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Glenn Beck

I haven't heard / watched Glenn Beck's show tonight, but I think I know the gist: I was just reading that Mr. Beck has declared that "Christians should leave churches that use the words 'social justice'" claiming that "'social justice' and 'economic justice'" are code words for Communism and Nazism."

Let me begin by saying that I am outraged and saddened by such statements. That Mr. Beck has tens of millions of Christian viewers and listeners only deepens my frustration. Having just published a book with the subtitle "A Practical Guide to Social Justice" let me say that while of course Social Justice as a cultural phenomenon can sometimes stray into territory that is outside the bounds of what we should affirm as Christians (ie: violent riots, forced economic redistribution etc.), LOVE OF NEIGHBOR and concern for the well being of others has ALWAYS been at the core of what it means to be Christian (Matt 25, Phil 2:3-4, Luke 10:25-37 etc.). Indeed, such Scriptural examples are PRECISELY what it means to "love your neighbor as yourself," a command at the very center of Judaism which Jesus re-affirmed at several points in his public ministry.

In making such statements Mr. Beck reveals his complete lack of historical cognizance (consider accounts of what early Christians did for their Pagan neighbors because of the example of Jesus and the Gospel: radical love of neighbor, concern for the poor, creation of hospitals--it's Social Justice. The Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark is a good place to start if you want to read more) as well as a fundamental misunderstanding about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Mr. Beck has said that "The Gospel is all about YOU." No it isn't. The Gospel is fundamentally about God's redemptive work in the whole cosmos. That we as individuals are a part of His Creation means we can be caught up in that redemptive work as well, certainly. But in a hyper-individualistic culture such as America, Christians need to realize that the full scope of God's redemptive work is about more than just individual salvation.

Mr. Beck is not a Bible scholar. Nor is he a historian. Nor is he a theologian. He is a rhetorician--trained (and paid) to evoke response from his audience. No doubt he's good at it: he's telling his viewers, listeners, and readers precisely what they want to hear: IE: be comfortable--the Gospel doesn't require anything of you--it's all about you and personal fulfilment--health and wealth--and anybody who tells you otherwise is a Nazi. Given the rampant individualism and selfishness within American culture, who wouldn't want to hear that?

I weep that tens of millions of people will hear Beck's words and be persuaded toward what Bonhoeffer referred to as "cheap grace." We should take Bonhoeffer's words and example very seriously. He was executed for his radical faith in Jesus Christ, and for the intentional way that he sought to live out the Gospel in his life.

And you'll never guess who executed him: the Nazis.

Grace and Peace.


Comment Author Comment Text

Member Since:

Be careful about jumping to conclusions based on what you've read somewhere. I listen to Glenn Beck once in awhile on the way to work and he actually addressed this misquote this morning. He was using the phrase "Social Justice" as it has historically been used by the radical left in the promotion of socialist agenda. You will be aware that that particular phrase can be, and has been, used by many different people, both left and right politically, to promote unjust, un-Christlike agendas in every corner of the globe. He referenced scripture to say that the social justice promoted by Jesus should be the passion of all of our lives...to feed the poor, house the homeless, take in the widow and orphan..whatever that looks like in our modern world.

In an age where this phrase has become so commonly used and misused, we ought to make sure in our interactions that we are clear about how we are using it, and that we understand another person's meaning of this very emotion laiden phrase.

Posted: 2010-04-16 12:33:40


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