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Why This Evangelical Pastor Now Supports Bernie Sanders

Bernie spoke to 12,000 Evangelical youth at one of this country’s most rightwing universities. This alumnus listened.

Image via Flickr user Peter Stevens

Liberty University isn’t exactly known as a hotbed of progressivism. The school, founded in 1971 by Evangelical darling Jerry Falwell, had a clear mission: to promote a Christian worldview grounded in principles of conservatism, creationism, and “and a firm support for America’s economic system of free enterprise.” But this Monday morning, Liberty students woke up to an unexpected visitor: Democratic candidate and self-avowed socialist, Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

It was a bizarre moment in electioneering, but Sanders’ decision to speak was grounded in real historical reason, and had a sincere political impact. A little less than four decades ago, the nation elected an enterprising former peanut farmer who identified both as an Evangelical and a Democrat, Jimmy Carter. And while the students of Liberty University have been largely tied to the GOP ever since, one alumus and pastoral counselor who heard Sanders speak was convinced. The Daily Kos transcribed selections from his sermon below:

“As I heard Bernie Sanders crying out to the religious leaders at Liberty University, in his hoarse voice, with his wild hair – this Jew – and he proclaimed justice over us, he called us to account, for being complicit with those who are wealthy and those who are powerful, and for abandoning the poor, the least of these, who Jesus said he had come to bring good news to. And in that moment something occurred to me. As I saw Bernie Sanders up there, as I watched him, I realized Bernie Sanders for president is good news for the poor. Bernie Sanders for president is Good News for the poor. Bernie Sanders is gospel for the poor. And Jesus said "I have come to bring gospel" – good news – "to the poor."

Those words echoed in my heart as I listened to that crazy, hoarse-voiced, wild-haired Jew standing in front of the religious leaders of the Evangelical Movement, calling us to account, as a Jew once did before, telling us that he intends to care for the least of these, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, to care for the sick, to set the prisoners free.

I wouldn't be much of a Christian if I didn't stand on the side of gospel for the poor, because, the last time I checked, that's where my master Jesus stood, and I'll stand with Him. And, for now, that means I stand with Bernie Sanders.”

Will the Evangelical left, who’ve statistically been far more likely to vote along religious lines than economic ones, switch party affiliations, and vote for this “wild-haired” Jew in 2016? Unlikely, by nearly every statistical measure. Still, Sanders’ speech, and this alumnus’ response, laid some important groundwork for conversations of the future, where both sides are taking the time to listen.

(Via: The Daily Kos)

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