In the wake of Glenn Beck's admonishment to his viewers that they leave their church if it engages in "social justice," the Christian community is rising up to condemn his heresy. This could spell trouble for TV's most famous conspiracy-obsessed, cult-minded, race-baiting, rodeo-clown, crybaby. In fact, it may exacerbate his already severe persecution complex to the point that he envisions these critics as the coming of his tormentors with a giant wooden cross and a crown of thorns.
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For a little background, Beck asserted on his TV program that social justice is just a code word for communism, or fascism, or both. And then he added...
"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!"
The unambiguous message Beck is imparting is that you ought to abandon all churches that advocate for the welfare of the poor, the hungry, the sick, people enduring hardships and looking for answers. In other words, renounce any parish that practices the teachings of Jesus.
The Reverend Jim Wallis has taken particular offense to Beck's apostasy. He points out that many denominations regard social justice as a fundamental component of Christianity that goes back to the Mosaic law of Jubilee. And Wallis goes further to advise all Christians to stop watching Glenn Beck:
"Beck says Christians should leave their social justice churches, so I say Christians should leave Glenn Beck. I don’t know if Beck is just strange, just trying to be controversial, or just trying to make money. But in any case, what he has said attacks the very heart of our Christian faith, and Christians should no longer watch his show."
Rev. Wallis' speculation as to whether Beck is strange or greedy leaves out one potential explanation for what Beck hopes to accomplish. He actually wants you to leave your church so that you can follow him. He literally begs his viewers to watch every episode. To record it and study it and learn from his sermons. He is preparing to embark on a national tour that he has dubbed "The American Revival." And although he has accused Al Gore of wanting to replace God with the planet earth, it is Beck who wants to replace God - with himself.
Beck has already lost over 100 advertisers since calling President Obama a "racist with a deep-seated hatred for white people." Now he has sparked a spiritual battle that could eat right into the heart of his evangelical demographic. Believers may be put off by Beck's meddling in their relationship with their God. And this is what Rev. Wallis is counting on with his response to Beck:
"Glenn Beck recently told his listeners to leave any church that teaches social justice, and to report its pastor to church authorities. Since Sojourners' mission is 'to articulate the biblical call to social justice,' we thought we'd better turn ourselves in."
Rev. Wallis has set up a web page to facilitate turning yourself in. It also notifies Beck of your stand for righteousness and principle:
It is fairly likely that Beck will dismiss Rev. Wallis' appeal. After all, Wallis is a well-known progressive pastor whose humanitarian work stretches back for decades. Unlike Beck, whose selfish commitment to personal wealth and adoration has been the all-consuming centerpiece of his brief public persona. But it will be harder for Beck to dismiss the leaders of his own church who have also come out against his ravings.
Kent P. Jackson, associate dean of religion at Brigham Young University, said in an interview:
"My own experience as a believing Latter-day Saint over the course of 60 years is that I have seen social justice in practice in every L.D.S. congregation I’ve been in. People endeavor with all of our frailties and shortcomings to love one another and to lift up other people. So if that's Beck's definition of social justice, he and I are definitely not on the same team."
Philip Barlow, the Arrington Professor of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University, said:
"One way to read the Book of Mormon is that it's a vast tract on social justice. It's ubiquitous in the Book of Mormon to have the prophetic figures, much like in the Hebrew Bible, calling out those who are insensitive to injustices. A lot of Latter-day Saints would think that Beck was asking them to leave their own church."
Actually, Barlow missed a key point. By demanding that Christians leave any church that practices social justice, Beck is asking himself to leave his own church. And from the sound of it, I don't think the rest of the congregation would mind terribly much if he did.
[Update:] On his radio program this morning, Beck had a response that affirms his persecution/Messianic complex. As I predicted, he began by dismissing Rev. Wallis as an Obama supporter and a "dedicated foe of capitalism." Then he goes on to reveal the plot against him by his ever-present, invisible horde of enemies:
They must separate me from my base.
They're trying to get in, twist my words and rot my core.
They are going to try to separate you from me, and that's fine. And if I don't survive, I don't survive. That's OK.
Then Glenn went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to His disciples...
"Sit here, while I go yonder and pray. [...] Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Rupert is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, My betrayer is at hand."