Bernie the Millionaire?

Have you heard the latest? Hero to the millennials and democratic-socialist icon Bernie Sanders has made a startling confession. He is a millionaire. People on the right–and that’s where I typically see myself–have been having a field day pointing out the supposed hypocrisy of this thing. The item below is typical of some of the Twitter sentiment.

Let’s do a little bit of math. As a U.S. Senator, Sanders earns, this year, at age 77, $174,000. I assumed that he’s been working since age 25 and that his income has risen by about 3% annually. Then I assumed that Bernie has prudently set back a very conservative 5% of his income since day one. Over those 50-plus years, his savings would have accumulated, earning, let’s say, 6% per year, and, wonder of wonders, crossed the million-dollar threshold just this year.

I earn considerably less than $174,000 a year, and I set back a good bit more than 5% each year. If I earned the sort of money that Sanders is bringing in, even ignoring his book royalties, then I’m sure I’d be socking away considerably more than my suggested 5% amount.

The wonder of things, I would suggest, is not that Bernie Sanders is among the ranks of the millionaires. The wonder would be if he weren’t there. Of course it seems that his books have made him a great deal of money. Will we fault him for that? Should he have intentionally written bad books so that no one would buy them? I suppose he could donate his royalties to some charity, but he would still have the income.

So far, this post has not been terribly spiritual, but I share it because of the problematic things I encounter on social media from solid Christian brothers and sisters. When we get into that political realm, all that stuff about love and forgiveness seems to fly out the window. I see it on both sides of the political spectrum. Sweetness-and-light liberals become ravening savages when they speak of President Trump, while rock-solid conservatives want to disembowel Nancy Pelosi.

Stop it! We will disagree. That’s okay, but we need to continue to disagree together. In Galatians 2:11-12, Paul shares this intriguing tale:

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he stood condemned. For he regularly ate with the Gentiles before certain men came from James. However, when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, because he feared those from the circumcision party. 

So Paul and Cephas (Peter) disagreed. How did they work out this issue, which they apparently did since they worked together later in life according to tradition? They were apparently able to do it because they stayed in touch. How else could Paul oppose Peter to his face unless they were still speaking?

Sarcasm and blame-fixing is beneath a follower of Jesus. Yes, we will disagree about the matters of this world. That’s completely acceptable, but if that disagreement places a wedge between us, then both parties lose. If we take seriously Jesus’ instruction to “seek first the Kingdom,” let me suggest that it’s not found in snarky social media.