POLITICS DAILY: On his daily radio and television shows last week, Fox News personality Glenn Beck set out to convince his audience that “social justice,” the term many Christian churches use to describe their efforts to address poverty and human rights, is a “code word” for communism and Nazism. Beck urged Christians to discuss the term with their priests and to leave their churches if leaders would not reconsider their emphasis on social justice. MORE
GLENN BECK: I’m begging you, your right to religion and freedom to exercise religion and read all of the passages of the Bible as you want to read them and as your church wants to preach them . . . are going to come under the ropes in the next year. If it lasts that long it will be the next year. 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.
REVEREND JAMES MARTIN: Social justice is an essential part of Catholic teaching. It’s part of being a Catholic. So Glenn Beck is, in essence, saying “Leave the Catholic church.” But Glenn Beck is saying something else: “Leave Christianity.” Again and again in the Gospels, Jesus mentions our responsibility to care for the poor, to work on their behalf, to stand with them. In fact, when asked how his followers would be judged he doesn’t say that it will be based on where you worship, or how you pray, or how often you go to church, or even what political party you believe in. He says something quite different: It depends on how you treat the poor. In the Gospel of Matthew (25) he tells his surprised disciples, that when you are meeting the poor, you are meeting him. They protest. “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” But our responsibility to care for “the least of these” does not end with simple charity. Giving someone a handout is an important part of the Christian message. But so is advocating for them. It is not enough simply to help the poor, one must address the structures that keep them that way. Standing up for the rights of the poor is not being a Nazi, it’s being Christian. And Communist, as Mr. Beck suggests? It’s hard not to think of the retort of the great apostle of social justice, Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife, “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.” The attack on social justice is the tack of those who wish to ignore the concerns the poor and ignore the social structures that foster poverty. MORE