While the Republican Presidential candidates are tripping over each other to get the attention of evangelicals, Bernie Sanders is making his case as the least overtly religious candidate we’ve seen in a long time.
When asked by comedian Jimmy Kimmel about his faith, Sanders said, “I am who I am.”
In January, he told the Washington Post, “I am not actively involved with organized religion.”
And then, a couple of nights ago, during a televised Town Hall meeting on CNN, he gave host Chris Cuomo perhaps the most humanistic answer yet regarding what he believes, repeating a line he said on Kimmel’s show about how we’re all intertwined:
… Every great religion in the world — Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism — essentially comes down to: “Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.” What I have believed in my whole life — I believed it when I was a 22-year-old kid getting arrested in Chicago fighting segregation — I’ve believed it in my whole life.
That we are in this together — not just, not words. The truth is at some level when you hurt, when your children hurt, I hurt. I hurt. And when my kids hurt, you hurt. And it’s very easy to turn our backs on kids who are hungry, or veterans who are sleeping out on the street, and we can develop a psyche, a psychology which is “I don’t have to worry about them; all I’m gonna worry about is myself; I need to make another 5 billion dollars.”
But I believe that what human nature is about is that everybody in this room impacts everybody else in all kinds of ways that we can’t even understand. It’s beyond intellect. It’s a spiritual, emotional thing. So I believe that when we do the right thing, when we try to treat people with respect and dignity, when we say that that child who is hungry is my child, I think we are more human when we do that, than when we say “hey, this whole world is me, I need more and more, I don’t care about anyone else.” That’s my religion. That’s what I believe in.
And I think most people around the world — whatever their religion, their color — share that belief. That we are in it together as human beings. And it becomes more and more practical. If we destroy the planet because we don’t deal with climate change. Trust me, we are all in it together… and that is what my spirituality is about.
It’s honest. It’s sensible. And it didn’t include the word “God” once.
Even if he’s Jewish on paper, Bernie Sanders is showing us how a non-religious candidate could become electable. It’s not about dismissing or denigrating religion. It’s about promoting the secular values we all cherish.
There are plenty of good reasons to support Sanders, but his ability to refrain from pandering to religious voters when that would be so damn easy to do has to be near the top of my list.