by Nathan Empsall, Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 02:54:00 AM EST
Last week, Glenn Beck said that because the Nazis used the words “social justice,” Christians should run from churches that use those words on their websites, never mind that they are at the heart of Scripture. Beck renewed these attacks on Christ’s message yesterday, distorting the Gospels even more grotesquely than before:
Where I go to church, there are members that preach social justice as members–my faith doesn’t–but the members preach social justice all the time. It is a perversion of the gospel. … You want to help out? You help out. It changes you. That’s what the gospel is all about: You.
Social justice was the rallying cry—economic justice and social justice—the rallying cry on both the communist front and the fascist front. That is not an American idea. And if we don’t get off the social justice economic justice bandwagon, if you are not aware of what this is, you are in grave danger. All of our faiths–my faith your faith–whatever your church is, this is infecting all of them.
MyDD is by no means a religious blog, and it is certainly not a Christian one. But Glenn Beck, an enemy of the progressive movement and of the American people, has launched a broadside on my faith and on my Savior, and I will not stand for it.
His specious logic about language aside, Beck’s attacks on Christianity are perhaps the greatest distortion of the Gospel since the Crusades. If there is any one thing that the Gospel is NOT about, it’s “you.” You are to know that you are loved, yes, but you are also to join a kingdom and acknowledge a God far bigger than you. In fact, that’s exactly how evangelical pastor Rick Warren starts his best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life: “It’s not about you.”
Let’s take a quick look at the Bible, shall we? In one of the Gospels’ bedrock passages, John 13:34-35, Jesus tells his followers, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” How does focusing on yourself count as loving your neighbor? This call is repeated in Matthew 5:3-12, Luke 6:20-26, Matthew 22:36-40, and more. Mary the Mother of Christ even goes as far as to say, in Luke 1:52-53, that God “has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” In fact, the only end times judgment in the entire Gospel is not about posessing a certain faith or belief; it is about helping the poor (Matthew 25:31-46).
Okay, Beckians might say, clearly the Bible calls Christians to love others, but it does so because of how that transforms the helper, not because it lifts up the helped! Wrong. In Isaiah 51:3-7, we are told not to show piety for the purpose of finding promotion. “Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high… Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house?”
As a person of faith and a student of theology, I don’t disagree with Beck that the Bible will transform us as individuals. Indeed, my last sermon was about the good that comes from trusting God and my Ash Wednesday sermon was about balancing our personal relationships to God with our need for community. But to ignore the second half of that equation, to focus only on the love we receive as individuals, is to ignore everything Christ ever said about Rome. It is to ignore the behavior of the original disciples and it is to distort the words of Jesus in a way even more perverted than did 19th century slave owners.
Christian organizations across the country feel the same way. Sojourners, an evangelical organization dedicated to justice and peace, is asking readers to tell Beck, “I'm a social justice Christian.” The anti-hunger group Bread for the World is gathering 35,000 signatures for a petition they’ll send to Beck about the Bible’s message. The New Evangelical Partnership is raising $5,000 to record a video rebutting Beck.
The best response I’ve yet seen comes from the Jesuit James Martin’s “Glenn Beck to Jesus: Drop Dead” who defends the Catholic Church’s history of social teaching. Martin’s response was joined in the top tier yesterday by Peg Chemberlin, president of the National Council of Churches, who says that Beck “is advocating that [Christians] abandon the full Gospel message in favor of a hollow idol, and he is doing so for worldly gain. His statements cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged… If Mr. Beck's rants stemmed simply from an honest lack of familiarity with Scripture, that would be one thing. But what is perhaps most disturbing about Mr. Beck's recent statements is that he is urging his listeners to follow a piecemeal Gospel because it better fits his worldly political views.”
The Christian-specific response to Beck aside, people of other faiths and none can join us too. The best way to strike back at Beck is not to sign a petition, though that will help, and it is not to demand that his sponsors pull their support, though that will help too. No, the best way to respond to Beck is this: Keep loving your neighbor, and keep fighting for the poor and the oppressed. Do everything you can to bring down whatever unjust structures you believe exist in this country and on this planet, and always keep the values of charity, hope, and love in your heart. If we can all do these things, then it won’t matter what vocabulary we use to describe them or what faith banner we do them under, Beck’s selfish and evil words will have no place left to stand.