On his radio talk show in March Glenn Beck expressed some of his views on the Bible. Whenever a political commentator expresses his or her views on the Bible it immediately gets my attention. On this particular radio cast Glenn Beck admonished church-goers to "run as fast as they can" out of their church if they found the words "social justice" or "economic justice" on their church website. He went on to say that if your priest preaches about social justice then you should find another church or turn your priest in to your bishop. (You can find the clip here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5c4DqdleJuY&feature=related ). Beck went on to say that the terms "social justice" and "economic justice" are actually "code words" for Communism and Nazism. (See clip here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQcrM4HQQyg )
Social justice is the idea of helping disadvantaged members of society (e.g. "social") to overcome the impediments or barriers that interfere with their gaining equality (e.g. "justice"). Social justice can be something as simple as serving the poor or as complex as enacting laws that don't discriminate against people for their religion. Glenn Beck says that social justice is not in the Bible.
As a pastor I found that assertion, well, to say the least, quite interesting. First of all, I hate it when people run out of my church, especially when I'm preaching (which happens almost weekly). Secondly, it a total downer when I get reported to my bishop. (Fortunately that only happens to me about once a quarter.)
Let's take a look at a few verses from the Bible to see if Glenn Beck is correct, if social justice is not in the Bible and if we should take the measures he is advocating. I'll try to take passages from across the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments. Here they are in their unedited form. You can make your own conclusion.
To the nation of Israel,
- "Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits." -- Exodus 23:6
- "It is the same with your grape crop—do not strip every last bunch of grapes from the vines, and do not pick up the grapes that fall to the ground. Leave them for the poor and the foreigners living among you. I am the Lord your God." -- Leviticus 19:10
- "Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns." -- Deuteronomy 24:14
Through the prophet Amos,
- Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land...buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat. The LORD has sworn by the Pride of Jacob: "I will never forget anything they have done.
In the New Testament, Jesus' first words of his first sermon in the Gospel of Luke are:
- The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
And to the apostle Paul, in meeting the church leaders of James, Peter and John regarding his missionary efforts...
- "All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do." -- Galatians 2:10
Hmmm? Those seems like social justice to me. In fact, if you were to take out all the passages in the Bible that pertain to social justice, you are pretty much left with the Table of Contents and the Maps section.
Glenn Beck went on to qualify his controversial statements by saying that social justice is only wrong if it comes through the form of "government action." But what Glenn Beck fails to realize is that most of the instructions on social justice in the Bible were written to a specific nation--that nation being Israel--who had their own form of government. In fact, Moses gave specific laws to Israel, like the practice of gleaning and the Year of Jubilee, whose sole purpose was to make their society more just and equitable.
This leads me to my thoughts on Glenn Beck's statements. I think his statements reflect his own political philosophy rather than what the Bible says. I think he has his own view of the role of government and he made the mistake of transposing those views onto the Bible. Unfortunately, it's a mistake that happens often. The important part for us who have come into faith in Christ is to allow the Bible to inform our politics rather than to allow our politics to inform the Bible. As Christians, our final authority is Scripture. I think we all have to learn how to distinguish between our own particular political philosophy and what is actually instructed in the Bible.
Well, that's enough from me. Let me go and check our website to see if we have the words "social justice" on it. Thankfully, if it doesn't, then I may get reported to my bishop after all.