Friday, July 23, 2010

Who agrees with Beck's ideas on social justice?

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Glenn Beck has stated that social justice is a "perversion" of the Christian faith. Unfortunately for him, no one seems to agree with him, not even his fellow Mormons. One is hard pressed to find Christians who agree that Jesus would have been opposed to systematic support for the poor, i.e., social justice, except among Glenn Beck's gullible followers.

First on the list of Christians who disagree with Beck about social justice are his fellow Mormons. From the Mormon Times, Lynn Arave wrote a critique of Beck's crusade against social justice entitled "Churches decry Glenn Beck comments on social justice." In it she pointed from the NY Times story:

The Times also interviewed Kent P. Jackson, associate dean of religion at BYU. "My own experience as a believing Latter-day Saint over the course of 60 years is that I have seen social justice in practice in every LDS congregation I've been in," Jackson said. "People endeavor with all of our frailties and shortcomings to love one another and to lift up other people. So if that's Beck's definition of social justice, he and I are definitely not on the same team." [Emphasis added]

Other Mormons have spoken out with one, Jana Riess, asking, "Dear Glenn Beck; Have you read the Book of Mormon lately?" On the blog, Mormon Insights, the author writes:

The term social justice should remind the LDS that we are all beggars (Mosiah 2:19), and that all of us require help, even as we are lending help. Social justice should imply activism and assistance more than some abstract political struggle for power.

A term strongly associated with "social justice" is  liberation theology, a concept the LDS would do well to learn. This theology recognizes that Christianity, when practiced as Jesus taught it, has the capacity to free individuals from political, economic, or social oppression. Too often "liberation theology" as a term has carried leftist connotations, but such political views do not have exclusive rights to the term or its basic notions. 

Beck attacked liberation theology on July 13th. Beck's guest on that Fox show, Dr. Anthony Bradley, author of Liberating Black Theology - a text critical of liberation theology - has his ideas about social justice. They do not involve any "'equality' of portions or shares between the 'haves' and 'have nots.'" In fact, his theory of social justice is more about "building sustainable frameworks that liberate and empower the poor to be fully human, good intentioned people," rather than material or redistributive justice. One of Bradley's elements of social justice involves Solidarity where "[t]here is no 'us' versus 'them.' There are only 'we' and 'us.'" Beck would serve his country well to invite Dr. Bradley back to discuss social justice and what rhetoric serves as divisive. 

Mormon's aren't the only Christian denomination criticizing Beck's ideas. The following comes from the same website,, that allowed the reprint of their "Glenn Beck takes on Liberation Theology."
As before, to see the article unobstructed, click the arrow next to July. 

The following is reprinted with permission from, "Religion Dispatches." You can sign up for their free daily  newsletter" here.

  • Glenn Beck speaks.

  • Sarah Posner
    Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, is RD’s associate editor and covers politics for the site. Her work has appeared in The American ProspectThe NationSalonThe Washington Spectator, the religion blogs at theWashington Post and the Guardian, and other publications. RSS feed Twitter

  • Opposition to Glenn Beck’s crusade against social justice has inspired a Twitterstorm,letter-writing campaign, and Christian radio ad from religious groups who believe he’s distorting theology.
    But the problem with Beck isn’t just theology or, as Faithful America puts it in its radio ad, his “piecemeal gospel.” Beck’s heresy is not that he’s cherry-picking parts of the Bible to claim that Jesus was an inconsiderate cad or that Matthew 25 was actually written by Joseph Stalin. It’s that he’s using his anti-government heresies to produce a false, ahistorical civics class that distorts his viewers’ understanding of the role of government in serving the needs of its citizens.
    Beck is our 21st century red-baiter, our go-to guy to tar any government services as “socialism.” Beck didn’t invent this, and he certainly won’t be the last demagogue to pollute our airwaves. But as the Republican Party and the conservative movement have fallen off the cliff—claiming on the one hand that government represents the rotting soul of Karl Marx, and on the other that God ordained them to run it instead—Beck suits them just fine. If you can lump all those liberal, “fake” Christians in with the European-style socialists and America-hating progressives, it further solidifies the libertarian-Tea Party-Christian-worldview-ahistorical-revisionist wing of American politics.
    The Glenn Beck-GOP mutual admiration society nothwithstanding, some of his conservative Christian friends were worried that he may have portrayed them in an uncaring light. And that’s where Beck’s theology becomes problematic; if, as he hinted in his pre-July 4th special history program, “The State of Religion in America,” the term social justice was co-opted by Marxists, yet conservatives have their own superior version of it, then we’re left with a debate over which Christians are indeed more charitable—not a debate over the role of government in creating a just and fair economy.
    Beck as ‘Entertainer’
    There’s a bit of a backstory here: Beck apparently was blissfully unaware that late last year, the Heritage Foundation (a well-endowed think tank that has supplied the conservative movement with policy analysis and talking points for the past 37 years) had published a study guide called “Seek Social Justice: Transforming Lives In Need.” Produced with some input from Marvin Olasky, the editor of World magazine credited with coining George W. Bush’s campaign slogan “compassionate conservatism,” the study guide is intended to instill the idea that one-on-one evangelism—not government—will solve social problems like poverty. At the core of social and economic success is the “traditional” family, the church, and a government that does little more than ensure “an overall environment of safety, order, freedom, and peace.”
    This view lies at the heart of why anti-government conservatives and the Christian right make common cause: the conservatives are happy to slash the government to pieces and the Christian right is happy to replace it with evangelism and Christian charity—God, after all, only gave government a limited sphere of authority, and the church a whole lot more.
    That’s the piece Beck doesn’t appear to get: that conservatives want to portray themselves as caring about the poor—even if their claimed commitment to eradicating poverty is undermined by an insistence that government and policy have no role to play, except, as Olasky advocates, in giving people tax credits to donate to the charity of their choice. Olasky told me recently, “Beck is a popular entertainer, or let me put it another way: he’s a popular educator. He really does serve as a teacher in an entertaining way, and sometimes you have to adjust the teaching to the knowledge of the students, and so he provides some good basic education, but it’s also good to go a little deeper.”
    That was a charitable way of characterizing Beck’s ahistoricism—and his audience. But Olasky isn’t alone among conservatives in worrying that Beck might be misapprehending and possibly undermining their mission. As other conservatives warned at the Freedom Federation Summit, which took place at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University in April, Beck doesn’t get it quite right: social justice is indeed a biblical idea, just not the way that liberals would have it.
    At Liberty, Ryan Messmore, Heritage’s lead writer of the social justice guide, framed the conservatives’ conundrum in Reagan-esque terms. “A lot of policies enacted in the name of social justice are hurting the poor more than helping them,” he said, invoking the “cycle of poverty” to indict supposed dependency on government.
    The “controversy” the term social justice stirs, said Messmore, “is Marxist redistribution, then other side says that means you don’t care about poor. We have to recognize the term is being used in different ways by different groups. It’s an easy bomb to throw at Glenn Beck that you don’t care about the poor.”
    On his religion segment, Beck did take up Olasky’s suggestion to “go deeper”—though it was deeper into into la-la land. This is Beck after all, so his religious history resembles what would result if Billy James Hargis and Joseph McCarthy collaborated on a picture book for preschoolers on the history of the soup kitchen. Beck’s cast of characters for that program ranged from the usual suspects (David Barton, the religious right’s chief historical revisionist) to an Ivy Leaguer (Princeton’s Robert George, mastermind of the Manhattan Declarationto a Republican candidate for Congress (the Rev. Stephen Broden, who gave a “benediction” at Rep. Michele Bachmann’s Code Red” anti-health care rally).
    Broden claimed that “the social justice movement is built upon or predicated on the idea of liberation theology.” (They are, in fact, two separate religious movements.) “Liberation theology has its origin or source in socialism, communism, and Marxism,” he continued. (Not true; as assistant professor at Harvard Divinity School and RD contributing editor Jonathan Walton explainsliberation theology “began the very second that African-Americans landed on the shores of America on slave ships, and tried to reconcile their new position as hijacked bodies with the traditional gods of Africa.”) This all from a pastor who uses prayer to claim that health care reform is “against the law of nature and nature’s God” and “against the Judeo-Christian ethic that this nation was built upon.”
    Barton, speaking with his characteristic disregard for facts, asserted that the “social gospel movement had two primary guys, the Reverend Harry Ward and the Reverend Reinhold Niebuhr. Those two guys headed two organizations. Reverend Harry Ward was the executive for the ACLU and Reverend Niebuhr was the guy who founded the Americans for Democratic Action, which is the Progressive Socialist Party of today.”
    Socialists, the ACLUbasically Glenn Beck’s enemies list. Harry Ward was in fact the chair of the ACLU, though he had nothing to do with the social gospel movement. (He was a communist though, which is probably why Barton threw him in there.) And Niebuhr, whose ideological evolution is very complex—from socialist to foreign policy ‘realist’ whose influence extends rightward to John McCain and David Brooks—did found the Union for Democratic Action from which Americans for Democratic Action was formed, though neither has anything to do with the Progressive Socialist Party of today—primarily because the Progressive Socialist Party doesn’t exist (unless his purview now extends to Lebanese politics).
    It’s impossible to discuss the history of the social justice movement without bringing in the father of the social gospel, the theologian Walter RauschenbuschBut while Beck and Barton ignore Rauschenbusch, Beck does bring up Father Coughlin—to whom Beck owes a debt for his invention of hate radio—because Coughlin, at one time a supporter of the New Deal, changed course and supported fascism and authoritarianism. In the hall of mirrors that houses Beck’s history that means that social justice=fascism.
    Conservatives face a serious challenge from Beck, however: as the panelists at the social justice session at the Freedom Federation Summit admitted, millenial evangelicals are interested in helping the poor, and not as interested in combatting gay marriage. But if they believe from Beck that Jesus’ exhortations to help the poor are actually godless communism, where does that leave them?
    That’s why conservatives want Beck to acknowledge that, as Lou Engle put it, “Jesus is justice.” For Engle, the government is evil (he’s asserted that “prostitution in America is fueled out of the foster care system”) and that “this is where the church becomes the outrageous lover”; meaning, in Engle's parlance, that churches should adopt children in order to supplant the government-run foster care system, which does nothing but promote prostitution, while the church provides love. If megachurches “adopted children,” he insisted, “we would be the answer and we would get moral authority in this nation.”
    The anti-government worldview of the Liberty audience was exemplified by the question: “how do Christians do social justice without abdicating authority to the civil magistrate?” Translation from Christian Reconstructionist-speak: God granted the government limited authority and we don’t want to slip up and give it any more. (Messmore termed it a “good question” about “[how] we as Christians engage with government, without abdicating authority God has given the church exclusively.”)
    Religious liberals who protest Beck’s theological heresies would do well to recognize the dangers of his other heresies as well. It’s not enough to defend the Bible from Glenn Beck; liberals will also need to defend the role of government in creating a social safety net and a regulatory structure that protects and enhances the economic lives of its citizens. While Beck has his conservative critics, they do agree on one thing: government is evil. Unless religious liberals defend the role of government, they provide an opening for Beck and his crew to redefine social justice to mean conservative Christianity is our government by proxy.
    Glenn Beck Review analysis: Mormons, conservative Christian theologists like Bradley, Catholics and liberal Christians support some version of social justice. By not even considering the validity of Conservative ideas about social justice, Beck almost seems like he's doing his level best to alienate himself from almost everyone except his devoted followers, many of whom on August 28th will be in Washington, at his Beck and call.

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Anonymous said...

You need to get more facts about what version of "Social Justice" Gleen is talking about. And helping the poor is not one of them. As a Mormon I also do not agree with the version of social justice that Glenn discusses. There are many liberal Mormons who are misguided on this (some of whom you have quoted) and amongst them is Hairy Reid.

To say that Mormons don't support him on this is not factual on your part. There are many, and many I know, who do. But don't trivalize the issue as talking about helping the poor.

The Glenn Beck Review said...

Where did I write that Mormons don't support Beck on his total rejection of social justice? I pointed at some who do not. Obviously, there are misguided Mormons and many reactionaries - like yourself - who reject social justice. They need to reread the New Testament.

I think it's you who is trivializing social justice. Who needs it if not the poor? Beck is a corporate shill who supports the rich. Where did Jesus call for protecting the wealthy?

Jeannie said...

I think you are twisting things. Glenn's only complaint is when "social justice" is the excuse used to promote socialism or communism, which, unless 100% voluntary, will always fail.

The Glenn Beck Review said...

Jeannie, you suffer from selective perception. Beck has not embraced the conservative theories of social justice of his fellow Mormons or of Anthony Bradley. Or for that matter, of Jesus Christ.

Beck is a corporate shill, and you are being duped by this gifted propagandist.

Anonymous said...

I am an ardent support of the truth. Neither GB nor the GB Review present the unadulterated truth, but thankfully most educated people know a fraud when they see one. Give credit where it's due, he has several best selling books, a top rated cable "news" show, and sells out every speaking gig. You live you your mother's basement. Nonetheless, I will share your URL bc we Christians do appreciate being informed.

The Glenn Beck Review said...

Anonymous, you have to decide whether you're going to be "an ardent support (sic) of the truth," or you're going to make deceitful statements like "You live you your (sic) mother's basement." Why do you make such baseless claims when you know damn well that you don't know where I live? FYI, my mother died years ago. I'm married, and I work upstairs in our office.

Translation: when you claimed to be "an ardent support of the truth," you lied. I don't know what kind of Christian you are, but I don't think that good Christians either 1) lie or 2) follow Glenn Beck. Beck gives Christianity a bad name.

I'm glad that you put news in quotes when you refer to Beck's show on Fox because it's just yellow propaganda, silly entertainment from a man who thinks that he has the integrity to lead a movement and televangelism. You need to go one step further: Beck doesn't present the "truth." He doesn't come close most times.

If you think I have something wrong here about Beck or his lies and hypocrisy, take the challenge I set out. Show me where I have something wrong; and, if you're right, I'll make the correction. Your claim, "Neither GB nor the GB Review present the unadulterated truth" not only attempts a false equivalency. You're making a baseless charge against this Review that you don't even attempt to back up with research or counter-points. Thankfully, most educated people can understand this when they see it.