Last week Fox News Radio Host, Glenn Beck, advised his listeners to leave their churches if they preached on social and economic justice issues. Here’s an excerpt from Beck’s program:
“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, the idea, hang on, am I advising people to leave their church… yes!… If you have a priest that is pushing social justice, go find another parish.”
Put simply, Beck believes that the biblical terms “social justice” and “economic justice,” that many churches use today, are just code words for the ideologies of socialism, communism, and Nazism. To paraphrase his article, The Fundamental Transformation of America, Beck declares that people today, who are in the “progressive movement” (the term he uses to refer to people who are advocating the progressive transformation of America), have simply re-named the concepts of socialism to make it more palatable by social standards. They are in essence, he says, sneaking the ideologies of socialism and communism into America under this new guise (and term) of “social and economic justice.” He states:
“Now, today’s group of progressives do not speak the same language as you and I do: Economic justice is taking from haves and giving to the have nots; social justice, to quote Mark Lloyd, is when someone needs to step down so someone else can have turn, and transforming America means collapsing the state as we know it and rebooting it as a progressive utopia. None of the language is the same [today as it was years ago]. What I would call socialist, they call social justice. That’s critical to understand; they really believe they’re making things better and they’re about to finish the process.”
Now, as a writer it is important to me that I always try to be fair and very diligent in presenting, and considering, both sides of a story. Having come from a very conservative background, I always try to be considerate and respectful of opinions that differ from my own. I pride myself on maintaining my composure and rarely get ruffled in the middle of a heated theological debate. That being said, however, I would like to say this: Glenn Beck is a moron. At least in this circumstance, anyway. Has he ever even read the Bible? I can’t imagine he has, or surely he wouldn’t be espousing such ridiculously un-biblical, un-Christian sentiments. There are over 300 verses in the Bible dealing with social and economic justice; far more verses than any other topic. Time and again, God calls his followers to look after and care for the poor, the widow and the orphan. Not only that, we as Christians have been given a mandate – that means we have been entrusted by God to seek social and economic justice for the “least of these.” Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners magazine, had this to say in response to Beck:
“Of course, Christians may disagree about what social justice means in our current political context — and that conversation is an important one — but the Bible is clear: from the Mosaic law of Jubilee, to the Hebrew prophets, to Jesus Christ, social justice is an integral part of God’s plan for humanity.”
In essence, while it’s okay to disagree on exactly how social justice should look in our current political, social and historical context, Beck is attacking the foundation, the very heart of what it means to be a Christian. Now, in a small effort to be fair (although, to be honest, the passionately angry side of me doesn’t want to) I’m sure if you asked Beck if he thought Christians were supposed to care for the poor, he’d probably say yes. I’m assuming he would argue that it is the specific policies and practices we “progressives” are advocating to care for the poor that is where the problem lay (not the fact that the poor should be cared for; although, with him, who knows). And perhaps he’s just trying to be controversial to make money (I mean, for goodness sake, his website proudly displays his “Hate Mail” archive), but I can’t help but wonder: has Mr. Beck ever stepped one foot outside of this country? Or for that matter, I wonder if he’s ever stepped one foot out of his comfy Connecticut suburb? I think it might do Mr. Beck some good to step outside of his comfort zone and get his hands dirty. Because when you are downtown Indy at Wheeler Mission, for instance, serving a homeless man a meal, or at Third Phase Food Pantry in Noblesville, giving out food to someone who was just laid off, or in Haiti, as a team from Grace Community Church in Noblesville was last week (click here to look at the team’s blog from their week in Haiti), holding a 17 day old 1 pound baby girl who is dying from malnutrition and sepsis, how can your heart not break as God’s heart breaks for the poor? It is very easy for Mr. Beck, I think, to sit cloistered, safe in his radio booth making proclamations about the “evils” of social and economic justice. But when you are sitting, dirty and uncomfortable, in the midst of the poor, the hungry, the widow, the orphan, the alien…suffering with them in their brokeness, only then are the eyes of your heart truly opened. Only then are the political, economic, and cultural constraints thrown off, and you see only someone who was purposefully made in the image of God. And you see that he is hungry. And so you feed him.
“They will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you? He wil reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for me.'” Matthew 25:44-45
The following video is from the Hillsong DVD, and is a wonderful expression of how we should view social justice.
“As we grow in our passion and love and our committment to the King, we will live to right that which is wrong.”