Bernie Sanders, Evangelicals and Poverty

Erica Wanis (Center for a Just Society/2013) Erica joined the Center for a Just Society as the Director of Research in the spring of 2009 and is now a Consultant for the Center.
Erica Wanis (Center for a Just Society/2013)
Erica joined the Center for a Just Society as the Director of Research in the spring of 2009 and is now a Consultant for the Center.

Bernie Sanders spoke to Liberty University a few weeks back, presenting himself and his convictions boldly and honestly, and in response, a Liberty alumnus and Evangelical pastor “Tim” gave a rather impassioned speech about how his conservative Christian beliefs were now obliging him to vote for Bernie, because Bernie cares for the poor, the needy, and the weak. Salon offers a similar take on Bernie, saying that Bernie’s speech is a political earthquake. But what’s remarkable about these responses is that Bernie’s moment is completely unremarkable.

 

I’m not commenting on Bernie’s rhetorical stylings, and I’ll take him at his word about his concern for the poor and needy. But it’s not as if Christians who vote Republican have suddenly had scales torn from their eyes by Bernie’s speech (except, apparently, pastor Tim). Many of these Christians have already been shouldering their duty to care for the poor and needy. It’s just that they see this as a personal duty and not as the government’s job. This makes sense of the fact that states dominated by Christian conservatives give more than their liberal counterparts. If Sanders and Pastor Tim are to be believed — wouldn’t you expect the opposite?

The idea that Sanders’s approach presents some kind of “twist,” “earthquake,” or “revelation” to Christians is somewhat insulting — as if Christians never before read Jesus’s words and thought about their political positions at the same time.

It’s similar to the “gotcha” articles written by pro-choice proponents who take pot-shots at pro-lifers for not caring about women, despite the fact that pro-lifers have founded countless crisis pregnancy centers throughout the nation, welcome the needy into their churches, and fund and run charities that help the poor and needy.

These bet-you-didn’t-see-that-coming M. Night Shyamalan-esque pieces are not actually trying to win over the politically-conservative Christian or the pro-lifer. No, they are trying to convince the liberals and moderates that the conservative and pro-life positions are simplistic, inconsistent, unintelligent, and not in keeping with real Christian charity.

Unfortunately, it is the failure of rhetoric and teaching from politically-conservative and pro-life Christians that permits these weak arguments to gain any traction at all.

The responses we should be providing are straightforward and simple: Of course it is our Christian obligation to care for the poor and needy, and we should primarily do this as individuals, families, churches, and charities — not through the power of the government. And of course we should care for women, and we should do that primarily through meeting the real physical and spiritual needs of women as individuals, families, churches, and charities — not by “empowering” women to kill their children.

The failure is especially prevalent in our political discourse.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: The Christian Post
Erica Wanis graduated from Patrick Henry College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government with a focus on Political Theory in 2008. Erica joined the Center for a Just Society as the Director of Research in the spring of 2009 and is now a Consultant for the Center.