The Common Good

'Jim Wallis Loves His Enemies' (With a Little Help From His Friends)

When a Fox News pundit who has helped force the resignation of White House advisers is promising he'll be "hammering hard and all through the night, over and over," it's good to have some friends standing beside you. Friend #1: Don Miller, who posted this wonderful encouragement under the headline, "Jim Wallis Loves His Enemies":

Jim was a guest in my home last year when he released his most recent book. I invited area pastors over for lunch, and Jim addressed them and took questions. A few conservatives grilled him but mostly it was a civil crowd. What I found in him, though, was an incredibly gentle spirit that was at peace with himself and his beliefs. He wasn't self righteous or angry. Regardless of whether you believe the church should help the poor, or Christians should help the poor through government, what can't be debated is that Wallis' spirit of nonviolent resistance is working. My suspicion is that Beck will grow tired of attacking an innocent man and move on. And my other suspicion is that Wallis and the folks at Sojourners will only come out stronger. ...

But I'm not writing this blog to say Jim Wallis is right, though I believe he is. I'm writing this blog because I want to join Jim Wallis in praying for Glenn Beck. Even as I type this I feel a love for the man. It's hard to keep your ratings up, and saying shocking things is a way to do so. But Glenn Beck is a child of God, a man who God loves, and while I disagree with him about whether the church should perform acts of justice, I don't hate him for it. I want to cross this bridge with Jim Wallis, and love my enemy. It's a much more peaceful way to live.

Equally encouraging are the statements that have been made by figures often on the other side of Jim's debates. An excellent summary by Christianity Today includes several key quotes from conservatives criticizing Beck's comments on social justice:

Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, remarked, the controversy's public nature resulted in "far more heat than light." ...

Mohler called comments like Beck's "nonsense." While he acknowledged that some have used the term "social justice" for political purposes or to distract from the gospel, Mohler said it is important to work for justice.

"The Gospel is not a message of social salvation, but it does have social implications," said Mohler. "Justice is our concern because it is God's concern."

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told the Associated Baptist Press that if Beck were right, Christians would need to leave Southern Baptist churches. The Baptist Faith and Message statement calls Christians to make Christ supreme in both society and their individual lives.

Like Mohler, Land said there will be disagreements over the best ways to achieve social justice, but there should not be debate over social justice as a goal.

The CT article also cites the importance of the core issue at stake -- the definition of "social justice" -- and quotes an article by David Gushee of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good:

Social justice consists of human acts to resist social injustice by repairing such distortions of human community. We work today for social justice when we seek to create religious and political communities characterized by more economic justice, less domination, less violence, and more inclusive community.

Jonathan Merritt writes along similar lines in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, deconstructing Beck's conflation of social justice with socialism:

Beck fails to recognize the vast difference between social justice and socialism. Social justice is a principle that attempts to shape the way people treat others. Socialism is a paradigm that attempts to control the way people govern themselves. One can attempt to combat today's individual and systemic injustices without being a socialist.

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, of which Beck is a member, have also been quick to distance themselves from his comments. Joanna Brooks writes:

Glenn Beck is a Mormon. So am I. During the nineteenth century, my Mormon ancestors crossed the plains to live their faith without fear of attack from the mobs that had hounded them out of Missouri and Illinois. Watching Glenn Beck threaten to "bring the hammer down" on another person of faith makes my stomach turn. I could cite a host of scriptures from the Bible and the Book of Mormon about how Beck's attack on Jim Wallis is not in keeping with faith-based values. Suffice it to say, Glenn Beck does not speak for the Mormons I know.

Still others are questioning the Fox network's role, as in this post by Burns Strider:

Personal attacks aren't uncommon from partisan commentators, but what is especially troubling about this most recent development is that Glenn Beck isn't just planning to throw insults; he said that he has been using his FOX staff to research everything that Rev. Wallis has ever said or done and to dig up dirt on the people who work with the pastor. I know Rev. Wallis both professionally and as a friend. I've watched him coach my son in Little League baseball and prayed with him for the strength and success of our great nation. Beck's attacks are contextually fictitious to the point of being imaginary. It's quite sad, actually. He's about to overcook my grits. ...

Does FOX agree with Beck's statements and command that Catholics, Protestants, and Mormons leave their churches? Will FOX allow Beck to continue to use staff and FOX airtime to conduct his promised week-long campaign to discredit Rev. Wallis?

Well, at least one Fox News representative is pushing back on Beck ... a little:

(And a very special thanks to the team at Media Matters, who watch all of these shows so we don't have to.)

Ryan Rodrick Beiler is the Web Editor for Sojourners and a photographer whose work can be seen at www.ryanrodrickbeiler.com.

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