Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont, the Democratic candidate who is currently surging in the primary race against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, recently made a series of statements indicating his religious beliefs, and they might surprise you.
In a recent interview with the Washington Post, Sanders said the following when asked whether or not he actively practices the Jewish religion of his upbringing:
‘I am not actively involved with organized religion. I think everyone believes in God in their own ways. To me, it means that all of us are connected, all of life is connected, and that we are all tied together.’
In other words, Bernie Sanders’ religious views are a deviation with the tradition of faith-based candidates that Americans have come to demand and expect, more often than not, from their presidents. Rather than adhere strictly to a specific religious tradition, which is what both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have professed to do themselves, Bernie Sanders holds a more humanistic view of what God means to him, focusing on the aspects of religious spirituality that bring us all together and ensure that all humans, regardless of their religion, share; the same struggle for freedom, survival, and connection with one another.
Sanders’ views fit very well within both the religious diversity of the American populace and the secular tradition of American law, and are likely a product of both, if one thinks about it deeply enough.
Even though the senator’s views may seem to deviate very sharply from the norm regarding the typically professed “religious views” (read: obligatory Christianity) of most contemporary American lawmakers, it needs to be noted that Sanders is in very good company with many of America’s favorite historical presidents of the past, a great many of whom had what would today be considered “non-traditional” beliefs in God.
Even though the senator’s Jewish background would set him apart from every other president before him, were he to be elected POTUS, his deviation from organized religious beliefs would be far from unprecedented. In fact, if the success of his non-traditional predecessors are any indication, it’s probably the mark of a political leader with exceptional judgement. The presidents with “non-traditional” religious beliefs tend to be the ones Americans hold in the highest regard, after all.
Organized religion, at least in the United States, often functions, in some manner, on the notion that a “spiritual elect” receives the greatest blessings of God–usually the specific adherents to the denomination or the religious tradition itself–rather than the whole of creation. It therefore seems entirely fitting that a man who vigorously campaigns on the platform that all Americans deserve a better chance at life, rather than a fractional, wealthy elite, would profess a personal belief in God that stresses how we are all connected, regardless of what our specific beliefs or backgrounds are.
Although the notion of a “spiritual elect” in Christianity is often far, far more complex than what the income demographics of the United States indicate (I am myself a “non-traditional” Christian with universalist leanings, so I don’t brush aside the complexities of my religion), in its crudest sense, it’s a fitting analogy to contrast where Bernie Sanders, the man who professes our universal connectedness, differs with other politicians who see nothing inherently wrong with the vast material inequality currently plaguing our planet as the result of a greedy few, who literally “count their blessings” while millions are toiling and starving daily around the world as a result of their avarice.
If all of this sounds like nothing more than a gushing of praise for the senator and his spiritual worldview, particularly as it relates to my own, then I make no claims to being unbiased. I have stated in the recent past here on Bipartisan Report that I firmly believe that the Vermont Senator is the best candidate for President of the United States in 2016. As the great Bill Moyers once stated:
‘Ed Murrow told his generation of journalists bias is okay as long as you don’t try to hide it. So here, one more time, is mine: plutocracy and democracy don’t mix.’
Consider this mine as well: Bernie Sanders for president!