Last week, when radio and television talk show host Glenn Beck said that social justice is a "code word" for Communism and Nazism, and urged people to leave their churches if they teach social justice, I decided that message needed to be challenged.
Many church leaders from across the spectrum agreed with my concern that social and economic justice are deep biblical concerns and central to the teachings of all of our churches. Even Beck's own Mormon church leaders were calling to assure me that they believe in social justice too. I thought Beck's rather extreme and misguided comments needed a response, but I did not attack him personally; nor will I.
In fact, on Friday, I sent Glenn a letter proposing that the two of us sit down together and have an open and public discussion on what social justice really means and how Christians are called to engage in the struggle for justice. I said, "let's make this a civil dialogue and not engage in personal attacks on each other -- which is never helpful in trying to sort out what is true. So let's talk about the heart of the matter."
Well, on today's Glenn Beck radio show, I got a response that disappointed me. Glenn Beck said:
So Jim, I just wanted to pass this on to you. In my time I will respond -- my time, well, kind of like God's time, might be a day, might be a week to you, I'm not sure. But I'm going to get to it in my time, not your time. So you go ahead and you continue to do your protest thing, and that's great. I love it. But just know -- the hammer is coming, because little do you know, for eight weeks, we've been compiling information on you, your cute little organization, and all the other cute little people that are with you. And when the hammer comes, it's going to be hammering hard and all through the night, over and over...
He went on to say that "It's weird how people all over the world have been sending me stuff. It's weird that way, Jimmy." Why is the idea of a civil dialogue such a threat to Glenn Beck? Glenn, let us please not resort to threats and attacks. To repeat, I have not and will not attack you personally, and I repeat my invitation to a civil dialogue on what social justice really means. Since you were the one to raise this issue and start this whole discussion, I just want it to end in a better and more civil way.
More than 30,000 Christian pastors and church members have written to you as Christians who believe in social justice and are asking you to reconsider your statements. This is a time for dialogue, not monologue, and I prayerfully ask you to consider my request for a conversation.
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.