What Glenn Beck meant about social justice

The Washington Post (Link) - Stu Burguiere (April 14, 2010)

Like everyone else in America, Glenn Beck thinks �social justice� ---if its defined as charitable outreach to the poor----is a good idea. He supports it, he believes in it, he does it.

So, what�s the problem? I mean, �social justice� seems like such an innocuous phrase, right? It paints a picture of fairness. I guess that�s why Father Charles Coughlin used it when naming his National Union for Social Justice and his publication Social Justice Weekly. Coughlin was an anti-Semitic religious broadcaster in the 1930s, and he used the banner of social justice to attack capitalism, warn of Jewish plots against �Christian civilization,� and to promote his adoration for Italian Fascist Benito Mussolini.

This is part of the information Glenn revealed in a special TV show about American extremism of the 20th century. In the context of promoting that special, he began talking about how the far left was once again using this terminology to politicize churches. The specific example he named was Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

He told his listeners that if they were in a church that preaches Jeremiah Wright-style social justice, they should leave--or at least get educated on what exactly that means. It took him all of eight seconds to clarify the type of church he was speaking of, but that was long enough for most in the media to end the transcript.

Suddenly, Glenn was accused of attacking the central tenets of the Bible, because he supposedly believed that any church that wants to help the poor should be immediately evacuated. This absurd narrative is mainly the product of Rev. Jim Wallis.

To restate the obvious, some simply use the term �social justice� as a substitute for �outreach to the poor.� This is not the kind of �social justice� Glenn was talking about. The fact that this term has been utilized for purposes other than good Christian charity is well documented. One scholar explained it quite clearly: �it is true that term [has] been used by the right and the left for all kinds of ideological purposes that aren�t necessarily the purposes of Christ.� That scholar was Jim Wallis.

But for Wallis to continue getting attention, he must act as if he believes Glenn is against churches helping the poor. Any honest observer would realize that isn�t the case. Is anyone on earth against charitable outreach to the poor?

Certainly not Glenn.

In his book Arguing With Idiots, Glenn describes helping those less fortunate as an �obligation.� He wrote that capitalism �will inevitably fail if individuals stop caring about the welfare of others.� He just believes the bulk of the help should come from people like you and me, not government bureaucracy. When is the last time you felt charitable on April 15?

Of course, these attacks are just opportunistic politics. Jim Wallis - and his politically motivated faux anger - are now doing interviews about Glenn at the pace of a fame seeking Tiger Woods mistress. The left is taking a break from calling Glenn too religious, to call him not religious enough.

But Wallis� repeated attempts at becoming the victim are laughable. He wrote to Glenn: �I have no reason to attack you.� Some would find that sentence questionable, considering he�s a spiritual advisor to President Obama. The New York Times reported Wallis was one of five pastors meeting with the Obamas for private prayer sessions and �discussions on the role of religion in politics.� The Times noted �In contrast to the other four, his contact with the president has been focused more on policy than prayer.� Time magazine notes �he has the ear of the man in the Oval Office.� (During their reporting of Wallis� attacks on Glenn, both Time and the New York Times mysteriously forgot their own reporting on this topic.) A report by Religious News Service says Wallis is one of a small group helping to �shape decisions about the Iraq war, health care reform and the economy.�

It�s up to Americans to decide whether this--or any--level of presidential access is appropriate for someone like Wallis. Just 13 days after 9-11 he was already blaming the attacks on the �sins� of U.S. foreign policy including �global domination� and �militarism.� He hoped 9-11 would become a �teachable moment� in which we could all learn our role in creating �desperation� among the terrorists. �Desperate people do desperate things,� he explained. He later described our foreign policy as �dangerously messianic� �arrogant� and �bordering on the idolatrous and blasphemous.�

Wallis is just as revealing when speaking of his current economic views: �I�m not a liberal, I�m a radical.� Asked if he was calling for the redistribution of wealth across society, he responded: �Absolutely. Without any hesitation. That�s what the gospel is all about.� This is a man that believes an affluent church is no less than �an affront to the gospel� and he�s talking about Glenn being divisive?

But, on the bright side, he has illuminated some common ground between Glenn and the President. While Wallis describes Rev. Wright as �mainstream,� both the President and Glenn believe that leaving churches like Rev. Wright�s is a good idea. The difference is that Glenn just advised it. The president actually did it.

Stu Burguiere is executive producer of The Glenn Beck Program.