The Democratic Party’s protracted, divisive presidential primary has come to a close, with Hillary Clinton snapping up the last of the delegates required to secure the nomination, and second-place finisher Bernie Sanders finally admitting: “It doesn’t appear that I’m going to be the nominee.” Despite his eventual loss, however, Sanders ran an impressive grassroots resistance campaign, stringing out hope with his followers of a surprising upset win up until the bitter end. His level of support was so broad and enthusiastic that some of his supporters have cried stolen election (and we can’t rule that out entirely).
One of the main snarky criticisms of Sanders was the “freeloader angle”: he himself never had a real job, and ran a campaign promising free stuff. While it is true that Sanders struggled to support himself until elected mayor of Burlington, Vermont at nearly 40 years old, a government job, I would argue that he would do just fine in the private sector of capitalist America. Bernie Sanders would have made a great pastor at a megachurch.
An integral part of the church-for-profit system is preaching what is known by its detractors as “prosperity gospel,” or a style of sermon heavily focused on charitable giving to the church. As the theological theory goes, instead of doing good to save up treasure in heaven, the faithful can flex their generosity and receive material rewards in this life; in other words, give the pastor money and receive even more in return from the karmic forces of the universe. This is not entirely different than the democratic socialist offerings of Bernie Sanders. The Bern-feeling faithful donated to the campaign in hopes of being paid more at their minimum wage jobs, going to college for free, having their student debt forgiven, and all other manner of vaguely-defined benefits to be paid by other people as part of their “fair share.” In other words, holy investment to build up treasure in socialist heaven.
Another key part of the megachurch experience is the “mega” aspect involving throngs of the faithful bursting from every seam of a gigantic amphitheater. A pastor wishing for a successful church will need the ability to keep a substantial congregation captivated. Sanders has shown this talent off many times, for example, drawing crowds of over 28,000 people in Brooklyn. If packing stadiums is what you want, Bernie’s your guy.
And finally, the crucial underpinning of any capitalistic venture: money. Every good businessman has to sell, but a megachurch pastor has an entirely different money making challenge: convincing people to pay for a completely invisible, unquantified, and unsure product. In order to maintain a theological thunderdome of such vast proportions, those donations have to keep pouring in. How well did Sanders rise to the challenge of fundraising? Well, considering his campaign accrued over $200 million over the last year, it’s probably safe to say that Bernie is ready for the big leagues.
Though Bernie Sanders has lost in his bid for the White House, the glory need not stop there. He has the potential for a successful career in the private sector, doing what he does best: motivating large crowds, promising heaven on earth, and packing his coffers with donations from the faithful.