3/11/2010

Glenn Beck: If Your Church Teaches "Social Justice," Leave It.

I guess Glenn Beck is ignorant of the biblical truth that Christ's redemptive plan is for all aspects of the fallen world, including bringing social and economic justice to it. But as an evangelical, I must stand up and say, "NO!" to his latest tirades against churches that teach that Social Justice is a major part of why we exist.

I feel strongly about this, especially since so many evangelicals listen and watch Glenn Beck and seem to agree with him most of the time. I fear that in the coming weeks and months, when pastors seek to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and lead their congregations toward a renewed sense of call toward social justice, it will not be politically correct because of the insidious ideas that Beck has been telling those that attend our churches.

Beck believes that words like "Social Justice" and "Economic Justice" are "code words" for Communist and/or Nazi ideas that will take over the country. No, they are biblical concepts that we must not allow the likes of Beck to distort and malign.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ demands that Christians engage in justice issues. As members of the Kingdom of God, we seek to cooperate with our Lord and Savior to bring God's kingdom values into this fallen world, bringing redemption to all of society's fallenness - serving individuals to help them find the righteousness offered by Christ, as well as serving society to bring about social justice. This is the fullness of the redemption that Christ offers in the New Creation, initiated with his death and resurrection. This is the "Gospel of the Kingdom of God" that Jesus taught.

Now, listen to what Beck said last week:

__"I beg you, look for the words 'social justice' or 'economic justice' on your church website. 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. If I am going to Jeremiah Wright's church - Yes! Leave your church. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. 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 justice thing?' I don't care what the church is - If it is my church, I'm alerting the church authorities, 'Excuse me, what's this social justice thing?' And if they say, 'Yea, we're all in that social justice thing,' I'm in the wrong place."

Beck then went on to compare these churches' desire for social justice to the evils of Communism and Nazism.

Listen to his remarks from the radio program here:


Later, on his Fox News program, he explicitly equated Communism and Nazism with Social Justice.

This cannot go unchallenged. And it hasn't. Roman Catholics have found his words offensive. Joe Carter at First Things wrote,
__"Although many Protestant denominations express concerns about social justice, the term is most closely associated with the social teachings of the Catholic Church. A Jesuit priest, Luigi Taparelli D’Azeglio, coined the term in the 1840s and based the concept on the teachings of Thomas Aquinas.
__According to the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 'a large part of the Church’s social teaching is solicited and determined by important social questions, to which social justice is the proper answer.' Social justice is even given a section in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
__Could Beck’s claim be construed as 'anti-Catholic?' Yes and no. I think if anyone else had made the remark it would have been hard to dismiss the anti-Catholic undertones. But Beck is a special case: He is too prone to say any dumb thing that pops into his head and too ignorant about history and religion to truly understand the implications of his statement. This doesn’t excuse him, of course, but it certainly is reason not to be too shocked when a self-professed 'rodeo clown' advises people to leave their churches over Catholic 'code words' like social justice.
__Still, I’m curious to see how Beck’s loyal defenders will excuse his latest outrageous remarks. If we’re not supposed to take him seriously when he says stuff like this, when exactly are we to take him seriously?"
And James Martin, SJ, wrote in Amercia: The National Catholic Weekly,
__"Social justice is an essential part of Catholic teaching. It's part of being a Catholic. So Glenn Beck is, in essence, saying 'Leave the Catholic church.' Or, if you like, the Catholic church is a Nazi church. (Which would have surprised Alfred Delp, Rupert Mayer and Maximilian Kolbe.) Or a Communist one. (Which would have suprised Jerzy Popieluszko and Karol Wojtyla).
__But Glenn Beck is saying something else, which might get lost in the translation: Leave Christianity. Again and again in the Gospels, Jesus points to our responsibility to care for the poor, to work on their behalf, to stand with them. In fact, when asked how his followers would be judged, Jesus doesn’t say that it will be based on where you worship, or how you pray, or how often you go to church, or even what political party you believe in. He says something quite different: It depends on how you treat the poor."
Evangelicals should be upset with Glenn Beck as well. We should shout "AMEN" in agreement with James Martin. Social Justice is not just Catholic teaching; it is biblical teaching. Check out what Scot McKnight just wrote in response to Glenn Beck:
__I find these sorts of statements so far from an awareness of Jesus (not to mention John the Baptist), so I post here the first words of Jesus in public preaching. This passage can't be read without thinking Jesus was here to bring justice. After the jump, I've got John's words, which have to be seen as some form of voluntary economic sharing as a form of creating justice.
__But instead of turning back kind for kind, we shall commit ourselves all the more to telling the truth of the gospel and urge churches to make sure, because of their commitment to following Jesus, their website does mention justice.

Jesus:
Now Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and the regaining of sight to the blind,
to set free those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to tell them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled even as you heard it being read." All were speaking well of him, and were amazed at the gracious words coming out of his mouth. They said, "Isn't this Joseph's son?" Jesus said to them, "No doubt you will quote to me the proverb, 'Physician, heal yourself!' and say, 'What we have heard that you did in Capernaum, do here in your hometown too.'" And he added, "I tell you the truth, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's days, when the sky was shut up three and a half years, and there was a great famine over all the land. Yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to a woman who was a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, yet none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian." When they heard this, all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, forced him out of the town, and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But he passed through the crowd and went on his way. (Luke 4:16-30)

John the Baptist:
So the crowds were asking him, "What then should we do?" John answered them, "The person who has two tunics must share with the person who has none, and the person who has food must do likewise." Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, "Teacher, what should we do?" He told them, "Collect no more than you are required to." Then some soldiers also asked him, "And as for us - what should we do?" He told them, "Take money from no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your pay." (Luke 3:10-14)

I have my own beefs with the word "social" with justice, thinking it too often gets lumped with the US Constitution, but all justice will manifest itself in social and economic ways.

Jim Wallis, a representative of the politically left side of evangelicalism, wrote,
__"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.
__Beck says Christians should leave their social justice churches, so I say Christians should leave Glenn Beck."
And don't forget that, as I've been writing here at Vanguard Church, that Glenn Beck is a Mormon. He said, "If it is my church, I'm alerting the church authorities, 'Excuse me, what's with this social justice thing?' And if they say, 'Yea, we're all in that social justice thing,' I'm in the wrong place."

Well, here you go, Glenn (courtesy of a Mormon who invites you to leave his church):
__"Being that I happen to be a devout member of Glenn Beck's faith (yeah, there are Mormons out there who are embarrassed to death by Beck) I thought we ought to apply Beck's "socialist" "communist" "progressive" litmus test to the Mormon faith itself.
"It is unfortunate that it is taking so long to bring full ECONOMIC JUSTICE to women. The feminization of poverty is both real and tragic. That is why you should work very hard to prepare for your future by gaining some marketable skills." ~James E Faust, Apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, September, 1986 (Link can be found here).

__And let's not forget President Thomas S. Monson, the current president of the Mormon Church who created a 4th official mission for the church: "Care for the Needy."

"This can only be a positive...to bring SOCIAL JUSTICE to those in need." (Link here).

__And let us not forget some of the teachings of the Book of Mormon itself:
__From the Book of Alma 1: 27-28, 30:
__“And they did impart of their substance, every man according to that which he had, to the poor, and the needy, and the sick, and the afflicted; and they did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely. __And thus they did establish the affairs of the church; and thus they began to have continual peace again, notwithstanding all their persecutions. __And thus, in their prosperous circumstances, they did not send away any who were naked, or that were hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished; and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore they were liberal to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of the church or in the church, having no respect to persons as to those who stood in need.”

And Mosiah 4: 16-19:
__And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish. __Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just— __But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God. __For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?”

HT: John Fea

8 comments:

Brad Hart said...

Great stuff! Thanks for mentioning my blog post here!

Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience said...

Thank you for highlighting all these comments in response to Mr. Beck.

Very needful words....

Standing ovation....

All's grace,
Ann

Byron Harvey said...

Yeah, Glenn's missed it on this one. I think I know the point he's trying to make, but he's sure not making it very well. I do think that "social justice" can be code words, and those words have been freighted with all sorts of meaning ranging from the very Biblical to the very socialistic and everything in between--and so I have a leeriness of the term myself such that I'm a bit reticent to use it (and one can think of other terms that have been so corrupted: "fundamentalist" and "tolerance" come to mind, and some would even argue "evangelical"), but certainly not the concept, defined Biblically; it is a clear calling for Christians to be concerned with issues of justice. I agree with Jim Wallis fairly rarely, but I think he's right on with his comments about the subject. Glenn has not chosen his words well at all here. I did hear him for about 2 minutes today and he was revisiting the subject--didn't listen long enough to really know what prompted that, or if he was clarifying what he meant--that'd be interesting to know.

James Martin, though, is wrong in his idea of what Glenn is saying; he's not saying "leave Christianity" (and again, we've touched on the discussion of whether Glenn really knows enough about the difference between his Mormonism and genuine Biblical faith to speak knowledgeably). Beck says the opposite with regularity, of course, but what Beck is missing is that, as you've said, (correctly understood) social justice is a significant calling for believers.

Matt Robinson said...

Article.......Evangelical leader challenges Beck.

http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/03/12/beck.boycott/index.html?hpt=C1

Matt Robinson said...

F.Y.I...........The Evangelical Leader is Jim Wallis

Byron Harvey said...

I think that the article made a trenchant comment that is at the heart of this controversy, Matt: The term "economic and social justice" is not easy to define. It has different meanings for different people. Certainly Beck overspoke and didn't clarify himself in a responsible way. But it has to also be acknowledged---as Wallis does, to his credit---that there are some very different approaches out there to "social justice". That's the rub; hopefully, Beck will be much more clear in the future when he wants to tackle this controversial subject.

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Dan Bryan said...

Social Justice is ‘Political Speak’ that some churches have adopted in the discussion of assisting the poor and down trodden.

Deuteronomy 26:12 In the law of Moses, the model for giving to the poor was on the personal level, individual-to-individual.
Matthew 19:21 Jesus instructed the rich man to sell all he had and give to the poor.
I contend that care for the poor in the first century was ‘bottom up’ or horizontal if you will.
I contend it is the gospel for the individual, not the corporate.

Note what Jesus DID NOT say to the rich man:
• Sell all you have and bring it to me to redistribute to the poor
• Sell all you have, bring the proceeds to the Priest for redistribution to the poor
• Sell all you have, bring the proceeds to Herod for redistribution to the poor
• Sell all you have, send it to Rome for the careful need of those less fortunate

Today the church and government usurps the obligation and requirements of the individual.
Today we bring a stipend to the church, believing they can do the work of ‘social justice’, my obligation is complete.
We say, all the taxes I pay, It is the government’s job to provide for the welfare of the poor.

I contend that the plan of God for individual-to-individual responsibility, and never intended for the corporate church or government top-down regime.

I contend Glen Beck has this right!

Thanks,
Dan