Bernie Sanders: How he sees the religious revival
“Listen, Bernie got to get saved, he got to meet Jesus,” observed Pastor Mark Burns last week in Hickory, North Carolina.
Burns is a televangelist supporting Donald Trump. As part of his warm-up act for the Trump campaign rally on the eve of the March 15th North Carolina primary, Burns asked rhetorically, increduously, “Bernie Sanders — who doesn’t believe in God?”
Burns may have been off script, but mixing religion and politics is nothing new for the Trump campaign. At times Donald Trump has variously questioned the faith of his opponents, for example, Seventh Day Adventist Ben Carson and Baptist Ted Cruz. As if to prove Karma, just a few weeks ago Pope Francis, in an impromptu news availability aboard his Papal aircraft, appeared to question whether Trump is a Christian. In a rare instance of turning the other cheek, Trump shrewdly didn’t take the bait. Actually the Holy Father lost points to Trump on that news cycle. Now Trump is back to a familiar theme. In Utah on Saturday, he was questioning the Mormon faith of MItt Romney, of the Church of Latter-Day Saints (LDS).
On the other hand, Pastor Burns may have stumbled onto something. Bernie would be an unlikely convert to “Jews for Jesus,” not because Bernie is Jewish, but because he isn’t. That is, it’s not simply that Bernie doesn’t believe in Jesus, it’s more likely that Bernie doesn’t believe in God. To understand Bernie as a Jew, think of a Christian who doesn’t believe in Christ.
Through his mother, Bernie is (by Jewish law) Jewish, but quite reticent until very recently. Jonathan Kopp of the Israel-bashing J-Street, explains, “Sanders seems to approach Judaism the way Obama handles being African American. It informs his identity and world view, but it doesn’t define him.” Actually Obama is all about his race, and he also has divided America along racial lines. But Bernie is a closet Jew, if that, and (Kopp is right on this) Bernie has not defined himself as a Jew.
“Being Jewish is so much of what I am,” Bernie now says — he was responding to probing during a debate last month. It turns out, though, that Bernie wants to use Judaism as a convenient (and flawed) justification for socialism. Bernie rejects virtue, from a Jewish standpoint, that a virtuous course must be freely chosen, not coerced. Bernie would use the government to enforce on everyone what he sees as virtue.
Significantly, until recently Bernie has spoken in the campaign only of his Polish origins. This is peculiar. My father was born not far from Bernie’s. My parents experienced discrimination and persecution. Like other Polish Jews who ended up in America, they wanted to forget Poland and spoke proudly only of their Jewish heritage. So did their descendants, including me. Is Bernie’s disconnect from Judaism because he is a Jew only by birth, and not remotely observant? Did he focus instead on his Polish heritage because his friends on the Left demonize Jews, but not Poles? Or was his Polish narrative, as many skeptical Jews have observed, his way of running away from his Jewish roots?
Yet, if Sanders were elected and his policies brought about the collapse of America, the Jews — not the Poles — would be scapegoated.
Bernie says he grew up in Brooklyn and saw people with numbers on their wrists. “A good part of my father’s family was killed by the Nazis,” Bernie reports, that’s how he learned that “politics is serious business.” My father left Poland years before the war, but all of his immediate family and his relatives there would perish in the Holocaust. That’s how I learned that Nazism “is serious business”; it is actually short for National Socialism.
Bernie reportedly has “prophetic sensibility,” whatever that means. Here’s the key — Bernie’s religion is socialism; self-hating Jew Karl Marx remains its false idol. Nick Wing in the Huffington Post said Bernie is “a self-described democratic socialist raised by Jewish parents.” For Bernie it is socialism that is spiritual, even if it violates the eighth commandment, “you shall not steal.”
Asked two weeks ago by reporters simply if he believes in God, Bernie replied, “All of us are connected, all of life is connected, and we are all tied together. When we say that a child who is hungry is my child, that’s my religion. That’s what I believe in.” Bernie then told a prayer breakfast a few days later that “religious people” must fight “climate change.”
Yet Bernie has shown no concern for “religious people” in the United States to practice their faith without government interference. Orthodox Jews, like religious Christians, would be required to conform by government force to Bernie’s secular agenda.
As Jay Michaelson observed in the Daily Beast, Bernie would rather not say he is an atheist. Instead, he told Jimmy Kimmel he is a “cultural Jew.” I suppose that means he goes to a deli or likes Jewish comedians. As a “cultural Jew,” Bernie uses religious people as cover. On the High Holy Day of Rosh Hashanah, Sanders was not praying at a synagogue but effectively and publicly repudiating his faith by campaigning on that sacred day. He was giving a political speech, but of all places, at Liberty University. Many students at this Christian university know more about Judaism than Bernie. That Bernie believes all religions are reducible to the Golden Rule is not preposterous, but worth discussing. But he rejects this application: “Tax others as you would want to be taxed.”
The resurrection of a failed socialism is for Bernie a religious revival. An improbable sudden expert on Catholic theology, he frequently quotes Pope Francis challenging “the idolatry of money.” Being a socialist, Bernie says, is “what the pope’s talking about…that we have to do our best and live our lives in a way that alleviates human suffering, that does not accelerate the disparities of income.” In other words, don’t be too successful; you might earn more than your neighbor.
Bernie claims to distinguish between communism and “democratic socialism.” But Hitler and his Nazi colleagues were elected on a “workers” anti-capitalist platform like Bernie’s. It is Bernie, not Trump, who resonates with the class warfare rhetoric of Germany in the 1930s. Communism simply makes socialism permanent. Perhaps that’s why Bernie’s political life has celebrated tyranny. He sung the praises of ruthless dictators like Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, whose Communist Sandinistas were nicknamed Sandernistas. Indeed, while in Nicaragua, Sanders publicly criticized his own country’s president, Ronald Reagan. As Michael Moynihan of the Daily Beast explained, Bernie also praised Nora Astorga, a Sandinista politician linked to a dissident’s murder, as a “vital and beautiful woman.”
Actor Dustin Hoffman recently broke down in tears when he learned how Soviet communists long ago had imprisoned his great grandmother because she was Jewish. Where was Bernie in the 1960s, or in the 1970s and 1980s, in the plight of persecuted Soviet Jews? Was Bernie standing with Richard Nixon, Jack Kemp or Ronald Reagan, who enabled Jews to leave Soviet tyranny?
As a young man in 1963 Bernie lived on the only pro-Communist kibbutz in Israel. He returned home to the U.S. with an attachment not to Israel, but to socialism, if not communism. Before the Soviet Union crumbled under Reagan, Bernie even went there on his honeymoon.
Bernie said he was ashamed that Israel supported President Reagan’s anti-communism. Bernie for at least two decades publicly opposed U.S. providing military assistance to Israel. He says the U.S should be neutral between Israel and Palestinian terrorists, and that the U.S. should pressure Israel. Bernie criticized Israel’s recent Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. An Obama loyalist, Bernie boycotted Bibi Netanyahu’s speech before Congress and supported the Iran deal.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is now hosting its annual conference in Washington. Bernie is the only presidential candidate who refused to speak there, though AIPAC offered to accommodate his schedule. In his letter saying he was too busy to attend, Sanders told AIPAC he is concerned about “issues impacting Israel and the Middle East.” That’s a real strong statement of support for Israel.
Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich will be there, along with Hillary Clinton. The email disclosures have revealed Hillary’s association with the anti-Israel Sidney Blumenthal and his like-minded son, Max Blumenthal, who gathered petition signatures urging Sanders to boycott AIPAC. And he did.
If there is such a thing as Jewish guilt, Bernie has it…about being Jewish. He has compared peaceful Jews fleeing the Holocaust, who had nowhere to go and wanted to assimilate in America, to Muslim refugees fleeing internecine warfare, who could settle in Arab countries and many of whom want to impose Sharia here. Campaigning in Ohio, Bernie told a voter, “I’m Jewish. You’re Muslim.” But “I’m Hindu,” the voter quickly corrected the ignorant candidate. Bernie then continued: “Hindu? And we’ve got Muslims here. And we got Latinos here.”
Last month Bernie reached out again to Israel’s adversaries, including Jim Zogby of the Arab-American Institute. “My father’s family was wiped out by Hitler in the Holocaust,” Bernie said as the reason why he must rid the U.S. of anti-Muslim attitudes. Campaigning in Florida, Sanders discussed his priority of confronting “Islamaphobia” with the regional coordinator of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), an organization is linked to Hamas, now designated as a terrorist organization.
One final point.
Jew-hater Louis Farrakhan has praised Bernie as a “real Jew.”
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