Kind of Red

April 23, 2010

Justice for All

Filed under: Uncategorized — The Painted One @ 3:49 pm

Roughly over a month ago Fox TV personality Glenn Beck sparked the embers of the public discourse regarding the role of Christianity in effectuating equity throughout society. More particularly he said, “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  . . . Am I advising people to leave their church?  Yes!”  He added, “If you have a priest that is pushing social justice, go find another parish.  Go alert your bishop and tell them, ‘Excuse me, are you down with this whole social thing?  If it’s my church, I’m alerting the church authorities: Excuse me, what’s this social justice thing?  And if they say, ‘Yeah, we’re all in our social justice thing.’ I am in the wrong place.’”  Mr. Beck then held up a picture of a swastika along with a picture of a hammer and sickle to illustrate his belief that social justice shares the same philosophy as Nazism and Communism.  According to Mr. Beck, “social justice” merely serves as a code word for the two.

Naturally, Mr. Beck’s remarks sparked intense outrage, and prominent Christian leaders have spoken out against his incendiary remarks.  Numerous others have rushed to clarify what it is that has drawn Mr. Beck’s ire in an attempt to define social justice before it becomes inextricably linked to Nazism and Communism in the eyes of his followers.  As untenable as this proposition may seem, there is precedent for such an occurrence.  Ron Rosenbaum of Slate reported that Tea Party spokeswoman Victoria Jackson recently told Fox News host Steve Doocy that President Obama is a communist, which she now knows because Glenn Beck taught her that “progressive” is a code word for “Communist.”  Needless to say, there remains a need to insert some clarity into the discussion as to what is meant by the term social justice, at least for Mr. Beck’s audience.

As reported by Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times, religious scholars say the term “social justice” was coined in the 1800s and successive popes codified the term in encyclicals. Basically the concept of social justice hinges on the premise “equal justice in all aspects of society,” and demands people have equal rights and opportunities. Proponents of social justice within the church believe a recurring theme throughout scripture is a call for believers to strive towards creating a more “just society.” While a select few share Mr. Beck’s views, multitudes of others abhor his comments because they yank at the very thread that knits together their commitment to their communities and the world at large.  His words also serve as a direct affront to scripture.

Notwithstanding Mr. Beck’s fallacious interpretation of some of the main thrusts of the Christian faith, the Bible speaks for itself, and in so doing mentions the word “justice” in over 200 separate locations. Furthermore, in numerous places, the Bible declares, in no uncertain terms, that believers in the living God must service the poor and downtrodden (Psalms 9:18, 10:9, 10:14, 34:6, 41:1, 69:33, 82:3-4, Proverbs 14:21, 14:31, 17:5, 21:3, 21:13, 22:9, Ecclesiastes 7:7, Matthew 19:21, 25:31-46, Luke 4:18-19, 6:20, Galatians 2:10, James 2:15-18, 4:17).  For further example, the prophet Isaiah proclaimed that the fast God desired was “to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke . . .” In his epistle, James proclaimed “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” Moreover, while in a synagogue in Nazareth on one sabbath day, Jesus stood up to read of the prophet Esaias saying, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” When He concluded reading, Jesus closed the book and sat down.  I suppose Reverend Robert B. Thompson, pastor of Lake Street Church in Evanston, was correct in saying Jesus is Glenn Beck’s worst nightmare.

Mr. Beck’s erroneous exegesis harkens back to a seemingly bygone era where throngs of well-intentioned Christian men and men sanctioned our nation’s original sin—chattel slavery.  Shortly thereafter, good-willed Christian men and women granted clemency to the transgressions it birthed—Jim Crow segregation, along with its atrocious progeny.  In the years that followed, similarly minded clergy banded together to publicly admonish Dr. King for his “unwise and untimely” opposition to the “racial injustices [that] engulf[ed] [their] community.”  It was in response to their public statement that Dr. King fiendishly scribbled notes on the margins of the very newspaper that published their statement, and continued jotting notes onto scraps of paper, until his words spilled onto a notepad.  In so doing, he penned his now legendary Letter from a Birmingham Jail, where he compared his plight to that of the eighth century prophets who ventured from their villages to proclaim, “thus saith the Lord.”  His words did little to silence the disapproval of the actions of civil rights activists, because our nation has never lacked dissenters who found it imprudent to commingle faith with meaningful action. Indeed, Mr. Beck is not the first to posit good Christian faith requires little social engagement, his words merely allowed him to join the chorus of those who have sought to thwart the efforts of believers in achieving a more equitable society.

In the wake of the controversy, Stu Burguiere, the executive producer of “The Glenn Beck Radio Program” has tried to clarify Mr. Beck’s comments by saying, “Like most Americans, Glenn strongly supports and believe in ‘social justice’ when it is defined as ‘good Christian charity . . . Glenn opposes when Rev. Wright and other leaders use ‘social justice’ as a euphemism for their real intention—redistribution of wealth.”  Even with such clarification, Mr. Beck’s comments still stand contrary to scripture.  Undoubtedly, if Mr. Beck would remain true to his convictions, he would have to advise believers to leave the first church, because members and leaders alike held all things in common.   Note the description of the church:

32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. 33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and the great grace was upon them all. 34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of land or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold35 And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

Additionally, Mr. Beck might have suggested people leave the Mormon Church, to which he now belongs, considering the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints has issued a new “Handbook of Instructions” that revised the church’s threefold mission to include a fourth mission statement—care for the poor.  Consequently, in deriding the propriety of intermingling social justice with Christianity, Glenn Beck has acted in the spirit of one of our nation’s beloved founders who literally slashed numerous pages of the Bible (particularly from the New Testament) in an effort to remove scriptures he found unprofitable. In essence, he has made his own scripture, and asked his audience to follow it.  Presumably, Mr. Beck made his statements to stir controversy rather than to share his true theological underpinnings; nevertheless, it would appear as though when he fanned the flames of dissension in this matter, he attempted to incinerate the truth of scripture.

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