Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Glenn Beck and social justice

Few people make my skin crawl like Glenn Beck. He is caustic, irrational, and constantly making statements that require a back pedal.

The other side of this is no one is more misquoted and taken out of context than Glenn Beck. He sets himself up for it by taking a scorched earth policy that leaves no charity for his opponents. So whenever I see someone quoting Glenn Beck to set up a tirade against his point of view, I'm always wondering what the rest of the quote was or what the context was. So I write this expecting (hoping) there's more to this quote than what is presented.

Jesuit priest and Huffington Post blogger Rev. James Martin quotes Beck as saying:

I'm begging you, your right to religion and freedom to exercise religion and read all of the passages of the Bible as you want to read them and as your church wants to preach them . . . are going to come under the ropes in the next year. If it lasts that long it will be the next year. I beg you, look for the words 'social justice' or 'economic justice' on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes.

 I don't know where to begin to attack this.

First, it's important to point out Beck is a Mormon and, like any one in a religious organization with an agenda to proselytize, would love nothing more than to convert everyone to his church. If I were in the same position, I wouldn't even hide my intentions.

As a Mormon, Beck should know better. His church excels at delivering social justice, or at least a reasonable proximity of it. By that, I mean Mormons are strong on charity and are probably the best example of a church that bends over backwards to assist the poor and sick. I have strong disagreements with Mormonism as a theology and faith practice, but I will give them that.

Beck's ridiculously paranoid world view can't see that, though. Everything's a conspiracy. And he misappropriates the term "social justice" because he's filtered everything through his political prism.

People, this is why it's dangerous to sell out to politics.

I would advise you to beware of churches that have no concept or theology of social justice. Not only is it the primary point of the OT prophets, the very fulfillment of social justice is found in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Christ.

Social justice is the result of the ministry of Jesus in its purest form: the hungry are fed, the naked are clothed, and all are delivered from the wages of sin. Any Evangelical church that does not teach this is teaching a lesser Gospel, a faulty one.

Beck is not the first to co-opt the term social justice. Others have missed the point for different reasons, such as Jim Wallis and the Sojourners. Wallis has the right idea for the wrong reasons. For Wallis, social justice is the Gospel, and he just has it backwards. ANYONE can care for the poor. The Kingdom has not come if the unadulterated Gospel has not been preached.

The problem with Beck's point of view is the same problem that cripples the church: We've let the world invade our church, the world's fears invade our hearts, the world's limitations skew our hope and faith and understanding of serving a big, active God in this world.

The reality is Christianity and ANY political philosophy are incompatible because the Kingdom of God suffers from none of the imperfections in this world. As Christians, we are first citizens of the Kingdom of God, and citizens of our country second.  We are called to be servants of men, servants of the very people Beck condemns daily on his show. The very people Beck dismisses are the very people that need Jesus the most.


steven hamilton said...

ok, i've seen this one coming for a while, because since i am involved in a ministry of justice (social justice for sure, although i prefer the term biblical justice to ground it a bit better and fill it out with the interconnections between social-environmentla-economic justice as witnessed in scripture, especially in the Prophets). at several times last year and at several conferences when i was speaking about the Church joining the father in fighting against human trafficking, i got significant push-back on the social justice-social gospel, liberlism thing. to which i could respond in earnest and try to fill out the biblical mandate for justice, but they refused to listen, and it left me thinking "how do they not get that this is related to the gospel, but certainly not the whole gospel?"

to which, my thoughts now are that it is because their politics are more important to them...in fact, i might even go so far as to say that their politics have become an idol that has messed with their view on life, scripture and Jesus' mission of the good news of the Kingdom of God in Christ Jesus.

this perspective is slowly becoming pervasive (and since beck is using it as a talking point, it must be on the cusp of a larger pervasive-ness) and their hermeneutic of suspicion of me being and doing good news has smehow made me threatening and unChristian to them...is it me, or is up down, and right is left and cats and dogs are living together...

Matthew Self said...

Steven, that just saddens me. Deeply. What have pastors been teaching from the pulpit all these years that it's come to this?

Anonymous said...

Hmm that's interessting but actually i have a hard time seeing it... wonder what others have to say..

Tito Tinajero said...

Mr. Beck has now exasperated the problem with a defense of his actions that ended in saying that justice is a perversion of the Gospel. I wrote about him in sojourners and also on my blog www.life-and-faith.org
as to why he misunderstands Jesus' words and the Christian faith.

Ernesto Tinajero
Sojourner's frequent blog contributor