(Editor’s Note: This is the first piece from The Literalist, Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons, whose columns will appear twice weekly. The events depicted here are fictional.)
HOUSTON (RNS) Leading into Super Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders made an announcement he insists is unrelated to his landslide defeat in South Carolina.
“I’ve decided to join a gospel choir,” he told a gathering of prominent black pastors over breakfast. “We’re planning to release an album this summer.” When pressed to explain his decision, Sanders delivered a rousing speech about how income inequality and “breaking up the big banks” went naturally with gospel music.
In response to an inquiry from Religion News Service’s The Literalist, the Sanders campaign provided us an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at several of his favorite gospel songs he has been overheard humming in preparation for his new album:
● “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” serves as a wonderful metaphor for the 2008 financial crisis and the need for the U.S. government to lead financial institutions back home to greater regulation
● “Oh, Happy Day” conjures images of the moment when we break up the big banks
● “Amazing Grace” is a blueprint for how we should approach student loan forgiveness
● “Down in the River to Pray,” studying about that good ol’ way when we had the Glass–Steagall Act
● “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” with our health care system in this country and we must have a single-payer system.
He cited gospel music’s long history in the fight for progressive, grass-roots change in our country. “Throughout the civil rights movement, music went hand-in-hand with activism,” the senator argued. “I marched in my share of protests and always enjoyed the musical aspect to the struggle.”
Sanders also opened up about the tough parts of his new gospel choir membership. “My vocal coach keeps telling me not to shout,” he confessed.
Prominent Sanders supporter and Union Theological Seminary professor Dr. Cornel West welcomed Sanders to the world of gospel music and even suggested an entirely new gospel song be commissioned for “Brother Bernie.”
It’s too soon to know what effect this announcement might have on Sanders’ primary contest with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Political pundits were quick to speculate how the announcement could make a major difference in Super Tuesday states with large African-American voting blocs, including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Texas.
What’s certain is that already raucous Sanders events will grow even livelier. Campaign staffers have already begun to audition dozens of gospel choirs for the chance to perform at his campaign rallies. He promised that if elected, the best gospel choirs from his rallies would be invited to perform at his inauguration.
(Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons writes The Literalist, a twice-weekly satirical news column for RNS. His writing on faith and public policy has appeared in Sojourners, The Washington Post, Texas Tribune and other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @guthriegf)