It’s about Biblical social justice, not Wallis or Beck

Q:Fox News commentator Glenn Beck claims that faith-based calls for “social justice” are really ideological calls for “forced redistribution of … Continued

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.”

I’m glad for the discussion, but “Wallis vs. Beck” really isn’t the point. Over several weeks, Glenn Beck has attacked the term and concept of “social justice”; likened it to Marxism, Communism, and Nazism; told people to leave their churches if the words even appeared on congregational Web sites; and instructed Christians to “turn in” their pastors and priests to church authorities if they preached or taught “social justice.” That’s what he said, and is still saying. I felt it necessary to respond when I heard that a Fox News personality had attacked the heart of the mission statement of Sojourners: “to articulate the biblical call to social justice.” He only attacked me when I challenged his misrepresentations and distortions of a central Christian teaching that is integral to biblical faith.

If Beck had merely attacked “big government” again, as he does each night, or just expressed his strong libertarian philosophy that government bears no responsibility for issues like poverty, or re-stated his preference of personal responsibility over social responsibility for solving societal problems, nobody would have even responded – it wouldn’t have been news. But what he did say, and continues to say, is that “social justice” is both a dangerous and destructive teaching. The term continues to be derided on his famous blackboard, along with whoever challenges his ideas.

While I have agreed that cause of social justice has sometimes been politicized for ideological purposes by both Left and Right, I continue to defend the term itself as biblical and at the center of church teachings across the centuries and our many traditions (including Beck’s own Mormon Church, as many of its leaders have pointed out). And I have been heartened to see Christians of diverse political views and voting patterns rise to defend the integrity of social justice as core to the gospel.

While Beck has yet to respond to a standing invitation to a public dialogue about what social justice really means, his comments have already sparked a broad national conversation–as is well represented here in the On Faith discussion. Ironically, because of Beck’s nightly assaults, I haven’t seen such a national conversation in years about the meaning of biblical social justice. Several heads of church denominations have called to tell me that their pastors are actually preaching more about social justice because Glenn Beck has told them not to, and that thousands of pastors have turned themselves in to them (as church authorities) as “social justice pastors.” In addition, more than 50,000 have turned themselves in to Beck (literally overflowing his inbox).

God indeed has a sense of humor and I guess we should now thank the polarizing pundit for sparking such a rich and robust public debate. So “What is biblical social justice?” Let the conversation continue, with or without Glenn Beck.

Jim Wallis is the author of a new book
Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street–A Moral Compass for the New Economy, Editor-in-Chief of Sojourners and blogs at

Jim Wallis
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  • robtr

    Jim Wallis is nothing more than an aging 60’s draft dodging hippy who found he can use God as a instrument to further his own leftist agenda to his weak minded followers.

  • theduck6

    I’d wager Beck has read the Bible more than you chrisw1958.What scripture mandates you give other than your tithe? Jesus chased the money changers OUT OF THE TEMPLE , not where they belonged. If money is evil why is the phrase “the LOVE of money is the root of all evil” and why does the church expect your tithe?WHat has Beck said to make you think he is against forgiveness? He constantly berates himself for his sinful past and is thankful for forgiveness.The Lord did not demand you give in the name of “social justice’ and any attempt to say he did is done without logic or a shred of evidence. It is YOUR perversion of the scripture.Loaves and Fishes is proof you are just making stuff up. How is that miracle in any way proof that social justice is a biblical mandate?Sounds like you know about as much about Beck as the talking heads on MSNBC tell you and nothing more.Watch a show and tell me what he got ewrong. Not your opinion, back it up. He does. Every day.

  • ChrisW1958

    Beck obviously never read the Bible, or he would have condemned Chrisf for practicing “social justice.” Loaves and Fishes? Socialism and Welfare. Forgiving a prostitue? Sex Pervert. Refusing to testify in court? Anti-Government Revolutionary. CHasing the Money CHangers out of the Temple? Redistribution of wealth, communism, bank basher.The onnly way to reign Beck in is for real conservatives, and ALL religious leaders, to shun him. Leave if he shows up. Just get up and walk out. Trying to argue with him plays into his hands.

  • mantle15

    If you would listen to his message, it’s about WHERE the social justice is coming from. Beck is constantly advocating reaching out and helping your neighbors and giving to charities. In fact, as our current government seeks to remove tax deductions for charitable giving, Glenn has been a loud voice against this. Again, as we deflect our individual responsibilities into the nebulous collective responsibility that is the US government, we not only detach ourselves from the personal satisfactions and joy that comes from helping people directly, we add layers and layers of inefficient bureaucracy to an already bloated system. In addition, impersonal checks being dished out from Washington do little to motivate change and hard work.Ben Franklin, who was also compassionate to the needy, knew the damage that this type of policy causes. He pointedly stated “For my own part, I am not so well satisfied of the goodness of this thing. I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. — I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I traveled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer. There is no country in the world where so many provisions are established for them; so many hospitals to receive them when they are sick or lame, founded and maintained by voluntary charities; so many alms-houses for the aged of both sexes, together with a solemn general law made by the rich to subject their estates to a heavy tax for the support of the poor. Under all these obligations, are our poor modest, humble, and thankful; and do they use their best endeavours to maintain themselves, and lighten our shoulders of this burthen? — On the contrary, I affirm that there is no country in the world in which the poor are more idle, dissolute, drunken, and insolent. The day you passed that act, you took away from before their eyes the greatest of all inducements to industry, frugality, and sobriety, by giving them a dependence on somewhat else than a careful accumulation during youth and health, for support in age or sickness. In short, you offered a premium for the encouragement of idleness, and you should not now wonder that it has had its effect in the increase of poverty. Repeal that law, and you will soon see a change in their manners.”

  • lidiworks1

    First of all, I hate right wing, tabloid TV Fox news. Glenn Beck’s call is purely political because his interepretation of socialism is skewed, like that which has been pushed by Repubs to the masses; However, I can agree that highly political churches are just filled with selfish hypocrites and should be avoided. They aren’t pushing God’s call for love and mercy. They are pushing their own personal belief systems and agendas on others. The trick is recognizing the difference. At what point does success or living decently stop just being about “ME” and starts being about “US” collectively? The gap and extremes associated with the have and have nots in this country should not be so great with all that we possess as a Nation. No one here should ever want for food or shelter. You shouldn’t have to choose between bus money or medicine. Social activism or rather activity is a built in call for religious followers as they are suppose to fight for the underdog and contribute to the community, sharing “bread” with their brothers/sisters. So when things just aren’t right, we are obligated to speak out as Christians and Human beings. People should be socially conscious and should fight for the rights of everyone to live free and in a dignified way. How can you as a person be content knowing that your neighbors are struggling, while you have plenty. And it’s not because people are just lazy or dumb. Everyone can’t be a leader or own a business. That’s just a fact of life. Americans don’t get taxed for making money, we get taxed for RECIEVING money. Most Americans exist in survival mode. There are single people out there who don’t live lavish lifestyles, wear the same clothes everyday, have to help out family, don’t go on vacations, don’t have kids, may even make 70K/year, but don’t get to eat everyday because of bills and the cost of living. But if you are dirt poor, don’t have kids, a house, or a business, you don’t have a tax write-off. There is no relief. The system favors the Rich because of John Adams and the U.S. still hugs onto the priciples of covert slavery and indentured servitude. Fair justice is what the founding fathers of the constitution were talking about, not acceptability in grinding the population under the heel of your boots. That’s what the Bill of Rights is talking about. But there is a fine line between doing what is right and what is just religiously/politically motivated. Everyone has the potential to have more or make more, but living up to that potential isn’t always reality.

  • bob52

    I have no use for religion or any other cult behavior. Nevertheless, it’s nice for a change to hear from a religious person a comment that seems really decent and human.

  • easttxisfreaky

    Jim Wallis has made overt comments that he supports Marxism and perverts the Christian community with his message of “social justice.”Let’s recognize Obama’s “spiritual advisers” for who they truly are – purveyors of a perverted Christianity who wear snakeskin for suits and speak with forked tongues.Jim Wallis – I’m a preacher too…I got my license off of the internet for $100. You have the credibility of my dog, Spot.

  • RemoWIlliams

    All acts of Charity that God excepts flow from a heart that has been cleansed by the work of Jesus at the cross. Socialism since it originates with man is sin. In fact all -isms are sin and unacceptable.The true message of the Gospel is that God sought through the Cross to redeem fallen man. When a man or woman excepts God’s way and REPENTS, his/her good works are blessed. Religion void of a relationship to Jesus produces nothing. My word to Jim Wallis and Glenn Beck is at the heart of the Gospel. REPENT and believe the Gospel.

  • dangeroustalk

    On Faith: A Reason For Social JusticeWho would have thought that the concept of social justice would be at the heart of religious controversy? Oddly enough, it is this very concept which has polarized modern Christianity.Both Beck and Wallis are wrong!Glenn Beck has become a household name preaching religious extremism and the evils of social justice. Those that take him seriously are quite frankly insane. Jim Wallis on the other hand is a much less known religious extremist. Unlike Beck, Wallis identifies himself more on the other side of the political divide, but has maintained like Beck that he doesn’t support any political party (wink wink).You can read the rest of my response to this topic:I will be responding to every issue posted in the ‘On Faith’ section. If you would like to be notified when my new response is up, please subscribe.

  • buckeye80

    Jesus did not tell us to take money from someone else in order to give it to a third person at the direction of still another. He preached sensitivity to the plight of others and commanded us to, personally, tend their needs. BTW, to my knowledge Rev. Wallis has never been an acknowledged Cabinet member or adviser; this looks like a case for separation of church and state. According to Religious News Service he “helps shape decisions about the Iraq war, health care reform and the economy” for the President. Is he a czar?