Kudos and Good News Coverage on the Glenn Beck Social Justice Debate

By Ryan Rodrick Beiler 03-26-2010

Last week, Don Miller was SojoFriend #1 for his eloquent framing of the Glenn Beck debate. This week, a much shorter affirmation comes from Chuck Colson via Dan Gilgoff on Twitter:

Chuck Colson tells me he's known Jim Wallis since he left prison, considers him a brother in Christ.

Other encouragement came from a source closer to home -- the Sojourners board of directors, which is in town for its semi-annual meeting yesterday and today:

We deeply regret the attacks on Jim Wallis and Sojourners. Under Jim's leadership, Sojourners will continue to articulate the clear, biblical calling to social justice that is inherent to being a follower of Jesus Christ. Our approach builds bridges with a wide diversity of the Christian community who care together about the common good of our society.

Another particularly encouraging aspect of the Beck blow-up has been the fair and balanced coverage by major Christian media outlets. Both last week and now this week, Christianity Today, the standard-bearer of mainstream evangelicalism, offered some very helpful summary and analysis (emphasis added), including some very insightful comments on Dorothy Day by the late Cardinal John O'Connor:

On his Tuesday TV show, Glenn Beck kept his promise to his 2.5 million viewers by attacking Jim Wallis of Sojourners. Beck did not mince words. He compared Wallis to the infamous 1930s anti-semite and facist-loving radio priest Charles Coughlin. Beck also called Wallis a "Marxist" whose view of social justice is "the devil's way."

Wallis received support from Beth Dahlman of Faith in Public Life.

"By trying to make his fight all about out-of-context statements from Jim Wallis or other spurious attacks on Sojourners, Beck thinks he can win. But he's wrong," said Dahlman. "Every time he opens his mouth, it becomes more and more clear Beck doesn't yet know what he's dealing with."

Wallis has responded with a lengthy critique of the "charges" Beck has made against him. Even without Wallis' point-by-point rebuttal, it is becoming apparent that Beck clearly has a different understanding of "social justice" and "Marxism" than most Christians.

To cite just one example, Beck played a recording of Wallis discussing a meeting he had with Dorothy Day. Both Wallis and Day were socialists prior to their conversions. The clip made it sound as if Wallis and Day were agreeing that they were both still radicals.

"Apparently Marxists know this person," said Beck, "I've never heard of her -- the Marxist Dorothy Day."

As the late Cardinal John O'Connor wrote in a letter celebrating the Vatican's first steps to considering Dorothy Day as a saint:

It has also been noted that Dorothy Day often seemed friendly to political groups hostile to the Church, for example, communists, socialists, and anarchists. It is necessary to divide her political stances in two spheres: pre-and post- conversion. After her conversion, she was neither a member of such political groupings nor did she approve of their tactics or any denial of private property. Yet, it must be said, she often held opinions in common with them. What they held in common was a common respect for the poor and a desire for economic equity.

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