"Jesus was a Nazi. So's your preacher."
In it, Roger Ebert excoriates Glenn Beck for some stuff he said on his radio program. Only problem? He didn't say it the way Ebert claims he said it.
What were Beck's unifying words? "I beg you, look for the words social justice or economic justice on your church web site," he told his audience. "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! If you have a priest that is pushing social justice, go find another parish. Go alert your bishop and tell them, 'Excuse me are you down with this whole social justice thing?' If it's my church, I'm alerting the church authorities: 'Excuse me, what's this social justice thing?' And if they say, 'yeah, we're all in that social justice thing'--I'm in the wrong place."
The thing is, Beck did say all those words. Even in that order. Only, here's the thing. That wasn't all he said. There are sentences--entire minutes of air-time--that are completely left of of that quote (and, I don't doubt, the audio clip at the bottom of the screen).
Make no mistake here--I am not much of a Glenn Beck fan. I checked Glenn Beck's Common Sense out of the library and couldn't make it past the introduction because I was so obviously not the target audience. (That said, I read his An Inconvenient Book and put it right up there with Jon Stewart's America (The Book): A Guide to Democracy Inaction.) Quite frankly, I think Glenn Beck is a barking moonbat most days, and on the rare occasions I listen to him, it is only for the entertainment value--the man is hilarious, if generally full of shit.
I happened to be listening to this show in particular simply because I decided I'd rather spend my Friday morning driving around with Erik instead of going to Intro to World Religions. So I heard all this stuff, and more than that I heard the words and sentences Ebert chose to leave out of the quote. (In particular, Beck did not say "Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!" Not in so many words, at any rate. Ebert seems to think we don't need the two or three sentences that came in between those two.) Moreover, I heard the context of the quote. I know what Beck was actually talking about, and it's not what Ebert claims he was talking about.
I'm used to this sort of game. I hear it all the time in reference to Rush Limbaugh. Liberals will take a 10-second sound bite from his program and present it sans any sort of context and claim it to mean whatever the hell they want, 90% of the time leaving out the fact that he was being facetious (which I suspect is too large a word for some liberals) or went in a different direction with the second half of the sentence. That people are now doing this with Glenn Beck I suppose is an indication he's arrived.
Still, it makes me angry. I suppose it's far easier to attack--even falsely--the way an argument is being made than the substance of the argument itself.
Because here's the thing. Glenn Beck was right. Is right. In what he actually said, that is, rather than in what Ebert claimed he said. Too often these days "social justice" is a codeword for a certain political outlook in a church. There are Christian Socialists out there (something which amuses me to no end, as Socialism is by definition atheist). There are churches which, if they don't outright preach loyalty to a certain political party, certainly hint at it strongly. I've dealt with it in my own church. I've seen it at other churches I attended once or twice. As Erik has pointed out before in his blog, some churches have particular political outlooks ingrained in their structures which have absolutely nothing to do with spirituality.
That's not why I go to church. If it's why you go to church, you are by all means welcome to, and I am by all means welcome to tell you you're an idiot.
The interesting thing here is that Ebert is also right. Sort of. See, Ebert says "Beck's oversight is that all religions teach social justice. That's sort of what they're about." And he is correct, in a way, to say that. He goes on to say that "before statehood the Mormons in the Utah territory provided universal health care and care for the poor as a matter of their duty." He says this without realizing that he is proving his argument wrong.
See, Ebert--as most liberals--seems to believe that social justice is the provenance of the government, and makes the typical liberal mistake of assuming that this is the sort of social justice promoted by churches. Most churches do not promote this sort of social justice--it is the ones that do that Beck was railing against.
Most churches promote the sort of social justice that the Mormons were promoting in Utah territory when they "provided universal health care and care for the poor as a matter of their duty." Pay attention. THEIR DUTY. Not the government's. Jesus said "As you do to the least of these, so you do to me," NOT "as the government does to the least of these, so you do do me." The Christian concept of social justice is--and for most churches has always been--a personal charge. Christians have a long history of seeing a need and working to meet it. When our country was new and there were poor people who needed medical care, the Catholic church did not go to our fledgling government and demand universal health care. They established hospitals. When there were hungry people, the Church (pick a church! Any church!) did not go to the government and say "Y'all better start handing out surplus cheese," they started soup kitchens and food banks. They do these things--and more--to this day. As I think I have said before, my own church supports Christian Assitance Ministries which gives out food, clothing, and limited monetary assistance. It supports the local battered women's shelter. It supports the local homeless shelter. It hands out bagged lunches to the homeless on Fridays. It finances regular mission trips to Honduras where it provides medical care and builds houses.
Guess what, folks? That is social justice. But it is the real kind, the Christian kind, the kind where a need is seen and is met. Socialism is not social justice. Socialism teaches people to look to the state to meet all of their needs--physical, psychological, and spiritual. That is not the business of the Church to teach. So, yeah, although Glenn Beck didn't say it in so many words, I will:
If your church promotes looking to the government as the solution to all mankind's problems, hit the door running. And throw them a Bible on your way out, 'cause they badly need it.