Bernie Sanders at Liberty University: My *USA Today* Op-Ed

Bernie Sanders will be at Liberty University on September 14, 2015. I wrote about the upcoming visit in today’s USA Today.

Here is a taste:

I don’t know what motivated Liberty University to invite Sanders. The cynical side of me says that the Liberty leadership wants him to speak so that they can point out the wrongness of his progressive views. I am sure Sanders’s visit will be discussed at length in Liberty classrooms, giving professors plenty of opportunities to debunk his ideas.

The hopeful side of me says that Liberty is trying to move beyond its reputation as a bastion of the Christian Right and is looking to find at least some common ground with those on the Left.

At the end of his speech in Columbia, Sanders did an interview with CSPAN. Scott Scully asked Sanders about his upcoming visit to Lynchburg. Sanders said that he hoped to find some common ground with Liberty on matters related to wealth inequality, childhood poverty and health care.

I hope the students, faculty and administrators at Liberty listen carefully to Sanders. Inequality, poverty and health care are moral issues. They are things that all Christians should be concerned about. Perhaps Sanders might inspire some of the Liberty faithful to extend their religious outreach to areas that have not historically been part of the Christian Right’s moral agenda.

But let me suggest another possible topic of conversation that might take place on September 14th. It is a conversation that is unlikely to happen, but it should. I would love to see a Liberty student ask Sanders something about abortion.

Sanders often talks about “protecting the most vulnerable Americans.” It is one of the lynchpins of his campaign. For Sanders, this means protecting senior citizens and children in poverty by strengthening government programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other social safety nets. People might differ with Sanders’s approach to protecting these “most vulnerable Americans,” but few would argue that senior citizens and children are not vulnerable and do not need protecting.

In his speech in Columbia, Sanders said with much passion and force:

It is not acceptable that billionaires grow richer while kids in this country go hungry. If we are a moral people, we stand with the most vulnerable people, the most defenseless people, in our society.To turn our backs on the children while billionaires get richer is not what this country is supposed to be about.”

But how can a progressive Democrat concerned about defending the most vulnerable members of society fail to say anything about abortion? Whatever one thinks about the recently released Planned Parenthood videos, one thing seems clear:  aborted fetuses are alive, they are vulnerable and they need protection.

If Democrats like Sanders are concerned about the dignity of human life — all human life — they will protect these helpless babies and work to reduce the number of abortions in America.

Such a position seems perfectly consistent with the progressive morality Sanders is preaching.It would also make for a great conversation at Liberty University…

Read the entire piece at the USA Today website.

9 thoughts on “Bernie Sanders at Liberty University: My *USA Today* Op-Ed

  1. John- very thoughtful essay in the USA Today; I agree with your comments on Bernie Sanders and the abortion question; the unborn are also vulnerable and in need of protection. I have been active off and on in recent years with a group called Democrats for Life, which represents the pro-life voice in the Democratic Party. Although we don't meet in a phone booth- if we could find one in the 21st century, it is a small group and the sledding has been rough. Anyway, thank you again for your thoughtful comments on your blog and elsewhere on the connections between history, religion, and current politics

    Jason Duncan
    Dept of History
    Aquinas College, Grand Rapids Michigan


  2. Nice article! I think the reasons for Liberty inviting Senator Sanders don't need to be cynical or even religious. Rather, for a while now the folks in charge at Liberty have hoped to use their internet $$$$$ to transform their school into more than just a small Christian college. They've splurged on sports teams, snowboard hills, and luxurious campus facilities. To my mind, inviting a non-conservative, non-evangelical speaker is just another way for President Falwell to cement his school's reputation as a “real” university.


  3. It's worth the watch, as both Falwell and Kennedy are gracious and even funny. Most important, Kennedy's speech on truth and tolerance represents a still popular liberal vision for limiting the influence of one's personal religious convictions in public.

    And beyond a facile Beatitudism, after abandoning his pronounced pro-life convictions in the 1970s

    How Support for Abortion Became Kennedy Dogma
    Updated Jan. 2, 2009 12:01 a.m. ET

    Ted Kennedy never looked back on his religious convictions again.

    Despite Ms. Kennedy's description of Barack Obama, in a New York Times op-ed, as a “man like my father,” there is no evidence that JFK was pro-choice like Mr. Obama. Abortion-rights issues were in the fledgling stage at the state level in New York and California in the early 1960s. They were not a national concern.

    Even Ted Kennedy, who gets a 100% pro-choice rating from the abortion-rights group Naral, was at one time pro-life. In fact, in 1971, a full year after New York had legalized abortion, the Massachusetts senator was still championing the rights of the unborn. In a letter to a constituent dated Aug. 3, 1971, he wrote: “When history looks back to this era it should recognize this generation as one which cared about human beings enough to halt the practice of war, to provide a decent living for every family, and to fulfill its responsibility to its children from the very moment of conception.”

    But that all changed in the early '70s, when Democratic politicians first figured out that the powerful abortion lobby could fill their campaign coffers (and attract new liberal voters). Politicians also began to realize that, despite the Catholic Church's teachings to the contrary, its bishops and priests had ended their public role of responding negatively to those who promoted a pro-choice agenda.

    In some cases, church leaders actually started providing “cover” for Catholic pro-choice politicians who wanted to vote in favor of abortion rights. At a meeting at the Kennedy compound in Hyannisport, Mass., on a hot summer day in 1964, the Kennedy family and its advisers and allies were coached by leading theologians and Catholic college professors on how to accept and promote abortion with a “clear conscience.”

    The former Jesuit priest Albert Jonsen, emeritus professor of ethics at the University of Washington, recalls the meeting…

    Now this is some serious “religious history” [as practiced these days]. Neither Ted F. Kennedy nor his putative church

    come out looking very good atall atall.


  4. There is precedent for this visit, John, one that you're probably already familiar with: Jerry Falwell invited Ted Kennedy to speak at Liberty in 1983.

    Here is the video: (it cuts off abruptly; I think you can find audio of the entire speech here:

    It's worth the watch, as both Falwell and Kennedy are gracious and even funny. Most important, Kennedy's speech on truth and tolerance represents a still popular liberal vision for limiting the influence of one's personal religious convictions in public.


  5. Anonymous: Thanks for your comment. I feel privileged that something that I wrote prompted you to respond for the first time to a blog post. Let's hope this is the first of many responses here at The Way of Improvement Leads Home. Your voice should be heard.

    As evidence from my piece, I do not support everything that Sanders says. I am not a socialist, although I feel that poverty, income inequality, etc… needs to be addressed in this country and no GOP candidate is going to do it. There are some serious problems with the capitalist economy that we now have and Sanders seems to be the only candidate addressing it.

    You are correct. The Bible does not endorse a single form of government. On the other hand, I like what GOP contender John Kasich had to say to a conservative legislator from Ohio: “I respect the fact that you believe in small government. I do too. I also happen to know that you're a person of faith. Now when you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter he's probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small, but he's going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer.”


  6. “It is not acceptable that billionaires grow richer while kids in this country go hungry. If we are a moral people, we stand with the most vulnerable people, the most defenseless people, in our society. To turn our backs on the children while billionaires get richer is not what this country is supposed to be about.”

    Preach it Bernie!

    Does he get to just make stuff up? Bernie Sanders' vision of using the power of government to confiscate wealth is not what this country is supposed to be about. [Or wasn't supposed to be.]

    And for those who share Bernie Sanders' vision of a state-enforced economic equality, unfortunately, he could be an abortionist himself and not risk a single one of their votes.


  7. This is my first comment to any blog on the internet, so I will choose my words very carefully. As an introduction, I am a Christ follower. One who has chosen Christ as my personal Saviour and Lord. I am also a political, economic and social conservative.

    I really appreciate your position concerning the protection of the most vulnerable Americans. “aborted fetuses are alive, they are vulnerable and they need protection” I have rarely heard it addressed so fully and correctly.

    Being very familiar with Liberty University and the late Jerry Falwell, I agree that the decision by Liberty to invite Bernie Sanders is admirable given the differences in their world views.

    I totally agree that childhood poverty is a major issue in our society and should be a major concern to all Christians. I agree that the American health care system as it's delivered today is broken and should be a major concern to all Americans including the Christian community by which much of the health care is delivered in this country (Faith-based hospitals)

    The rest of the article leaves me feeling perplexed. The thing that confuses me most about your article is your statement concerning wealth inequality and your agreement with Sanders' socialistic world view. Mr. Fea, as a fellow Christian, a brother in Christ, let me respectively state how diametrically opposite this position is to your former statements. Christ made it very clear how he felt about the spiritual and physical needs of children and there are many instances where he dealt with the health issues of many in the bible. However, I fail to see anywhere in scripture where Christ voiced is desire that the lives and welfare of any society be left to the management and control of any centralized government. Rather, the opposite is true. He talked in great detail about personal responsibility, personal courage and integrity. He talked about personal money management and using the gifts and blessings that He affords as reasons to bless the Church and other people.

    By stepping back and looking at both the old and new testaments, I realize scripture never endorses a single political viewpoint. It does, however, lay out very clear principles of living encompassed by a Judeo-Christian world view. I hope my perspective will give you pause about attributing Christianity with a social system that drains the incentive to produce, exchanges personal responsibility to that of a centralized government and stripes it's citizens of religious freedom and liberty.


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