Amy Sullivan chronicles the backlash against Glenn Beck's call for people to flee their church if it preaches "social or economic justice":
[H]e managed to outrage Christians in most mainline Protestant denominations, African-American congregations, Hispanic churches, and Catholics--who first heard the term "social justice" in papal encyclicals and have a little something in their tradition called "Catholic social teaching." (Not to mention the teaching of a certain fellow from Nazareth who was always blathering on about justice...)
He also managed to bring the National Council of Churches--once a powerful umbrella organization for Christian churches--out from hibernation, in the form of a withering response from leader Peg Chemberlin. Progressive evangelical leader Jim Wallis, taking a page from his conservative counterparts, is calling for Christians to boycott Beck's shows.
Religion blogger Mark Silk notes:
Not to belabor the point, but the Judeo-Christian tradition from which Beck's Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints springs expects the poor to be provided for as a matter of public law. And indeed, in the days when the LDS Church ran its corner of North America as a theocracy, that's just what it did.
I have to say I'm going to side a tiny bit with Beck on this matter.
It seems to me that although helping the poor is obviously a critical facet of Jesus' teaching, it is a legitimate matter of debate how to help the poor.
Socialism, for example, clearly does not help the poor: it just makes everyone poorer. It can spring from envy, not charity. It can instill dependency, not self-respect. And charity is not something anyone can delegate to an institution. A state cannot feel love and cannot be redeemed. Only a human being can. Sometimes, an over-weening welfare state can actually remove the capacity of many people to be personally generous by taxing their worldly goods before they have a chance to give them away.
My own view is that there should be a collective and strong safety net for the poor, combined with, for Christians, a very powerful, indeed binding, injunction to give and give generously to others, and to take a personal interest in the needs of others. There's a balance here, in other words, between social justice and statist redistributionism. And while Beck is obviously out of line - the Catholic Church's teachings on social justice could not be further removed from Ayn Rand - I'm suspicious of the dangers of taking the virtue of social justice and turning it into the system of socialism.
(Image via Amanda Terkel)
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.