Social Justice = Communism & Nazism?
-By Ron Simkins
(in response to an open letter to Glenn Beck by Jim Wallis: http://blog.sojo.net/2010/03/12/an-invitation-to-glenn-beck/)
I did not hear him say it first hand, but apparently Glenn Beck recently made the claim that believers in Jesus who talk about social or economic justice are just using code words to express their Communist and Nazi beliefs. It is a bit difficult to take Glenn Beck very seriously when he speaks about Christianity since his attitudes and behaviors are about as far from the attitudes and behaviors that Jesus taught (and modeled with his life) in the Sermon on the Mount as one could imagine.
However, Beck seems to have the ear of quite a few sincere Christian sisters and brothers even in our small Midwestern city of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. In the American system people have the right to say what they want to say for the most part, and to believe what they wish to believe. This is a freedom that I enjoy; so I would not want to have it taken away from people like Glenn Beck. It is a freedom for all or a freedom for none. Nevertheless, it would be good if Beck, and people who believe what he believes, and behave like he behaves, would be honest enough to say, “I just don’t want to pay the costs of loving others and having a society committed to as much justice for all as possible. I only want it for some of us. I do not like what the Biblical writers had to say about social and economic justice. Let’s delete that part of the Bible.” That would be honest, and as an American he has a right to say that he believes that is the way to live. In fact, he has a lot of company unfortunately.
But, it is radical dishonesty, or total ignorance, in Beck’s case I do not know which, to claim that Christians who are concerned about social justice and economic justice are espousing Communism or Nazism. In fact, the Hebrew prophets and the Jewish writers of the New Testament were ten times more concerned about social and economic justice than any communist system has ever been. Karl Marx, in his bitterness toward both Christianity and Judaism, wrote a poor parody of the Biblical call to social and economic justice And, those who followed him have often created systems that attempted to coerce people into attitudes and behaviors that only the Holy Spirit can make very fruitful and fulfilling. Rarely have the leaders of these systems actually attempted to lead people toward justice for all.
I personally abhor Nazism and despise Communism, and do not sit any more easily with American liberalism than I do with American conservatism. However, I do believe the prophets were right when they claimed that one of the two or three main criteria God is using to judge every nation by is its concern for social and economic justice. It is also on this basis that God judges national leaders and church leaders; regardless of what criteria Mr. Beck uses as he screams out his anger and belittling prejudices.
I choose to hear Jeremiah over Glenn Beck and his followers when he says to the leader of ancient Israel that he will be judged not by how nice his home is, but this criteria: “He did what was right and just. He defeneded the cause of the poor and needy…Is that not what it means to know me? Declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 22:15-16). Well, maybe Mr. Beck would claim that Jeremiah was a communist; surely not a Nazi since they would have gassed him at Auschwitz given the opportunity. But, surely Beck wouldn’t also claim that Isaiah was a communist too: “Is not this the kind of fasting I (Yahweh/God) have chosen: to loose the chains of INJUSTICE and untie the cords of the yoke, and to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to SHARE YOUR FOOD with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter….”(Isaiah 58:6-7). Or, if Beck thinks Isaiah a bit weird and socialistic; surely he wouldn’t want us to write off Moses who said that national law should reflect God’s desire that “There should be no poor among you in the land the Lord gives you” (Deuteronomy 15:4).
Probably, Glenn Beck had in mind the admonition in the letter from James that says, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight reign on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless” (1:26). Whoops! I obviously started a verse too soon. Beck did not have that verse in mind. Next verse. “Religion (Communism? Nazism? – surely not!) that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the current world-system” (1:27).