see openings for their gospel. They were convinced there were “Scorates” in every culture who hinted at Christ. Additionally, missionaries were often the first person to transition an oral language into a written language and give greater permanence to a native culture. The current loss of languages is not the Christian missionaries fault but Hollywood. And as language goes hand in hand with education, missionaries established schools that would eventually become place for social change by native leaders. Yonsei, the Harvard of Korea, is a child of Horace Allen, an American Missionary. Would Sanders disqualify Muslims for their exclusive doctrine of salvation which also sees non-Muslim burning in sulfuric lake? Sanders’ stance is Isalmaphobic because its Chistianphobic, a phobia of anything that ruffles the hegemony of liberal view everyone’s view is relative except ours. We must not police beliefs. One’s skills and experiences for the task should be the only thing at hand. This is the heart of the American idea of the separation of Church and State, to protect people from being rejected for their convictions. Uncle Bernie, here is to politicians who can say “mea culpa” and grow; here is to nuance and history; here is to self-awareness and to liberal elites owning up to their own phobias and intolerance, because after all, you yourself were a victim of liberalisms uncritical phobia.Samuel Son is a teaching pastor in Raleigh.
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