Q:Fox News commentator Glenn Beck claims that faith-based calls for “social justice” are really ideological calls for “forced redistribution of wealth . . . under the guise of charity and/or justice,” and that Christians should leave their churches if they preach or practice “social justice.”
Rev. Jim Wallis disagrees, saying social justice is a faith-based commitment “to serve the poor and to attack the conditions that lead to poverty,” central tents of the teachings of Jesus and at the heart of biblical faith.
Who’s right? How does the pursuit of justice fit into your faith? Is ‘social justice’ an ideology or a theology?
I’d like to start by thanking Glenn Beck for mobilizing the faith-based social justice movement. His incendiary rant, coupled with his cruel personal attacks and threats against Rev. Jim Wallis (“the hammer is coming… and when the hammer comes, it’s gonna be hammering hard …”), has united and galvanized Jews, Christians and Muslims around the country who see justice as an essential element of religious life and are unwilling to passively accept its mockery and denigration. (See www.socialjusticechristian.com and HaikuGlennBeck.com two great examples.)
Beck claims that social justice is nothing more than a code word for Nazism, Marxism and Big Government. An artificial implant from the left in their incessant drive to sneak socialism into our breakfast cereal.
But here’s the thing. Millions of people of faith across denominational and geographical lines recognize social responsibility and the pursuit of justice as foundational elements of the religious life. The archetypical liberation story, the exodus from Egypt, comes to teach that all people have innate dignity and deserve to be free of oppression, degradation and suffering. And it reminds us that human beings must be partners in the work of redemption – that our life’s work is to bring more light, more dignity, more peace, and yes – more justice – into the world.
Religious life is fundamentally about making the presence of God manifest in our world by witnessing the pain of the afflicted, agonizing over the plight of the poor, fighting for the dignity of all human beings. Faith is about giving a damn — waking up to the suffering of the widow, the orphan and the stranger; recognizing the bond of human connectedness that extends beyond our own immediate family and circle of friends. As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes, the aim of religion “is not to transport the believer to a private heaven. Instead, its impassioned, sustained desire is to bring heaven down to earth.”
Glenn Beck, not surprisingly, is just plain wrong.