It’s no secret that Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has more political acumen and deeper understanding of the issues in his little finger than all the other candidates together have in their whole bodies. Furthermore, he has a quality sorely lacking in most politicians. That quality is courage – the courage to take his case directly to those who would be the most hostile to everything he stands for.
Sanders has announced that in September he will be addressing an audience at Liberty University. For those unfamiliar with this institution, Liberty is an extremely right-wing, theocratic, evangelical, conservative university founded by the late Reverend Jerry Falwell. He was the same evangelist who supported the Vietnam War, stating that the US President is “a minister of God,” entitled to use bombs and machine guns in order to “bring wrath upon those who would do evil.” He opposed civil rights for African-Americans and consigned LGBT people to the pits of fiery hell. He opposed public schools. He supported Israel while at the same time calling the Jewish People “spiritually blind and desperately in need of their Messiah and Savior.” Falwell looked toward a day when the United States would be transformed in the Fundamentalist Christian version of Saudi Arabia or 16th-Century Spain.
And Liberty University was founded on these same, right-wing, theocratic, Christianist values and beliefs. Yet, they have invited Bernie Sanders to come and speak to the student body. For Sanders’ part, he welcomes the opportunity:
It goes without saying that my views on many issues – women’s rights, gay rights, education and many other issues – are very different from the opinions of some in the Liberty University community. I think it is important, however, to see if we can reach consensus regarding the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality in our country, about the collapse of the middle class, about the high level of childhood poverty, about climate change and other issues. It is very easy for a candidate to speak to people who hold the same views. It’s harder but important to reach out to others who look at the world differently. I look forward to meeting with the students and faculty of Liberty University.
Perhaps it is not so far-fetched. After all, Sanders’ message has been resonating with a wide range of people of all faiths across the political and social spectrum. Bernie Sanders, a self-professed Socialist, born of Jewish parents, speaks out on social justice, treating others as we would like to be treated, and caring for the least among us.
That’s not so different from another Jewish Socialist who lived about 2,000 years ago.