7/21/10

Strange Bedfellows

One of the oddest things I have noticed is the alliance between the Christian Right and Glenn Beck. I will confess that I didn't pay much attention to it at first. Oh, I received all those emails forwarded and re-forwarded: Obama is really a Muslim, Obama banned the National Day of Prayer; Obama created one for the Muslims; Obama doesn’t hold his hand over his heart for the National Anthem.. Never mind there's not one iota of truth to it. The Christian Right loves it. Then I started giving it some thought. Beck, that is.

Their infatuation with Beck confounds me, especially given Beck’s adversarial relationship with the church. Beck really doesn't like 'liberation theology' or 'social justice'.

Beck is just another huckster, pandering for ratings like a politician panders for votes … or like Benny Hinn and Charles Stanley pander for money because … Jesus needs a new Mercedes! 

Truth is the first casualty when one is bitten by a rabid dogma. When the dogma is religious or political, the venom goes straight to the brain and kills all capacity for reason.

Beck's attack began with his rants against "social justice:"

"I'm begging you, your right to religion and freedom to exercise religion and read all of the passages of the Bible as you want to read them and as your church wants to preach them . . . are going to come under the ropes in the next year. If it lasts that long it will be the next year. 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!"
According to Beck, if your church believes in "social justice", your religious freedoms are doomed. It is all a conspiracy by the socialist left, led by that Muslim pretender to the Throne of Freedom, Barack H. Obama.

Beck ignores that many well-established churches are steeped in the concept of "social justice." The Church of the Nazarene is such a church, in the Wesleyan theological camp. John Wesley deeply believed in “social justice”, noting "there is no holiness but social holiness." Wesley preached against slavery; he advocated for prison reform; he held strongly for the downtrodden. The Church of the Nazarene’s Compassionate Ministries are a form of "social justice", an exercise in social holiness in the best Wesleyan tradition. In our own community, we have several “social justice” churches, including the Mennonites, the Catholics, the Presbyterians, and more. Beck even counters the teachings of his own church, as found in King Benjamin’s sermon in Mosiah 4:26 in the Book of Mormon. 

The exercise of "social justice" is but one way we try to live up to Christ's New Commandment, that we love one another as he loved us. 
Beck confuses "social justice" on the part of our churches with "redistribution of wealth" on the part of our government. 

If the members of a congregation freely give of their time and personal wealth, for the benefit of the poor and needy ... that is "social justice", and it is in keeping with the essence of Christian teachings: “…for I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me …”.

If the government takes your personal wealth under pain of imprisonment, and the government redistributes that wealth as it sees fit ... that is not "social justice". That is "redistribution of wealth”, and it is not a teaching of the church.

So why is Beck attacking the church? Why is he calling upon people to flee the church? More puzzling to me is why the Christian Right, who are among Beck’s staunchest fans, accept his continual attacks on the church. Do Beck’s followers despise Obama so much they will accept his lies? How does this serve either the nation or the church? Or more importantly, how does following Beck translate into following Christ?

In the last week, Beck has been back at it, attacking the church over “social justice” and lecturing Obama on the Ten Commandments. Beck is what we call a “parking lot theologian”. His knowledge is shallow and incomplete. He is a “false prophet.” Yet the Christian Right seems to be sniffing up the chalk dust and asking for more.

Strange bedfellows, Glenn Beck and the Christian right.