Maybe you’ve heard of Glenn Beck. He is the host of a talk radio show and Fox News television program. Last month Beck urged his listeners to leave their church if economic or social justice is a part of the church’s mission. Beck said, “I beg you; look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you can find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice—they are code words. Am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!”
Beck took these two biblical principles, economic and social justice, and associated them with communism and Nazism. He intentionally attempted to co-opt these biblical mandates by creating an air of fear and suspicion. The pattern Beck continues to use is clear, politicize an issue and polarize the people.
Bob Terry, the editor of Alabama Baptist, wrote an editorial April 8, 2010 entitled “Glenn Beck is Wrong.” In this article Terry writes, “Unfortunately Beck’s knowledge of what the Bible teaches on these topics seems to be as limited as most Americans.” Have we forgotten that the Bible calls all of us to economic and social justice? The care for the poor and oppressed is not socialism; it is the mandate of every person of faith.
Social justice requires that we do more than give to the poor. We are to work together to correct unjust and oppressive conditions that keep people poor. It is easier to be compassionate without concerning ourselves with issues of justice. Yet compassion without justice is nothing more than an act of pity over the plight of someone without addressing the conditions that created the plight.
People of faith could make a difference if we were not divided. I’m not talking about red and blue state division. There is a fracture in the body of Christ that continues to cripple the efforts of Christians to address social and economic justice issues. We allow people who intentionally promote fear and hatred to divide us. No wonder so many people today are afraid and angry.
How long we will allow extremists to fuel the fire of fear and intolerance? Why listen to people whose sole intention is to polarize us? It is time, especially for people of faith, to come to the center and learn to promote peace and justice. We will not agree on every issue but the time is now for people of goodwill to stand together. If we are to be effective in the work of compassion and justice we will have to learn to respect and cooperate with people who may differ from us—even on political issues.
Beck is right about one thing, social and economic justice are code words. They are code for the work of God that calls us to love our neighbor.
When Glenn Beck and others continue to use fear and division as a primary method to polarize people—–it is time for us to tune them out and turn them off.