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Wallis v. Beck. (Yawn.)

Two weeks ago, had you told me that a nationally known religious figure was about to lock horns with a nationally known conservative political commentator, I would have guess that I would have cared.  And I would have missed it by a mile.

It’s not because I don’t care about the issues.  I care about religion, how it’s perceived in America, and the effect it has on our policies and politics…it’s just that the two who have thrust it into the forefront are two that make it hard for me to pick a favorite.

I’m talking, of course, about the verbal bombing going on between Glenn Beck and Jim Wallis.

On a recent TV show, Beck challenged people:

“I beg you, look for the words ’social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes! …”

He went on to say that ‘social justice’ and ‘economic justice’ were code words for communism and Nazi philosophy.

Enter Jim Wallis of Sojourners.   Wallis immediately challenged Beck to a debate about the issue.  Sojourners also put an email generator up on their website that would automatically send an email to Beck and his producers…and sign you up for the Sojourner’s database.

Here is my ethical dilemma.  I’m not sure who to side with, because I cringe at both of these guys.

Beck often appears to be the loony uncle of conservatism.   He’s entertaining and at times endearing.  He’s welcome at the 4th of July picnic, but you’re petrified at what he might say at a really important event.   He never met a controversy he didn’t like or an overstatement he wouldn’t make.  Before being a conservative or a commentator, he is an entertainer.  He is a good one.  Like him or not, he’s funny…but he’s not a spokesman for mainstream conservative Christians, because he’s not one himself.  He is a mid-life convert to Mormonism.

Beck’s own church is out of step with most of mainstream conservative Christianity – in it’s practices, it’s beliefs, and it’s history.  This weakness of perspective probably caused him to say ‘social justice’ when he meant ‘social gospel’, in which case, I might be siding with him….but given every chance to straighten that misunderstanding out, he’s only dug himself deeper.  He meant what he said, even if he didn’t know what he was talking about.

In the other corner, Wallis appears to be a picture of decorum.  From all reports, he’s a hard guy not to like.   He sounds reasonable and understanding.  So reasonable and understanding, in fact, that he won’t press for legal protection for the unborn in the form of repealing Roe v. Wade or a constitutional amendment about abortion.

Wallis likes to lean into the mantle of William Wilberforce, who ironically fought hard for a British prohibition of slavery, even though Wallis, by his perspective on abortion, may have urged a slavery compromise.  Apply his theory of abortion to slavery, and you have Wilberforce saying “We’ll never stop it, so let’s just slow it down and make it rare….”.   I’m sure the rare slave would have taken some solace in knowing they were the exception to the rule.

For years Wallis has eeked out a growing audience in the middle by playing defense for both sides – refusing to press for hard law against abortion (lean to the left!) while insisting he is hard core pro-life (lean to the right!).   Lean to the left, lean to the right, stand up, sit down, just don’t fight.

Until now….Wallis is taking on the loony uncle on a point over which Beck cannot possibly win.  Beck clearly overplayed his hand, got caught up in the emotion and the TV lights, and said something rather dumb.  Of course Christianity has an element of justice intrinsic in it’s function.  We may not all agree on what it looks like, but it’s not as if injustice is a Christian value.

Here at IHOP-KC, we’re engaging a major initiative to accompany our 24/7 prayer and worship with 24/7 acts of justice, feeding the poor, caring for widows and orphans, and ministering to the needs – spiritual and physical – of those who found themselves at the poker game of life with a pair of twos.  I care about this stuff and I take the debate seriously.

So here we are, watching Jim Wallis and Glenn Beck bicker between themselves on their websites, radio interviews, and blogs….the sage, middle of the road reverend and the wild eyed, John the Baptistish follower of Joseph Smith.

The  peaks of Christianity and Conservationism are both being staked out by guys who don’t represent me.    I just want to stick my head under a pillow and hope they both stick a sock in it by the next news cycle…but I doubt they will, because behind the posturing, there are viewers to attract and email lists to build.


8 Responses

  1. Beck: Libertarian… Justice: the work of our Father. My thoughts.

  2. It must be hard to live in the US sometimes.

  3. Possibly my all time favorite quote on any blog ever:

    “He meant what he said, even if he didn’t know what he was talking about.”

    Does that not just sum up so many people who should just stop talking?? Or at least refrain from make declarative statements and spend some quality time asking pertinent questions and listening to wise answers…

    Possibly my favorite quote from this post:

    “We may not all agree on what it looks like, but it’s not as if injustice is a Christian value.”

    If only we could all just start working from the “givens”, you know?

    Great post, arch nemesis! (Typed through gritted teeth…)

  4. Beck this week said that you should leave the Church if they place Social Justice ahead of an relationship with God.

    My brother is the Health Director for KCMO. He plays church at the Methodist Church in North KC.

    He preaches a “Social Justice” thru forced Governmental policies.

    Since 2002 he has been training progressives to take over their churches.

    Running classes on how to redefine basic Christian terms.

    Please pray that my brother & his family gets saved

    Beck said that Social justice should come out of your relationship with God. The Church should focus first on God, then Social Justice will flow out of that relationship.

    I pray that Beck will get filled with the Holy Ghost.

  5. Good thoughts, Red. I also pray the religious right can resist the temptation to wholly endorse Beck without examining his Mormon underpinnings. They are so desperate for heroes, spokesmen and airtime that they have a track record of aligning with all sorts of off beat characters.

  6. Red and Randy, can the two of you explain to me what you’re talking about? Specifically why Red would say his brother is “playing church” and just exactly would you see if Mr. Beck was filled with the “Holy Ghost”

    Randy, what do you mean specifically by the comment of “They are so desperate for heroes, spokesmen and airtime that they have a track record of aligning with all sorts of off beat characters” Who is they?

    I personally like Glen Beck, and I don’t view him as just an entertainer. I think he has done his homework, and just mentioned to my husband this morning that the events taking place right now are so indicative of “End Times” that I am just not surprised as to what is happening.

    I am surprised at quite a few Christian people I have relationships with, and their support of President Obama. In fact I just don’t expect anything different from Church people, and have learned to just accept the differences between myself and some of my church friends.

  7. Hey Yo! Great to hear from you.

    The ‘they’ I referred to are the bulk of American Christians. Probably too broad a group, in all fairness, but it just seems that churched people are willing to jump on the bandwagon of (or embrace as a spokesperson) just about anyone with a fair amount of fame and a hint of faith. I’m also thinking of times when celebrities have converted to Christianity and are suddenly on the speaking circuit, etc.

    In the case of Beck – who, frankly, I think would be a hoot to have a cup of coffee with – I’ve heard people say “Oh, no, he’s a believer in Jesus, etc.”. I think he’d use that language too, but his Mormonism tells me that he and I would have very different definitions of that…and even if I think he’s right on some issues (and I do agree with him on some things), I’m not willing to think he’s got the authority to give broad spiritual advice to people just because he’s got a highly rated show.

    We miss you guys. Love the spirited conversation and of course, the coffee. Tell Troy and the girls we said hello. Ask him if he remembers chanting “Hamma, Hamma, Hamma…” every time Adam would drive a nail into the wall of that two story we owned in Landen!

  8. Thanks for the clarification. I’m trying to limit my tv time, since I feel it’s such a waste. I would love to say I could live without my electronic devices, but must admit I like my IPhone and Kindle. The only book I keep in hard copy is my Bible and a little book written by Mike Bickle on End Times.

    I will certainly tell the girls hello from all. We don’t hear much from Kim anymore, she has moved to Phoenix with her boyfriend. Life is much different for us now. We try to live with as less as we can ( our new motto is “Less = More) as we like the freedom of nothing on credit. This has changed our lifestyle dramatically, but for the better.

    We miss everyone too, and Love the spirited conversations and coffee too.

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