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I am a self proclaimed coffee addict and Executive Director of a non profit missions agency working primarily in the Mexican cities of Oaxaca, Guadalajara, and Ensenada. I've been married for over 30 years to Chelle, and we have one grown son, Joseph, a graduate of Auburn University in Alabama.

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Glenn Beck, Jesus, and Social Justice...

Updated Below

I love a good political debate. There is something about the argumentative process that gives me pleasure. The give and take is something I find exhilarating, whether I am able to convince someone to change sides or not.

In this process, I work hard to try and be consistent in my worldviews and to make sure that I do not end up arguing against my own values, or more importantly, my faith.

And sometimes that leaves me in the middle of some sort of irreconcilable difference.

Let me give you an example.

The early Christian church did not support military service. Many of the early Christian martyrs died in protest of this governmental requirement, because they were trying to live out a commandment that said, "Thou shalt not kill."

This is not an opinion. It is a fact. A fact that says that the earliest Christians, those who walked alongside Jesus, the disciples, and Paul, believed it was better to die than be part of the Roman army, protecting the country.

I struggle with stuff like this. How can I live a life worthy of Christ, and be a good citizen when the Christian call stands in direct opposition to the seemingly obvious needs of the state, or which I am part.

Which leads me to Glenn Beck. Beck is the current darling of the political right in our country. If you were to take a quick tour of the blogosphere, you would see that many Christians love this guy.

Again, this is not opinion, it is fact.

But here is what Beck had to say on his radio program the other day.

"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!"

He went on to say that the code words to which these churches are referring are communism and socialism.

So let's sum this up.

Glenn Beck is calling on people who attend, or are part of a church that teaches, preaches, or advocates for social justice or economic justice, to leave their churches, because those churches are calling for a communist, or socialist lifestyle.

But what if the bible does advocate for this type of lifestyle? What if the bible does expect us to fight for social and economic justice?

What if Jesus' message was one that included advocating for the poor and the social outcasts?

Should we then leave our churches because we might not like the label?

I wonder where Beck's Christian supporters stand on this issue?

I am just askin...


Jim Wallis of Sojourners has just posted on this very subject. I am interested to know what any Christian readers might think of his comments. They are pretty short and you can read them here!

Comments on "Glenn Beck, Jesus, and Social Justice..."


Blogger Beth said ... (12:58 PM) : 

I think what he means is any church that thinks social justice needs to be mandated by the government is not teaching what the Bible teaches, which is that social justice should come from oneself.


Blogger James' Muse said ... (1:32 PM) : 

Beth, that isn't what Glen Beck meant or said.

He said that if the churches uses either of those phrases, to run the other way. If those phrases are on the website, anywhere, to leave their church.

This is akin to the hysteria of McArthyism.

Dave, I hate to say it, but any leader that says things like this makes me question their own faith. I sincerely have doubts about Beck's faith and Christianity. From what has come from his mouth, he is deeply misguided at best, and at worse, he is an antichrist, purposely twisting Christianity to lead people to his own political viewpoint. Either way, he is deeply, deeply wrong.

This would be like saying that any church that has the word "outreach" is a Nazi church, because the Nazis held outreaches to youth in Germany. That this historical and biblical command is somehow evil and second to Americanism.


Blogger Dave Miller said ... (1:49 PM) : 

I completely agree James. Beck said nothing about the government on this issue.

Here is what I took from his statements, which also included his call to report any churches preaching along these themes to the IRS.

A church is only allowed to preach or teach about themes that do not cause us discomfort, contradict our understanding of the constitution or go against how we believe the founding of America took place.

Even if those teachings are rooted solidly in the Bible.

Also James, it is my understanding that Beck is Mormon. At least that is what I found on wikipedia.


Blogger Beth said ... (2:00 PM) : 

He is a Mormon, he doesn't hide that fact.


Blogger James' Muse said ... (2:02 PM) : 

Yeah, that's what I found as well. He also grew up Roman Catholic. Neither of those faiths would agree with his statements.

I think that maybe instead of boycotting Churches, churches and Christians should boycot Glenn Beck. I, and most of my friends, already do.


Blogger Tim said ... (3:57 PM) : 

Much like Rush, Glenn Beck is an Agent provocatuer, that is, he says ridiculous things to acheive ratings.
The right wing has curried favor with the evangelicals with their opposition to abortion, and other wedge issues of church vs. state in a cynical strategy to wrest power from the masses and place it in the hands of the wealthy and powerful. They have actually commisioned a "conservative" translation of the Bible, removing or rewording passages that they find politically objectionable.
One such thing is "Thou shall not kill" has been replaced with "Thou shall not murder" basically absolving guilt of anyone who kills in the name of the state. You and I know what God really said, as you stated in this post. It's why I joined the Coast Guard (the Lifesavers) and not another branch of the military. You could of course be a hospital corpsman and not carry a gun and serve your country if you do not feel that you could kill another, but I joined the branch that goes in the other direction.
Every day the lies of the right wing are revealed more and more through their own words. Truly they are mostly the wealthy who have little desire to use their wealth to uplift those of us who built that wealth with our sweat. They are the takers. They have co opted the weak minded among us with their lying lies to vote against their own self interest. But their day has come to an end no matter how hard they refuse to admit it.
Keep the faith my friend. Tomorrow belongs to us.


Blogger Shaw Kenawe said ... (4:20 PM) : 

Wasn't fighting for Civil Rights a "social justice" issue?

How in the world would that not be Christ-like? To fight for equality for African American citizens? That IS social justice and it is righteous! Christ-like.

As is fighting for gay civil rights. Child labor laws? Social justice? Health care for the poor and the sick? Christ-like?

Tim is correct. People like Beck are provocatueers--I've said so myself on my blog--they are first and foremost entertainers put out there to increase ratings and make money for the corporations that own the cable news network.

We, Christians, nonChristians, and nonBelievers, all understand that if we are not for those who are in the most need, we are not worthy human beings--and which religion we adhere to is not the point.

Do we love each other or not? Will we give of ourselves for our neighbor?

That is Christ-like. I don't know if it's socialism, collectivism or any ism--I do know that if we don't care for each other we are lost.


Blogger TRUTH 101 said ... (5:19 PM) : 

Huh. Each month I put a check in the envelope marked "Catholic Charities." The Catholic Church endorsed labor unions and the civil rights movement. Brigham Young had multiple wives. Who would have ever thought I was going to Hell for giving to charity and supporting workers and minorities while a guy who invented a religion so he could have more than one woman would be going to Heaven?

Darn that Pope!


Blogger Doug said ... (8:31 PM) : 

I have way too many thoughts and comments to adequately post here, in fact I am sure many a person has probably written whole dissertations on these sorts of topics. So I will try to limit my comment(s) to only two.

How is advocating for the poor and outcasts Socialism and economic justice? To us,(my wife and I) the teachings of the bible are more about strength through compassion and leading by example. Maybe we are wrong but there seems to be a part about socialism which attempts to level the field. Not to lead or help others get stronger but even sometimes to go as far as to make others or everyone weak.

Then there seems to be the fact that People like Beck are either way too smart for their own good or a total idiot. By taking things completely out of context and making up any fool thing they want to try and make a point about and back it up with “its in the bible”. I tend to not pay much attention to stuff like this.

Then the strange thought occurred to me about what Beck would then do and say with all those who he just got to leave the church?
Perhaps lead them all off to some obscure little country or town in Texas somewhere...

OK, so that was actually three comments, sorry.


Blogger Beth said ... (8:46 PM) : 

Does demonizing Glenn Beck make all of your personal halos shine a little brighter or what?

Yes, freeing slaves is actual social justice, because those denied freedom were given the freedom they deserved. It never made sense that persons who lived and worked in the United States were treated like even lower than second class citizens, they weren't even considered citizens, and that was a terrible injustice that was righted.

Socialism is NOT social justice, it is simply a means to redistribute wealth by force. Glenn Beck understands that this is not social justice, it is actually an injustice. Any church that says otherwise does not teach what Christ taught, to give out of love, so I agree with Glenn Beck.


Blogger Shaw Kenawe said ... (9:17 PM) : 

Beth said...
I think what he means is any church that thinks social justice needs to be mandated by the government is not teaching what the Bible teaches, which is that social justice should come from oneself.

You just said that "freeing slaves is actual social justice..." The government, by the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves. That is social justice by government, and the government accomplished social justice when it passed the Civil Rights Act, when it outlawed anti-miscegenation laws, when it passed Women's Suffrage, when it stopped child labor. And the government will support social justice when it grants complete civil rights to gay people.

No one believes that Civil Rights would have been given to the African Americans of the deep south without government intervention. The white churches in the south were hardly trail blazers for integration. In fact they used the Bible in the past to justify slavery and anti-miscegenation laws.

Glenn Beck is wrong. He equated social justice with socialism. Freeing the slaves was not Socialism; passing Civil Rights legislation was not Socialism. And places of worship that advocated for those social justice issues are not hotbeds of Socialism.

Glenn Beck is wrong. It is not "demonizing" him to say he is an entertainer. He has referred to himself as a clown. Clowns entertain--but we don't take their political ideas seriously.


Blogger Beth said ... (9:25 PM) : 

My point is that Glenn Beck does NOT equate social justice for socialism.


Blogger Dave Miller said ... (8:15 AM) : 

Wow! Maybe I need to make sure I put Beck's name in all of my posts. It sure increases traffic.

But really, as a churchy guy, I truly believe these are the types of issues we should struggle with.

I am sure that as Beth pointed out, Beck does not equate social justice with socialism. But he did say that you should leave your church if they teach, preach, or advocate for social justice.

Those were his words, and they cannot be taken back, as if they were not said. No one in a political debate will let the other participants do that as evidenced by the responses to both Bush and Obama the last few years.

To sum up where I fit in, let me offer a quote from the first link below. It is from Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife,

“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist."


Blogger James' Muse said ... (11:10 AM) : 

This comment has been removed by the author.


Blogger James' Muse said ... (11:16 AM) : 

Beth, we aren't "demonizing" Beck. My point was that anyone twisting the Bible for personal gain is historically associated with being an antichrist, according to St Jerome ( source ), Polycarp ( source ), as well as Revelation 22:18 warning that anyone that adds to or takes away from scripture will be cursed by God.

Further, Beck, a darling of the right wing, has now alienated Christianity. This is not demonizing him. This is based on the words he said, that a church preaching social justice must be left. This would be akin to a left wing pundit saying that Christians need to leave any church that does not allow gays. Can you imagine the uproar? But what Beck has done is far worse. There are more verses on social justice in the bible than almost any other topic (other than money). More than salvation, more than on homosexuality, etc. But Beck just dismisses all of those by equating social justice with socialism.


Blogger Beth said ... (12:05 PM) : 

I give up, I don't know how else to explain myself and how I see it totally different than you. Maybe it is because I watch Glenn all the time that I understand where he is coming from, and you all are basing your concerns on sound bites.


Blogger Dave Miller said ... (12:23 PM) : 

It can be like that sometimes Beth. I guess I might say, don't defend Beck, just speak to where you are.

That's most important.

In the end, we can only speak for ourselves.


Blogger TAO said ... (5:55 AM) : 

I agree with Dave...

Glenn Beck is NOT the issue...

Why would "social justice" and "economic justice" be considered 'code words' for socialism and or communism?

If we are all children of God then it can safely be assumed that all of us are 'equal' in the eyes of God....

Justice is nothing more than the implementation of this equality.
If we are all children of God and thus 'equal in his eyes then why is it socialism to believe that everyone should be equal in our own eyes?

Is it just that a woman who does the same job as a man receive the same pay? Or is that socialism?

Is it fair that children in Pakistan are exploited by being paid pennies a day to make soccer balls that cost me thousands of times more than what they cost to make?

Is it socialistic to believe in the concept of 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you?"

Or is that the founding principle of democracy, liberty, justice, and equality?

Justice is not equality but rather a fundamental sense of fairness....

I do not believe the issue is one of defending or attacking Glenn Beck but rather it is about thinking about what being a Christian is all about for ourselves and what is it that we mean when we talk about being 'just'


Blogger James' Muse said ... (11:09 AM) : 

Wow, I have to say, I really like Jim Wallis' take on this. I really do.


Blogger Tito Tinajero said ... (3:33 PM) : 

I am one of the voices on Sojourner's taking him to task on his understanding of Christianity. Mr. Beck proves that Fame comes easy to those willing to play the buffoon.

visit www.life-and-faith.org for a more through analysis of how Mr. Beck does not understand the Gospel.


Blogger Tim said ... (2:27 PM) : 

Matthew 6:19
"Don't store up treasures here on Earth, where moths will eat them and rust destroys them and where theives break in and steal. Store your treasures in Heaven, where moths and rust do not destroy, and theives do not break in and steal. Whereever your treasures is, there the desires of your heart will also be".
Sounds to me like Jesus did not have a high opinion of the rich. Beth would probably call Him a communist if he were alive today.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:40 PM) : 

It is one thing to instruct an individual to give to the poor, which Jesus did. It's another matter when a governmental body, at the threat of jail or violence, forcibly takes property from one party and gives to another that they deem more deserving.

This is not social justice; it's an injustice.


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