If Beck had, from the beginning, made an argument for small government and private charity, none of us would have responded to him. But on his show this week he wrote on his blackboard: "My definition of social justice" is "the forced redistribution of wealth, with a hostility to individual property, under the guise of charity and/or justice." I doubt many churches in America would agree with that.
A debate over the role of government is good and healthy, as is discussing the relationship between personal and social responsibility. People of faith who believe in social justice can be found across the political spectrum. They would apply the concept in different ways; vote Republican, Democrat or independent; and have varying views of government -- both smaller and larger than my own. We make progress together when we agree to public policies that are smart and effective government. Even the conservative Heritage Foundation has a video on "social justice." The key for people of faith is to stand up for the poor, even against wealth and power when necessary.
Jim also got some blog love from Dan Pawlus of Interfaith Youth Core. (Incidentally, it was at an event with IFYC's founder, Eboo Patel, that Jim told the story of his meeting with Dorothy Day, which Beck selectively edited to accuse them both of being Marxists). Here's a blurb from Dan's post on the Newsweek/Washington Post On Faith blog:
One of Rev. Wallis' great gifts is bringing attention to issues that don't often warrant coverage by the mass media. The recent exchange over what it means to be a social justice Christian is just one more example of his courage to stand up for his deeply held biblical principles. It's got a lot of people talking.
As the news cycle moves forward, I hope this renewed interest in social justice and social justice Christians continues to receive media attention that delves deeper into the issue and focuses less on personalities engaged in a media tussle. It would be a lost opportunity if this is just a "faithertainment moment."
Ryan Rodrick Beiler is the Web Editor for Sojourners and a photographer whose work can be seen at www.ryanrodrickbeiler.com.