Bernie Sanders Is the Most Christian Candidate in History

Yes, I do believe that health care is a human right. Yes, I do believe that gainful education is a basic human right. We are not granted these rights from "The Market," or from our navigation of it. These are birthrights. To my Christian friends who believe that the so-called Free Market provides a structure in which the "you don't work, you don't eat" hardscrabble bootstrap economy works itself out perfectly, I want to ask you to consider something.

Matthew 6:

"26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you--you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

What is Jesus saying here? Certainly, the birds of the air do indeed work for their survival: they hunt, they gather, they build. But they find their needs sated in nature, a nature we Christians believe was fashioned by Love. It's not that the birds don't toil. They do. But after they've finished toiling, they eat. They don't toil and then have to go buy goods and services in a rigged market economy that only really benefits the birds at the top. The sparrow and the eagle both work, yes, but their reward is their sustenance, and it's all taken from nature. They're not rewarded with bits of metal and paper, or a string of 1's and 0's that they must then successfully wager in a secondary marketplace for the most basic needs of food, shelter, and, to be frank, birdhood. No. They work, they sing, they shelter, they eat.

We, on the other hand, enter the Market as laborers and get no direct benefit from that transaction in terms of sustenance. We take the meager earnings (meager compared to the CPI and to increased productivity over the last 50 years) we've managed to negotiate from a place of weakness (what ever happened to peace through strength? Compared to the interests really running our economy, we are all negotiating bad deals out of fear and from weakness), and then take those wages to a Secondary Marketplace for everything from food to shelter to basic education, all essential elements for the pursuits of life and liberty, let alone happiness (a human life lived with dignity in which we as human beings have access to all we need to survive). We are, in effect, being taxed twice by the so-called "Free Market," first in the Labor Market and then in the Secondary Marketplace of essential goods and services.

The birds and the flowers have access to their essentials without passing through either market. They negotiate directly with nature through the work they do in nature, and nature (God), provides. This is what Jesus is saying. Why are we, as humans, cut off from direct or relatively direct access to the essentials we need? Some of my Christian friends will say that it's because of original sin, of being kicked out of a literal or metaphorical Garden of Eden. Even if that's true, don't Jesus' words teach us that the ancient Hebrews' account of the fall of humankind is descriptive rather than prescriptive? We have here in Genesis the understanding that our back-breaking work is due in part to this Fall from God's good equilibrium. But what if the message of the ancients is that this Fall is, itself, the tendency of some of us to horde all things for ourselves? That's what Adam and Eve did, after all. They took more than Enough. So the wisdom from Genesis is that faithful human beings found themselves asking the same questions we ask: why is it so damn hard to get by? Why do we toil the way we do, even when Jesus clearly has a better vision in mind? Why do we work through not one but two rigged markets, and why are so many of us, even when we try, still living in poverty? Why are 1 in 4 kids in the richest nation in history going hungry every day? Why? The ancient faithful realized they'd come to live in a system imposed by the greed of a few, in their case, let's call those few "Adam and Eve." In Jesus' time, it was religious and political and imperial elites. It's the same for us, now. The Adam and Eves, that is, the everyday greed in all of us, and The Powers That Be.

In this election, don't be so surprised that the person most in keeping with the prophetic vision of Jesus is a so-called secular Jew. Bernie Sanders is standing with the ancient Hebrew prophets and in the tradition of our Lord, Jesus the marginalized Jew, but, unlike some other populist candidates, he's not running a campaign of identity politics. As a Christian, I cannot judge the hearts of others claiming to also follow Christ, but am also taught that the faithful will be known by their fruits. Bernie Sanders may be a secular Jew by the standards of the media or by other modern indentifiers, but he may just also be the most Christian person running for president, maybe ever.