How a Socialist Jew and the Pope Are Courting Millennials

Outside of their placement in the dictionary, Vermont and the Vatican don't seem to have much in common. But last week, Vatican City extended their olive branch to the Senator from Vermont to attend a conference on economic and social issues.

How this invite landed on the Senator's desk is still unknown. Whether or not Bernie Sanders was explicitly invited by Pope Francis himself or not, the story has had the media buzzing with implications for the 2016 race.

Perhaps it was the divine message of a bird landing at Bernie Sanders' podium last month, or perhaps it's just politics. Either way, at time when most young Americans are shying away from organized religion, the convergence of these two rock star icons has the makings of a memorable event.

Considering the tremendous support of religious Christians on the Republican side, it's all the more telling that the Vatican's invitation went out to Bernie Sanders, who may be the first non-Christian to occupy the oval office.

At the risk of being excommunicated, I think it's fair to say that Pope Francis and Bernie Sanders have all the makings of a budding "bromance."

The magic of Bernie Sanders and Pope Francis is how they are able to come across as populist and anti-establishment while simultaneously standing at the peak of their establishment's hierarchy. As an older, white man in America, Bernie Sanders has somehow managed to draft off the energy and support that young politicians like Corey Booker have built for themselves. Bernie Sanders was first elected to Congress in 1991, yet one could never pin the "establishment" label on him, even after over two decades in the House and then Senate.

Similarly, Pope Francis has been seen by some as an outsider, despite the fact that he had been a high-ranking official for over a decade.

Pope Francis' rise to global prominence as the first Pope from Latin America came at a time when the Catholic Church was going through upheaval following a myriad of child abuse scandals. Somehow, Pope Francis transformed the public perception of the Vatican for the better, and has become the first Pope that millennials of all religious background can look up to for his moral compass and compassion.

There is something special about Pope Francis. He came down from the proverbial (and literal) ivory tower to become a man of the people. After centuries of pushing the world to adopt organized religion, he is the first leader to attempt to integrate religion into a changing world.

Similarly, the populist presidential candidate in Bernie Sanders is bringing politics down to an approachable level. Whether or not one labels Pope Francis as "liberal" or not, his comments on climate change, and calls for social and economic justice are resonating at the same frequency as Bernie Sanders' supporters.

Christians love Brooklyn Bernie. And Jews love Pope Francis. What a time to be alive.

Bringing millennials into the fold, whether in organized politics or organized religion, can only be successful if there is some level of "faith" to begin with.

According to a recent Pew study, millennials are the least likely to say that churches and religious organizations have a positive impact of society. Of all age groups, millennials attend religious services the least, and only half believe in God with certainty. Despite this skepticism and cynicism, that same survey showed that millennials are still deeply spiritual and curious about the wonders of the universe. While millennials might say that they pray less than older generations, the percentage of millennials who believe in the afterlife is roughly equal to Generation X and Baby Boomers.

Young Americans may be less religiously affiliated, but that's arguably not due to a lack of faith but in a lack of faith in the message of organized religion.

The same can be said of millennial support for Bernie Sanders. After eight years of Barack Obama's presidency, millennials had become jaded by Washington, and frustrated by a political system that could not turn "Hope and Change" into more actionable results.

Both Bernie Sanders and Pope Francis are occasionally at odds with the institutions that they represent. The Vatican and the DNC are certainly not as enthusiastic of the liberal messages that both leaders are espousing, but failure to accept their new followers with open arms will be a massive blunder and missed opportunity.

There has never before been a rock star Pope. And there's never been a Jewish-American with a real shot at the White House.

Said comedian Bill Maher on Friday, "I think it's kinda cool that the Pope recognized a fellow socialist."

Feel the berning bush.