Is God relevant? To whom and for whom do you pray?
These were the questions lobbed to Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton by a local guest questioner toward the end of last night’s Democratic Presidential Debate in Flint, Michigan. Here is the transcript from that portion of the debate, and a short video clip of Sanders’ response. (The full debate transcript is here.)
QUESTION: Senator Sanders, do you believe that God is relevant, why or why not?
SANDERS: Well, I think — well, the answer is yes, and I think when we talk about God whether it is Christianity, or Judaism, or Islam, or Buddhism, what we are talking about is what all religions hold dear. And, that is to do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.
I am here tonight, and I’m running for president. I’m a United States Senator from my great state of Vermont because I believe that, because I believe morally and ethically we do not have a right to turn our backs on children in Flint, Michigan who are being poisoned, or veterans who are sleeping out on the street.
SANDERS: What I believe as the father of seven beautiful grandchildren, I want you to worry about my grandchildren, and I promise you I will worry about your family. We are in this together.
COOPER: Senator Sanders, let me just follow up. Just this weekend there was an article I read in the Detroit News saying that you keep your Judaism in the background, and that’s disappointing some Jewish leaders. Is that intentional?
SANDERS: No. I am very proud to be Jewish, and being Jewish is so much of what I am.
Look, my father’s family was wiped out by Hitler in the Holocaust. I know about what crazy and radical, and extremist politics mean. I learned that lesson as a tiny, tiny child when my mother would take me shopping, and we would see people working in stores who had numbers on their arms because they were in Hitler’s concentration camp.I am very proud of being Jewish, and that is an essential part of who I am as a human being.
COOPER: Denise has a question for Secretary Clinton. Denise
QUESTION: Yes. Secretary Clinton, during our church services, we pray for the president of the United States, we pray for the armed forces, we pray for all civil authorities, three times during our liturgy. And we give thanks to them. We pray for our loved ones. We pray for our enemies. To whom and for whom do you pray?
CLINTON: Well, I have been several times in your services and have joined in those prayers and have also been privileged to lead them in some settings. I pray very specifically for people whom I know by name. People who either have gone through or are experiencing difficult times, illness, divorce, death, disappointment, all of the life experiences that confront most of us.
I pray for the will of God to be known that we can know it and to the best of our limited ability, try to follow it and fulfill it. I have said many times that, you know, I am a praying person, and if I haven’t been during the time I was in the White House, I would have become one. Because it’s very hard to imagine living under that kind of pressure without being able to fall back on prayer and on my faith.
So I do pray for people in authority. I try to think about what they are going through, even when I disagree with them. Trying to find some common ground, some common understanding that perhaps can make me more empathetic. I don’t always succeed. I will tell you that.
So I pray on a pretty regular basis during the day, because I need that strength and I need that support. And especially when you are in the position that I’m in and that Senator Sanders is in, where you are asking people to vote for you, to give you the most important job, not only in our country, but I would argue in the world.
I think humility is one of the most important attributes that you bring to both that seeking and then if you’re fortunate enough, to that holding of office and that’s what I will try to do.