Response to Glenn Beck

Recently Glenn Beck said, “If you find the words social justice or economic justice, on your church website, run as fast as you can.”  He suggests that congregants in churches that teach social/economic justice should leave their churches and find new ones, and that these words are code words indicating communism or Nazism.

“Good god, are you kidding?”  Nope.  Watch this.

Beck is ignorant. Rather than running from churches that preach social justice, people should be flocking to them. It is the church’s job to shape society, to hold it to a higher standard. The church, more than any other institution, should be calling our social and economic systems to account.

It is simply indisputable that Jesus cared deeply for the poor and the disadvantaged, and devoted his life to serving them, challenging his followers to do the same. There is room, perhaps, for disagreement on how a faithful follower of Jesus should respond to this challenge — whether by asking more of our social and economic systems on a government level, or whether by working for justice through private organizations. These are two responses to that challenge from Jesus that are determined not by any objective command from Christ, but rather by one’s own political point of view. Those who believe that government has a responsibility to structure itself on behalf of the “least of these” will see Christ’s words as a command to ratchet up government programs. Those who do not believe government should be involved in helping the poor will see Christ’s words as a command to do all one can for the poor voluntarily, both as an individual and through support of private programs.

But I almost forgot my main point, which of course is that Glenn Beck doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about. I am a pastor, a counselor, and a college instructor, therefore I avoid giving people advice on how to fly airplanes, or play rugby. Glenn Beck is not a theologian and should probably consider not advising people on what is and is not appropriate for their churches to teach. As you see from the video, he apparently does not even understand his own religious tradition’s take on this.

Every church should teach social justice, because it is simply indisputable, looking at scripture, that the poor and disadvantaged are close to the heart of God. Biblical Christians can certainly disagree over what should be done, but not that the commands are there to do something. In fact, any church that neglects this teaching is missing what is apparently a key priority for God, if 2300 verses in scripture about money and/or poverty bear any weight at all. (More verses on money and poverty than any other topic in scripture.)

For anyone interested more in reality than in hysterics, you might check this out:

I’m a Social Justice Christian_PSA from New Name Pictures on Vimeo.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. A request for me to defend some of my comments does not obligate me to do so.

  • Jerry/AJ —

    My key statement in this piece was completely overlooked by both of your objections, which tells me that perhaps I did not write clearly.

    “There is room, perhaps, for disagreement on how a faithful follower of Jesus should respond to this challenge — whether by asking more of our social and economic systems on a government level, or whether by working for justice through private organizations.”

    Both of you demonstrated perfectly that a person will see this from his own pre-existing political perspectives, simply because there is no objective means of determining how Jesus would want the government to be structured. Rev. Wallis speaks well for the other side. My point was and is that disagreements with Rev. Wallis are not spiritual but political, not deriving from the Biblical text itself but by one’s political biases (lenses) that determine how one approaches the text to begin with.

  • Jeremiah Diehl

    (I’m just gonna sum up what my previous and better thought out response said)
    Dave there is a problem with your and Rev. Jim Wallis’ disagreement with Glenn Becks statements.
    You’re arguing two different versions of Social Justice.

    I’m not saying you are wrong. You are absolutely right about your idea of Social Justice (Equality for all humanity, loving and caring for the poor and the sick) that the Bible teaches it, that Jesus taught it and that all of society should strive for it.

    However, Glenn Beck is not wrong either, because he is talking about a different idea of Social Justice than you are. He is referring to the Marxist ideology of Social Justice where the government regulates everything and forcefully evens out the playing field.
    Glenn Becks biggest problem is with the “Redistribution of Wealth.” I’m a big Glenn Beck fan and I’ve been following him for about 4 years now, he is a huge advocate of capitalism.
    He is certainly not against people giving to the poor, or equality for all human beings, but he is quite vocally opposed to the government forcing people to help the poor. Stealing from the rich and giving to the poor in the name of Social Justice is not ok.
    Even Jesus would not support this form of Social Justice as it opposes one of his very own commandments against stealing. If the poor are going to be helped, and fed and clothed, it will be from the cheerful heart of willing people who choose to give their own money to reshape this broken world.

    And this is where Nazism and Communism come into play. The Nazi’s and the Communists use these Marxist versions of Social Justice and unfortunately our current Presidential administration is built around these Marxist Socialist ideals.
    Currently our government is systematically restructuring our government to level the playing field for all. Obama’s goal is to steal from the rich and give to the poor. And although it’s admirable to help the poor, it’s not ok to steal from the rich to do so.
    Glenn Beck is warning people to stay away from this form of Social Justice, because it didn’t work for the Nazi’s, it didn’t work for Communists and it certainly won’t work for America.

    Now about the churches who support Social Justice that Glenn Beck is warning people to flee from; Who is to say what these churches truly mean with this declaration? There are many many churches in the world that support completely crazy ideas (David Koresh comes to mind.)
    Is Glenn Beck telling people to stay away from churches that support helping the poor and disadvantaged? Absolutely not, that would be completely absurd.
    Is he telling people to stay away from churches that support Marxist Socialism? Most definitely. And if you disagree with him for that, well you just might be a Nazi…

    • Seriously, Jerry? Were you serious that if I disagree with Glenn Beck I might be a Nazi? After all the time I have spent with you and how well you know me? I can only hope that was tongue in cheek, or you have just disqualified yourself from the realm of people who have some credibility with me.

      Did you read my post Codewords like I suggested before you responded to this? Perhaps you didn’t see that. I pretty much said what you said here, and showed how Beck was still out of line.

      • Jeremiah Diehl

        Yes that was absolutely tongue in cheek!! That was my attempt at humor at the end of a serious response.
        I know you, I know you’re not a Nazi and the joke wasn’t even specifically accusing you personally, it should be read more as “If you disagree with Glenn Beck for being against Nazism and Communism, then perhaps it’s because you yourself are a Nazi.”
        I should have simply left that part out as I can tell it did not lighten the tone as was my goal.

        • thefallencleric

          I thought it was an attempt at humor. I was leaning toward thinking it was a joke, but I know you’re a huge Glenn Beck fan and I’m not sure how far you’re willing to go with it. 🙂

          It’s all good, buddy. No apology need, just clarification that it was a joke and that you don’t seriously suspect that I’m a Nazi. Actually it’s funny to even write the words down.

      • Jeremiah Diehl

        I’m sorry if you found my attempt at humor offensive. I was not at all trying to insult you or call you a Nazi. I know very well you’re not. I respect and admire your brilliant mind. I would never genuinely be so crude, it really was meant to just be funny.

    • Jerry – You asked the question, “Who is to say what these churches truly mean with this declaration?” According to Glenn Beck, Glenn Beck is to say, and that is what I have objected to in both of my posts.

      • Jeremiah Diehl

        I am starting to see what you are saying. You are objecting to Glenn Beck determining the definition of social justice for the church; is that an accurate statement?

        Perhaps Glenn Beck is not so much determining how the Church defines social justice as he is warning people to stay away from any church that gets involved in politics?
        I’m not necessarily trying to defend Glenn Beck as I don’t know all the facts, but the impression I get of the above video makes it look a lot like propaganda. It just shows short clips of Beck making comments about Communists and Nazi’s and how they should avoid churches that say Social Justice. It doesn’t show any clips of him defending his position and no clips of him defining social justice. It just shows Beck making a few (what appear to be) extreme comments and then cuts to several guys bashing him.

        I just feel things are unfair for Glenn Beck as we are not fully aware of what it is he is actually trying to say.

        • thefallencleric

          Jerry – yes. I have two main objections. First is his claim that ‘social justice’ is code for Communism and Nazism. It’s wacko, conspiracy-theory hyperbole. Second, yes, is his confidence that he knows what America’s pastors are REALLY saying when we talk about social justice. It’s a fine distinction, but it really is two things. One is an objection to his claim to know something, and the other is an objection to what he claims to know.

          As I have said, a politically conservative pastor who talks about social justice is going to mean something very different than a politically liberal pastor. So the idea that there even IS one thing that we all mean when we say it is ridiculous.

  • Actualy Junkie

    Dave,

    Although I’m not a big fan of Glenn Beck, let’s be fair and take what he has said in context.

    1. Beck is an outspoken advocate of personal charity, therefore we can safely assume he is not speaking about that.

    2. Beck is an outspoken opponent of socialism/collectivism, therefore when he speaks against ‘social justice’ we can safely assume he is speaking against the sort often supported by the collectivist ideologies he opposes.

    You have suggested that government mandated social justice is Biblical, so let’s examine that…

    HYPOTHESIS:

    Government social justice is Biblical.

    OBSERVATIONS:

    1. The Bible teaches that Christians should be charitable.

    2. Love of God is expressed through acts of ‘free will’. (What is the value of love not freely given?)

    3. Government programs of social justice are impersonal, and may even directly support policies counter to Christian ideals. (Can you say ‘publicly funded abortion programs for the poor’.)

    4. Government programs of social justice are not ‘voluntary participation’.

    CONCLUSION:

    Government social justice (aka Paternalism) is neither personal nor voluntary in nature making it a poor demonstration of the Christians love of God.

    Government social justice may be directly counter to Christian ideals, meaning that support for them may be directly counter to their desire to ‘spread God’s word’.

    Government social justice is not voluntary participation meaning that promoting such programs is to promote forcing your neighbors to comply – Christian and non-Christian, willingly or unwillingly. At best this is hubris and oppression, and at worst abject slavery.

    Based on the evidence I can only conclude that government mandated social justice is anything but justice, and is not supportive of any message for Christians I am aware of in the Bible.

    -AJ

    • Excellent example, AJ, of exactly what I was saying, which was that there simply is no OBJECTIVE command from Jesus about how government should be structured, therefore each person will argue the case from already existing political biases.

      You are, above all, a man of reason. Do you seriously have no issue with the hyperbole (Nazi and Communist) being used here? I see your attempt to bring logic into the equation, but logic is exactly what is bypassed when one brings out the hammer and sickle and the swastika.

      Your hypothesis is flawed. What I said was not at all that government social justice is Biblical, but rather that whether a person sees it as Biblical or not depends on what their a priori political biases are. So, even with a flawed hypothesis, you proved my point startlingly well!

      • Actualy Junkie

        Hmmm… if that was your point, then I will agree.

        I think the issue is one of terminology. When people speak of ‘social justice’ in the modern sense it is a term generally associated with collectivist politics such as socialism. When we speak of charity we are speaking of individual actions.

        As you know I fully endorse personal charity, but I abhor government paternalism. They are very, very different animals.

        http://alphaideology.blogspot.com/search/label/Editorial%3A%20State%20Paternalism

        -AJ

  • dan Flowers

    Wow.

  • Brad Younce

    Thanks for your stand on Glenn Beck’s opinion. It is amazing how someone who has a voice in the media could be so off target. I would certainly rather hear Glenn Beck’s advice on rugby then his advice on Theology.