Christian Backlash Against Beck Continues

The New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, founded by the pro-life Bush supporter Rev. Rich Cizik, was the first to respond when Glenn Beck claimed that churches that support social justice are Communist or Nazis. They asked for $5,000 to put together a web video responding to Beck. Today, they debuted that video. Their message? "Lighten up, Glenn!"

Are There Republican Moles in the Lay-Staff of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops?

 

I was listening to NPR this morning, and they were talking about the position of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops regarding healthcare reform and abortion.

Any time that anyone talks about their position, this morning, it was a law professor, the consensus is that the position of the Bishops is coming from somewhere in the Twilight Zone: There is simply no basis in realities of law, precedent, legislation, or the manner in which regulation is derived from statute to suggest the Senate language will allow for federal funding of abortion.

This raises an obvious question: Why does the professional staff of the Conference hold a position at such extreme odds with every lawyer, and almost every other Catholic organization out there, most recently the Catholic Health Association and 59,000 nuns?

The only answer that I can come up with is that the professional staff working in their offices have been captured by partisan Republican operatives.

Either there are Republican operatives working and generating legal and legislative opinions, or the staff has been browbeaten by the loud right wing lay activists, most notably Bill Donohue and his Catholic League, and so the staff is taking its talking points from Republican operatives.

In either case, it is clear that the staff is NOT providing competent or good faith advice.

Perhaps a look at the senior lay staff at the organization, and their backgrounds might be warranted by some news gathering organization. (I sent an earlier version of my theory to Josh Marshall, if you know of any other investigative organizations, please forward this to them.)

Note that I am not suggesting that the Bishops themselves are operating as partisan political operatives, simply that their staff may be operating as such.

Cross posted from 40 Years in the Desert.

 

Glenn Beck’s War on Christianity Continues

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.

Glenn Beck Attacks Pastors, Doesn't Understand What Church Is

If you Google “church ‘social justice,’” you get 2.3 million results. “Faith ‘social justice’” yields  2 million, and “Judaism ‘social justice’” gives 1.2 million more. The Catholic Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis even has an “Office for Social Justice.”

According to Fox News’ resident bigot Glenn Beck, the Archbishop of St. Paul and most of those other webmasters are all either Nazis or Communists.

"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."

Code words? When you actually ask the Minnesota Catholics what they do, they’re pretty up front about it: “We base our activities on the biblical and theological foundations of Catholic social teaching… We emphasize the ‘option for the poor’ by pursuing issues which address the dignity and rights of people who are socially, politically, or economically disadvantaged.” 

But no, it is impossible, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that such people are telling the truth. We know this because there was once someone else who meant something different by "social justice." Do you know who that someone else was?

Hitler.

Specious logic aside, Beck’s quote proves he doesn’t understand what church is even ABOUT, not if he thinks it’s the pastor’s occasional choice of language that defines the place. Something that was lost during 2008’s kerfuffle about Pastor Jeremiah Wright is that church is about far more than the Sunday sermon. Pastors come and pastors go, but congregations remain. Church is about community and family. It is about learning and worshipping together in order to grow in ways we never could as individuals. It is not just about filling the lives of those inside the church, but about making a difference in the church's larger community - social justice. In fact, at the church where I currently work, a survey conducted during a recent priest transition said only 55% of parishioners consider the sermon an important part of their church experience. Music and youth opportunities were around 80%.

The fact that Beck would encourage people to leave a church because a pastor or priest defines certain justice Scriptural passages – passages Beck may wish don’t even exist – with two particular words shows that the man knows absolutely nothing about faith, church, or Scripture. While I don’t want to question his personal morality, it’s only going to get harder not to regard him, and his network, as false prophets or charlatans.

If you’re a person of faith and would like to push back against Beck, the New Evangelical Partnership, run by the former Vice President of the conservative National Association of Evangelicals, is trying to raise $5,000 to produce and distribute a video using Matthew 25 to respond to Beck.

Six Upcoming Conferences on Faith and the Environment

I am aware of six conferences on faith, environmental stewardship, and climate change between now and May. If you are anywhere near Omaha, NE; Chicago, IL; New Haven, CT; Spokane, WA; Fayetville, AR; or the Adirondack Mountains and have any interest in either religion or new ways to discuss environmentalism, please consider attending the event near you. The first two are above the fold. The rest, in chronological order, are below the fold, including the one I think looks the most exciting. If you are aware of any others, please be sure to let me know!

February 27, Omaha, NE: Sustainable Faith: An Interfaith Forum on Climate Change and Clean Energy

Repower America and the College of St. Mary will co-host this week’s event on Saturday from 1-5pm. Discussion topics will include eco-justice, eco-spirituality, how faith communities can get involved in the push for clean energy legislation, and what churches can do to be more energy efficient. We will hear from prominent local clergypersons, watch the documentary “Clean Coal,” and learn what congregations around the state are already doing to fight climate change and be better environmental stewards.

“These religious leaders and teachers are forming mutual ministries to address climate challenge,” said the Rev. Dr. Ken Moore, who will speak at the forum. “They recognize that the effects of climate change are devastating – especially on the vulnerable, poor societies. Transitioning to clean, renewable energy would help us preserve God’s green earth, while benefiting the U.S. economy and American families.” Moore is regional minister for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Nebraska and the board chair of Nebraska Interfaith Power and Light. Other speakers will include the Jesuit director of Creighton University’s campus ministry, the director of Justice and Advocacy Ministries ELCA-NE, and an Episcopal deacon and philosophy professor.

Admission is free, and RSVPs are requested but not required. For more information or to RSVP, e-mail sustainablefaith@yahoo.com or visit the event’s Facebook page. (Disclosure: I am organizing this forum on behalf of Repower America.)

March 18-19, Chicago, IL: Shared Earth: Interfaith Conference on the Environment

This event will be held at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and is sponsored by A Center of Christian-Muslim Engagement for Peace and Justice (CCME). The two day conference will include four speakers and five workshops.

Speakers will include Claremont School of Theology Professor Philip Clayton, Shomrei Adamah founder Ellen Bernstein, Rubenstein School of Natural Resources Professor Saleem H. Ali, and Chicago Zen Center director Sevan Ross. Workshops will include “Organizing Environmental Interfaith Action Projects,” “Creating Faith in Place,” “The Care and Redemption of God’s Good Earth: Perspectives from Christian Theology,” “Caring for Mother Earth: A Native American Perspective,” and “Living Green at the Mosque Foundation.”

Admission is free but pre-registration is requested. For more information, visit the CCME’s website.

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