Glenn Beck and his attack on “social justice”

by blue in green

Controversial FOX News personality Glenn Beck provoked an outcry by saying that “social justice” is code for Communism and Nazism, and that Christians should leave any church that mentions it. This drew a sharp response led by progressive Christian activist Jim Wallis, who called on Christians to boycott Mr. Beck’s shows. CNN has a take on the story here.

This is a touchy subject because Mr. Beck is very popular and represents the views of many Americans through the Tea Party movement. Certainly, Christians have legitimate disagreements about government’s role in addressing economic inequality, and whether the church should encourage political changes to those ends.

But Mr. Beck is clearly off-base in declaring that any church mentioning “social justice” is sympathetic to Nazism or Communism. (Being Nazi and Communist at the same time, in any case, is hard to pull off.) Hyperbolic sound-bites aside, this has raised a more fundamental question: should Christians help others through personal charity alone, or also by trying to change government policy?

My own take is that the Bible is clearly concerned not just with individual charity, but also with compassion at the level of society and government. That doesn’t mean all Christians have to support certain economic policies, but it certainly doesn’t mean we should renounce churches or hurl accusations of Nazism over it either. And aren’t Beck (who is Mormon) and his supporters also fierce advocates on other policy issues like gay marriage and educational standards? Perhaps this crusade against “social justice” isn’t a consistent Biblical stand, but a twisted argument for another heavily-politicized worldview.