I thought Glenn Beck must have moved on to other things, but the other night, he went back to his attack on social justice churches. This time the issue was climate change.
I continue to ask Beck for a two-way conversation about this very important issue -- the biblical meaning of social justice. But so far he hasn't been willing to talk. So I went ahead with our dialogue without him when he took up the subject of immigration. So let's call this dialogue #2, still without brother Beck.
One of the major stories dominating the news, of course, is the worsening oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The spill is growing, with the first oil now washing into the Louisiana coast marshlands, and fishing now prohibited in 19 percent of the Gulf. Fears are that the oil will reach the Florida Keys, then enter the Gulf Stream and move up the East Coast.
This deepening disaster simply underscores the need for real energy and climate legislation that can begin to wean us from our addiction to oil, which I wrote about last week. One significant part of such legislation is new efforts to encourage buildings that are more energy efficient -- "green" buildings -- even including churches.
Yet, to Glenn Beck, this is socialism, as is everything he doesn't agree with politically. So he said this week that "churches are being used by progressives to help bring about the fundamental transformation of America."
Beck attacked the President's Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, on which I served:
If I had told you five years ago that this government would bypass the Congress -- and thus you -- and go through the EPA to get climate change done, by having them declare that when you exhale you poison the air, you wouldn't have believed it.
And, if I had added that the government is going to merge with churches under Democrats, you'd have said I was stark raving insane ... Your church is being attacked through a faith-based initiative headed up by Barack Obama's Administration ... churches are being used by progressives to help bring about the fundamental transformation of America.
He went on to say:
Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships recently issued its report of recommendations and the Obama administration is about to take faith-based initiatives to a whole new level. The president's council envisions the government and religion partnering to push the good news of global warming, climate change and green issues. Yes, the religion of environmental and social justice ... Your church is either for socialist government or the living of the gospel and you need to know which one they are teaching.
It is actually the other way around -- the faith community is pushing the government, rather than the government using us. The section of the Council's report on "Environment and Climate Change" noted that:
There is a new and unprecedented wave of interest in environmental sustainability and climate change among America's diverse religious communities and in neighborhoods across the country. Faith- and other community-based nonprofit institutions are in the unique position of serving as visible examples to the community. Houses of worship can exert a powerful influence when they practice good energy stewardship and preach and teach about conservation as a moral value, it has a powerful influence.
We don't call that socialism, we call it stewardship of God's creation. "Creation care" has become a mainstream concern among Evangelical, Catholic, and Mainline churches alike -- especially for a new generation of Christians. The recommendations of the President's Council went on to say:
The importance of engaging with religious organizations in addressing climate change and environmental concerns has become even clearer -- as has the importance of faith-based organizations taking a prominent leadership role in influencing policy, education, and action in those areas. The more than 370,000 houses of worship alone provide locations for information to be shared, training to take place, and modeling of best environmental practices to occur.
You see, Glenn, most of our faith traditions believe that God created this earth, proclaimed it good, and gave us the mandate to serve and protect it. Yet, for thousands of years, we have abused and destroyed it. It is our role as stewards of creation that spurs us to take leadership in urging the government to do its part. This is a biblical concern of ours, not a Marxist one as you keep suggesting.
Glenn, this line of attack against the faith community is a wrong one for you. I thought you might have realized that in the flood of responses from so many pastors and church leaders (including your own Mormon church) to your earlier accusations that social justice is "code" for Marxism, socialism, and Nazism. You're wrong, and I thought you were beginning to see that. But I guess I was wrong, as you have gone on the warpath again against the community of faith. This is about our faith, not our politics; and the truth is that your attack is really just about your politics.
If caring for creation, addressing poverty, and fixing our broken immigration system are part of the "fundamental transformation" that you are talking about, then yes, churches are being used to help bring about fundamental transformation -- but they are being used by God, not politics. So if you are going to keep up your assault on the gospel commitment to justice that we have in our churches, please be honest enough and courageous enough to have the open and public dialogue I invited you to several weeks ago. Why are you afraid of that conversation when it's a two- way discussion? Perhaps you know that it's not our political ideology that would be revealed, but yours. The offer still stands, Glenn. Let's talk.
Jim Wallis is the author of Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street, and Your Street -- A Moral Compass for the New Economy, CEO of Sojourners and blogs at www.godspolitics.com.