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Sunday, February 17, 2019

On Monday, Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) sought to make his brand of democratic socialism palatable to an audience of conservative Christians.

In a stirring, eloquent stump speech that touched on religion, health care, education, and income disparity, Sanders connected his progressive agenda to tackle economic inequality with an ethical obligation that had a firmly religious basis. Before an unlikely crowd, in an address that sometimes resembled a lecture, sometimes a sermon, he bridged abstract values of morality and justice with concrete policy proposals. His goal, he said, was to “find common ground.”

The location was an incongruous one for Sanders’ full-throated liberal oratory: Liberty University, the Baptist school founded by Jerry Falwell (Sanders was given a warm introduction by Falwell’s son) — the very same venue where five months previous, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) launched his presidential run on a series of promises to repeal Obamacare, gut Planned Parenthood, and roll back progress on marriage equality. In other words, the antitheses of virtually every one of Sanders’ points.

Sanders made no secret of where he stood on social issues, the items on which he was most likely to diverge from the popular opinion in the room. He affirmed his support for same-sex marriage and a woman’s right to a legal abortion. (Throughout the speech Sanders received scattered applause, punctuated by ardent cheers from small but vocal pockets of the crowd.) But the senator from Vermont then suggested that, among those who hold opposing views, there was a valuable opportunity “to reach out of our zone of comfort,” and to have “civil discourse.”

“It is very easy for those in politics to talk to those who agree with us. I do that every day. It is harder, but not less important, to try to communicate with those who do not agree with us,” Sanders said in his prepared remarks.

He hastened to stake out common ground in the question of how best to lead a “moral life” — an inquiry that he argued was both deeply theological and inescapably political, one that he said both the audience and he could agree was vital. He said he was motivated by a vision of morality shared by all religions, namely, the Golden Rule as articulated in the Book of Matthew: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them to do to you, for this sums up the Law and the prophets,” which he quoted.

“Let me be very frank. I understand that issues such as abortion and gay marriage are very important to you and that we disagree on those issues. I get that. But let me respectfully suggest that there are other issues out there that are of enormous consequence to our country and the world and that maybe, just maybe, we don’t disagree on them. And maybe, just maybe, we can work together in trying to resolve them,” he said.

His speech touched on Americans who became sick and died because of a lack of health insurance, mothers separated from their weeks-old children because they did not have paid leave, rampant youth unemployment and mass incarceration, particularly among people of color. Amid the explosion in wealth for millionaires and billionaires, he said, children still lived in poverty. That all of this could occur in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, was tantamount to a moral crime, he argued.

“There is no justice when so few have so much,” he said. “In your hearts, you will have to determine the morality of that and the justice of that.”

He asked the crowd to interrogate the meaning of the words “family values,” which are commonly invoked by conservatives in anti-abortion or anti-gay-marriage screeds.

“All of us believe in ‘family values,'” Sanders said. “Is it a family value that the United States is the only major country on Earth that does not provide paid family and medical leave?” He renewed his calls for universal health care, tuition-free education, and paid leave for new parents and sick employees. These issues, he said, were inseparable from the health and well-being of the family — and so necessarily must be considered “family values.”

In a Q&A session moderated by David Nasser, Liberty University’s Senior Vice President of Spiritual Development, Sanders took three pre-screened questions from the student body.

In a response to the first one — on the subject of race — Sanders conceded that while the country had been “created […] on racist principles,” it had made many positive strides, but cautioned the audience that they should be aware “to what degree racism is alive in this country.” He cited the massacre of a Bible study group at a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, and the too-common occurrence of unarmed men of color being shot by police. He said that institutional racism was a very real scourge and that police officers who committed crimes should be brought to justice, but was careful to note that the vast majority of men and women who serve in law enforcement were honest.

When Nasser posed a question about abortion, he framed it by invoking Sanders’ own stated mission to protect society’s most vulnerable, saying that many conservatives believed unborn children fell within that category. The question got perhaps the loudest applause in the event.

Sanders responded by pointing to the many instances in budget appropriations when Republicans had stripped funding from education and social programs — implicitly demanding that conservatives extend their moral crusade to protect unborn children to include born ones as well.

Finally, Nasser offered a prayer expressing both gratitude for Sanders’ visit and a desire for the senator to know that “he has made friends today.”

File photo: yashmori via Flickr

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53 responses to “Sanders Preaches Message Of Morality And Justice At Liberty University”

  1. Dominick Vila says:

    I find it refreshing and encouraging to have a presidential candidate willing to go to an institution that he knows does not share many of his views, articulate his opinions in a respectful manner, highlight issues that in his opinion deserve more attention, and encourage civil dialogue to find middle ground on issues that are both critical to our society and that are considered divisive because of ideological leanings.

    The contrast between Sen. Sanders and most of the other candidates running for the nomination of their respective parties could not be more stark. We need more candidates like Sanders, and fewer charlatans.

    • TZToronto says:

      You said it. . . Charlatans! Most of the GOP wannabes are charlatans, posing as responsible people who want to make the country better. In reality, they are narcissistic shils for the uber-wealthy who are trying to buy the next election and turn the USA into their fiefdom. If the Kochs and their friends have their way, Americans will be paying their taxes to their “lords,” and protecting them with their blood. Am I being too bleak?

      • Dominick Vila says:

        Nope. The only thing you left out is the likely reaction of not-so wealthy Republicans who actually believe the garbage that is being fed to them by people like Trump, whose only interest in politics and the well being of the American people is limited to the culmination of his narcissism: becoming President of the United States.

      • jmprint says:

        I don’t think you are, I feel the same way, People like Ted, and Trump that is their goal. Their presidency is not for the people.

    • yabbed says:

      Attendance is mandatory for students.

      Sanders is the biggest charlatan of all the candidates. He is a total fraud.

      • Dominick Vila says:

        Could you providence evidence to support your claim? The only concern I have about what Sen. Sanders is proposing is that Congress will not appropriate the funds needed to implement his proposals, and will not change existing legislation to ensure justice for all, and equal opportunities for all Americans.
        In any case, I am waiting for VP Biden’s decision to decide who I plan to support and vote for.

      • latebloomingrandma says:

        I imagine a lot of stuff at Liberty is mandatory for students.

      • Jinmichigan says:

        Yes, attendance was mandatory, and the majority sat there like the bumps on a log they are.
        Of course you are entitled to your opinion, but you will convince no one based on insults with nothing to support your joke of a comment.

  2. Otto Greif says:

    Theft isn’t moral, and he’s in favor of the government stealing my money.

    • bobnstuff says:

      There is a very easy way not to pay taxes, leave the country. Give up your membership. Stop using the services and protection. Taxes aren’t stealing. I may not always like how my taxes are spent but as a citizen of the United States of America I get to pay taxes. We elect people to give us services and those services need to be paid for. I guess you would be happier giving you money to companies that you have zero say in how they are run.

      • Otto Greif says:

        When I give money to companies I get products I want in return.

        • bobnstuff says:

          And you don’t get services from the government? Who paved the roads you drove on? Who employees the police at protect you? Who makes sure your food is safe? Even the land you own is only yours because some where the is a record of a deed and the government enforces property rights. The money you use only have value because the government backs it. Why do you think we have a government? As I said if you don’t like taxes don’t use the services they pay for but you might find it hard living with out them.

    • Jinmichigan says:

      Another nothing comment not worth another second.

    • tomtype says:

      On the subject of taxes, Jesus said to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. So I guess you believe Jesus was counseling immorality?

  3. John Murchison says:

    Its a good attempt i suppose but i think the Christians aren’t about to engage in civil discourse considering what we hear from the far right just now.

  4. docb says:

    Excellent and brave and not shaming but inclusive…Bernie is a great American.

    • Dominick Vila says:

      I have the feeling Hillary is well aware of that. One of her Super PACS just launched a vicious attack against Sen. Sanders linking him to a dictator, and other claims worthy of the Tea Party.

      • docb says:

        An exercise in futility for the PAC…Thinking Americans are not threatened like the easily led fearful of the rabid right. He has been a singular voice for equity for all for 37 years.

      • yabbed says:

        Well, really. Have a look at the corporate donors Sanders has: Federal Coal Company, Merrill Lynch, Boeing, UPS … it’s an endless list supporting Sanders’ hypocrisy.

        • Dominick Vila says:

          The link below lists Sen. Sanders top donors:

          Unlike other candidates, the contributions to his senatorial campaigns, and now to support his quest for the nomination of the Democratic party, do not include dark money, or huge amounts of money.
          Bear in mind that it is virtually impossible for anyone running for office in the United States to do it without money. Doing so would guarantee anonymity and defeat. Until something is done to ban contributions from business, labor, religious, and all special interests, and limit funding to equal amounts provided by the Federal and State government to each candidate, this situation will persist, and those special interests will continue to exert tremendous influence on policy making in the USA.

  5. yabbed says:

    I’ve seen no sign of morality in Bernie Sanders. All I see is hypocrisy.

    • latebloomingrandma says:

      Huh? Bernie is the very antithesis of hypocrisy. He’s not a fipflopper nor does he dance around a question.

    • CrankyToo says:

      Would you care to elucidate us with examples of Bernie’s hypocrisy? or are you just being irrationally and gratuitously caustic because you’re a wingding?

      • BillP says:

        Yabbed also didn’t offer proof of the claim that Bernie Sanders is immoral or amoral. All yabbed did is write 2 sentences offering nothing.

        • CrankyToo says:

          Exactly. He/She is clearly just another garden-variety Turd Party butthead.

          • David says:

            “Turd Party”? Hmm… I haven’t heard of the Demorats referred to as that. I like it!

          • CrankyToo says:

            Up jumped the devil!!! What’s up, eSquire?

          • David says:

            Lol…you weren’t’??? Gosh!!! Having fun on the enemy’s talk site and saw your post. Enjoying the life my Savior has given me. You?

          • CrankyToo says:

            Blest in every way possible. Company just left, started new job today, subcontractors are working the construction issues, and you’re still on my list for an email in response to yours – as soon as I catch my breath. Feel like I’m laying track in front of a bullet train.

          • David says:

            Get your house fixed! Hate to have you hear it from your boss for the next ___ years!

      • yabbed says:

        Read Sanders’ outrageously misogynist sex essay. Watch his statements in wild-eyed support of Israel’s savage bombardments of the defenseless Palestinians. Go look at his scrounging hippie freak life living on unemployment benefits until he finally got himself elected to the government trough where he has languished on another form of welfare for decades. Look at his lies denying the real mother of his illegitimate son. Sanders is a total fraud.

        • CrankyToo says:

          “…. the real mother of his illegitimate son.”

          Bernie Sanders’ personal life doesn’t concern me. And it shouldn’t concern you. Don’t you have your own family issues to worry about?

          I’ve been watching Bernie for years. My instincts tell me he’s the person we need right now. You’re instincts clearly tell you something else. I’d be interested to know which of the current candidates you’d pull the lever for – and why.

          And while you’re at it, tell me one positive thing Republicans in Congress have done for this country in the last 30 years.

        • Lyle52 says:

          No yabbed, the fraud is you. You’re so obviously a troll.

    • Jinmichigan says:

      A nothing comment not worth another second.

    • Sand_Cat says:

      That’s because you’re blinded by partisan hatred and ignorance./

    • Lyle52 says:

      Well of course that’s all you see, you’re a republican.

  6. Karen Bille-Golden says:

    The only candidate I’ve witnessed so far that is willing to speak with civility to their opposition. He deserves credit for that and for the tact employed in the process.

  7. CPAinNewYork says:

    I don’t think that Senator Sanders has much of a chance of getting the Democratic nomination, but I like him personally.

  8. dtgraham says:

    Bernie is new testament; they’re old.

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