Bernie, Like Jesus, Brings Good News to the Poor

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus reads from the scroll of the Prophet Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Luke 4:18-19, NRSV). "Today these words are fulfilled in your hearing," he boldly proclaims (Luke 4:21). The year of the Lord's favor which Jesus announces is the Jubilee Year described in the Book of Leviticus. God commands Israel to observe a Jubilee Year, a "sabbath of Sabbaths," every 49th year: this is a year in which slaves are freed, debts are forgiven, farm land and animals are allowed to rest, and, most importantly, land is redistributed. This is a year of social, economic, and environmental justice. Jesus' message is radical in the true sense, in that it expresses the root values of liberation and equality at the heart of Judaism, values which resonate with the Israelites' core identity as a community of slaves liberated by God from the tyranny of Pharaoh.

In an age that has seen the rich grow absurdly, unprecedentedly rich and the poor decline into abject, debilitating poverty, Sanders is the only major presidential candidate willing to sufficiently problematize the ever-widening wealth gap in our nation and world, and to offer revolutionary solutions to restore a level of economic equality consistent with a free society. As president, he would lead efforts to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor, rebalancing our society and restoring our middle class.

Our national and global economies are rigged in favor of a super-rich multi-millionaire and billionaire class that continues to consolidate its political power with each election cycle. This class of people controls and distorts our legislative process such that their personal and business interests come first and foremost, while the interests of ordinary Americans are obfuscated and neglected. Time and again, when it comes to issues like climate change, we see fossil fuel interests dictating absurd policies which are recklessly destructive of life. This pattern of corporate control of politics repeats itself in our trade deals, our foreign policy, and all along the spectrum of the military-industrial complex, including our disastrous for-profit prison system. Case by case the interests of the American people and the people of the world are drowned out by the money and power of the super rich. Our politicians go along with this madness because they are bought and paid for with campaign contributions, speaking fees, the promise of future private sector jobs, and other forms of bribery. The American people see clearly that our government is no longer functioning as a democracy, but as an oligarchy. We are being ruled by the owners of corporations who prioritize their own profits and do not really care about us or other life-forms on this planet. In protest against this blatant corruption of our political system, Sanders is the sole major candidate calling for a political revolution and walking the walk by not relying on campaign funding from millionaires and billionaires who spend unlimited sums buying elections through super PACS.

Bernie Sanders, like Jesus, is inspired to bring good news to the poor. And like Jesus' message, Bernie's message is controversial. Many argue that he is too radical to be president or that his ideals are too lofty. And yet he stands for the root values of American democracy: liberty and equality. As the story goes, the crowd Jesus first announces his revolutionary mission to gets furious and attempts to push him off a cliff (Luke 4:29). So far the same has been true for Bernie; since the beginning of his campaign he has faced stiff opposition from the Democratic establishment and indifference from the media. And yet his candidacy remains vital and his momentum is growing. People around the country are sensing that we have an opportunity to reclaim our democracy and dignity from the multi-millionaires and billionaires. Jesus' opponents try to push him off a cliff, but the scripture says that "he passes through the midst of them and goes on his way" (Luke 4:30). May Bernie, also, continue on his way.

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