The Gospel according to Bernie: The Christian Case for Bernie Sanders

When Jesus heard that the people of Capernaum were without water, he and the disciples traveled to the town. There they proclaimed the poor and thirsty would be saved upon hearing the good news, and the town’s well began to bring forth fresh water.

The biblical account of Jesus and his disciples replenishing a town’s water is one that is consistently preached, a stark reminder to modern Christians of their call to care for one’s neighbor.

At least, it would if it had actually happened.

In truth, that was Bernie Sanders (and his campaign) that heard of a town’s struggle for clean water, not Jesus. And it wasn’t Capernaum. It was Denmark, South Carolina. And he most certainly returned with several hundred cases of clean water for residents in need.

Now, no one is suggesting Bernie Sanders is the reincarnated Christ, though both were prominent Jews (and a consistent thorn in the side of the established order). Rather, I’m going to lay out several reasons why Christians should (and reasonably can) consider Bernie Sanders in the 2020 Presidential election, and how the Jesus of Nazareth and Bernie from Brooklyn have guiding principles that are more aligned than you might think.

To start, it’s important to acknowledge that American Christianity is in a bad spot at the moment. Evangelicals almost universally supported Donald Trump in the 2016 election, thereby ceding any remaining moral high ground, and jeopardizing the faith’s legitimacy to anyone with ears to hear. The youth, for example, are fleeing the faith in droves, most citing hypocrisy (see: duh) among their primary reasons for ditching the pew. Basic math suggests that without fresh faces taking weekly communion, it’s a matter of when, not if Christianity will die off.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

First, let’s dispatch with any pretense: the level of cognitive dissonance necessary to claim allegiance to Donald Trump and Jesus is enough to put anyone in a coma. You can’t do it.

Jesus didn’t grab the woman who committed adultery by the pussy, he defended her.

Jesus didn’t mock the sick and disabled, he healed them.

And finally, the desperate and, frankly, disingenuous “But Trump’s pro-life!” defense never had any credibility in the first place.

So where does that leave us? Christians in the United States need to drop Trump like the bad habit he is, and get their groove back. Which brings us to one of the key reasons that Christians should support Bernie Sanders …

The Youth Dig Him

Reaching (and re-engaging) the youth isn’t pandering, it’s a hell of a benefit. Bernie has the most support of young voters in America by wide margins. Yes, you read that right. The white-haired, froggy septuagenarian is more popular with the kids than vaping.

Bernie’s appeal is his authenticity. Regardless of whether or not you like his politics, he firmly believes in everything he says. In fact, a quick YouTube search reveals he’s been saying the same thing for the better part of 30 years.

In a world where the youth can see directly through the onslaught of bullshit marketing (and, by association, politics), Bernie is a bastion of the genuine. That should mean something to all of us.

Interestingly, most biblical scholars assert the disciples of Jesus to have been under the age of 18. One moment, they were fishing. The next, changing the world.

Sometimes the kids are OK.

Healing the Sick

Bernie’s hallmark policy pitch is Medicare-for-All, or as Fox News might have misled you to believe, “Socialist-Death-Chambers … For-All.” But Sanders’ passionate defense of the plan is fairly straightforward: healthcare is a human right. In other words, human beings deserve to be taken care of, regardless of whether or not they can pay for it.

It isn’t difficult to wonder where Jesus would have landed on the issue.

This one tends to stumble conservative Christians, because though healing the sick is very much in line with orthodox Christianity, it conflicts directly with Republican talking points. If Jesus was a proponent of healing the sick, shouldn’t we be as well?

The answer is of course we should.

Even if it costs us more in taxes.

Because the family-you-don’t-know avoiding bankruptcy due to cancer is, for a Christian, more important than the family-you-do-know splurging on an all-inclusive trip to the Caribbean.

Yes, friends, sacrificing some of the pleasures in this life is part of the Christian walk.

Caring for Creation (i.e. Climate Change)

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Genesis 2:15

Or

You shall not pollute the land in which you live…. You shall not defile the land in which you live, in which I also dwell; for I the LORD dwell among the Israelites.

Numbers 35:33-34

There’s dozens more. Although you probably won’t see it on Fox News, or hear about it from Rush Limbaugh, caring for creation is very much a Christian calling.

And right now, God’s creation is screaming for help.

In our post-truth world, the agenda of those on the far right–much of it paid for by Big Oil–dismiss the objective, observable and verifiable scientific facts that the earth’s climate is changing rapidly and we are responsible.

As the earth wilts around us, it’s an act of self-sabotage and utter insanity that the human population isn’t rallying together around this common cause.

Perhaps the Christian community can lead the way?

Wind turbines are part of the Green New Deal's efforts on renewable energy.

The Green New Deal, legislation sponsored by Bernie, seeks to address the ills cast upon the earth by one of the world’s worst polluters: us. With time literally running out, the Green New Deal is indelibly and inarguably a Christian response to the havoc wreaked by humans on the environment.

Returning Power to the People

The mantra of the Bernie Sanders campaign is “Not Me, Us.” His deference to the people, and not his own political ambition, is what makes him both unique and revered.

In the bible, Jesus didn’t make it about himself. From his designation of the first apostles, to the Great Commission, Jesus generally saw the fulfillment of his work–upon his sacrificial death–to be ultimately carried out by those who understood “Kingdom Come” meant there would be tough work ahead.

A community of people would be necessary to ward against the abusive powers of a tyrannical regime, and collaborate to solve pressing issues.

Like healing the sick.

For many, this sounds like the dreaded ‘S’ word: socialism. For others, it sounds like a properly functioning democracy.

Voiding The Unholy Matrimony

Look, I get it.

For many Christians, Bernie Sanders has been painted with the socialist brush so often that it may seem counterintuitive–if not comical–to suggest he (let alone any Democrat) could ever offer the Christian faith some sort of panacea in its waning moments. But once you accept the reality that syncretism–that unholy matrimony of religion and conservative politics–has for generations undermined the Christian faith, it isn’t a giant leap to see the fruit of Christ in the actions of Bernie and his supporters. Regardless of whether or not they identify as Christians.

For those of us who do identify as Christian, myself included, we know we’re going to be held responsible for our actions in this life. After all, loving our neighbor was never optional. To quote pastor Brian Zhand, “As Jesus preached the arrival of the kingdom of God he would frequently emphasize the revolutionary character of God’s reign by saying things like, ‘the last will be first and the first last.’ How does Jesus’ first-last aphorism strike you? I don’t know about you, but it makes this modern day Roman a bit nervous.”

There are problems all around us. And it’s ever-too-easy to confide in the conservative or liberal echo chamber, and point (and yell) in the other direction. But that excuse isn’t going to fly as a Christian. The bar is infinitely higher.

The problems of the day can be solved, even led, by Christians. If only we’re willing to look for examples in places we might not have previously considered.

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