Glenn Beck stirred up some controversy this week when he made the following comments about social justice on his radio program on Monday, he said:

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.

You can listen to the whole clip above.  Then yesterday the favorite spokesperson of the Evangelical Left (that still seems like an oxymoron to me) Jim Wallis, criticized Beck in an interview with CNN and is calling for a boycott of Beck’s show.

Wallis says Beck compared those churches to Communists and Nazis.

Wallis says at least 20,000 people have already responded to his call to boycott Beck. He says Beck is confusing his personal philosophy with the Bible.

"He wants us to leave our churches, but we should leave him," Wallis says of Beck. "When your political philosophy is to consistently favor the rich over the poor, you don’t want to hear about economic justice."

Wallis says he wants to go on Beck’s show to challenge the contention that churches shouldn’t preach economic and social justice.

Social and economic justice is at the heart of Jesus’ message, Wallis says.

"He’s afraid of being challenged on his silly caricatures," Wallis says. "Glenn Beck talks a lot when he doesn’t have someone to dialogue with. Is he willing to talk with someone who he doesn’t agree with?"

Beck’s remarks were careless.  As there is nothing inherently wrong with the social work that churches do among the poor.  Actually it should be commended.  Followers of Christ are to minister to the poor, the needy and the oppressed.  The are to visit the sick and those in prison; they are to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, (Matthew 25:31-46).  We are also to care for orphans and windows, (James 1:27).  The Old Testament prophets give witness to God’s concern for the poor, one example can be found in Isaiah.

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up speedily;
your righteousness shall go before you;
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard, (Isaiah 58:6-8, ESV).

So the Church is to be involved in helping to alleviate suffering and show mercy to those in need.  Where Wallis gets it wrong, and this is likely what Beck is driving out (but missed the boat) is when he said “social and economic justice is at the heart of Jesus’ message.”  No it wasn’t.  The Gospel was.  Social Justice isn’t the gospel, and that an entirely different blog post.  It is an implication of the gospel, but not the gospel itself.

Wallis takes what is legitimate work of the Church and then applies it to government.  Demanding that our government follows the same pattern as what is laid out for the church.  What I don’t think Wallis realizes (or chooses to overlook) is that the proper biblical role of the Government, (Romans 13:1-7) and the role of the Church are separate and distinct.  But some those in Wallis’ camp that would suggest that the government tithe to poorer nations.  What should be done by the church is to reach out in compassion, what Wallis advocates is for the Church to lobby government to involve itself in the work of compassion and to bring “social and economic justice.”

That is entirely way off base.  I said in an earlier post addressing the same subject:

People, like Jim Wallis, read the prophets and see what they say about the poor, and assume that God is directing the government of the Nation of Israel to do something.  Sometimes God’s message was given directly to the leaders, but by and large were given to the people of Israel individually as well.

I would also like to point out that organized contributions for the poor came from a person’s tithe, not tax, (Deuteronomy 14:28-29).

In Acts when you see the poor taken care of collectively it was through individuals being led to sell their possessions and give to the poor, (Acts 4:32-37).  In Acts 6 you see that it was the Church who took care of widows.  James tells us that caring for orphans and widows in their distress is pure religion, (James 1:27).  In Matthew 25 Jesus says, to individuals, those who help the least, the last and the lost are doing that unto Him as well.

So the responsibility ultimately is the Church’s.  No where in scripture do you find people being forced to be charitable.  We who follow Christ should give and work with “the least of these” because Christ’s love compels us.

What Wallis advocates is akin to wealth redistribution, which Beck rightly links to communism and socialism.  Fortunately political activity of that nature is not what goes on in most churches, but they are simply seeking to love others.

It was unfortunate that Beck didn’t make that distinction.  It is equally unfortunate that  Wallis used this opportunity to misrepresent what the role of the Church and the role of the government is.

24 comments
  1. Beck was careless. He painted with too broad a brush. But many people use “social justice” to mean govt transfer payments to the poor. And maybe, being a Mormon, he isn’t aware of the wide uses of the term among Christians.

    The “boycott” is funny. How many people who listen to Wallis listen to Beck?
    .-= ChrisB´s last blog ..Some Recommended Reading =-.

    1. @ChrisB, I would say probably very few actually, and I really don’t see a boycott being effective. What’s ironic is that I’m sure that Wallis would likely criticize Focus on the Family when they call for boycotts.

  2. I hear this Wallis argument from people a lot, but almost never from purported Christians. “You’re a hypocrite if you don’t support government redistribution of wealth.” They bring up “give to Caesar that which is Caesar’s” as an argument against tax-cuts and for institutionalized class envy. And of course, the disingenuous “WWJD” attack from people who call all religion superstition.

    We are told to take care of the “least” in honorable ways. But this is a decision of the heart and not an act to be forced on us. It is on a personal and church-level activity based on desire and not coercion. And it is definitely not a government-level activity.

    Prior to government involvement, there was much more widespread charity, and the people receiving the charity were better off and much more thankful for the hand-up and worked to help themselves. The more government gets involved giving hand-outs, the less charity is involved. And the recipients of hand-outs change from being thankful to being deserving as they work to help themselves to your money. The first blesses a people and the second curses a people.
    .-= John Hitchcock´s last blog ..The Bible Says Don’t Judge, Right? =-.

  3. I actually disagree with you, Shane. If you take the words “social justice,” etc at face value, you’re right. But Glenn Beck (and I’m not a Glenn Beck apologist, you know that) said they were code words for something else. And he’s right.

    Outside of the Catholics (who are somewhat divided on what they mean by the words), any other religious group at the capitol or in the public policy arena that uses the words “social justice” or “economic justice” are talking about little more than socialism, abdication of responsibility to government, etc.

    There may be exceptions, but church organizations that use those terms are usually in the same company as Des Moines’ Interfaith Alliance philosophically. Not good company to keep.

    My experience is that churches that are actually doing the good work of feeding, clothing, and taking care of their neighbors don’t use those euphemisms and, frankly, don’t usually feel the need to convince the world they care about “social justice.” They just live it. Sincere Churches that are starting to use that terminology should beware as the term means “social justice” about as much as “gay” means happy.

    1. @Eric Goranson, I see what you are saying, but the word has been hijacked. I did at the end write this, “What Wallis advocates is akin to wealth redistribution, which Beck rightly links to communism and socialism. Fortunately political activity of that nature is not what goes on in most churches, but they are simply seeking to love others.”

      So whatever you call it, they aren’t doing the work that Wallis would like.

      I think we’re on the same page mostly, but Beck should have been a little clearer.

      1. @Shane Vander Hart, I understand what you mean when you say you are participating in “social justice” at SOY. But, in fact, you are not participating in social justice anymore than you are homosexual when you say you’ve have every reason to be “gay” today. The word HAS been hijacked. That’s just a done deal. “Social Justice” isn’t in the real dictionary as one word but I find it interesting that dictionary.com has this:

        Main Entry: social justice
        Part of Speech: n
        Definition: the distribution of advantages and disadvantages within a society

        Churches or para-church ministries doing the real work of charity should never, in my opinion, use the term “social justice.”

        I think most of the criticisms I’ve heard of Glenn Beck’s comments were from people who either don’t understand the political and public policy ramifications of the phrase “social justice” or “economic justice” or were just more than happy to pounce on him when they had a chance.

      2. @Eric Goranson, I understand what you are saying (I usually don’t use that term for this very reason), but I think Beck missed a great opportunity to draw a distinction.

        But when you look way back at Catholic social teaching, for instance,it is meant to work on behalf of the poor and vulnerable… not to redistribute wealth.

        The terms “social justice” and “economic justice” I believe have been erroneously linked. But you are right, the horse is already out of the barn. Just like other terms, oh I don’t know, like “tolerance” have been hijacked, so has this.

      1. @Shane Vander Hart – Interesting article. Wonder what Beck’s real thoughts are about caring for the poor. His comments were probably more political than religious. Hard to believe that he would be against caring for folks less fortunate them he is. Of course I do not know much about him.
        .-= Kansas Bob´s last blog ..Sound Bite Reporting =-.

      2. @Shane Vander Hart – that “Glenn hate poor people” post was full of jibberish and hard to follow.. I tried to listen but had to login to do it.. maybe the conversation made sense.. maybe you just had to be there. Beck comes across as somewhat of a whacko. Some of his ranting is odd. Do you think Beck is a Christian?
        .-= Kansas Bob´s last blog ..Happy Pi Day =-.

  4. Shane, Good Topic/Good Analysis. Definetly the Church needs to be the instrument of Compassion/Restoration in Society along with Biblical Preaching. I feel that Wallis and others are taking away the Joy of service and Compasssion from thier Congragants. Also,If the Church is to Disciple it’s members, what is the point of giving all care in control of the Government.

    I may be off base, but I feel Government Heath Care is the Religious and Secular Left’s “Prosperity Gospel” This could be seen in Pelosi’s recent comments saying (paraphrasing) “We need to have a Health Care System that allows artists et all to not worry about health insurance”. I have a background in the Arts (Theatre) While I sympathise with artists who are in need, I feel Art is Creation within the confines of this fallen world for Artists of faith or no faith.

  5. Good Lord. Get OFF the BECK bashing! He teaches you to think for yourself and not blindly follow his remarks. If you are dumb enough to leave your church simply because Beck said it, then you are simply a koolaide drinker who would drown him for being a witch as soon as you could.

    The thing that you so called Christians are not seeing is that BECK is RIGHT.

    Read Saul Alinsky especially the very detailed instructions about infiltrating the churches of this country to get your socialism passed undercover by the churches in the name of helping those poor desolate people. Evidently it is working cause you have all commented against him.

    Then when your America is beaten down in a worst depression than you have ever imagined and your children are dying will you look up from your dirt floor and realize beck was right?

    I am sickened by the people who pretend to be patriots and Christian and then are so taken in by false prophets like alinsky.

    Jesus weeps for you tonight.

    1. @politicaljules, Jules… really? I’m a Glenn Beck fan by the way. Because I critique one statement that suddenly makes me a Beck basher? Did you notice I also criticized Wallis as well?

      I’m no follower of Alinsky, and if you read this blog you should know that.

      1. @Shane Vander Hart, Yes Shane, twisting Becks words into something they are not makes you a beck basher. You have lots of readers who will take that for face value, and you should choose your words wisely.

        Also, I did not say you were a follower of alinsky. I said IF you read him, (and you should to find out what the enemy who follows satan is planning) you will see that beck was not telling any of you (not just you Shane) he was NOT telling you to leave your church. He was telling people to be careful of people within A CHURCH (not every church)to watch out for this kind of infiltration.

        And if that church turns out to be one that is not exactly pure, then you should leave that PARTICULAR church (not church all together), and find one that is better with the true teaching of Christ.

        Shane, I did not call you out by name. It is wrong of you to call me out by name.

      2. @politicaljules, I didn’t realize I was calling you out by name. I was just responding to a comment you left on my blog post.

        I said that, “Beck’s remarks were careless.” I say that because there are churches which say they are doing “social justice” with ministry to the poor that is not the same as what Wallis and others claim it to be.

        Now I acknowledge in my thread with Eric Goranson above, the term has been hijacked. Beck had a great opportunity, in regards to the church, to differentiate the two, but he didn’t.

        Again, regarding his position on wealth redistribution, I agree. With his thoughts on liberation theology, I agree. I criticize Wallis (can’t get any credit for that?). I didn’t say Beck was anti-poor or even anti-Catholic as some are claiming.

        I also didn’t say he said that you should leave the Church (universal) all together… where did you get that idea?

        And again, I’ve been very complementary of Glenn Beck in the past and I think this is the first time I’ve ever criticized him, so I think the Beck basher label isn’t fair. You are entitled to your opinion.

        You know what’s sad here is that regarding wealth redistribution we agree, and also with the movement to bring that within the church. My point is that that term does sometimes mean something completely different in some churches.

        Time to use a different term for ministry with the poor to avoid the confusion.

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