Glenn Beck is one of Americas most recognized television and radio talk personalities. Like many such personalities, both on the extreme left and extreme right, he has said many things that have sparked controversy and elicited outrage from the opponents on the other end of the spectrum. Recently however, Beck has outdone himself in the “outrageous statement” category. Outrageous statements by such self-proclaimed leaders-of-movements are to be expected. What is shocking is that Beck has made a statement that is clearly based in either falsehood or ignorance or both.
The statement he made calls for Christians to leave their church if there is any mention of “justice”, “social justice” or “economic justice” on their church website. Why should they leave their church? Because according to Beck those are simply code words for socialism and communism. Now in case you have not heard this already or find it hard to believe what you just read, you can check the quote in this story from Politics Daily.
Before I get too far into this, I need to make something very clear. When it comes to economic theory, I believe that the Bible most clearly supports free market capitalism. I am something of an economic conservative. I don’t like government-run health care. If you think something so important can be run effectively and efficiently by the government I simply want to point you to Amtrak and the United States Postal System. Do you want the same people involved in your coronary bypass surgery? I did not vote for President Obama. I voted for McCain and even supported him the previous time he ran.
All of that to say, I am not coming at this from a left-leaning economic or governmental point of view. I come at this purely from a biblical interpretation point of view; something about which Mr. Beck is either clueless or has chosen to ignore. It is intellectually irresponsible to make the blanket statement that if a church is concerned with issue of justice that it is following a communist/socialist agenda.
Before commenting, let me simply list a handful of the overwhelming number of places that the Bible calls for justice, social, economic or otherwise.
“The word of the Lord is upright and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice” Psalm 33:4, 5
“Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times” Psalm 106:3
“He has told you oh man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” Micah 6:8
“Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice, and mercy and faithfulness” Jesus in Matthew 23:23
What Beck fails to recognize is that words can have multiple meanings. One must be aware that nuance and context and history all play a part in understanding the meaning of a word. Just because Nicolai Lenin or Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez use the word justice or even social justice, does not mean that the Bible or Jesus or today’s churches mean the same thing by it. When the Bible speaks about justice it does so based on the character of God. That is absolutely crucial. Justice is important because God is just and he loves justice and hates injustice. We are told that God is just and that he administers justice and calls on those who follow Him to do what they can to ensure that his attribute of justice is demonstrated to the world. Part of the description of the justice God desires to be demonstrated is that the weak, the widow, the orphan, the poor, and the foreigner in our midst are treated with dignity and with the same rights and care of the wealthiest and most powerful among us.
Justice in the Bible does not mean that wealth must be redistributed, taken from the rich and given to the poor. It does mean that everyone is given the same opportunity to improve their position in life and that those who suffer for reasons beyond their control, the widow and orphan for example, should be taken care of by those whom God has blessed. Justice in the Bible does not mean that the minorities must be given positions and opportunity just because they are minorities, but neither does it mean that they should be denied them because of their minority status. Justice in the Bible calls for honesty in commerce, not deception that allows some to get rich by cheating others. Justice in the Bibles calls for the captive to be set free. That includes the tens of thousands of young girls enslaved by sex traffickers throughout the world. If churches fail in those types of “justice” ministries then they are failing the Gospel and denying the very character of God.
The biblical call to justice is hardly a call to communism or socialism. Do some use the Bible to promote a communist agenda? Certainly. Does that mean church should avoid talk of justice issues. Certainly not. In fact it means that they should engage in the discussion all the more in order to provide a proper, biblical understanding of the issues and not allow them to be hijacked by people with no desire to bring glory to the God of justice.
Glenn Beck’s’ call to Christians to leave their church if the website has the words, “justice”, “social justice”, or “economic justice” can only be explained in one of two ways. He is either woefully misinformed and making irresponsible statements without understanding the issues or he knows exactly what the issues are and is being intellectually dishonest for the sake of ratings. Either way he is committing an injustice upon his audience and upon the character of a just and loving God.
14 thoughts on “Glenn Beck, Justice, and the Bible”
Controversial statements = money in Becks pocket.
as Pastor Joel said a number of times in his sermon this morning “that was then and this is now”. perhaps mr. beck needs to see what justice really is. i wonder if he has a Bible?? maybe he will read your post, Dan, and can see a different point of view. :)+
i have stated this previously, Glenn Beck is an entertainer. I like him. I do not always agree with him. He is a good man trying to do a good thing. I don’t know if he has a Bible or not. Christian? He converted to Mormanism in 199?
No I will not leave my church for the reason Beck gave. Glenn beck is an entertianer.
i think that if you are a true studying the bible christian GOD will give discernment & discression on the subject, and looking at all the people and churches today who call themselves christians is questionable also after all how many christians voted for this admidistration so i feel his ouestion GLEN tossed out to the public gives people a chance to study investagate instead of being sheep who follow every whim
I’ll start with the fact that I am not a Glenn Beck fan. But we ALL need to be careful in defining our words. The phrase “social justice” is so loaded. I think that, taking Beck’s comment in a greated social context, his statement was not totally incorrect. Many of today’s churches, especially the liberal ones, focus on “social justice” at the expense of the gospel. To me, it ranks right up there with liberation theology. When one takes a theological concept (“God is love”, “social justice”) out of its larger biblical context, untold damage can be and is done to the cause of the gospel. However, since Beck doesn’t seem to understand the concept of nuance and precision, I think that a reasonable idea may have been lost in all of the hubbub.
Linda, I completely agree that many liberal churches have replaced preaching the Gospel of Truth with a Social Justice. Sadly on the other end of the spectrum many conservative/evangelicals have abandoned the biblical understanding of the whole gospel and limited it to the saving of souls in eternity. We have left out those parts of the BIble that tell us to care about justice for all people and those parts are extensive. My main problem with Beck on this issue is that he made a very clear blanket statement and did so with a great deal of authority and that statement was, in my opinion, contrary to what the Bible teaches. Evangelical Christians cannot walk away from issues of justice because liberals have made it their sandbox to play in. To do so is to allow a distorted picture of God to prevail.
Oh and by the way, welcome to the blog. Great to hear from you after so many years.
Dan – thanks for addressing this tricky subject and you handled it well. Great comments already made. But I think Genesis makes it clear that this is a role for you – look it up:
“Dan will provide justice for his people
Interesting comments about Beck, many with which I agree. However, I do like Glenn Beck, even though I do not agree totally with him. On the surface, I can not agree with his call. However, after reading about the report, which I did not see on TV, I stumbled upon an article by Dr. Albert Mohler posted on http://www.crosswalk.com. I would have expected Mohler to land-blast Beck, knowing that he has partnered with other Christian teachers to produce a video discipleship series on social justice within the church. I have to appreciate his opinion on this subject as he was hired by the SBC to rid Southern Baptist Theological Seminary of the “social gospel” gurus that had watered down the Gospel of Christ for so long. However, Mohler’s perspective, though not in agreement with Becks specific words, was a defense of his implied context. Beck was hammering on churches which teach that we as Christians should only be involved in righting the world’s wrongs, rather than spreading the Good News. They call it the “social gospel.” Mohler stood fast on the belief that we as Christians should be involved in both spreading the Gospel and feeding the hungry, an opinion with which I heartly agree. It is worth reading. Here is the link.
Remember one thing: Glenn Beck is no theologian. He is a good man with good principles for our free democracy – that is political, not theological. Yes, he has to be concerned with ratings, but that should not create doubt about his stance. I believe he is truly concerned about the issues he talks about on TV/Radio. However, as Christians, our salvation should affect even our political views. Beck could be crying out against churches involved in a left-wing, liberal, socialistic philosophies because it may lead Christians to accept this as a political platform. But we need to remember that God is neither Republican or Democrat. His ideals are higher than ours. More importantly, his just commands supercede any that we humans can rationalize. If he says to help those who are less fortunate than we (and he has), then we should. But do so with the intention of sharing Christ crucified, risen and coming again. Help the needy, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison. “…Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” (Mt.25:40 NKJV)
I saw an episode (at least one) where Beck made some of these comments and I cringed when he said it because I knew what people would think. BUT, just as Beck has been accused, I would say Politics Daily has not done their research because Beck went on to say churches should help people and should encourage their members to help people. That’s not what he is condemning. He’s condemning the idea of what social justice has become – a forced “distribution of advantages and disadvantages within a society.” Should we help the poor, the sick, the needy? Yes, but we should choose to do so. If we’re forced through taxation or other means, it means nothing.
I think you get at the heart of the problem for so many radio and TV commentators. They say outrageous things one day and counter it the next. One has to wonder if there isn’t a whole lot of disingenuous posturing for ratings going on and people end up being led around like sheep.
Thanks for reading and commenting on the blog
Actually I don’t think Glenn changed what he was saying; I think his comment was taken out of context. Unfortunately, in an age of sound bytes, anyone in the public eye has to watch every word and he could have/should have chosen his words more carefully.
Thankfully, God made us smarter than sheep; it’s up to us to be aware of the issues and know what we believe.
I think I see an error in this article – the word “justice” by itself was not included by Beck. He only spoke of “social justice” and “economic justice” as dangerous phrases.
It is an oversimplification to say that you should leave any church that uses those phrases (because a church may simply be unaware of the “tojan horse” that those phrases are), but it would be smart to find out why the church is using those phrases and what they mean by them.
While he may be presenting things a little too “black-and-white” I still think that Gen Beck is generally correct on this issue.
Good catch on the word justice not being a stand alone in Beck’s comments. It might be better to leave that out of the article I wrote. Even so, I think the reading of the Bible as it relates to justice in general is that we are talking about not simply “justice” in the breaking the law sense but also social and economic justice. When one read the many places where the Bible speaks of the need for justice it is very often in conjunction with examples that are social or economic. All it is asking is that people be treated equally and fairly in social and economic situations. The rich are not to exploit the poor and this is repeated numerous times in many ways in the Bible. The stranger in ones midst is to be treated fairly and not exploited because they are different.
I think that is all the church is trying to say, at least when it speaks in it’s most biblical voice. The fact that socialists, communists or others have said things about redistribution of wealth and called it social justice does not means that Christians should abandon the issue.
Thanks for the heads up and comments and I look forward to hearing from you in the future
I would be interested to hear what “social” or “economic” justice would look like from a Biblical Perspective.
I remain wary of the phrases, at least when they are either undefined or come with the implied definitions. Those words both seem to contain the idea that poverty or inequality are always caused by injustice or are by definition injustice – both of which are untrue.
Thanks for responding.
Here is a great article about the topic that a friend just sent me in a facebook discussion: http://townhall.com/columnists/MarvinOlasky/2010/03/31/beck_vs_wallis/page/full/