Pastor Greg Locke slams Bernie Sanders as ‘wannabe Fidel Castro’ as Christians debate socialism

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders fires up the crowd at the National Action Network convention in New York City on Thursday April 14, 2016.
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders fires up the crowd at the National Action Network convention in New York City on Thursday April 14, 2016. | (Photo: The Christian Post/Leonardo Blair)

As Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders continues to gain momentum in the party's primary with his promotion of democratic socialism, outspoken internet preacher and lead pastor of Global Vision Bible Church in Tennessee has slammed him as “the wanna be Fidel Castro of our day.” 

“Bernie Sanders is the wanna be Fidel Castro of our day. If you cannot see through his blatant communist agenda, you are absolutely blinded by the fake news and the utter garbage that he propagates. He is one of the greatest dangers that America has ever encountered,” Locke tweeted Monday.

Locke joined a chorus of evangelical and conservative critics who are unnerved by Sanders’ continued praise of Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba.

In a CBS “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday night, Anderson Cooper asked Sanders to defend his position and he said that: “We are very opposed to the authoritarian nature of Cuba. But you know, it’s unfair to simply say, ‘Everything is bad.’ When Fidel Castro came into office, you know what he did? He had a massive literacy program. Is that a bad thing, even though Fidel Castro did it?”

He has since maintained his position in subsequent public debates while critics continue to brand him as a communist like Castro.

According to Democratic Socialists of America, "Democratic socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few. To achieve a more just society, many structures of our government and economy must be radically transformed through greater economic and social democracy so that ordinary Americans can participate in the many decisions that affect our lives."

“Democracy and socialism go hand in hand. All over the world, wherever the idea of democracy has taken root, the vision of socialism has taken root as well—everywhere but in the United States. Because of this, many false ideas about socialism have developed in the US,” the political group argues on its website.

The group claims that the goal of the movement is not to have the government own and run everything.

“Democratic socialists do not want to create an all-powerful government bureaucracy. But we do not want big corporate bureaucracies to control our society either. Rather, we believe that social and economic decisions should be made by those whom they most affect,” the group adds.

A Miami New Times reporter on Wednesday criticized Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida for speaking out against what the reporter described as “supposed hidden dangers of democratic socialism.” In doing so, he noted that in 2015 Rubio said it was unfair to compare Sanders' ideology to that of Fidel Castro's regime in communist Cuba.

From an event in New Hampshire in November 2015, CNN reported that Rubio bristled when a member of the audience said the socialism that Sanders promoted had similarities to the Cuban communism Rubio's own family had fled.

Rubio pushed back and said even though he didn’t support the idea of democratic socialism, Sanders' platform was similar to those of the social-democratic parties that exist in many thriving European nations.

"In fairness, they fled communism," Rubio explained at the time. "There is social democracy, right, like you see in Europe, where government provides for every aspect of your life, but there's consequence to that. They fled communism, which is beyond socialism, obviously, where government controls society, but also government controls politics, life, the banning of religion — people were being executed."

Rubio also said that although he didn't believe in Sanders' platform, he did not "personally have a problem with Bernie because he's being honest about what he believes in. I'd love to have that debate."

He added, "I don't think it works for America. My argument is, [if] you want to live in a country like that — there's like dozens of countries around the world that are socialist — move there. We should continue to be America."

During a discussion on “Fox & Friends” on Sunday, a group of Christian pundits hotly debated whether socialism is something Christians should be supporting and Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of the 12,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, said socialism is "antithetical to Christianity."

The Rev. Dee Dawkins-Haigler, a former Democratic member of the Georgia House of Representatives, who now leads the First St. Paul AME Church, said she believes the way black Christians interpret Scripture would lead them to support things that people would describe as “socialist” today.

“I can speak for the African American community because we have always been a faith-led people and very spiritual in everything that we do. Our interpretation of Scripture actually lead us to some of the things that people would call socialist because we believe in things like: what did you do to the least of them; whether you fed the hungry; you clothed the naked; you went to see those that were in prison; but for some reason the message that some of these Democrats left in this race now are trying to relate is not crossing over well to white evangelicals and I’m not understanding why,” she said.

Jonathan Morris, who formerly served in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York as a priest and requested dispensation from the clerical state in 2019, said while Christians are called to do good works, many Americans don’t support Sanders’ approach to government.

“I could not agree more with what you’ve said there Dee, in terms of that is what Christians are called to do. To take care of the homeless. To take care of the foreigner. But the problem with the Democratic Party right now is that it has to be my way or the highway. And if it’s Bernie Sanders, it’s that times 10. And my way or the highway is government must be the principal caretaker of our needy and that’s not just gonna work for a big, big part of the United States of America and especially for value voting Americans,” Morris said.

He also argued that the Democratic platform in general does not align with values voters on issues like abortion, school choice and religious freedom.

“I mean these are huge issues. The Democratic platform, and I’m not just talking about the candidates, the Democratic platform has said nobody who stands for those things, school choice, limits on abortion or religious liberty issues, can even be in this party. That is segregating a huge swathe of the voting population. Very dangerous, I think, for the Democrats,” he said.

Jeffress warned that if Democrats nominate Sanders, they will not attract any faith voters.

“The truth is you do not have to be a socialist to be compassionate and 53% of Americans, Gallup says, will not vote for a socialist and it’s even higher for Christians. Socialism is absolutely antithetical to Christianity. And if they nominate Bernie Sanders they are not gonna be able to attract any faith voters whatsoever,” he said.

Haigler disagreed.

“I totally disagree because people would have said that Jesus was more of a socialist than anything we are talking about today. And so we have to be very careful of how we use the language,” she said. “Jesus did not sit with the establishment, he overturned tables of the tax collectors, he sat with people who were lepers. He made sure he healed people who people thought should not have been healed. So we have to be very careful how we use this language and try to take ownership of who God is and people’s faith.”

Jeffress refused to back down from his position.

“No! Jesus was not a socialist!” the preacher insisted. “He said render unto Caesar the things that are Ceasar’s and to God the things that are God’s. He was compassionate. Church is to be compassionate. But you don’t have to believe in socialism, which is nothing but communism light and is absolutely opposed to everything that is Christian.”

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