The nation’s current most famous paranoid schizophrenic, Glenn Beck, has (no surprise!) shoved his foot into his mouth. The Intertubes have been alive with discussion of this, and I’d planned to avoid the matter, but since it’s become so well known, I thought I should weigh in on it anyway.
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, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes! If I’m going to Jeremiah’s 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’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 that social justice thing,” I’m in the wrong place.
Beck, of course, has no idea what he’s talking about … but his raging paranoia prevents him from understanding that. What he’s doing is to connect several things which are not, in the end, connected at all. Let’s tease them apart so that this matter can be truly understood.
First, it is incontrovertible that Christianity and “social justice” are interconnected, and this is the case from almost the beginning of the movement. Jesus himself preached against the common social mores and presumptions of his time; he promoted charity — true charity, not mere “charity for appearance’s sake,” which he condemned utterly; he associated with outcasts and undesirables, actually preferring their company; he taught compassion for others as one of the cardinal rules of spiritual life; he condemned wealth and promoted giving everything to the poor; and much more. Also, scripture itself suggests early Christian communities lived according to a very egalitarian, “one for all and all for one” ideal, thus exhibiting a strong sense of “social justice” among themselves.
Second, this message has not been completely lost on Christians themselves. The themes of compassion and — yes, Glenn! — “social justice” have been continually picked up and expounded upon by Christians, throughout the religion’s history. Classical-era Christians, for example, maintained funds to support orphans and widows. During the Middle Ages, some religious orders funded and ran infirmaries for the care of the sick, even when plagues were raging, thus exposing themselves to disease. Early strong proponents of the Abolition movement — such as William Wilberforce — were devout Christians whose motivation to free slaves was primarily a religious impulse they believed to be part of Jesus’ own message. Later — especially as it arrived in the United States in the 19th century — Abolition became more of a humanist movement, no longer innately connected to religion … however, Abolition’s origins clearly had at least some religious inspiration. Beck’s reasoning, had it been followed in the early 19th century, would have ground Abolition to a halt, and the U.S. would still have slavery.
Third, Beck is correct that, at one time, phrases like “social justice” were, in fact, code-words used by Communists and Marxists. However, that was mostly true only during the Communist revolutions of the early and middle 20th century, and later during the Cold War. The fact is that this type of “coded” rhetoric has faded away since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Thus, any truthful basis Beck may have had for his comments are — at best — anachronistic. They make no sense today, since many different people, of many different ideologies, appeal to their own individual senses of “social justice.” One can no longer safely assume that any proponent of “social justice” is a Marxist.
Fourth, Beck’s objection appears to be rooted in the Jeremiah Wright controversy. By referring to Wright in his comments, Beck betrays his own childish hang-up on Barack Obama’s former pastor. Beckie, let me help you out here: Jeremiah Wright is now a dead issue. Obama has jettisoned him, and Wright is also done with Obama. This particular battle is over, Glenn, and has been for more than a year … at the very least, Obama’s election in November 2008 obviated it.
This idiocy reveals several things about Glenn Beck. Most importantly, he envisions Christianity as being linked to politics — his own personal, extreme-Right-wing, give-everything-there-is-to-the-wealthy-and-take-every-penny-from-the-poor politics. He cannot, or will not, conceive of Christianity as not being related to politics. Any church which — in his mind — does not march in lockstep with his own ideology, is not a “true” Christian church. He does not realize that Jesus himself was apolitical and did not, at any point during his ministry, ever concern himself with politics or statecraft. If anything, he rather clearly stated the opposite … that not only was he unconcerned with statecraft, that his followers also should not be. Beck also reveals that he is still stuck in the past, still thinking in terms of the Cold War and still consumed with scandals which are now obsolete.
Of note is the fact that a lot of Christians, and especially some of the Religious Right variety, have spoken out against Beck’s comments. For some examples, see this story by ABC News (WebCite cached article). Even the ferocious, fire-&-brimstone Religious Right theologian Albert Mohler has said Beck is wrong (cached article).
This criticism — from within Christianity and even from within the Religious Right — has not been lost on Beckie boy. He has responded: By fighting back, and insisting — in spite of the facts — that he is still correct. He has declared “social justice” to be “a perversion of the gospel,” and justifies his (strange) view of Jesus’ message as being about the individual, not the group. This twisted rationale has, itself, been condemned by the same people who first criticized him (cached article). I will leave the debate about that up to those critics, who as Christian “insiders” have more to say on it than I do.
Beck’s claim that “true” Christianity — as he sees it — has nothing to do with “social justice,” places him squarely in my “lying liars for Jesus” club.
The bottom line is that Beck’s initial condemnation of “social justice” in Christian churches — and his insistence, in spite of criticism by various Christian authorities — that he is still correct, as well as his refusal to let go of the Jeremiah Wright controversy show Beckie-boy to be a raging paranoid child. I suggest it’s long past time for the Beckster to grow up, and address his paranoia … there are good treatments for it, and given the millions he makes, he can more than afford the very best psychiatric care available.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore.Tags: abolition, abolitionism, albert mohler, anachronism, anachronistic, beck, childish, childishness, christian, christian right, Christianity, christians, communism, communist, communists, conservatism, glenn beck, gospels, immature, immaturity, jeremiah wright, jesus, jesus christ, juvenile, liars for jesus, lying liars for jesus, marxism, marxist, maxists, politics, religious right, social justice, socialism, soviet union, spiritual, william wilberforce