November 6, 2019 | From Christian Headlines
A self-described secular Jew, Bernie Sanders has been described by some election watchers as one of the least religious presidential candidates since Abraham Lincoln, an ardent Bible reader who shunned organized religion. But trying to pigeon hole Sanders’ religious beliefs would be a mistake as his views—and messaging—are complicated, in part by his own hesitancy to discuss the matter.
Pray for the leaders running for the Democratic nomination.
Much of what we do know emanated from the 2016 election, in which he challenged Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.
Here are 5 things to know about Bernie Sanders’ faith:
According to a 2016 article by CNN, Sanders rarely discusses his faith and “grows impatient with reporters who try to pry open his soul or delve into his Jewish background.” The network did determine that Sanders and his brother, Larry, attended Hebrew school at an Orthodox Synagogue where they studied the Torah.
The Washington Post also reported in 2016 that the Sanders family participated in Passover Seders that rotated among neighbors and, as a teen, Sanders was bar mitzvahed and traveled to Israel to work on a kibbutz. His time on the “agrarian Israeli collective solidified Sanders’ faith in socialism,” CNN reported, adding, however, that it apparently did not deepen his relationship with organized Judaism.
During his first presidential campaign it was revealed that Sanders did not belong to a prayer group and was not a member of any synagogue, saying, “I am not actively involved in organized religion.
“I think everyone believes in God in their own ways. To me, it means that all of us are connected, all of life is connected, and that we are all tied together.”
His own brother, Larry, summed it up in just six words.
“He is quite substantially not religious,” the older sibling said.
CNN, in fact, said Sanders contradicted himself during one of its town halls when the Vermont senator declared, “It’s a guiding principle in my life, absolutely. You know, everyone practices religion in a different way. To me, I would not be here tonight, I would not be running for president of the United States if I did not have very strong religious and spiritual feelings.”
Also during that campaign, Sanders responded to his faith during a TV interview with ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel in which the host asked the candidate if he believed in God.
“Well, you know, I am who I am,” Sanders said, referencing the Old Testament exchange between God and Moses at the site of the burning bush. “And what I believe in, what my spirituality is about, is that we’re all in this together—that I think it’s not a good thing to believe, as human beings, that we can turn our backs on the suffering of other people.”
“And this is not Judaism,” Sanders added. “This is what Pope Francis is talking about: That we cannot worship just billionaires and the making of more and more money. Life is more than that.”
CNN source Susan Jacoby, a secular historian, assessed his response to Kimmel, saying, “It was the answer of someone who is a secular humanist but doesn’t call himself that.”
Just this September, a member of Sanders’ staff elaborated on the 2020 hopeful’s beliefs in an article in the Washington Examiner.
“He believes that, as a human being, the pain that one person feels, if we have children who are hungry in America, if we have elderly people who can’t afford their prescription drugs, you know what, that impacts you, that impacts him,” the spokesperson said. “That’s his very strong spiritual feeling, and that influences his approach to public policy.”
According to a supporters’ website, Feel the Bern, “Bernie Sanders supports people’s right to freely congregate, practice, and express their faith. To protect both personal religious freedoms and civic equality, Bernie advocates for the separation of church and state, which allows Americans to honor diversity, respect personal autonomy, and voluntarily choose to practice or abstain from religious faith.”
The site said Sanders also believes “public laws ought to be independent of any one particular faith to maximize religious freedoms for all.” But those protections, in his view, end when it comes to perceived discrimination.
“Religious freedom is not a right to discriminate,” according to Feel the Bern.
That philosophy drove Sanders to vote against the 2001 Community Solutions Act, “which allows federal funds to go to religious organizations that proselytize while providing social services and that engage in employment discrimination based on religion.”
He also opposed the 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, which ruled business owners cannot be forced to provide contraceptive coverage through the Affordable Care Act if doing so violates their religious beliefs.
(Excerpt from Christian Headlines. Article by Lori Arnold.)