Clinton, Sanders, and Jesus


Politics is not a moral purity system, which is why even the most trustworthy politician should show a little taint. They don’t always have to be right; and there’s nothing wrong with compromise and a little corruption, which is why Washington needed to bail out the banks in 2008. So what is it then about money in this country that goes past the actual abuse to which it is put in our political system? What kind of religious reflex does the aversion to money reflect in a Christian and post-Christian country such as the United States? What is to trust about people who turn up their nose at even the mere mention of money like it was something filthy, something one shouldn’t touch, or that shouldn’t touch the things that matter most?

At the heart of Christendom, there’s a basic confusion at work. With a halo and bright like white snow, Sanders acts like Jesus in the Temple. In this country, a lot of people like that radical gesture. But that was in the Temple, and even there the gesture made no necessary sense. This is politics, not religion. One might well indeed appreciate the gesture of wanting to throw out the money changers, unless in this case the better course of wisdom is to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. In the political sphere, that Sanders has done no wrong actually represents a claim against him.

Money matters in politics, there’s no way around that. The open question is how and to what purpose. The next logical step in the theo-political  calculus is for someone to call Clinton a Pharisee. It’s not always pretty. Appreciating that impurity is what makes us human, I was always going to vote for Clinton with a whole heart. It’s why I like her as a national leader on so many of the issues that matter most to our democracy, and why I fundamentally trust her as a politician. There’s no holier than thou about her.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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5 Responses to Clinton, Sanders, and Jesus

  1. Mel Scult says:

    The Hunger for Cosmic Support- and The Trump Fallacy.
    Is the cosmos indifferent.?

    By Mel Scult.

    Kaplan as the sociologist become theologian has a keen sense of the way that ideas function. In this instance, he is dealing with the basic human need for confirmation, of the need to understand that we are not alone in our fears and in our hopes. Kaplan refers to this as our need for cosmic support.

    In its most primitive form, this need manifests itself in the attachment to a strong leader who will guarantee us the security we crave. This might be called the “ trump fallacy .” But such a longing and such a connection is often misplaced when connected to a strong leader ; hence the pitfall of fascism. As we advance, we understand that it is the universe as a whole where we crave the cosmic support. The belief in God is a reflection of this basic human need. Unfortunately , along the way , we make gods of very weak and deficient individuals.

    Kaplan here has tapped into a fundamental aspect of human nature which becomes manifest in the theological doctrine that God cares. In Heschel’s phrase that ‘God is in search of man.” Of course ,Kaplan the naturalist would not put it this way but he helps us to understand the deep psychological need that is in back of this doctrine that God cares. The challenge that faces us at all times is two-fold. We must be ever weary of the pitfall and the seduction of the “ strongman” who will solve our problems and appears to meet our need for help. The other theological challenge is to understand how we mobilize the cosmic support on the metaphysical level , if indeed we have faith that such cosmic support exists and as a consequence that the cosmos is not indifferent.

    From the Kaplan Diary.

    “As a matter of fact, one might even grant that “in origin” man’s hunger for cosmic support expresses itself as a “groping to find the herd or herd-leader,” and yet maintain that with the ripening of intelligence man comes to realize that it is cosmic support as such that he really yearns for. The development of self-consciousness from consciousness is also represented by the development from “groping after the herd and herd leader” to “yearning after cosmic support.” October 16. 1941. Kaplan diary. Communings of the Spirit. Vol 2.

  2. Bob Row says:

    I must recognize that your argument is cleaver. But I wonder why you refer Sanders’ preaching to Jesus instead of Amos or any other of the lesser prophets worried by the social question of their days. Jesus, after all, was a heir of that Jewish current while you choose to adhere to the Talmudic pragmatic one (“Dina de malkhuta dina”). Perhaps sanders doesn’t feel the need to be careful as if he where into exile and he just feel himself enabled to tell his constituency “the Truth”.

    As a foreigner I don’t try to tell you which one is the best choice for you. But let my tell you as an Argentine that my fellows of the progressive camp are ready to expect anything but future military or financial interventions (here or in Venezuela or any other Third World scenario) from Clinton.

  3. Bob Row says:

    PS: “let me”. Sorry.

  4. dmf says:

    Pastor Mark Burns, warming up Trump crowd, says of Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish: “Bernie got to get saved. He’s got to get Jesus.”
    Jeet Heer ‏@HeerJeet
    “The Jews will love Jesus so much under president Trump. They’ll be saying, why didn’t we love the Messiah before?”

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