Feeling the Bern in Holy Land
Presidential aspirant Senator Bernie Sanders spent yesterday speaking at one of the largest (indirect) recipients of student financial aid provided by the federal government. No, he was not speaking at an educational institution, but rather at Liberty University.To the surprise of the school’s president, who extended an invitation to all declared candidates. That includes probably all 97 Republican candidates, and an unknown number of Democrats. (We never see the Democrats debate, evidently so the new candidate smell does not wear off Hillary Clinton, so we don’t have any idea who is running. The Party likes it that way. Or at least the Clinton-supporting Party chairman does.)
School President Jerry Falwell, Jr. explained allowing a socialist to profane the campus, not by telling the truth (“We had no idea any Democrat would accept”), but with the statement: “We’ve always tried to present both sides because we believe that college students are at an age where they need to hear viewpoints from all ends of the spectrum.” It’s more than likely, however, that Liberty U. is still trying live down its decision to close down the Democratic Club on campus. Whatever the reason, Liberty University held the event and, contrary to the values that its name seems to imply, required all its students to attent. (The on campus students, that is. The vastly larger student population that attends “online” were free to do whatever they wanted, provided tuition was up-to-date.)
It’s harder to understand why Senator Sanders would waste his time at a school whose diversity in political opinion makes the Stepford Wives look like original thinkers. But perhaps, although Jewish, Sanders learned that Jesus himself spent time talking to scribes and Pharisees (the originators of the War on Christmas, at least until Macy’s discovered the Miracle on 34th Street and later Bloomingdales and F.A.O. Schwartz (rest its soul) got the hang of it). Or perhaps the senator wanted to recall how Barack Obama entered the fiery furnace of Rick Warren way back in 2008. I don’t know who this would have been designed to reassure. Perhaps Wall Street executives, who are more comfortable with candidates who don’t draw the line at any professed belief, however ridiculous (whether the gospel of prosperity or the good faith of investment bankers).
Sander’s speech was larded with references to scriptures, both the real one as well as some of the non-Leviticus part of the Old Testament. He quoted from Amos, but most listeners were disappointed that he failed to also quote Andy. This appeal to authority failed to sway the believers, who need more trustworthy sources than the original texts to make up their minds. The Associated Press sampled the opinions of students who had a clearer understanding of the gospels than a Jewish socialist. “‘I’m glad they invited him but I wouldn’t vote for him,’ said Nathan White, a junior from Houston. White said he opposed gay marriage and abortion rights and described himself as a capitalist.” White was of course referring to the famous directive of Jesus to “Render unto Wall Street the things that are Wall Street’s and unto God such little vigorish as you can get away with.” Likewise “Danielle Eschedor, a 19-year-old sophomore from Wellington, Ohio, said the senator had a ‘good heart’ and she was glad he spoke at the school. But Eschedor said ‘the responsibility falls on the church’ to address many of the nation’s social problems.” And if the church failed to discharge that responsibility, then, well, the poor simply get to Heaven all that much sooner, provided, of course, they made the right choices in time. (It’s all about personal responsibility!)
But it was not all a waste of time for the students who were required to sit in attendance. First, they got to hear a free concert by a Christian rock band before the speech. And at least some students claimed they benefited in just the way that President Falwell Jr. envisioned. Catherine Trevithick, 22, of Reston, Va. admitted her heart belonged to Daddy Trump, “But I’m not going to be close-minded and ignore what he has to say,” she said before the speech. “College is a time to hear from people of all backgrounds and opinions.” Unless, of course, it’s an evolutionary biologist.