Bern-ing Pragmatism or, Why It Does Not Matter What Bernie Believes About God

What Bernie Sanders believes about God does not matter. However, what he believes about god may.

God or god?

My friend Marty set me to thinking with his post, What does Bernie Sanders believe about God? Notice, Marty did not say whether or not it mattered. Instead he looked for what Senator Sanders may or may not have said about his belief in God. Most, if not all, Evangelicals think it matters what a candidate believes about God. Except for those that stump for Trump.

Those Evangelical Trumpeters remind their critics, “We are not voting for Pastor-in-Chief.” True enough. Let’s keep our eyes out to see how these same aggressively nuanced Evangelicals respond to Sanders and his spirituality as they support The Donald.

When we type, or write, God, most generally make reference to Deity. Without doubt Evangelicals reference God revealed in Jesus. Whether it follows they are faithful to Jesus is for observers to decide.

Typing, or writing, god generally points to other than Deity. The lower case g might be used by Evangelicals identifying idols, that which one devotes ultimate allegiance to other than Deity.

Considering whether it matters what Sanders believes about God or god describes two different, and revealing issues.

Pragmatic Evangelicals

If the current campaign season reveals anything about Evangelicals, it exposes a deep rooted American Pragmatism. I cannot take credit for this connection. During a FB chat with my friend Guy we discussed a recent podcast guest’s analysis of the philosophical root of naive materialism. He, Guy, wondered why, “the complete absence of any reference to the American philosophical tradition par excellence: pragmatism.”

Greg Horton, one among many Religion observer-writer-reporters, often points out, as a criticism, Christians, particularly we of the Evangelical variety, seem more given to pragmatism than to Jesus. This simply means we prefer what works over what is righteous, even faithful.

The race to choose a candidate who could defeat any Democratic nominee gives us Crump, a nod to the way Terry Eagleton often referenced common ideologues Dawkins and Hitchens. Trump and Cruz so share a core ideology, they may as well share a name. One cares little about a religious veneer while the other may be often found inserting Christian references to his victories or positions. His victory in Iowa came with, “Joy comes in the morning.”

Too often church leaders face the choice between what is faithful to Jesus and what works. A recent conversation with a friend who works on immigration illustrates. Often a leader or pastor will remark how much they agree with policy, practice, even legislation that aims at helping the other, the neighbor among us. But, when it comes down to actually vocally supporting such work they note it would not be expedient. Or, in other parlance, “It won’t work for my job.”

Some will feel this too critical, but “what works” is the emphasis of many a Christian leadership conference. The Scriptures emphasize faithfulness. In the end, it was not Jesus’ success that cost him his life, it was his faithfulness. I have often told young pastors what my mentor often told me, with just a little less conscience, it is easy to draw a crowd.

Bern-ing god

Most Evangelicals find Sanders a bridge too far. One of my friends often says, “There is no one Left of Bernie.” Most of the indigestion Evangelicals feel over the Bern is his Democratic Socialism, that includes his support of abortion. Has anyone ever stopped and considered that every single subsidy is an illustration of redistribution? Such would include farm subsidies, and corporate tax breaks.

The point of this post is not to stump for Bernie or point up the values of Democratic Socialism, but to suggest no other candidate as of yet is working to challenge god, American Pragmatism. How so?

Marty provided Bernie’s quote from this piece,

“To me, it [God] means that all of us are connected, all of life is connected, and that we are all tied together.”

American Pragmatism, god, fueling rugged individualism inherent in the American DNA, propels the Left and the Right. Maybe Sanders’ spirituality, his faith, funds his imagination that policy ought to reflect what is best of those whipsawed by American Pragmatism. Could be he had no intention to make the connection. But, what if he did? If so, he is the only candidate that by the operation of his campaign and his policy goals aims at what is best for the largest number of people. Before we bring up the issue of abortion, be sure to apply consistency to all other candidates in all matters of life.

Yes, that may be pragmatic. But, it is a pragmatism of a different sort. He points to the way we are all connected. Here is how I put it for our local newspaper,

It is hard not to pay attention to what gets our attention during this election cycle. Take for instance the polling data that demonstrates that Evangelical Christians support Trump and Cruz who think the solution to ISIS is seeing if sand would glow. Not sure where to chapter and verse that one.

Living in the reddest State in the Country means we have forgotten the days, the Woody Guthrie Days, when the Socialist Party found many supporters prior to and after Statehood. How about those good old days?

Enter Bernie Sanders. No one knows quite what to do with the candidate whose supporters, “Feel the Bern.”

Sanders believes were are all connected. Maybe he has in mind Kevin Bacon’s degrees of separation. If you are on Facebook, you might want to know we are down to just over 3 degrees of separation.

Maybe we could translate Bernie’s point by looking at the question posed to Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” The answer given is more like, “Who is NOT your neighbor?” Oops. Jesus just crashed our thinking that any and all decisions only affect ourselves.

Don’t look now, but we have many policies and tax breaks in our Country that undercut our allergic reactions to thinking about how we help others. Maybe the Spirit is sneaking this one in on us.

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About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.