Defending marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose an abortion, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders lectures conservative Christians on morality at the world’s largest Christian college.
Speaking Monday at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, a blunt and plainspoken Sanders stated:
The views that many at Liberty University have, and I have, on a number of important issues, are very, very different. I believe in women’s rights and the right of a woman to control her own body. I believe in gay rights and gay marriage. Those are my views and it is no secret.
Sanders, striking a more conciliatory tone, continued:
But I came here today because I believe from the bottom of my heart that it is vitally important for those of us who hold different views to be able to engage in a civil discourse.
Appealing to so-called “Christian values,” and even quoting scripture at times, Sanders sought to frame the fight against inequality as a moral obligation, connecting issues such as poverty, income disparity and racism with a biblical call for justice and righteousness. Sanders said:
When we talk about morality and when we talk about justice, we have to, in my view, understand that there is no justice when so few have so much and so many have so little;
If we are honest in striving to be a moral and just society, it is imperative that we have the courage to stand with the poor, to stand with working people, and when necessary, take on very powerful and wealthy people whose greed, in my view, is doing this country enormous harm.
Later Sanders responded to a question from a Liberty University student who asked:
Sen. Sanders, you have talked in your campaign about how it is immoral to protect the billionaire class at the expense of the most vulnerable in society — children. A majority of Christians would agree with you, but would also go further and say that children in the womb need our protection even more. How do you reconcile the two in your mind?
I understand that, but I do also understand this is an area where we disagree. I do understand and I do believe that it is improper for the United States government or for state government to tell every woman in this country the very painful and difficult choice that she has to make on that issue.
And I honestly don’t want to be too provocative here, but very often conservatives say, ‘Well, you know, get the government out of my life! I don’t want the government telling me what to do.’
But on this very sensitive issue on which this nation is divided, my view is I respect absolutely a family that says, ‘No, we are not going to have an abortion,’ I understand that, I respect that. But I would hope that other people will respect the very painful and difficult choice that many women feel they have to make and don’t want the government telling them what to do.
After defending a woman’s right to choose an abortion, Sanders continued by pointing out the hypocrisy of anti-abortion Republicans who claim to support children:
I want to tell you what was in the Republican budget that passed some months ago.
When you talk about issues of children, understand the Republican budget threw 27 million people off of health care, including many children, at a time when many families cannot afford to send their kids to college.
At a time when children in America are going hungry, the Republican budget cut billions of dollars in nutrition programs, including money for the WIC program, which goes to low income pregnant women and their babies. And to add insult to injury in that budget, the Republicans provided over $250 billion over a 10-year period in tax breaks to the top two tenths of one percent.
I don’t think that is a moral budget.
In other words, Sanders politely told the conservative Christian audience that by opposing abortion they are not pro-life, or even pro-child, they are simply pro-fetus, and ultimately anti-woman.
Also during the question-and-answer session after his speech, Sanders was asked what he would do to end racism. Sanders said:
I would hope and I believe that every person in this room today understands that it is unacceptable to judge people, to discriminate against people based on the color of their skin.
And I would also say that as a nation — the truth is, that a nation which in many ways was created, and I’m sorry to have to say this, from way back on racist principles, that’s a fact — we have come a long way as a nation.
If one ignores everything else Sanders said, this one fact, that Sanders acknowledged that the U.S. was founded on “racist principles,” is a remarkable statement from an American politician.
In summary, Sanders went to the world’s largest Christian University and defended gay rights, and a woman’s right to choose, while pointing out that Republican policies towards the poor and marginalized fail to honor their so-called “Christian values,” while also reminding Christian conservatives of the sad but often ignored truth that America was founded on “racist principles.”
If one listens closely, one can hear the heads of conservative Christians exploding. #FeelTheBern