I couldn’t find a clip of the show from an objective source, but the gist of the story is that last week Glenn Beck bashed on churches that promote “Social Justice” as part of their mission.
“I beg you look for the words social justice or economic justice on your church Web site,” he said. “If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. … Am I advising people to leave their church? Yes! If they’re going to Jeremiah Wright’s church, yes!
He later tied in Social Justice with the Nazis and Communism. Now there are Christians coming out of the woodwork to speak against Beck, saying that social justice is at the core of Christianity. Before I go further it should be recognized that Social Justice means different things to different people, one being state-run welfare, and the other just being people who can helping out people who can’t. Beck’s failure to recognize was his first mistake. His second was in thinking he can tell people where to go to church. Granted, he’s an entertainer and there are far worse things people do, but it doesn’t get him off the hook. However, he is absolutely right that some churches use Social Justice as a euphemism for wealth redistribution through government programs.
If you know me or you’ve read my posts, you probably know that I’m a fiscally and socially conservative Republican that opposes entitlement programs. You know I’m also a Christian. And you might wonder what someone like me thinks about all of this. Well, I’ve never been reticent about my thoughts, so why stop here? I hope to write a more lengthy essay on the topic of Christianity and modern politics, but for the moment I want to make a few key points.
First, let’s make this clear: bringing truth and Justice to a fallen world should be the primary goal of every Christian, and it is completely within our rights and obligations to use every tool available to that end — ballot box included.
OK, that answers the question of whether Christians should involve their religious convictions in the political process… but there is a much more complicated — and personal — question here that is not so obvious. What is justice? And secondly, how do we effectively bring this justice to the world?
As missionaries of the gospel of Christ, what actions should we press upon our political leaders? Should we eliminate our military? Open our borders? Give each person a home, food and medical care? These questions must be asked. But before we can answer them we have to ask a few others: Will this improve the situation? Is it a sustainable solution? What might this action cost, and could we use our resources more effectively? And what unintended consequences might we face?
I find that my answers to these questions tend to lead me toward less government, not more. Here’s why, in the simplest of terms:
1. The government is not an efficient handler of money.
2. The government is not an efficient arbiter of people’s needs.
3. The government does not and cannot minister the gospel.
4. When I give, I want to be personally involved, I want to make a conscious choice, and I want an available/accountable relationship to the person or institution that I’m supporting. I believe that is God’s intention.
5. I do not think taking from one person to give to another can be called “Justice,” even when done through a majority-approved system of taxing and spending.
6. I think that government programs often cause more problems than they solve.
7. I believe that providing for immediate physical needs is a temporary solution that often creates dependence and removes incentives for personal development and hard work.
8. My firm conviction that government bureaucracies are not the rightful caretakers of God’s people, outside of basic protections which Church and family cannot provide (like a military), prevent me from supporting social welfare programs.
I’ve heard Christians point to God’s laws for the nation of Israel as a justification for social justice – to which I reply: Israel was a theocratic nation established and ruled by God himself. Its laws were a reflection of the character of God and the relationship he wants with and among his people. The legal system of ancient Israel is hardly applicable to a democratic republic that guarantees religious freedom and the right to pursue whatever life you want as long as it isn’t harming someone else. If the suggestion is that the laws of ancient Israel ought to be our model for governance, this makes me quite concerned.
The United States was established at a time of significant influence by Christian theology, and in the wake of substantial political oppression. These men understood the message of Christ, but they also understood the nature of that vile but necessary institution called government. Vile not because it enforces the rule of law, but because it is made up of mere humans, who so easily fall prey to the will for power that in a single night a King can be turned to a Tyrant, and free people into slaves.
update: Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, weighs in with some very good words.