Saturday, May 22, 2010

Another Soggy Fish Award

It's been a while since I've handed out an SFA (soggy fish award) for somebody who needs to be slapped in the face with a soggy fish, but this one now goes to Glenn Beck! (I should add that my wife's cousin Bobby recently appeared on his show as a legal immigrant to the USA who supported Beck's view on illegal immigration). Glenn Beck opposes churches who are into "social justice". Now if by "social justice" he meant the gospel of old liberalism, I could understand. But Beck seems to be just dead set against any church that is into social justice. CT points out that Beck recently recruited Jerry Falwell Jr. (Liberty University) and Peter Lillback (Westminster Seminary) to be on his show and to support his point of view that social justice is a bad thing. Now maybe I'm getting liberal in my old age (I do turn 36 this year), but I do recollect the words of our Lord as follows:

16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

So Dr. Glenn Beck (Yes, Liberty University gave an honorary doctorate to this Republican Mormon), this fish is for you!


Jeff Doles said...

When Glenn Beck speaks about what parades under the ever malleable title of "social justice," I'm sure he has no problem with what Jesus taught. But notice that Jesus did not make any of this a matter of government seizing more power for itself or the State confiscating the wealth of the people and redistributing it as it sees fit. Whenever "social justice" is just a front for left-wing, socialist political schemes, it departs from any semblance of what Jesus said. It confuses justice and mercy, as well as charity and entitlement. That, I believe, is what Glenn Beck is again. And so am I.

tim said...

Jeff, if the term "social justice" is malleable, it stands to reason that some of the churches that use such language do not necessarily endorse one political view over another. Some of these churches mean to enact social justice through their own programs and intentions.

It is irresponsible of Glenn to lump all usages of a malleable term into the same camp. For example, I know of two Christian groups that use the term of social justice but adamantly refuse to support State sponsored ways of achieving social justice.

Beck does not thrive on truth but on exaggeration and fear. The Gospel is against both of those things.

Jeff Doles said...

Tim, what I understand Beck to be against are the numerous instances where the term "social justice" operates, not as a reference to citizens caring for the poor, but as a political ideology of ever-increasing government and the confiscation and redistribution of wealth. I don't doubt that one can find instances where those who speak of "social justice" do not hold to such ideology, but in my experience, they are largely outnumbered by those who do.

Perhaps those who use the term but do not share the socialist political ideology should seek another term, because "social justice" seems to have been hijacked by the left as a means of amassing more government power, and if that is not what they mean by it, they will find themselves increasingly having to explain what they do not mean by it more than practicing what they do mean by it.

And, after all, the term "social justice" is not a biblical term but a cultural one (if not also a political one) of recent vintage. The Bible speaks both of "justice" and of "mercy" without feeling the need to qualify with the term "social." I know of many Churches and ministries that reach out for the care of the poor, and this is often called "mercy ministry." "Justice" speaks of something else. For example, in the biblical role of kings and judges -- the governing authorities -- justice is a matter of ruling and judging fairly, without partiality, showing favoritism to neither the rich nor the poor. Nor is it about seizing the wealth of some to redistribute it to others. OTOH, showing caring for the poor is not a matter of government justice but of personal charity and mercy. It is not a function of the State but of the covenant people of God. So the term, "social justice" tends to confuse those roles and who those roles belong to.

I think those who cannot speak of "justice" without the prefix "social" are confused about the meaning of justice as well as how it differs from mercy. In the Bible, "justice" and "mercy" are two different terms and speak of two different functions.

I do not for a moment think that Beck is in any way against mercy and charity and helping the poor. He is against how that has been hijacked under the banner, "social justice," by socialist political ideology.

Your ad hominem remarks about Beck thriving on exaggeration and fear instead of on truth are not worthy of any response except to highlight them for what they are. If you cannot support your point without such gratuitous remarks, then you support prove your point. Nor does the Gospel, to which you appeal, authorize you to make them.

Neil Parille said...

The vast majority of times I hear "social justice" the context is a person calling for more government. Nothing in Jesus' words about increasing the power of government.

On an unrelated issue, I think honorary doctorates should cease.

Neil Parille

Tim Byrnes said...

In my understanding, we as Christians should be working as hard as we can to beat the government to the punch when it comes to the (free-will) redistribution of our own wealth! Shouldn't be too hard...the government is too busy eating itself alive to be truly concerned for the poor, and we have the Spirit of the Living God within us!

Jeff Doles said...

Tim, I agree. I believe God's plan for us is to make His grace abound to us so that we, always having all sufficiency in all things may have plenty more for every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8). That is my definition of prosperity.

God has given us the ability to create wealth because He wants to establish His covenant (Deuteronomy 8:18). The other day, I posted on my Facebook status: " The only people who should redistribute wealth are those who create it, and the only wealth they should redistribute is their own." The government has no ability to create wealth, nor should it. So the only way it can redistribute wealth is by seizing it from others. When the government seizes wealth that we have created, it reduces our ability to distribute it according the acts of charity that demonstrate the grace and mercy of God for the poor.

That is one of the problems I have with those who advocate "social justice" (or "distributive justice" as some of them have called it) and by that mean gov't entitlement programs. It abdicates to the State a responsibility that belongs to the people, especially the people of God.

Richard said...

Wasn't the Jubilee established as a government redistribution system?

Not equating our context with OT Israel (democracy vs. theocracy) but just trying to push back on the conservative concept that there is no government role in wealth redistribution.

Jeff Doles said...

No, Jubilee wasn't a government redistribution program. The Torah, in which we found the instructions for Jubilee, was not a State constitution but a covenant between God and His people. So Jubilee was not a government redistribution or entitlement program but a matter of covenant with God.

If there is any correlation today for Christians, who are the NT people in covenant with God, it is not a matter of the State but of the Church. It is not about how the State is supposed to take care of people but about how God's people are supposed to take care of each other.

We need to be careful that we do not read our political persuasions, whether conservative or liberal, back into the Scriptures (which is eisegesis).

Rich Griese said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tim Ricci said...

I don't endorse everything Beck says but he has been very clear on what he means by social justice. He means the type of social justice advocated by a socialist/Marxist ideology of a totalitarian state. Beck encourages taking care of the poor and needy, Beck advocates using one's wealth to help those in need. What he does not advocate is the vast expansion of government and forced redistribution of wealth. He advocates what the Bible tells us to do for others he just does not advocate the government doing it. The American Constitutional system does not advocate it either.

Tim said...

To actually address Glenn Beck with anything approaching consideration is a fool's errand. I might elicit an 'amen' from my fellow L.U. alumnus who co-authors this blog--all I can say is that while Dr. Falwell's sons have done much to improve the lot of our alma mater, the choice of Mr. Beck is highly disappointing, if not utterly disconcerting. The man is simply hell-bent on perverting the national discourse and completely undercutting efforts to have evangelicals re-engage with social activism that truly blesses the U.S. body politic.

Richard said...

@ Jeff

Correct me if I'm wrong but I think you're making a modern distinction between church/religion and state though. That didn't exist in OT Israel. The Torah was the religious code and the law of the land.

Jeff Doles said...

Still, Richard, the NT counterpart to the OT covenant people of God is not the secular State but the Church.

Deuteronomy represents a divine covenant. Israel later begged for a king, a government like the surrounding nations had, and God gave it to them. The role of kings and judges in regard to justice under that system was not "distributive" justice but to judge fairly and impartially, giving preference to neither the rich nor the poor.

God has provided for the care of the poor, and that provision is not government entitlement programs but the people, especially the people of God.

I have more confidence in the ability and benevolence of the people to rise to the challenge and meet the need than I do in the ability and benevolence of bureaucratically bloated government and politically motivated officials.

Richard said...

"God has provided for the care of the poor, and that provision is not government entitlement programs but the people, especially the people of God."

But how does that change when your government is "of the people, by the people, and for the people"?

I think I'm not communicating my point clearly enough though. My point was merely that there is a biblical precedent for a government involved in socially caring for the poor. I have a tough time seeing that God would automatically be displeased with that in our present circumstances.

If you don't agree there is Biblical precedent for this, and thereby that it might be okay by God for the government to be involved in care for the poor and "social justice", are there Scriptural points that line up with the conservative/libertarian stance admonishing the government to not be involved in such works?

I know there are clear teachings for individuals to be concerned with the poor and with justice, are there clear teachings as to why this would be an inherently bad things corporately (and that's different than disagreeing with methodology or efficiency of the government-no one would deny the need for reform to the system).

Jeff Doles said...

Government does not replace the people so that wherever you read "people" you can simply replace it with "government." Not in this US, and certainly not in the economy of God.

Yes, I get your point -- you think there is a Biblical precedent for government redistribution of wealth. But your appeal to Deuteronomy fails because it is a covenant document between God and His people and, as such, cannot be compared to our modern distinction between Church and State. The closest comparison we can make between the covenant between God and His people in the OT is not to modern State government but to the covenant people of God in the NT.

There is a function described for government in the Bible -- to protect the people from evildoers within and without, and to give fair and impartial court judgments, given preference to neither the rich nor the poor. It does not describe the role of governing authorities as that of seizing the wealth of the people and redistributing it to others.

The people who create the wealth are fully capable of redistributing their own wealth for the sake of the poor, and do it more efficiently and effectively. And, in the USA at least, they very often do, through private donations, corporate giving, religious foundations and charitable agencies. I think government socialist programs, with their bloated bureaucracies, actually hinder the work of the people in caring for the poor.

Socialist governmental entitlement programs are always going to be bloated and inefficient because, since government does not know how to create wealth and does not know how wealth operates, it does not know how to use wealth efficiently. Mix in political motivations and ideologies, and then much of the wealth that could have gone to help the poor by growing the economy as well as by charity gets wasted.

So I reject "social justice" entitlement programs and redistribution of wealth because 1) I find no Scriptural warrant for it, and 2) I don't believe government is an effective vehicle for the efficient use of wealth for any purpose.

Tim Byrnes said...

It should be noted that there are now three different "Tims" posting to this thread...

An issue that I don't think has been touched on yet involves the other level of Mr. Beck's message: forsaking politically misguided congregations versus entering into and working with them to influence them in the direction of deeper spiritual wisdom. This has everything to do with God's (prophetic) calling into community, of course, but I'm wondering what are the thoughts on this side of the dilemma?