God and Bernie Sanders: Liberty without Virtue
By: Paul Kattupalli, MD
Welcome back to Defender’s Voice. This past week, we have seen many painful things in the news. A skyscraper catching fire in London and killing over 17 people. A college student who was detained in North Korea last year sent back to the United States in a coma state. The doctors who examined him reported that most of his brain became dysfunctional. The evil dictator of North Korea and his godless regime destroyed this young man’s life. His parents are heartbroken. Just a 22-year-old kid, the evil tyrant of North Korea destroyed his life. North Korea, a nation whose official state policy is atheism, is destroying so many precious lives. The innocent people of North Korea are paying a great price. The countless people whose live there are being ruined by this tyrant and we never hear about them. Then we heard about Bernie Sanders denouncing the faith of a Christian leader. Then finally, we had the news about a supporter of Bernie Sanders going and shooting Congressman Steve Scalise and others who were playing baseball. I want to discuss these issues against a historical and biblical background.
Let us turn to Zechariah chapter 3. I want to present some beautiful truths from this book written 2500 years ago. It has many valuable lessons pertinent to our times. The Israelites were in Babylonian Captivity for seventy years. The Babylonians who took the Jews into captivity were gone. Now the Persians were calling the shots. In 538 BC, the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great ordered that Jews could return to Judea. The Persians were more generous towards the Jews. Not all Jews were happy with the decree of Cyrus because life was pleasant in Babylon. However, most of them were convinced that they should return to the land God promised their forefathers. To their dismay, when they saw Jerusalem, it was full of barrenness and desolation. It’s future looked bleak. The people of Israel were disheartened, melancholy engulfed their hearts, discouragement crippled their vision. Their leaders were in pessimism and defeatism. They were dragging their days in hopelessness and despondency. During those dark days, God gave his word to prophet Zechariah. God wanted to encourage his people through this prophet. The times of Gentiles have started, but God still has a plan for his people. Group after group, He brought them back to Jerusalem. In 538 BC, the first group returned under Zerubbabel in 458 BC, the second group returned under Ezra in 445 BC, the third group returned under Nehemiah. The people are exhausted and fatigued. But God has a plan for his people. In 520 BC, prophet Zachariah started to write the visions God revealed to him. God talked to his people through this prophet.
‘I am going to send you the Messiah. You’ve never seen someone like the Messiah in your history. The Messiah will come to you as a true servant of God, as a Branch that bears fruits and nourishes your hearts as a King who strengthens your nation as a Priest who ministers to your needs as a Good Shepherd who will die for your sins’
When people heard about the Messiah, they leaped for joy. Their hearts were uplifted. Their souls now cheering with joy. Their bodies invigorated They got up and started to build Jerusalem. The promises of God gave them hope. As Zechariah was preaching to them, they completed the construction of the Temple. they fortified Jerusalem with walls and gates. God gave Zechariah 8 visions. Let us study one of those visions from Zechariah chapter 3. We see three individuals in this vision. Joshua the high priest the Angel of the Lord and Satan. Who is this Joshua? We learn from the book of Ezra that Joshua was one of the priests who returned from Babylon with Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:36-29) Who is this Angel of the Lord? He is pre-incarnate Christ. You see, the existence of Jesus Christ did not start with his birth in Bethlehem. Jesus is the second member of the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. God the Son manifested to us as Lord Jesus Christ. Before his incarnation, he was appearing as an Angel of the Lord. Then there is Satan accusing Joshua the high priest. If Joshua the high priest could be condemned by Satan, what hope is there for the people of Israel? If Joshua the high priest could be arraigned by Satan, what hope is there for the ordinary men and women who cannot represent themselves before God? So, the stakes are very high. Everything depends on whether Joshua the High Priest can stand the trial. Satan started to denounce Joshua with all his force. But God came to the defense of Joshua.
2 “And the LORD said unto Satan, “The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD who hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee! Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?”
Please note chosen words: “The Lord who hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee”; It’s not Abraham, or Moses or David, the Lord himself has chosen Jerusalem as the central stage for the drama of redemption unfolding from the hand of God. And God gave Jerusalem to the Jews. No one else should claim it.
Bernie Sanders has always denounced Israel whenever he has gotten the opportunity. God gave over 99 percent of this world to Gentiles. Just 0.01 percent of the land was given to the Jews. The entire nation of Israel is barely equal to New Jersey, one of the smallest states in the United States. Yonge Street in Toronto, Canada is longer than the State of Israel. Think of that, a street in Toronto is longer than the entire State of Israel. That’s all the land the world gave to Jews. Still, the Arabs demand that this land belongs to them. There are 22 Arab nations, each much, much larger than Israel. They made United Nations a platform to excoriate Israel. Recently Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations was visiting Israel. She said in Jerusalem that Israel faces constant bullying at the United Nations and she has no patience for it. She reported that the United Nations became a bully towards Israel. Now, Israel is not perfect, but it is struggling to survive in the midst of many Muslim nations, some of which pledged its destruction. That’s the spirit of Satan, and God is rebuking Satan, here in Zechariah 3: 2
…. ‘O Satan, even the Lord who hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee! Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?’
Israel is like a nation plucked out of the fire. Like the current nation of Israel that was born out of the fires of the Holocaust, the Post-exilic Israel was born out of the ashes of Babylonian Captivity. God is rebuking Satan for his accusations against the nation of Israel. God showed Moses a burning bush: the bush is burning but it is not consumed. That summarizes the state of Israel until the Second Coming of Christ. It will burn, but God will preserve it. Satan wanted to see Israel destroyed because out of Israel the Messiah would come. So, Satan is accusing Joshua of wearing filthy garments. Joshua represented the nation of Israel. The filthy garments represented Israel’s infidelity, idolatry, and apostasy. The stench of sin is coming out of those garments and Satan asked God, ‘How can you allow this person into your presence?’ When we move away from God, we only gather filth on our clothes. There is so much filth in our society because it is moving away from God. The filth of fornication; the filth of adultery; the filth of drugs; the filth of pornography; the filth of profanity; and the filth of violence is around us. Lately, when I watch the news on TV channels like CNN, I would ask my 6-year-old son to leave the room. Because the news is full of profanities. A senator opened her mouth and said, F this and F that. Unbelievable, that a senator would use that kind of language. Our secular leaders today believe that God, the Bible, and Christian values do not matter. They should look back and see what the Founding Fathers believed.
James Madison warned the Virginia ratifying convention with this statement: “To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people is a chimerical idea”. The Founders realized that Enlightenment and Lockean ideas would not produce virtue. After the Revolution, historian David Ramsay said, “our morals are more depreciated than our currency”. Political freedom itself would not make us more virtuous. In 1783, Ramsay wrote, “this revolution has introduced so much anarchy that it will take half a century to eradicate the licentiousness of the people”. The Founders were perplexed with a question, ‘What can make us virtuous?’ George Washington believed that only Christian faith could produce the moral climate needed to preserve America. Let me tell you about Timothy Dwight. Most of us hear the names of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin. But Timothy Dwight was a great Christian intellectual whose ideas were instrumental in making Christian virtues a component of life and politics of the new republic. Timothy Dwight was born on May 14, 1752. He was the grandson of great theologian Jonathan Edwards. Timothy Dwight loved the Bible since he was a little boy. He started to study the Bible before he was four years old. He mastered Latin by age 8. He graduated from Yale in 1769 when he was only 17 years old. Later in 1795, he became the president of Yale College. He recognized the value of Christian education. In his address to the General Association of Connecticut, he said, ‘The whole end singly aimed at in the New Testament is manifestly to make mankind virtuous, and nothing will promote virtue better throughout society than Christianity’. During those years, colleges were full of deism, intellectuals were enthralled with French Revolution, they started to question the biblical education. Timothy Dwight condemned unbelief as “the genuine source, the Vesuvius” of the French Revolution. Like Mount Vesuvius that exploded and destroyed Pompeii in Italy, the unbelief that came out of French Revolution was destroying the foundations of Western Civilization. Dwight proclaimed, “There can be no halting between two opinions. Will you enthrone a Goddess of Reason before the table of Christ? Will you burn your Bibles? Will you crucify anew your Redeemer?” French Revolution refused the God of the Bible; They put away their Bible and wanted to reconstruct their society according to their utopians. Soon violence broke out, they were building guillotines, beheading each other. Timothy Dwight warned when we move away from God of the Bible, that is where we end up: the filth of violence. We have a filth of violence in our society because there is no fear of God.
We used to have great leaders like Timothy Dwight, now people are following leaders like Bernie Sanders. Now, let me tell you about a heated exchange happened between a Bernie Sanders and Russell Vought. Mr. Vought is a graduate of Wheaton College, in Illinois. He is committed to New Testament Christianity. Senator Bernie Sanders thinks that makes Russell unfit for any job in the federal government. Russell Vought was nominated for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget. Back in January 2016, there was a controversy at Wheaton College, Illinois. Professor Larycia Hawkins started to wear a hijab while teaching at Wheaton. On December 10, 2015, she wrote on her Facebook page,
“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because of they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God…. As part of my Advent Worship, I will wear the hijab to work at Wheaton College……”
This is the filth of political correctness making inroads even into Christian colleges. This is the filth of false teaching entering our seminaries. Christians and Muslims don’t worship the same God. That is the very important truth we should remember. Allah in Quran sent Muhammad as his final messenger while God in the Bible sent Jesus as his final messenger. Bible proclaims the divinity of Lord Jesus Christ, while Quran denies it. Bible proclaims the crucifixion of Lord Jesus Christ, while Quran denies it. Bible proclaims the resurrection of Lord Jesus Christ, while Quran implicitly denies it. Bible proclaims salvation by faith in Lord Jesus Christ, while Quran offers salvation through the message of Muhammad. The gospel of the New Testament is incompatible with Quran. As a result, Muslim nations persecuted Christians throughout their history. In fact, no religion persecuted Christians more than Islam. It takes complete intellectual dishonesty to claim that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Russell Vought in response to Larycia Hawkins controversy at Wheaton College posted his views on Facebook. He wrote,
‘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”
Bernie Sanders found this post on Facebook hateful and unacceptable. I don’t see anything wrong with what Mr. Vought posted. That is what Jesus taught in the New Testament. In fact, that is what Muslims earnestly believe about Christianity. They do not accept Jesus as the Son of God. As I said, Islam rejects the divinity of Christ. An orthodox Muslim would post a similar description of Christianity. He would say, “Christians do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know Allah because they have rejected Muhammad his messenger, and they stand condemned” If you apply Bernie’s standards to all religions, he has to declare Islamic teachings also as hateful and unacceptable. Bernie said,
“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. This country, since its inception, has struggled, sometimes with great pain, to overcome discrimination of all forms…we must not go backward”.
So, according to Bernie Sanders, believing in Christian orthodoxy is hateful and Islamophobic. It is an insult to over a billion Muslims throughout the world. Bernie thinks that if you are committed to the doctrines of the Bible, that is Islamophobia, racism, and bigotry. While accusing Russell Vought of Islamophobia, Bernie Sanders expressed Christophobia. He also violated the US Constitution he promised to uphold. Article VI of the US Constitution states that ‘no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States” So, Bernie should not be even questioning Russell Vought along these lines. What Russell believes about salvation is none of his business. But in Bernie’s world, Christians and their beliefs are not acceptable in public square. He continued to attack Russell. He asked Vought, “Do you believe that statement is Islamophobic?” Vought replied, “Absolutely not, Senator, I’m a Christian, and I believe in a Christian set of principles based on my faith” Later he said,
“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 as a Christian, that’s how I should treat all individuals”
While Bernie Sanders is attacking Christians for their faith, one of his supporters went and shot at congressmen. Now, Bernie Sanders may not condone violence, but he is opposing God in the public square who is our source of life, liberty, and freedom. American politics have been known around the world as an exercise in peace and nonviolence. You express your ideas without any fear of violence. You believe no matter how different all people bear the image of God and are entitled to equal rights as creatures of God. The idea of imago dei has been foundational to this political structure. But that is changing. Like they did in French Revolution, we are going after each other’s necks. Leaders like Bernie Sanders do not realize that by abandoning our Christian values, we are making our politics toxic and violent. Two hundred years ago, Timothy Dwight warned about people like Bernie Sanders. Dwight asked his generation: “Will you enthrone a Goddess of Reason before the table of Christ? Will you burn your Bibles? Will you crucify anew your Redeemer?” When we remove God from our lives, the filth of violence is inevitable. When you get some time, read Romans chapter 13. Apostle Paul commands that all Christians should submit to government authorities. He says
“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof”.
Virtues Only Christ Can Offer
We are seeing a very toxic atmosphere in our society. People are attacking even Congressmen. There is no trace of respect for authorities. There is no respect for the office of the President of the United States. There is no respect for the law enforcement. Comedians are showing the decapitated head of the president and dramatizing his assassination. We all have political differences. But Apostle Paul asked us to submit to the government authorities. He was writing these words two thousand years when Roman Government was dealing with its subjects much, much more harshly than our modern governments. Apostle Paul spent most of his life in prisons. Throughout his ministry, he was wrongfully charged, wrongfully convicted and wrongfully punished. Yet, he commanded Christians to submit to government authorities, to live in peace, to love their enemies and to ‘Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ’. That’s virtue. The greatest virtue in life is to live a life like Lord Jesus Christ. Without virtue, as C.S. Lewis said, we make ‘men without chests’. In his book ‘The Abolition of Man’, Lewis wrote, “We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful’.
As the American Revolution was maturing, Thomas Paine’s book Age of Reason became a best-seller in America. It promoted deism, the idea that God left humanity to itself, and human beings could carve out their own destiny. Patrick Henry was infuriated by deism. He wrote,
“This view which the rising greatness of our country presents to my eyes is greatly tarnished by the general prevalence of deism; which, with me, it but another name for vice and depravity”.
Many people embrace deism because they feel it gives them freedom from God, ‘God, leave us alone, we want to live our lives as we like’. Patrick Henry rightly called deism as another name for vice and depravity. Bernie Sanders should read The Life of Patrick Henry. Patrick Henry was a very devout Christian. The French Revolution embraced reason and denied God of the Bible. People like Blaise Pascal were troubled by this phenomenon. Pascal respected reason but recognized its limits. He said, ‘Reason’s last step is the recognition that there are an infinite number of things which are beyond it’. The French Revolution brought no liberty. It ended up with a dictator named Napoleon Bonaparte. Great preachers like George Whitfield and John Wesley taught that God of the Bible is the source of our liberty. One of their students was Samuel Davies. He started to preach in Virginia in 1747. Samuel Davies was an evangelist and fourth President of Princeton University. Despite suffering from tuberculosis, Samuel Davies went around preaching the Word of God. He strongly emphasized freedom of mind and. liberty of conscience. Young Patrick Henry went to listen to Samuel Davies. He was influenced a lot by Samuel Davies. Patrick Henry met Thomas Jefferson and made it clear to him: Without God, there is no liberty. Thomas Jefferson made up his own New Testament. But he said, just the words of Jesus, the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man”. In 1774, Patrick Henry gave a famous speech in Virginia. He said,
“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take;
but as for me…give me liberty, or give me death!”
We all know the famous words, ‘give me liberty or give me death’. Those words came from this prayer Patrick Henry made to Almighty God. People like Bernie Sanders who rail against Christianity in the public square must realize that God, God of the Bible, is the source of our liberty and virtues. Timothy Dwight also gave the same warning: American Revolution will soon become like violent French Revolution. Timothy Dwight maintained that Christianity must a necessary component of republican government as the source of virtue. His Christian teachings brought a great transformation in Yale College.
A revival broke out among its students. The scholars and intellectuals turned to God, leading to the Second Great Awakening. The followers of Timothy Dwight soon started Bible Societies, Missionary societies, and churches. By 1825, the American Bible Society was distributing the Bible in 140 languages. Over 10,000 new churches and over 50 new seminaries were started. Noah Porter wrote about the climate prevailed during those days,
“Wherever students were found in their rooms, in the chapel, in the hall, in the college-yard, in their walks about the city, the reigning impression was, ‘Surely God is in this place’”
Yale University wrote its motto in Hebrew. It says Urim V’Thummim, Light, and Truth. Lord Jesus Christ as the source of light and truth. The Christian virtue changed people from inside out. Timothy Dwight recognized that true virtue starts with God. Note his words:
‘The whole end singly aimed at in the New Testament is manifestly to make mankind virtuous, and nothing will promote virtue better throughout society than Christianity’.
Many great Christian leaders were born out Timothy Dwight’s ministry, like, David Dudley Field, Moses Stuart, Nathaniel Taylor, Lyman Beecher, Asahel Nettleton, Roger Sherman Baldwin. George Washington was also inspired by Timothy Dwight. Washington said, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.’ Real prosperity in life comes through religion and morality. Bernie Sanders says prosperity comes through redistribution of wealth. That is Marxism. That is not what the Bible teaches. The Bible promotes charity. Read Wealth of the Nations. Sadly, our secular leaders and celebrities today think religion and morality are dispensable, they rejected the Bible and New Testament Christianity. When they open their mouths, all kinds of filthy words and filthy jokes come out. But the good news is, when Joshua walked into the presence of God with his filthy garments, God did not reject him. God said, “Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. Take away the filthy garments from him”. It reminds me the words of Lord Jesus Christ in John chapter 11. After raising Lazarus from the dead, our blessed Lord says, ‘loose him and let him go’ Lazarus had been dead for four days. Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus were there weeping for their brother. They all went to the grave. Jesus said, ‘take away the stone’. They were shocked. Are you serious? It has been four days since we buried him. He must be stinking by now’. They did not realize that God, the creator of life, was standing right in front of them as a human being. Jesus shouted out, ‘Lazarus, come out’. Lazarus walked out. He is covered with grave clothes from head to feet. Jesus told them, ‘Loose him, and let him go’ You are raised from dead, don’t wear grave clothes. We read in 1 John chapter 1, verse 7 But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. Sin must be cleansed before you walk into the presence of God. That is what Jesus did to Joshua the high priest in Zechariah chapter 3. He removed his filthy garments and clothed him with garments of righteousness. That is what Jesus is asking us to do today. We must remove the filthy garments of sin and wear the clothes of righteousness only Jesus can offer and I hope you come to him today and do the same.