The Common Good

Beck, Nazis, and Civil Dialogue

Sojomail - September 30, 2010


QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"This is completely unacceptable. Sacrilege would not be too strong a word. It's loot, taken violently and inappropriately in the first place. A tabot is a very holy object; no one can see it apart from priests. Westminster Abbey is one of the most visited sites in London. To have it on public display there is an offence to Orthodox Ethiopian Christians. For one Christian church to refuse to return it to another seems profoundly wrong.”

- Rev. John McLuckie, a British priest, on Westminster Abbey’s refusal to return a tabot, a small tablet that symbolises the Ark of the Covenant, taken by British troops in the 19th century, to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. (Source: Guardian/Observer)

+ Sign up to receive "Verse and Voice" - our daily quote and Bible verse e-mail

Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

Beck, Nazis, and Civil Dialogue

Get a free trial issue of Sojourners Get a free issue of Sojourners
Donate to Support Sojourners
Donate to support
Sojourners

Glenn Beck can do better. FOX News can do better. When it comes to upholding truth and having civil dialogues, let's be honest, we all can do better. Last Thursday, I asked you to take up the challenge and say, "I disagree with you, but I'm pretty sure you're not Hitler." When the next day Glenn Beck told his audience that I was "dangerous," mischaracterized what I believe, and then took that mischaracterization and said that it "always leads to mass death," my first desire was not to be civil. When his next step was to leap to the Nazi corruption of churches in Germany, and to suggest that I and "progressive Christians" were like the Nazis, I got angry.

The Bible says, in your anger, do not sin. So, I took a deep breath and decided with my staff that it was time we give FOX News some encouragement. How do we respond with truth in a civil manner? We decided that we should tell FOX News that they can do better than this. If you think FOX can do better, click here and send its CEO an email.

At the end of August, at his rally at the Lincoln Memorial, on the anniversary of Dr. King's "I Have a Dream Speech," Beck seemed to want to take a higher road. But this latest and absurd violation of both truth and civility takes him back to his habitual low road, and, from his brief stint on the Mall as a would-be evangelist, back to an, "entertainer," as he has previously called himself. This repeated poisoning of our civil discourse is not entertaining at all, but more and more serious and alarming.

Unfortunately, Beck has not accepted my invitation to have a dialogue about the real meaning of "social justice," which he so regularly maligns. But, some of the topics he tackles are ones that concern us all. The segment on Friday was about church and state issues. So, in my own narrative form that I will try to keep civil, I'd like to dialogue with some of the things Beck said on Friday.

First he said, "There is a fundamental misunderstanding of the Tea Party and small government people, that immediately goes into church and state …. You can't have the evil church because those evil Christians are going to gobble up the state and then the next thing you know you're going to have to have communion, you know, five days [a] week, otherwise you'll go to jail. And I don't know what they think is going to happen."

Glenn's right about that mischaracterization of religious conservatives by some on the political left. I believe that most Christians in this country aren't interested in legislating their religion. We saw that misunderstanding again, and a distortion of someone's positions, when Democrat Alan Grayson ran a recent attack ad against his opponent, Republican Dan Webster. The ad called him "Taliban Dan," and said, "Religious fanatics try to take away our freedom in Afghanistan, in Iran, and right here in Central Florida." I don't know Webster and I might not agree with him on everything, but I doubt he wants to set up a Taliban-like religious dictatorship in the United States.

But then Beck fundamentally mischaracterizes progressive Christians and others. His latest attack last Friday said, "That's why Jim Wallis is so dangerous. All the preachers that surround the president, they are progressives and they are big government progressives. When you combine church and state, and you take a -- you take a big government and you combine it with the church, to get people to do the things that the state wants you to do, it always ends in mass death."

And that is really ridiculous. First of all, there is not a group of preachers who "surround the president." But for Beck to accuse all the preachers or religious leaders who have advised Obama on any issue of being like the Nazi corruption of the church and on a course that "ends in mass death" is the worst kind of civil poison. It's just not right at all, and would be laughable if such irresponsible and hateful talk were a laughing matter.

My own view of the government has been heavily influenced by two passages in the Bible -- Romans 13 and Revelation 13. In Romans 13, the apostle Paul talks about the intended positive role of governments. It teaches that government is God's servant to do us good, to reward good and punish evil, to uphold a just and lawful society. It even encourages us to pay our taxes! But, I have also been arrested 22 times for protesting the government's policies because the government isn't always good, and I would remind Beck that his new hero, Dr. King, was arrested many more times than that. I interpret the Revelation 13 description of the "beast" to be one about the Roman Empire and any other government that has become totalitarian, including Nazi Germany. But the leading opponents of Hitler's totalitarianism were social-justice Christians in Germany such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Revelation 13 presents a scary picture of oppression in which the people worship the "beast" instead of God; and all of the Christian leaders I know who have given any advice to President Obama would agree, as would the Christian leaders I know who did not vote for Obama. I believe that at its best, the church should function as a conscience for the state, and not be its cheerleader. Nor should religious leaders be chaplains for any political party, but should instead offer prophetic words to the entire system.

I read Beck's newest attacks from New Zealand while preparing to speak at a Salvation Army conference where everybody believes in social justice. Tomorrow I will attend a World Vision conference about the same topic. And Glenn's own religion, the Mormon Church, has invited me to come to Salt Lake City so they can take me around and show me their "social justice" ministries. Beck needs to learn what social justice really means and, in the meantime, must stop suggesting that the Salvation Army, World Vision, and the Mormon Church are all "communists" and "Nazis."

Beck and I both agree that Christians have a call to be personally charitable, but I also believe that the principles we see in the Bible and taught by Jesus mean that the government has responsibilities to the poor as well.

Beck said, "I'll get up from my church, and I will walk out when my church starts to tell me who to vote for or how to vote. I want my church to teach me correct principles and then I can figure it out."

Me too. I'm not in the business of endorsing candidates. Good Christians will never all vote the same way, and I think that's a good thing. In fact, I've written a few books on this topic. Maybe they could help Beck in his continuing theological education. So why doesn't Beck want to talk, instead of just erupting all the time?

Glenn Beck, you can do better than this.

+Tired of the hatred? Tell FOX News: You can do better than Beck!

E-mail E-mail this article to friends
Facebook Share this article on Facebook
Comment Comment on this article on the God's Politics Blog

Building a Movement


Gulf Oil Spill: Prayers of Reflection and Healing

On September 19, the federal government declared the Deepwater Horizon well "dead." The repercussions, however, of almost 5 million barrels of oil saturating the Gulf are still a reality. Since the oil spill, thousands of Christians across the country have chosen a new energy future for themselves and their families, pledging to change their energy use and consume less. Personal transformation is a start, but we must also transform our communities and our nation.

+Join us this weekend for a national day of prayer for the Gulf Coast with worship and prayer resources from the National Council of Churches.

ON THE GOD'S POLITICS BLOG


+ See what's new on the blog of Jim Wallis and friends

Securing Soldiers' Rights to Selective Conscientious Objection
by Logan Laituri

Last March I testified at the Truth Commission on Conscience in War (TCCW) at the Riverside Church in New York City.
+ Click to continue

Americans Deeply Ignorant About Religion
by Duane Shank

"The person whose writings and actions inspired the Protestant Reformation was Martin Luther, Thomas Aquinas or John Wesley?" Less than half (46 percent) of Americans know the answer is Luther, and only 53 percent of protestants.
+ Click to continue

The Affordable Care Act at Six Months: What's Next for People of Faith?
by Rev. Linda Hanna Walling

Last week was a-buzz about the six-month anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. And rightfully so. On the actual anniversary date (September 23), a host of new benefits went into effect that will make U.S. health care work better for millions of Americans.
+ Click to continue

We Won't Back Down from Beck
by Chuck Gutenson

Ah, the evils of "social justice"! Until recently, I bet most of you didn't realize how dangerous that concept is, and we have Glenn Beck to thank for bringing it to our attention -- again, and again, and again.
+ Click to continue

What I've Been Reading This Year
by Brian McLaren

What a great year for books. I've been enjoying some new ones and some old ones lately. Here are a few in various categories.
+ Click to continue

Is it REALLY the end of Men?
by Bob Sabath

Many were rightly shocked by the statistical assessment of males in our society by Hanna Rosin's article, "The End of Men", in the July-August issue of The Atlantic Monthly.
+ Click to continue

"Oh Say Can You See": Learning to Disagree in Love (Part I)
by Shane Claiborne

The two authors of this blog post have been having a good conversation over the past six months and thought it might interest others as well.
+ Click to continue

"Oh Say Can You See": Shane Claiborne and Jim Brenneman's Email Exchange (Part II)
by Shane Claiborne

My heart sunk a little this morning to hear that a decision was made to begin playing the national anthem at sports events (as I understand). I think there is a ripe moment right now in our culture for the Mennonite witness that is very unique.
+ Click to continue

Just a Few Days Left to Save Thousands of Children's Lives
by Eileen Campbell

With just a few days effectively left in this session of Congress, as a grassroots organizer I feel like I'm in the middle of a political thriller, the movie preview for which would include that dramatic narration, "They had five days left to save thousands of lives."
+ Click to continue

When Winning an Election Undermines Democracy
by Tim King

The reason why so many candidates run attack ads is because these ads have proven to be very effective in changing voter opinion. Voters often judge candidates on the small amount of information they are given directly and don't seek out differing opinions, explanations, or additional facts.
+ Click to continue

Peace or Partisanship? New START Reaches a Critical Juncture
by Adam Woods

Nuclear policy typically moves at a glacial speed, with opportunities for progress few and far between. Yet this fall we have an opportunity to take a critical step forward, away from the nuclear postures of the Cold War, and toward a future less reliant upon the bloated arsenals of a bygone era.
+ Click to continue

Coal Country: Is it Mine or God's?
by Betsy Shirley

"You don't regulate an abomination, you stop it." That's the voice of Beverly May, a resident of Maytown, Kentucky, speaking out against mountaintop-removal coal mining in the 2010 documentary Deep Down: A Story From the Heart of Coal Country.
+ Click to continue

Postcolonialism Comes Home
by Lori D. Wilson

For most of us, the term "colonialism" conjures images of palm trees, pith helmets, and mosquito nets. These visions -- and many more like them -- share one thing in common: They exist at a remote distance from our everyday lives.
+ Click to continue

The Poverty Measure: Why It's Outdated, and Why It's Important
by Claire Lorentzen

On September 16, the day that the Census Bureau released its 2009 statistics on poverty and income claiming that 43.6 million Americans live below the poverty line, I attended a Brookings Institution panel on how to interpret this newly released data.
+ Click to continue

Worship Meets Experience at "The Opiate Mass"
by Becky Garrison

A group of dear friends and I were all experiencing a rather bothersome dissonance between our rock/club/band experience on Friday nights, and our Sunday morning music direction/performance.
+ Click to continue

Prayers for the Congo
by Tim Odosa M.

The eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo has once more been a theater of serious violations of human rights.
+ Click to continue

Stephen Colbert for the Least of These
by Troy Jackson

Last week, comedian and cultural critic Stephen Colbert testified before Congress alongside members of the United Farm Workers Union.
+ Click to continue

Friday Links Round Up: Safe Water. Pizza Boxes. Nukes.
by Jeannie Choi

Safe Water. Pizza Boxes. Nukes. Here's a little round up of links from around the Web you may have missed this week.
+ Click to continue

DREAMS Are Not Made to be Broken
by Christina Rufenacht

I am an educator. As with any profession involving children and politics, my job can be simultaneously grueling and rewarding.
+ Click to continue

Challenging Goliath: Justin Hudson
by Johnathan Smith

David and Goliath. Is there any story in the Bible -- within both Christian and non-Christian circles -- that is more well known?
+ Click to continue

The Failure to Repeal 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' Should Concern All of Us
by Tim King

The failure of the Senate to repeal 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' should concern the left because of their history of standing up for the rights of minority groups in this country.
+ Click to continue

Who is My Neighbor?
by Becky Garrison

At the conclusion of my blog post which asked, What Constitutes Sacred Space at Ground Zero?, I encouraged religious leaders to help put into practice Archbishop Timothy Dolan's plea, "What we do not need are protests, but promoters of dialogue."
+ Click to continue

+ Sign up to receive our "Daily Digest" e-mail - the latest headlines on critical issues

SOJOURNERS IN THE NEWS


Top Stories:


Obama's spiritual adviser to speak in Dunedin
Otago Daily Times
Mr Wallis (62) is chief executive of the Sojourners social justice network and magazine. He is making his first visit to Dunedin as a guest of the University of Otago's Centre for Theology and Public Issues and will today present the Howard Paterson Memorial Lecture.
+Click to continue

What Does the GOP Value?
"The word 'poverty' should be on the lips of every White House or Congressional staffer and should unabashedly be repeated at the press conferences of both parties until these numbers are turned around," said Wallis.
+Click to continue


Without a Moral Recovery, the Economic Recovery Won’t Last (Wealth Magazine)

Nuclear weapons in our midst (Examiner.net)

Nine to Noon (Radio New Zealand)

"Sojourners in the news" articles are the most recent news clippings that mention Sojourners in any way - whether favorably or unfavorably. Though we provide the text on our site for your convenience, we do not necessarily endorse the views of these articles or their source publications.




Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!

Click Here!






FOCUS Ministries unmasks domestic violence - Free help for women/families. Training for churches/organizations, including webinars, conferences, adult/teen curriculum, support group development/coaching. Be prepared for Domestic Violence Awareness Month this October!

T-Shirts That Teach. Start a conversation everywhere you go with Sojourners' tees on faith and social justice. Click here for more information. Starting at $10.

Sunday looms! Have you finished your sermon yet? Sign up for Preaching the Word sermon prep and see what Becky Garrison and Brian McLaren have to say about the Revised Common Lectionary this week. Buy now!

Every Christian is an "undocumented foreigner" - in the world but not of it. Learn more about Strangers in the Land, a six-week devotional on immigration, the church and the Bible. From the editors of Sojourners magazine.






Click Here!

GIVE TO SOJOURNERS: Donate now to support this voice for justice and peace.

GET THE MAGAZINE: Subscribe today

CONTACT US: General inquiries: sojourners@sojo.net | Advertising: advertising@sojo.net | About Us

PRIVACY NOTICE: Sojourners won't trade, sell, or give away your e-mail address. Read our privacy policy.