Civility

Christians for Social Justice

Glenn Beck picked a fight with the nation’s churches when he said that “social justice” is a “code word” for “communism” and “Nazism,” and that Christians should leave their churches if they preach, practice, or even have the phrase “social justice” on their Web sites. Contrary to Beck’s claim that “social justice is a perversion of the gospel,” he has now learned that Christians across the theological and political spectrum believe that social justice is central to the teachings of Jesus, and at the heart of biblical faith. Because Christians couldn’t “turn in” their pastors to “church authorities” as Beck suggested (the pope would have to turn himself in to ... himself), many have started turning themselves in to Glenn Beck as “social justice Christians”—50,000 at last count.

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Sojourners Magazine May 2010
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Of Builders and Bombers

I love to read the sermons of old preachers, especially those whose words have outlived them. A favorite of mine is J. Wallace Hamilton, who once preached a sermon titled “Blunders, Bombers, and Builders.” His general point was that whereas the soldier is engaged in times of war, it is diplomacy that is needed in times of political conflict. King David would not be the one to build the temple because the art of war does not lend itself to the development of worship or political stability (1 Chronicles 17:1-5; 22:5-11).

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Sojourners Magazine April 2010
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Can We Talk?

Nobody I’ve ever met likes abortion and considers it a moral good, although I’m sure there are a small number for whom it poses little if any moral quandary. Nobody I’ve ever met wants to weaken the institution of marriage, although I imagine there are a few hedonists who feel the world would be a better place if it resembled a Hugh Hefner pool party. Nobody I’ve ever met wants to deny the basic freedoms of speech, conscience, or religious faith, although most of us are more nervous about some people’s speech, conscience, and faith than we are about others’.

But as I read and reread the statement released in November by prominent Christian leaders on the sanctity of life, “traditional” marriage, and religious freedom, I realize that its framers and signers must look out at the rest of us who didn’t sign and wonder: What’s wrong with them? Are they pro-abortion, anti-marriage, and anti-freedom? And sadly, that’s a question that seldom gets asked or answered, because, by framing issues in an us-vs.-them way, declarations too seldom lead to dialogue.

If such a dialogue were to occur, the quarter-million-plus signers of the Manhattan Declaration would have the chance to learn some important things about the rest of us.

For starters, they would learn that many of us do in fact abhor abortion. But many of us do not believe that the best way to reduce it is to criminalize it. And even some who would favor criminalizing it do not believe that the approach of the Religious Right in recent decades is an approach we could support—whether on moral, political, or strategic grounds.

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Sojourners Magazine March 2010
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