As reported by Politics Daily (w/audio) and others, last week on his Fox News shows controversial host Glenn
McCarthy Beck advised listeners to leave their churches if the churches taught the “social gospel.” To quote Beck:
I’m begging you, your right to religion and freedom to exercise religion and read all of the passages of the Bible as you want to read them and as your church wants to preach them . . . are going to come under the ropes in the next year. If it lasts that long it will be the next year. I beg you, look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. 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!
Mr. Beck, though a much revered conservative media personality, is as much a theological novice as Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins. He completely misrepresented what the scripture says as well as trading in the worst kind of fear mongering. Later in the broadcast he warned against Nazis and communists, attempting to make a connection with social and economic justice.
In some areas of the world this truth may never have been lost, but it really hit hard times in the U. S. Perhaps it was the prominence of pre-millennial eschatology and an emphasis on the close return of Christ, but there was an extended period when it seemed nothing on Earth was truly important. Be prepared for the end, look for it and expect it in our lifetime; for many, that was within 40 years of Israel’s re-emergence as a nation in 1948. Well, here we are 62 years later still moving along.
Whatever one might choose as the reason, many Southern Baptists and evangelicals took a hands off approach to this world and, while most did not sell their homes and wait on a mountaintop for the return of Christ, mentally they were just as detached from many significant realities of life. The poor do not matter, the “Third World” (more correctly called “The Majority World”) does not matter, the environment does not matter, people wrongfully imprisoned do not matter (unless it is for preaching the gospel of course) and on and on. One reason such wrongs were so easily overlooked is that “Jesus is coming soon!” and we really did not have time to paint the walls of a burning building. After all, “this world is going to be destroyed by fire!”
The Old Testament and the New are filled with references on how to treat the poor: from instructions in the law, to Boaz’s ordering his workers to purposefully drop grain for Ruth’s gathering, to God’s condemnation of both Israel and Judah for ignoring the issues of justice, to the ministry of Jesus, the apostles and the early church among the sick and poor, touching real human needs has long been a hallmark of Christians.
Consider the words of God in Isaiah 1,
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.
Or the stern warning and magnificent hope in the prophet Amos:
I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them.
Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
In a famous New Testament passage Jesus describes what it means to minister to Him: you gave Me food, you gave Me drink, you welcomed Me into your home, you clothed Me, you gave Me drink, you visited Me in prison. Every instance of a changed life in this scripture is demonstrated by social ministry
To believe the Bible is to believe that we live in a fallen, broken world that has yet to see its full redemption. The Kingdom of God co-exists in this mess as followers of Christ live as lights among the darkness, showing how things ought to be if indeed the will of God was carried out at all times and in all places. Does Beck believe that fighting to save children from lives of prostitution is against the teaching of Christ? Does Beck believe that fighting to rescue child soldiers from a drug induced haze of murder and mayhem is against the teaching of Christ? Does Beck believe that rebuking governments that pad the coffers of multinational corporations by breaking the backs of the poor is against the teachings of Christ? Does Beck believe that having a food pantry, a clothes closet and a prison ministry are against the very Jesus who encouraged them? If Glenn Beck believes there is no justice component to the gospel, then Glenn Beck is a fool.
When Beck states regarding social justice, “There’s a very good chance people don’t know what it is,” I hope he had his hand raised as Exhibit Number 1. The poor rube is clueless.
With great regret I must note how many non-thinking Christians have already perused their own church’s website looking for “code words” that might be hiding the Communistic intent of a pastor or priest. All too often, prattling ideologues like Beck capture the attention of a patriotic people with images and references to the red, white and blue. I hope Christians will open their eyes and realize that rantings of a talk show host cannot supplant the Word of God. Perhaps the next time Beck decides to give a theology lesson viewers might want to “run as fast as you can” and pick up your Bible instead.
While I cannot go as far as to say that social action brings salvation, it does not seem too far a stretch to say a gospel that negates a believer’s responsibility to matters of justice and righteousness in this world, the only world in which it will ever be needed, is an incomplete gospel indeed.
And with an incomplete gospel, Communism and Jeremiah Wright are the least of our worries.