By Jeremy John. Originally posted on glassdimly.com.
Poll numbers are like profits for politicians. And in some sense, this is what has gone wrong with the American election cycle: politicians have become scientists who cast their stances machine-part by part until they assemble the perfect election-bot.
If that weren’t enough, the politician’s views are surveyed and staked, a deed is drawn up, and each of the views that won the election are sold to the money-changers that funded the victory. In the words of the prophet Micah, “Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money,” Micah 3:11.
So where in this system does the prophetic politician fit? The politician whose views are not for sale. The politician whose perspective is continually formed by those on the margins of power. The politician formed by the people living paycheck-to-paycheck, people of color, the people of the LGBTQ community.
Because do not doubt that if you gain some measure of success, power, or money, you will be pulled away. Your friends will be solvent people whose lives do not revolve around scraping together money for car repairs, are not arrested for Driving While Black, and are not fired for cross-dressing.
But is it easy to listen to the margins? No. The system will always be more respectable than its outcasts; power has its own charisma. As a person grows more successful they will find new friends and new donors. In the context of systemic power, the struggle of the Christian is to listen continually to the ever diminishing voices of the margins, to remain aliens in the land of the powerful.
I am not a person attracted to electoral politics: there is little room for truth and less room for faith. I have been at one time jailed for civil disobedience, I have been an Occupier, and I have been an activist for income equality through food access. So view what I say through that lens.
Jesus tells us what it takes to enter heaven, “‘…for I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me,’” Matthew 25:35.
And Jesus will surprise us with his choices–we cannot and will not know who is “Christian:” “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” Matthew 7:21-23
So let’s not talk about “Christians.” Let’s talk about a Christian politic: one that cares for the poor and outcast.
I watched the DNC stand with George W. Bush in support of the Iraq War, summoning the hell bombs of “Shock and Awe” to rain down on Baghdad. Those bombs that fell on ordinary people ultimately created an equal and opposite terror: ISIS. I watched as Barack Obama signed the 4 trillion dollar bailout of the banking class into law–without condition that ordinary Americans would keep their homes. Eight homes stand abandoned on my block. Why wasn’t a fraction of that four trillion given to homeowners facing foreclosure, to be passed through to banks? I’ve talked to men and women that lost their homes, and I will tell you that nobody spoke for them.
There’s more. So many more struggles. I’m not going to list them here and go wonk on you.
I’m tired of the Democratic Party machine. We can all speculate why it’s turned to Wall Street, militarism, and mass incarceration, but I believe that so long as Citizens’ United stands and unlimited corporate monies pour into the election cycle, we will plant seeds that yield strange fruit.
Bernie Sanders is clear-and-away the Christian choice for president. He began his political career organizing for civil rights and was arrested during a sit-in. That’s prophetic. And when you listen to his speeches over the years, his words are likewise prophetic (left). Not in the sense of “predicting the future,” but in the sense of speaking timeless truth to power–the Biblical meaning of the word. And why wouldn’t he sound like a Hebrew prophet? He is a Jew, raised on the Hebrew Scriptures.
Contrast this with Bernie Sanders’ fierce opposition to the Iraq War in 2003, opposition to mass incarceration as early as 1994, or his grilling of Alan Greenspan far in advance of the economic collapse (right). You can watch people in the audience mocking him as he challenges a financial system that would collapse in just four years. It takes courage to stand up for what you know in the face of the system’s respectability. Bernie Sanders has stood the test of time and remained faithful to those at the margins. A Christian is one who does the will of God and does justice, despite the mockery of the status quo.
I did not understand why Democrats voted for the Iraq War at the time, but we owe the current political disaster of that region to the blood that flows from that wound. “When you stretch out your hands I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.” Isaiah 1:15
Hillary Clinton is a woman, and, were all things equal, my vote would be swayed to her by that fact. And there are many who point out that Hillary Clinton is a good and kind person who advocates pragmatically for positions she believes in. I don’t doubt it. But sometimes the world makes us pick our friends, and I believe she has chosen the rich and the powerful ones.
Whatever you believe, God calls us to the margins:
“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings
from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow.”
Sometime in high school Jeremy John accidentally ate the red pill instead of the more harmless blue one, and has been an activist ever since.
In 2003, he spent six months in prison for civil disobedience while working to close the School of the Americas, converting to Christianity while imprisoned. He started the Food and Faith Network at the Quixote Center, building grassroots alternative food economies in faith institutions.
Jeremy is currently writing a dystopian science fiction novel, and building a website that will connect farms and churches, mosques, and synagogues to buy fresh vegetables directly and distribute them on a sliding scale to those in need.
Jeremy is a totally untrained and unqualified theologian working to build a praxis-informed Christianity that can disrupt our money-driven society with a Christ-formed “economy” of love that trickles up from the base.