Glenn Beck, ultraconservative infotainer and TV host, has recently decided that “social justice” is a code word for fascism. When I first heard this news, I couldn’t believe it was not a headline from the satirical newspaper The Onion. What tortured and specious logic could he possibly employ to literally link Adolf Hitler to Archbishop Oscar Romero? Apparently, the Nazis were for social justice. Never mind that anything the National Socialist Party in Germany may ever have said about the rights of the workers came directly atop a wave of antisemitism, xenophobia and nationalism. These can hardly be called the hallmarks of Theological Liberalism, Liberation Theology, Political Theology or any church-led movements for social justice. According to Beck’s “reasoning”, Martin Luther King, Jr., Stalin and Hitler belong in the same social movement.
In general, I try to steer clear of polemic. It rarely accomplishes much more than emotional inflammation and frankly, there’s an argument to be made that it is wholly inappropriate for either Quakers or Buddhists. Given my religious identification with both those groups, it seems that neither God nor the Dharma particularly wants me to get into what I’m about to do. But all things in moderation, including moderation, at least according to Mark Twain. I hope that I will be able to separate act from actor and belief from believer here, but also beg forgiveness if I don’t manage.
Glenn Beck’s program is a cancer upon society. He employs the worst kind of populist know-nothingism to justify his racist and classist thinking and he’s got a prime-time show on the most watched cable news network in America. His program is frankly the shame of our nation. We can be better than this and we must be better than this. Redistribution of wealth is not anathema to Christianity, as Beck subtly argues. It is in fact part and parcel of Christianity. What else would it mean to care for that which is of God in the least of our sisters and brothers on Earth? If we look to the book of Acts, we see not a proto-capitalist market economy, but an anarch0-syndicalist collective. If anything is anti-Christian in the sociopolitical world, it is in fact captialist market economics.
The time for meeting polemic with reasoned analysis has passed. It doesn’t work. You cannot send reason to meet unthinking passion. For every Glenn Beck, we need a Michael Moore. It pains me to say so, as a “good theological liberal”: I’m much more comfortable on the so-called high road, but it’s hard to be on that high road when the opposition is hurling filth from the sewers.