Sunday, March 21, 2010

Glenn Beck: Some People Have Something to Say; Some People Just Have to Say Something

I'm writing about something that I've already said I would ignore. I hope I can refrain from posting about this again. But its Sunday and it somehow seems appropriate - especially in the season in which Christians place special emphasis on the celebration of the Resurrection.

At some point I hope we stop taking Glenn Beck and others like him seriously. I mean stop acting as if he has something meaningful to say. Just because he comments on serious subjects doesn't mean that he's a serious person. I wish people on MSNBC, CNN and other real journalists would stop treating him as if he really was something more than the political punditry version of WWF wrestling.

And if, to the degree that we feel as if we must take him seriously, take him seriously enough to boycott the sponsors of his program. The Dixie Chicks were excoriated because, overseas they made a distasteful comment about President Bush. Beck calls President Obama a racist (did he look at the racial make up of the president's cabinet?!), yet corporations still sponsor his 'program'. Really?!

To show how off the reservation Beck has gotten, he has now decided to give the religious community in our country 'theological' council - run from churches that teach 'social justice'. The very fact that he even proffers such advice shows he understands neither theology or social justice. The spin that the right wing currently puts on it, is a convenient way of trying to dampen the impact of religious teaching from which they and this country benefit, because it serves their political agenda.

Beck's train of semi-thought suggests that our religiously inspired expressions of concern for the poor, the oppressed, the disenfranchised, should be limited to personal acts of charity. He 'proof texts' (takes snippets of scripture that fit his point of view and raises them the level of theologically empirical evidence) certain passages and calls the preaching and teaching of social justice, 'perversion'. Proving in the process that he understands neither social justice or Biblical teaching.

This post would really be long if I were to give an exposition on prophets like Elijah, or Amos, or Isaiah, or Nathan, or Jeremiah, who spoke to kings and government officials about the demands of Divinity to be fair with those who are poor; that justice would be visited upon those who ignored their needs and exploited them economically, imprisoned them falsely, or ignored the judicially.

The assertion that Jesus came with no 'political agenda', is simply a convenient argument of those who are only comfortable with a 'God' only capable of helping us overcome bad habits and vices that make good people uncomfortable. Jesus' message was principally to his own people, the Jews, yet that message was made to strengthen them and give them hope in the midst of political oppression by the Roman government - with the promise that this oppression would be broken by the God in Whom He was calling them to give total and complete loyalty.

Interestingly enough 300 years after his resurrection, it was this faith that did indeed conquer the Roman government and transformed it. It was not a revolt with weapons of war, but it was the capacity of believers to challenge a government of excess, cruelty, exploitation and oppression, with incredible faith, commitment and exceptional personal sacrifice.

We may be the first civilization in over 2000 years who have wanted to transform the Jesus of the Bible into the author of a glorious 12 step self improvement program! But that is what Jesus is reduced to when those who have bought into the message of empire try and syncretize their ambitions with their faith.

But even more astonishing, Beck's assertion is totally illogical.

Faith is indeed something that influences our personal behavior. Our belief in God and, for those of us who are Christian, our commitment to Jesus Christ out to make us better individuals. It should make us more moral, more compassionate and loving, more concerned about our fellow man. Our strive to be better citizens, committed to serving one another - in particular those who are not as fortunate as us. I think that is a given.

Politics and government are the means by which we figure out how we are to live together as a human family. We make determinations about property. We set ethical and relational boundaries. We decide which things should be done in community and which things are best done as individuals. In other words: in community, we make decisions about what issues, services and property are to be held in common and are a part of the 'public square' and which things are not.

Beck's rationale suggests that as people of faith come together and participate in community they should be less moral, less charitable, less concerned about their fellowman than they are as individuals! To say it another way, it is perfectly acceptable for me to do all I can to feed someone who is hungry as an individual, but when I act in communion with my fellow citizens, that same spiritual influence should be checked as we develop policy decisions on how to deal with the hungry.


Beck's 'warning' concerning social justice makes no sense because its not rooted in Ayn Rand-like libertarianism, it is simply a caricature of legitimate conservative thought. It is a sordid exploitation of fear and ignorance. It is rooted in a political selfishness, which is in itself, un-Christian and would be dangerous if Beck was something other than an entertainer, whose 15 minutes of fame will last as long as his ratings numbers hold up.

If one is truly a follower of nearly any major religion, then one is influenced to care for those who are less fortunate as individuals. But we are also called to make certain that the systems we create in community are just and fair to those to whom we show sympathy or empathy as individuals. We cannot, as people of faith, be more moral personally than we are publicly.

I have heard and read the ridiculous idea that 'social justice' hearkens to something sinister. We have recently become pretty adroit in our society in throwing around musty, dust covered words like, 'socialism', 'communism', 'Marxist'. Basically to keep people afraid of our current President. These terms are conveniently thrown around to try and stoke maximum fear in vulnerable people uncomfortable with the ascension of an African-American to the nation's highest office. The fear is, that this is something so different, that there has to be something wrong with the man, his person, politics and anyone who agrees with him.

Of course those who sling these words around, don't mind throwing around words that also hearken back to more recent days of terrorism and intimidation - words like 'state's rights', 'interposition' and 'nullification'. These are words which have traditionally signaled implementation of public policy that has been racist, oppressive and discriminatory. They are words which true scholars, men and women who don't use shock value to sell soap and hamburgers on television, recognize as a true threat to civil, godly, just and equitable society. And they have pointed to prophets like Amos, Micah, Isaiah and Jeremiah, to remind us that God requires us to be just as we relate to one another, corporeally and individually.

Oh, if only we would do with Glenn Beck what Jesus did when He stood before King Herod.

Ignore him.


Anonymous said...

Are you calling the guys and gal on MSNBC real journalists?

randye said...

Must of missed that part where Christ told Herod to pay up or go to jail, in the name of social justice.

Anonymous said...

Really Rev - you consider MSBC serious journalism (can you say Keith Obermann)? CNN must run a close second in your book.

It is certainly refreshing to read your unbiased personal political prejudice about right wing commentators.
By the way, is the Rev. title honorary, or do you have a religious exemption for a lack of truth?

Gerald Britt said...

Anon 8:26,

I'll reply this time to your comment (like I've said, its pretty much time to dismiss Glenn Beck - the sooner the better).

There are journalists on MSNBC. Obviously you are making reference (if you're also Anon 6:06), Rachel Maddow, as well as Keith Obermann, etc. If you don't consider them 'journalists' your probably right. However it amazes me that when they refute Republican assertions, rarely can anyone come out and say that they are wrong.

I point out MSNBC and CNN mainly because the waste time talking about Glenn Beck. Even the 'real' journalist. Every time they do so they give him unwarranted credibility.

As far as my attitude towards conservative commentators - I actually like David Brooks, George Will even William Bennett - to name a few. I don't agree with any of them much of the time, but they are reasonable and intelligent and make cogent arguments.

Beck is an entertainer. He's not a satirist, he's not a legitimate commentator. He makes his living making outlandish statements for the pure shock value that pander to the fears and suspicions of people whose fears and suspicions are stoked by extremists and alarmists.

Its an act that will wear thin as soon as people realize that he has nothing useful to say.

Chris said...

Glenn Beck is a real patriot and I do believe he was responsible more than anyone else for removing communist Van Jones.

Chris said...

Social Justice means the forceable redistribution of wealth. Both of Obama's "spiritual advisors,"Jeremiah Wright and Jim Wallis believed in this which makes them both Marxists. Obama also believes in this.

Obama's next project will be to legalize millions of illegals because he will need their votes come November.

Gerald Britt said...

As to your first response Chris, Glenn Beck is no patriot. He is an entertainer. A poor one at that. As soon as his ratings no longer serve the purposes of the market, he'll go the way of Susan Powter. Remember her? I rest my case.

Regarding your second comment. The more you explain 'social justice' the more you show that you have no idea whatsoever what social justice means.