Why a Pro-Life Christian Supports Bernie Sanders

Today I’m happy to feature fellow political junkie, Lucas Jackson, as a guest blogger. Lucas takes on the oh-so-sensitive issues of both abortion and politics, and makes a strong argument for why he, a pro-life Christian, is voting for a pro-choice candidate, Bernie Sanders. Lucas and I would love to hear your thoughts on this; you can leave your take on the issue in the comment section below. And if you want to contact Lucas personally, you can reach him at jacksonlucas149@gmail.com. Enjoy!

Why a Pro-LIfe Christian Supports Bernie Sanders
By Lucas Jackson

Jesus isn’t running for president.

Neither is Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr. or Gandhi. Dietrich Bonhoffer and William Wilberforce also aren’t on the ballot.

No matter who we support he or she will be very flawed.

I’ve watched almost every debate, followed the political cycle religiously and read up on the candidates’ records extensively.

And my takeaway is that the candidate who best embodies my values as a Christian – and it’s honestly not that close – is Bernie Sanders. And while my perspective below is a Christian one, I feel strongly that much of it may resonate with people of other faiths or more secular backgrounds.

Make no mistake – Bernie Sanders’ position on abortion troubles me, and his rhetoric on that issue is largely unhelpful. He calls pro-life Republicans “extremists” and gives no ground to the other side. Marco Rubio showed the type of dialogue the abortion issue in our country so desperately needs at the Republican debate Saturday night, saying that he recognized the right of women to control their own bodies and respected that right but views it as less than the right of an unborn child to life.

But the reality is that the Supreme Court is not going to fundamentally change abortion in America – only a revolution in our political and economic systems will.

Our political system must change because right now it gives us two parties that selectively choose when life matters. We need a realignment that brings together people of conscience on the right and left. But it also must change because it’s corrupt, and our government, like any of us, cannot serve two masters. Abortion will be sacrificed like any other non-financial issue to political expediency when the powers that be (for lack of a better phrase) decree it.

We need an economic revolution that puts the needs of people first and gives women and families the resources they need to both prevent unwanted pregnancy and reduce the economic hardship associated with having a baby and raising a child.

Sanders is not perfect. In most ways he has not yet converted his message of anger at Wall Street and Washington into a hopeful, unifying message of what the future in America can be. He has not elaborated on his foreign policy views nearly enough and stumbled when asked about them in the last debate. As far as my views on gun control are concerned, he’s not as strong as Hillary Clinton.

But Sanders is running a campaign that resonates with my most deeply held Christian values – loving our enemies, serving the least of these, telling the truth, acting with humility. When Jesus overturns the money changers’ tables in the Temple, Sanders says “exactly,” he doesn’t say “yes, but what could they offer me in the way of campaign contributions or speaking fees?” When Jesus says “love your enemies,” Sanders passes up opportunity after opportunity to take advantage of political moments to attack his main rival. He will not run a negative ad. He doesn’t have a Super PAC to run one for him.

When given the chance to savage Clinton – already struggling with the issue of trustworthiness – over her State Department emails, Sanders said “enough about the damn emails.” When confronted about his staff accessing Clinton campaign data, Sanders offered an explanation of what happened and noted he’d fired the staffer. When the debate moderator persisted and said “will you apologize?” there was an audible gasp when Sanders turned to Clinton and said, “Yes. I’m sorry.” Politicians just don’t do that.

When Jesus and page after page of scripture calls us to walk humbly before our God, Sanders seems to be the only political candidate in either party whose campaign is based on something other than “look how great I am.” He rarely praises himself. When he talks about his record, it’s usually to defend it or emphasize facts. Compare that to the other candidates in both parties and the contrast is surprisingly shocking. He is campaigning on an idea, not for his own glory. (I personally think Rand Paul in many ways matched Sanders in this respect, but he’s no longer running.)

And my God, he tells the truth. He does seem to avoid exaggerating or twisting facts, but what is really remarkable is that for all the criticism that his health care and anti-poverty proposals are “unicorns and rainbows,” he’s actually got it exactly right – he says clearly that he can’t get these proposals passed under the current Congress, that the only way we are going to fundamentally change our country is if millions of Americans engage in the political process and demand change. He’s right.

I admit, I also agree with a lot of his policies. Wall Street tanked our economy and controls our political system. Our criminal justice system and economy are corrupt and racially unjust. Climate change is real, almost certainly man-made, and serious. And so on.

But what attracts me to him most of all isn’t that I agree with his solutions, it’s that he’s addressing the actual problems in our society. Agree or disagree with his proposals to fix these problems. But what must be recognized is that Bernie Sanders is offering solutions that actually meet those problems head on, rather than solutions that are politically expedient.

I find his message of revolution to be deeply Christian. Jesus’ message was one of radical love. President Jesus would not accept millions of children living in poverty. He would not accept 30 million Americans without health insurance. He wouldn’t accept the greed and corruption on Wall Street and in our political system.

And that’s what’s so important about Sanders – his message isn’t just that we should fight child poverty, it’s that we shouldn’t accept the idea that poor children are a fact of life. In that sense, he’s not just challenging economic policies or political realities, he’s challenging the fundamental assumptions that underline our political system and our society. That’s what’s so radical – and so Christian – about Sanders.

In challenging our political system, he’s begun to recognize that the solution to our problems doesn’t lie solely on his side of the political spectrum. He’s winning independents who are voting in the Democratic primaries. In New Hampshire, where some undecided voters are choosing between Sanders and Trump, he’s recognizing that our disastrous trade policies have devastated working families on the right and left. There’s space there to forge an unlikely coalition, the type a corporate, pro-trade Democrat like Clinton could never forge. And Sanders went to Liberty University and spoke eloquently about the possibility of working together to fight poverty even when there’s disagreement on abortion and gay marriage. It would have been easy for him to reject the invitation from Jerry Falwell Jr. to attend. But he went.

There are other candidates with redeeming qualities. John Kasich has a unifying message in an otherwise angry primary field. Chris Christie deserves enormous credit for talking about how being pro-life means being pro-life for people after they’re born, like the 16-year old drug addict lying on the floor of Juvenile Hall. “I’m pro-life for her,” Christie said.

Ultimately, we need a President who will challenge the idea that childhood poverty is acceptable. Who will unify people across religious and political lines, rather than turn politics into a team sport. Who will govern effectively with the Congress he or she has, but inspire and lead the country to elect the Congress it deserves. Who will stand up and say that the dignity of human life must be protected, all human life, from the womb to the villages of Iraq and Afghanistan to death row to the streets of Chicago. A President who understands that family values include letting women bond with their baby after it’s born rather than sending them back to work three minimum wage jobs within a week or so after giving birth. A President who radically rethinks how we interact with the rest of the world. A President who is actually pro-life and not “pro-birth,” and understands that abortion rates decline when we address poverty, when we take care of mothers and families, when we end the school to prison pipeline that destroys families.

Until that President comes along, the best I can do is Feel the Bern. And there’s no shame in that.

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Evolving Faith: An Interview With Sarah Bessey

Today we hear from award-winner blogger and author of Jesus Feminist, Sarah Bessey. Sarah’s latest book, Out of Sorts, recounts her journey through an evolving faith, ending not with the finality of a concise resolution and tidy list of how-tos, but rather the firmly held belief that while Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, she—and we—should be continuously questioning, changing, and growing in relationship with Christ. Sarah’s raw and honest retelling of her evolving relationship with the Church, with religion, and with Christ serves not as memoir, but rather as Sarah’s encouragement to others to embrace their own meandering paths without fear as they work their way through a hopefully-unending evolution of faith.

1) You write that when you were in your twenties, you stopped being a Christian because you didn’t want to be associated with the Church. It seemed to you that in the Church, one could be a Christian without being a disciple of Christ. How do we put Jesus back into Christianity? Into the Church?

For me, everything was reoriented on Jesus and that changed everything. I think for too long we’ve made Jesus just one character or episode in the Bible. If we want to see God, we look to Jesus. In Hebrews 1:3, the writer says that Jesus is the exact representation of the Father. So I think that if we could recapture that centrality of Christ in our churches through our teaching, our worship, our way of life, well then, what would change? For me, a lot of things changed. My opinions, my preferences, my work, my purpose, my reading of Scripture, my place in community, and so on. We aren’t bringing Jesus into our lives: he’s welcoming us into his life. Years later, I still feel like the only place that makes sense is in his presence, the only place I want to be is in the dust of his feet.

2) You once again consider yourself a Christian, and presumably a disciple of Christ. To that end, how do Jesus’ teachings impact your day-to-day life? Is there a particular area of discipleship you struggle with more than others?

You can read the rest of my interview with Sarah at Red Letter Christians.

Guest Post: It Is Not Impossible!

A church friend of mine, Bill Mitchell, had some thoughts about Santa, God, and Christmas that he wanted to share with others in these days leading to the celebration of Christ’s birth. So today I’m sharing his words here. I’m sure he’d love to hear your thoughts; I encourage you to post a comment letting Bill know what you think about his reflection!

I was thinking about the idea of Santa Claus. I was thinking about how children, as they come of age, come to the realization that it is impossible for one person, in one night, to visit every single household in the world and leave a gift for all of the children and adults at every one.

When a child begins to think about the impossibility of all this in the real world, and in real time, then it is time for that child to know that there is no Santa Claus. Santa Claus is a myth, a story made up to enhance and enchant the Christmas season, a way to establish pleasant and anticipatory memories. This is great! But there is much more. The lesson of Christmas that we pass on to our children, as they pass from the mystical world of children to the belief world of adulthood, is tied to our belief and the future of the Christian Faith. Will they view Christmas as a hedonistic orgy of excess or the celebration of Gods’ gift to the world?

I am sure that many others have seen and/or written about the similarities of the Santa Claus myth and the birth of Jesus. When we make the transition from childhood mysticism to spiritual awakening, in a way that transforms the mystical myth of Santa Clause into a belief that there is a God, we will have fulfilled a generations old tradition of helping our youth become loving, caring and compassionate adults. This is our responsibility as parents, as grandparents and us all. It is our responsibility as Christians. We must pass on, to the next generation, our Christian values and ethics and our belief that spiritual seeking is a rewarding and important part of life. This is what makes God real.

Here are some similarities between the Santa Claus myth and Christian spiritual belief:

1.) Myth: Santa visits every household on earth on Christmas Eve.

Belief: God can be with us all everywhere and all of the time.

2.) Myth: Santa leaves a gift for each person at each house on Christmas Eve.

Belief: God’s gifts of hope and love, through a child, are given to us all.

3.) Myth: Santa wears a suit of pure white and deep red.

Belief: Jesus represents the white light of God and the red blood of humanity.

4.) Myth: Santa drives a sleigh that is propelled by reindeer.

Belief: Gods’ love, is delivered through Jesus and His deciples, us.

5.) Myth: Santa’s’ gifts are made by elves.

Belief: We, the elves, make Gods’ gifts of hope and love for all.

6.) Myth: Santa lives in a pristine polar environment that is pure and unspoiled.

Belief: It is our responsibility to be at peace with the creation.

7.) Myth: Santa expects us to be good and behave well throughout the year.

Belief: God expects us to do good and behave well throughout the year.

In the context of contemporary Christian spiritual foundations, the leap, from a belief in Santa Claus to a belief in a God, is an easy bridge to cross.

We have Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus, Gods’ gift to us, which is now called, euphemistically, the holiday season. But, this ‘holy day’ season means or should mean much more to Christians. For Christians, Christmas is a solemn and joyous celebratory ritual. It gives us the marvelous opportunity to tell a story about our belief in God. Through this story, we can make the connection for the next generation, and intellectually engage our children, and convey to them our values as Christians. This is the true gift of Christmas. Spiritual awakening is a very precious and valuable gift. When people pursue spirituality and faith we accomplish the good that comes from this undertaking.

This is the Good that Santa requires and that God expects of us.

It Is Not Impossible!!

Loving Hard: In Memory of Gideon Bruce

In many ways it made perfect sense that I would call her at 7:30am, blurry eyed and frogged-voiced, having just rolled out of bed, bone-weary. It was the day after Christmas. All six of us were sick—whooping cough, we’d later find—and exhausted from both the fun and the coughing.

After I received her text—stilted, formal, apologetic for its intrusion—I called every hospital in the area, finally finding her where two of my own four were born.

Her husband answered, his voice making clear his surprise. After all, who calls the hospital phone these days? But I didn’t want to call her cell. At least I was awake enough to think of that.

“She’s with a nurse right now. She’ll call you back.”

Of course, she didn’t. And who can blame her.

She’d been at my house just four days prior, shuffling from one foot to the other the way pregnant women do. Her daughter ate a cupcake. They left within moments—I’m sure she was tired.

He was born a trimester too early, weighing barely one pound. Placental failure. Not insufficiency, but failure. I cried all day.

One hundred and ten days later—on her birthday, no less—he came home. Still tiny, still feeding through a tube, still too cold for his own good.

I finally met him at five and a half months, found him not yet the weight of my second the day he was born.

“Are you kidding, he’s huge!” His mother protested.

I was embarrassed at my gaffe.

“Yes, yes! He is. Of course.”

He was beautiful. I held him as long as I could, only putting him down when I ate my burger. So warm… he had finally learned the trick of self-regulating his temperature and he performed it masterfully.

He was beautiful.

A mere three weeks later, I cried again. This time the news came by mass email, one I read at least three times before feeling it settle, hard, between the shoulder blades, the eyes, the heart: “Almost zero chance of normalcy… Leave us alone. We’ll let you know. We don’t need anything. Just… let us be.”

“Should I come home?” A text from my husband.

“No. It’s fine. I’m praying.”

I’m praying.

I prayed to God, to Google, searching every avenue for an answer, but finding none.

I emailed a client—world-renowned pediatrician, a fellow congregant at my church. He would know.

“This will be difficult. No matter what, this will be difficult.”

The next day a follow up: “Be patient and hope that some sort of answer will come in the years that follow.”

And the next day: “Do they go to our church?”

No.

When I lost my son, eight months old, flaming hair, world’s most gummy smile, I thought those answers would never come. No years would follow—the earth stilled, and with it, my heart.

I know her days are frozen—she’s said as much. Each day she lifts him, tries to gauge if he’s gained an ounce. Half-an-ounce. A stack of envelopes in one hand, a baby in the other. How do they compare? Which fatigues her muscles more?

She looks at his head. Measures it’s circumference. Eyes it against her daughter’s .50 cent bouncy ball—the kind on end caps at grocery stores, drawing the sticky eyes of children, begging meter money from purse bottoms. She’s refined the skill—can tell you the weight and width of a fly these days. She and her husband take bets; they’re experts now.

I pray.

Google frustrates me with its ambivalence, God tries my patience. I keep living. Cooking, cleaning, writing. My daughter hits her first single. My oldest lands an internship and the youngest just won’t quit climbing the stove. We are living.

She’s living too. Living in fear, in doubt, in the hollow place between inhale and exhale. She watches him breathe. Smooth, warm, the way he should. Air fills small lungs, routes oxygen to all the necessary places. Escapes in sighs so sweet a flower bears its name.

But his name is not sweet. His name is that of a warrior who dared ask God for more. More miracles, God, and I will do your bidding. Do not be angry, God, but I simply must have more. God relented and the trumpets blew and the idols fell. And when that warrior died, years later, the alters were resurrected and the false Gods rose.

Let him live, God.

Full and healthy, conqueror of enemies. Bearer of swords and trumpets and weighty things of glory. An unlikely warrior, God. Let him live.

**********

I wrote this prayer in July of 2014. Four months later, on November 28, 2014, Gideon passed from this world and into the next. He was not quite one year old.

Today, on this one-year-anniversary, my household is where it should be: in a time of board games and late nights, of midnight pie with cream, and just one more game of pool before heading off to bed. We’re enjoying the smell of simmering soup while the just-put-up tree glitters with fresh-bought lights and tip-top star, and the littles dance to a singing snowman we plot to sneak away as soon as their heads are turned.

We are living life as it should be lived. As Gideon’s mom would say, we are loving hard.

I can think of no greater tribute to a boy so loved and missed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Women, Leadership, and the Bible. By Dr. Natalie Eastman

Dr. Natalie Eastman is one of the smartest women I know. If you’re looking for proof of that, check out her book, Women, Leadership, and the Bible. It’s a smart read, but not so much so that it’ll bog you down. In fact, I was enthralled from page one. If you’re the theologically- and academically-inclined type with a passion for women’s issues, I know you’ll feel the same.

Women, Leadership, and the Bible: How Do I Know What to Believe? A Practical Guide to Biblical Interpretation.

By Dr. Natalie Wilson Eastman. Cascade Books, 280 pp., $31.50.

In her book, Women, Leadership, and the Bible, Dr. Natalie Wilson Eastman does not, as one might imagine based on the title, try to convince readers of her position on the role of women in the church. In fact, she argues that women have for too long relied on the theological positions of others rather then undertake their own study, a practice that has only worked toward women’s detriment. Twelve long years in the making, the intent of Women, Leadership, and the Bible is to right that wrong.

Eastman received her Doctor of Ministry from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Realizing that the majority of women will not receive the same extensive seminary training that she did, her hope is to teach formal Biblical interpretation skills to the lay reader so that they can decide for themselves what God intends the role of women in the church to be.

Eastman writes specifically to a female audience, explaining that women are less likely to go to seminary, less likely to have time for theological study, and less likely to have the confidence necessary to take on as tough and divisive a topic as women in the church. While all that may be, Eastman is unequivocal that women are responsible both to themselves and to God to “think through these questions Biblically and theologically.”

That’s where Eastman’s “practical guide” comes in, as she takes on the heavy task of equipping women with the skills necessary to equalize a field traditionally dominated by men. Steering clear of four-syllable and hard-to-pronounce words, Eastman assumes her readers are unfamiliar with even basic interpretation skills. She defines “scary” words such as hermeneutic and exegesis, and includes a table of Scripture abbreviations, acronyms referring to different versions of the Bible, and detailed appendices for easy reference to outside sources of study. Despite her clear effort to write to a lay audience, by virtue of the subject matter the language used and study methods taught are best suited for those who have had at least some experience with higher education, as well as possess a great capacity for self-direction.

Staying true to Christian fundamentals, Eastman first and foremost points to the Bible as one’s primary study source. Outside resources are important, but the Bible is the ultimate authority on what the role of women in the church should be—it is in its interpretation that things get sticky. The primacy of the Bible firmly established, Eastman then provides a five-step strategy for methodically obtaining and sorting data and thinking logically about it: prepare (to engage in a concentrated study); identify (existing views and interpretations); study (the Bible as well as outside sources); filter (analyze what studying has uncovered); and choose (one’s position on the role of women in the church).

The third step—study—makes up the heart of the book, and is where the bulk of the burgeoning theologian’s work is done. Those interested in simply being told what to think or believe will not find any easy answers; instead, as Eastman openly tells readers, the study and discernment processes for even this one issue could take years, and even then may never reach full resolution.

Eastman takes seriously the individual responsibility to self and God to think through questions Biblically and theologically, keeping her own position hidden, choosing instead to draw out each step of her study plan by quoting women from varied backgrounds and positions. These women—a large number of whom are scholars—explain what they believe, why they believe it, and how they reached their conclusion. Readers hear from complimentarians and egalitarians equally, but all those quoted are women. This leaves Eastman vulnerable to criticism for excluding male voices in an otherwise balanced book. The study process taught, however, is gender-neutral, and men interested in learning more about Biblical interpretation can certainly benefit from Women, Leadership, and the Bible.

But it’s really no surprise that Eastman writes exclusively to women: the mere act of studying and learning is confidence building and empowering, traits women desperately need in the male-dominated field of theology. In fact, this is one way Eastman fails to keep her opinion on the “woman’s issue” to herself: clearly she finds women capable of the type of theological exploration they have long been kept from as unqualified. One can only assume she doesn’t think that after months or years of study that women should then keep silent about their findings.

It is, of course, true that women can attend seminary, hold ministerial positions, and teach in certain situations and in limited ways. But women have yet to reach full actualization as leaders through positions of higher authority in which they lead, teach, and minister to all church members, not just women and children.

Some think this is what God intended. Others do not. Regardless of opinion, it’s certainly worth asking how that opinion was formed. If the answer is that “someone told me so,” it is worth undertaking months or even years of study to determine if that someone was correct or not. For those without formal training but with an above-average skill set for self-teaching, Women, Leadership, and the Bible is a great place to start learning how to do just that.

You can find out more about Dr. Eastman and her book here.

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Is the American Way the Jesus Way?

Brian Zahnd is the co-founder and lead pastor of Word of Life Church, a non-denominational Christian congregation in Saint Joseph, Missouri. Brian is known for his focus on embracing the deep and long history of the Church and wholeheartedly participating in God’s mission to redeem and restore His world. He is also the author of several books, including, A Farewell To MarsBeauty Will Save the World, and Unconditional?: The Call of Jesus to Radical Forgiveness. Today, as we in the US prepare to celebrate Independence Day, Brian talks to us about the conflation of flag and cross, Christianity’s long history of accommodating itself to the pressures of nationalism, and the transformative hope of local churches to overcome both of these distortions of the true message of Christ.

You’ve said that for many American Christians, the American Way and the Jesus Way are essentially the same way of being human. What do you mean by that?

Many American Christians would be hard pressed to identify five examples of how the Jesus way differs significantly from the American way. In the civil religion of America, the Jesus way and the American way have been conflated into the same mode of being human. In essence this means Christianity exists primarily to support the supreme idea of America. Put just so it sounds ludicrous, nevertheless it remains the tacit assumption of American civil religion. But authentic Christianity is a radical challenge to all other allegiances.

Christians confess that Jesus is Lord and thus “We the People” are not. Christians are far more committed to the Beatitudes than the Bill of Rights. Christians believe that only Jesus has a manifest destiny to rule the nations. Christians proclaim that “the last best hope of the world” is Jesus, not America. And that most American Christians would view these assertions as controversial reveals just how deeply the Jesus way has been subverted by the American way.

You can read the rest of my interview with Brian Zahnd at Red Letter Christians. He’s an amazing writer and speaker — the interview is truly worth a read!

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Amy Schumer’s Feminism: And Then What?

I am not one to eschew the feminist label. I am a feminist, plain and simple.

But I reject the notion that there is one standard definition of “feminist.” I remember how rejected and misunderstood I once felt in the women’s studies department of my undergraduate institution — so much so, in fact, that I dropped my women’s studies minor a mere one class short of completion. My particular Christian ethics did not jibe with the feminist norm being taught, and many thought me a traitor to the cause.

That was about 15 years ago. In the interim years I’ve learned a lot about popular conceptions of what it means to be a feminist. I’ve realized ideals I once thought immutable are actually cyclical and subject to both minor and major revisions, made by different thought leaders over time. And one current, popular semi-wave of feminism is being led by comedian and actress Amy Schumer.

You can read the rest of today’s post on the “new” (problematic) face of feminism at Sojourners(Definitely worth a visit, if for no other reason than to check out their beautiful new website!)

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