Friday, March 19, 2010

oh, glenn.

Warning: This is going to be heavy (and lengthy!) for a Friday.

{Beck's original comments may be heard in the video above.}

Jordan and I have been watching The Office on DVD since the Olympics ended, so I’ve been a little behind in the world of news and politics. That is, until today, when I came across this post on Donald Miller’s blog. In it, Miller gives his two cents on a debate that apparently has been raging for days over “social justice” and what it means for this country and God’s people.

Apparently, the whole thing started with Glenn Beck. (Oh, Glenn. I’m just not sure what I think about you.) A few days ago, during Beck’s television program (which, admittedly, I do not watch), Beck began a monologue about “social justice,” during which he referenced a man named Jim Wallis, who, I’ve since discovered, runs a magazine/think tank/blog about social justice as it pertains to the U.S. government and Christianity. The mission statement of Wallis’ institution, Soujourners, reads:

Our mission is to articulate the biblical call to social justice, inspiring hope and building a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world.

Beck went on to compare Wallis’ beliefs with that of Karl Marx, which sadly, didn’t shock me all that much. From what I’ve seen of Beck, he’s kind of extreme. You know, one of those guys who gets your attention by being as “out there” as possible, by shocking you into listening. An exaggerator, if you will.

Later, on his popular radio show, Beck continued his diatribe, calling on Christians to leave their congregations if “social justice” was mentioned in sermons, on church Web sites, in communications materials, etc.

I think the whole thing is absolutely absurd, and sadly, I’m not sure Christians have responded all that well.

Wallis (of Sojourners fame) and other writers on the Sojourners site have blogged about the incident several times, even calling on Beck to have a thoughtful dialogue about the subject. I doubt Beck will participate, but it’s a nice gesture. Unfortunately (and I may actually disagree with Don Miller here… I know, I can’t believe it either), Wallis didn’t stop there. He’s continued to repost Beck’s comments on his own site — a gesture that I think is kind of unnecessary — and has called on Christians to boycott Beck’s show, which to me sounds an awful lot like Beck calling on people to leave their churches.

Beck and Wallis (both self-proclaimed Christ-followers) have inspired a flood of comments and discussions on blogs and news sites, and it's not the type of thoughtful dialogue that the Father of logic would be proud of. Christians commenting on both Wallis’ site and even Miller’s post have said things out of line and context, things I'm pretty sure I disagree with. Like this guy, who claimed: “Where in the Gospels did Jesus ask us to give the government our coat in order for them to give someone a pair of pants, or for that matter where Jesus had anything to do with the government or the state in general?”

He’s right. On the one hand, Jesus never instructed his disciples to involve politics in their healing or giving ministries. But Jesus did have a lot to do with the government/state. He stepped on its toes and got the leaders’ attention. And, ultimately, He (and those who followed in His footsteps) commanded disciples and other church leaders to obedience, both in giving taxes and in following governmental law (Mark 12:13-17; Romans 13:1-3).

I don’t know why we act like Jesus ignored government. He didn’t. Now, I don’t think Jesus came to earth to be a political leader or pundit (thank goodness), nor do I think He'd be an American Republican or Democrat if He were on earth today. (I'm inclined to think He wouldn't vote at all.) But I do think Jesus got the attention of government leaders just as He did the religious ones, and I do think, when asked, Christ gave His opinion on how we’re supposed to deal with rulers in authority over us.

I also took issue with a separate commenter on the Wallis blog who referenced all the many ways Jesus cautioned against wealth, against making money your master; the comment was intended to support social justice, and I agreed completely, until I reached the sentence that referenced Jesus turning tables in the temple courts.

Honestly, I don’t think that had as much to do with a disgusting display of wealth and money (though it was) as it did with Jesus defending a place that belonged strictly to His Father. Money was an issue, perhaps, but my reading of that passage leads me to belief that Jesus had His Father in mind first, not, at that particular moment, social justice.

Finally, one other Wallis commenter issued the point I knew would be made eventually: That on one side stand the right-wing, evangelical conservatives who "believe in the Bible" (direct quote), and on the other sit the more progressive Christians who choose instead to "follow the man from Nazareth."

I wonder what happens when you're both.

The point is, these hateful arguments, irresponsible blogs, and illogical comments go completely against our call to “speak the truth in love,” to give our hearts, souls, minds, and tongues completely to our Father.

I’m not sure why Glenn Beck all of a sudden felt the need to berate “social justice.” Since his first comments, he’s changed his tune slightly, saying now that if your church is calling you to individually help the poor and the weak, that’s okay. It’s the government’s involvement he doesn’t like.

Okay. Fine. But because I’m a Christian, in addition to helping the cause of the poor and weak on my own dime, I’m going to keep paying my taxes. And if those taxes pay for programs that serve the “least of these,” even better.

In the mean time, I think we all could use a moment to step back and think seriously about the life we’re called to lead. The life that requires self-sacrifice (ever heard of it, Glenn?), a tight tongue (Mary kept it all in her heart), an obedience to those in authority, and help for those who can’t help themselves (whether you call it social justice or not).

1 comment:

chet said...

reluctantly posting...

I like social justice. I think it is our primary purpose as inhabitants of this creation, made in the image of the creator. I believe in James 1:27. I believe in love and serving others. I think the “Bible believing evangelical right” has forgotten all about it. I want to live to fulfill this purpose. To bring heaven to earth.

I don’t like the term “social justice,” at least coming from certain people’s mouths. Because it does get twisted and shrouded with conspiracy and corruption when it comes to government. Red or Blue. A year ago, I would go on and on and on and on about this. But I’m not, because I don’t care anymore.

I think David Lipscomb (yes) has the best and most Biblical idea of Jesus’ and the Christian’s relation to the state: as little as possible. His book, “Civil Government and the Christians Relationship to It” is a tough but worthy read.

If I want to live like Jesus and bring social justice and social reform, it has to start with (real) evangelism not legislation.

I guess I'm just completely apathetic to anything the government does because now I know my purpose and that won't change no matter what happens. I would just prefer it if they stayed as far away as possible from me.