The Common Good

On Glenn Beck and the Restoring Honor Rally (Part II)

100901-restoringhonorGlenn Beck is wrong on so much: wrong on social justice and liberation theology. His logic is often flawed. He is much too prone to use Nazism as an inappropriate analogy for what happens in contemporary America. He is one of the most divisive voices speaking in the United States today. But as the old saying goes, even a broken clock is correct twice a day.

Listening to Glenn Beck speak at the Restoring Honor Rally, I heard several things with which I agree. Beck spoke of the virtues of faith, hope, and charity. Biblical wisdom discusses these virtues and tells us that the greatest of these is charity. Charity is agape love. It is a love that is agape, wide open, radical. It is the love that Martin Luther King Jr. preached, and it is the Divine Love that incarnated itself in the person of Jesus and in his teachings. It is the love that gives us the grace to love our enemies. It is the love that gives us the wisdom and the fortitude to insist upon justice, including social justice.

The charity of personal generosity and magnanimity is important, but the agape love that works for justice in all of its iterations, that works for the justice of political and economic systems, is an even more demanding imperative. Beck's notion of charity without justice is not charitable enough. Martin Luther King Jr.'s commitment to nonviolence was rooted in agape love. He defines agape love: Agape means understanding, redeeming goodwill for all men. It is an overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless, and creative. It is not set in motion by any quality or function of its object. "It is the love of God operating in the human heart." (From "An Experiment in Love")

Beck spoke of charity that begins at home, and of the importance of the tithe. He is right on both counts. I believe that the world economic crisis would end tomorrow if we as individuals would bring our tithes into God's storehouse. The tithe has a specific use, to pay salaries and benefits to those whom the faith community employs, and to care for the widow, orphans, and strangers in the land. With federal, state, and local governments cutting programs because of lack of funds, faith communities will have to stand in the gap.

Moreover, the tithe reminds us that God blesses us to bless other people. It does not belong to us. It belongs to a God that is located with the poor. The tithe reminds us of our obligation to the least in our society because as we do to them, we have done to the Son of God, the Son of Man. It binds us to the stranger, to the alien, documented or not. This often requires a stronger faith.

Finally, I agree with Beck on the importance of truth-telling. He spoke about America's scars, but also about seeing the positive. It is true. Biblical wisdom teaches us to think on the true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). At the same time truth-telling is the breath that breathes justice and agape love. It speaks the truth of confession, repentance, reconciliation, and restoration. Without the truth of agape, radical love, what we do speak is as sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. Our tithes and offerings are for naught, and it is impossible to bring into being a beloved community, God's kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

Dr. Valerie Elverton Dixon is an independent scholar who publishes lectures and essays at JustPeaceTheory.com. She received her Ph.D. in religion and society from Temple University and taught Christian ethics at United Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Theological School.

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