Bernie Sanders at Rally

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.

Don’t Give Up On (All) Evangelicals Just Yet

I sat just a few feet in front of my TV, as results trickled in from the Presidential election, and I wasn’t sure if the tears welling in my eyes were the result of anger or sadness.

“Fuck this, fuck this fucking country,” I shouted to no one in particular. And clicked the power button.

You’ve heard this story before. You probably had a similar experience.

Just maybe not the way I did.

In the days and weeks leading up to election day, I had confidently told my girlfriend that the nation was at a tipping point. That if evangelicals could just get over themselves, and acquiesce to support the morally justifiable choice, that we’d be in the clear. I understood that my candidate wasn’t perfect but, like many others, was essentially arguing against the opposition.

I mean, seriously, that guy?

As a Christian, the decision at the polling booth was simple enough: although my choice wasn’t the most ideal representative of American Christianity (nor the most engaging), with corporate relationships that were less than becoming, my choice was infinitely closer to what it meant to be a Christian than the opponent, who had long faced criticisms for the way he practiced his faith.

Then, this …

When Barack Obama secured his second term, I was a wreck. Like the polls in 2016, I had hung on every last Karl Rove syllable as he desperately tried to find votes to save Mitt Romney from runner-up status. I think at one point he even looked under his desk. It was all so miserable.

Four years later, déjà vu. Only this time the pain was more searing, because I gravely understood something that I couldn’t appreciate in 2012: though evangelicals were responsible for Romney’s loss, withholding their vote because his Mormon faith wasn’t pure enough for their taste, they were as much responsible for Trump’s win because, somehow, his faith was.

And in some ways, that’s where the story begins.

In the years between the two elections, I was forced to confront reality through experiences and data and information and patience and grace of those who viewed things differently. Slowly, I began to identify the fraudulent themes and talking points that cloaked the Fox News talking heads and conservative radio. So I turned them off.

And, alas, I changed my stripes.

I don’t expect my journey into progressivism to be common in other conservative, white males in their mid-thirties. Nor do I think, given the right conditions, it needs to be rare.

In the current climate, it’s easy and even understandable to dismiss the opposition as out-of-touch, hypocritical, Trumpanzee whack jobs. I’m just as guilty as retreating back into the sane confines of our collective echo chamber, and refusing to engage because why in the hell would it ever be worth the hassle?

The answer is because four years ago, in spite of how insufferable a conservative Christian I might have been, others found me to be worth the investment.

And even though that has meant a pretty miserable ride since 2016, I’m sure glad they did.

Under Justice Kavanaugh, American Christianity is Dead

Brett Kavanaugh is officially on the Supreme Court, and the unholy matrimony of conservative politics and American Christianity has achieved its magnum opus: ownership of a court that appears destined to overturn Roe v. Wade, strip LGBT rights, and annihilate certain civil liberties under the guise of religious freedom.

To most American evangelicals, that all sounds fantastic. Abortion, to them, is an evil assault on the good and just creation of God, and LGBT folks are an abomination before the Lord. Without question, they’ll say, the syncretic oath entered into with a political ideology has resulted in the intended dividend, and it will reshape the country for generations to come.

But in the case of American Christianity, the means have only led to its predictable end.

Among the requisites of an authentic Christian faith, regardless of denominational flavor, is to witness to those of a secular ilk. Welcoming brothers and sisters into the faith is a kind of a big deal. If you’ve ever accepted a friend’s invitation to attend church, you know what I mean. Potential converts are provided the red carpet treatment, with Stepford smiles and prayer circles that are, for the most part, genuine. If not slightly unsettling.

But those days are now over.

After all, it’s difficult to be an arbiter on behalf of Jesus if you’re among the nearly 50 percent of white American evangelicals who said even had accusations of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh been true, you’d support him anyway.

Dwell on that for a moment: if Kavanaugh’s alleged assault, which included drunkenly laughing as he attempted to rip the clothes off his 15 year old victim, and covering her mouth to blunt screams for help, had been true, half of Christ’s followers would still not waiver in their support.

Much of this isn’t news to non-Christians, of course. The negative correlation between evangelicals who enthusiastically support Trump through his own sexual assault allegations, blatant racism and adultery, and the marked decline of Christianity in America, is a thick, dark line. As a Daily Beast article put it in June, “Religion disguised as partisan politics may energize evangelical voters, but with respect to faith it has backfired.”

It’s worth mentioning that many Christians, even some perusing this piece, will rightfully claim that any political position they harbor isn’t nearly as dreadful as what occurs within the halls of an abortion clinic. Certainly abortion is awful. Yet the data demonstrates abortion rates fall more sharply under Democratic leadership, and countries that make abortion safe and legal report fewer abortions.

But this has never really been about abortion. That’s merely a card the Christian right plays to defend their indefensible positions. The truth, rather, is that many Christians in America lost the plot long ago. The conservative political ideology embraced by many has instead become their identity; their religious affiliation a mere relic from a distant past.

Truly, if they ever encountered Jesus, they’d only wonder how he entered the country legally.

It’s fitting that American Christianity has sealed its fate by embracing a political stance, assuming it to preserve their faith. It was that same political calculation made by the Pharisees that led to the death of Jesus, unwittingly sinking a false system they had intended to rescue.

Indeed, American Christianity is dead. Its death was self-inflicted.

Let’s pray for a resurrection.

You cannot be a Christian and a Republican. Here’s Why.

Dear conservative Christian,

You’ve been tricked. Hoodwinked. Bamboozled.

Sold a bag of goods by snake oil salesmen in sheep’s clothing.

I’m sorry you have to find out this way. In a blog post. By a writer you’ve never heard of.

If it’s any consolation, I was once in the same position; conflating my Christianity with my capitalism. Perceiving the big bad government as intrusive to the pursuit of my God-ordained liberty. Assuming that individual merit in both life and the heavenly pursuit were two sides of the same coin.

And I recall the ever-calcifying echo chamber of my conservatism. My fundamentalist thoughts and meanderings, sometimes voiced by others, bouncing around unimpeded until affirmation was achieved.

Thank you, Sean Hannity, for bravely hanging up on those who dared challenge your point! Thank you, Rush Limbaugh, for diligently shouting over opposing views! Thank you, Matt Walsh, for your condescending snark and enduring refusal to acknowledge both sides! Thank you, Fox News, for always playing to your audience! Thank you, thank you, thank you! You collectively relieved me of the need to think for myself. Whew!

As you can imagine, my exodus from conservatism and as a staunch Republican has been a quite sobering journey, though I suppose stranger things have happened when one follows Jesus instead of Donald Trump. When actually studying the Bible instead of Breitbart. Or reading the commands of Jesus instead of those issued by Steve Bannon.

The individual reasons you cannot be a Christian and a Republican are various and exhaustive. They wouldn’t all fit onto a blog post, though the premise is quite simple: conservative ideology, as personified by Republicans, is an individualistic pursuit. Christian theology, as personified by Jesus, is precisely the opposite.

Take a minute, and read that again. It has pretty severe and far-reaching implications. Feel free to grab your Bible to follow along.

At this point, you’re either infuriated or concerned. Maybe a little of both. How dare I question your patriotic allegiance to God and Country, amirite? But I hope there’s some daylight, because if you keep reading, perhaps the smallest part of you will become the thorn that provokes some deeper thought.

All it takes is a mustard seed, or so I’ve heard.

Most of your life, you’ve casually referred to yourself as a Christian. You identify as “Pro Life,” and you’re a proud Republican. But those are little more than labels; a collection of words and symbols that you’ve heard repeated from likeminded people in your circles, family and friends, etc., and naturally, applied to yourself.

Because you’ve repeated them over and over again, they’ve stuck.

Let’s address “Pro Life,” since when I ask the hard questions, it’s what most conservative Christians point to. Hell, it’s what I used to point to. But did you know that Roe v. Wade, the (pretty damn recent) 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion, was supported by Republican appointees? Or that the only Democrat appointee voted against it?

Republicans are responsible for legalized abortion. There’s no way around it.

Not-So-Fun Fact: Even before the legalization of abortion, many thousands of women received “back alley” abortions. Even if we made it illegal, abortions would likely still occur, with deadly consequences. Plenty of data has suggested that access to contraceptives and education actually lower the abortion rate.

At some point, I realized I’d rather pay more in taxes that support education proven to lower abortion, than lower taxes that leads to more abortion.

All things being equal, “Pro Life” is also a pretty crappy misnomer. Fetuses and life are hardly mutually exclusive. In the aftermath of the war in Iraq, which like you, I supported, tens of thousands of innocent children have died. The media and military casually refer to these dead children as “collateral damage.”

But are they not “life?”

And if you’re “Pro” Life, shouldn’t that extend to them?

Are they not also Children of God? 

We don’t need to look a world away, either. I don’t see many “Pro Life” signs being waved near the Flint, Michigan water treatment plant. And the anti-refugee stance held by so many Republican Christians is literally anti-Jesus (Jesus was a refugee. No, seriously. That’s sort of central to the nativity story).

It’s a fair question ask how we’ve arrived at this point in American Christianity. And, certainly, there’s answers to that question that I really, really recommend reading (hint: it’s not because Jesus was a Republican). But for me, it’s more important to look forward, and reshape what it means to be a Christian in America.

What is “Christlike”? Is it to defend someone accused of being a pedophile despite insurmountable evidence, simply because they identify as a Republican?

What does it mean to be your Brother’s Keeper? Is it to accrue as much income as possible while others go hungry or cannot afford their medical bills?

What does it mean to love your neighbor and enemy? Is it to stereotype Muslims, blacks, and glorify the military?

Was Jesus actually serious about his commands about wealth and possessions? Or would he heartily endorse of the accumulation of stuff – the nice car, the walk-in closet, the gold-trimmed everything?

When people are suffering in this country and abroad, do we cast judgment and bombs, or love and inclusion?

And when we’re ultimately confronted with the Creator, will we point to an American flag and our success in life, or to those on the margins that we helped to lift?