Wednesday, March 24, 2010

An Open Letter to Glenn Beck about Jim Wallis.

Beck's perversion of truth has tried to distort the meaning of what Social Justice. He is trying to imply that it means Marxism. Marxism is Godless Socialism. Socialism is not illegal, immoral or even unconstitutional. It is even partly Biblical. Acts 4 gives the description of an early Christian commune. But, I don’t think a purely socialistic society could work. Even the Early Christian commune had its own problems with the human sin of greed. It probably will never work this side of heaven. Jim Wallis, me and Social Justice Christians are not advocating socialism. The Bible is full of passages exalting the need and necessity and rewards for hard industrious work. The claim that we believe in “forced redistribution of the wealth” is a lie. But, forced redistribution of the wealth every 50 years itself is in itself a Biblical concept Leviticus 25:8-55. Beck’s claims are merely inflammatory distortions of the truth. Wallis has been asking him to have a public forum for a long time now. All Beck wants to do is yell.

Many sincere believers who are trying to sort out this issue say that social justice is the responsibility of the Church, not the government. I agree with the ethos behind that statement. I will even take that farther: The third century Church abdicated that responsibility to the government when the the Emperor Constantine, “got saved.” Until that time, 95% to %100% of the tithe went to the poor. Look at this link. That is one of the biggest reasons why Christianity grew so fast in those early centuries. Outsiders saw the sincere and sacrificial love of believers and converted to a faith that proved itself to be truly just.

But when Constantine had his conversion experience, he funded the Church, and then the Government indirectly funded Social Welfare. Unfortunately that has been the SOP handed down to the Church ever since. It got worse: the Church became wealthy and the means to political power, so it attracted less than sincere converts. With the wealth, and the way the government took over the welfare, believers were more and more isolated from the poor and their early roots. As the wealth of society grew, Christians became more and more dependant on their wealth and much less willing to share it. The cycle goes on. People accuse the poor of being lazy, and some are, but if one goes to an impoverished nation, or even the poor in the US and most of the time they will find, in the poor, the most generous people they ever met. They share an empathetic bond. I have witnessed it many times. Their generosity puts me to shame. We need to break that cycle.

So, the sincere believers who are trying to sort out what is right in this debate realize the mistake made by the State Church. They do not want to encourage sloth, but at the same time, their hearts have genuine compassion. So, the kindest statement made by those who oppose Social Justice Christians is that it should have been done by the Church. I agree that Social Welfare is the responsibility of the Church. The earlier link gives us an action plan for making that happen.

But it grieves me that too many believers have expressed nothing less than hatred toward the President that God gave us. Glenn Beck is dead wrong and is trying to confuse the issue. So, in order to take away his dishonest representation, we will have to change our language for a moment to help him see. let me break it down into two categories. Social WELFARE is the blessing of ministry that God lets the Church do. Social JUSTICE is mandated by God for the government to enact. Christians have responsibility in both arenas. (For those following me on Facebook, I started this week saying that Social Justice is the responsibility of the Church. But that was BBIR {Before Beck’s Ignorant Remarks}. I expect you to understand why I had to break down the issue.)

I am not condoning laziness, just ask my children. According to Isaiah 58, Social welfare is to be enacted by believers without the accusations of sloth, embezzlement, etc. But the arguments against health care reform that come to the front today, even from Christians, are primarily arguments about liberty, freedom, patriotism, the Constitution, and good ol' American resolve. These are noble things and I dearly hold those truths to be self evident, but they are second place to the teachings of Jesus. The bulk of the attacks against the Christian Social Justice position comes in the guise of Patriotic slogans.

On Thursday, March 11, I had the privilege of hearing Brother Jim Wallis at Cedarville College in Ohio. It was a debate between Rev. Wallis and Marvin Olasky the founder and Editor of World Magazine. The theme was: “A Critical Evaluation of Christian Responses to Poverty and Affluence.” Jim Wallis said: The Church should feed the poor, but the Church cannot build the levies.” I would add, the Church couldn't pass the laws that ended slavery. Among the student body, a fairly conservative Evangelical school, there were a few times that clapping broke out in support of one or the other. Most often, the clapping that broke out was in favor of Jim Wallis. It was supposed to be a "Biblical" debate. However, Marvin Olasky made a weak case for "trickle down" recovery (Isn't that what Bush41 called "Voodoo Economics?) based on Micah 6:8. His point was that the government was less than humble in its aspirations to help the poor and therefore violated the Spirit of "walking humbly." That, my friends is bad Hermeneutics. The rest of the substance of his arguments were patriotic sound-bites (one of those got the loudest and longest clap). Those sound bites implied that if you disagreed with him you were un-American and therefore, probably unchristian as well. All the while those “America is Great statements” were said, he ironically mixed them with the claim "you can't trust the government."

In my opinion, what little Scripture he used was out of context. His substance came from emotional sound-bites, some positive and some very negative. Of course, he can’t make a Biblical case against Social Justice; one simply cannot take Social Justice out of the Bible. Jim Wallis told us the story of how his study group at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois (one of the more conservative Seminaries in the nation) did an academic study of Biblical passages that referred to Social Justice, helping the poor, caring for the least of these and found at least 2,000 Biblical references.

I know that the extreme right's position states that in order for it to be Christian it must be voluntary, not compulsory. And the believers referred to in the first paragraph who think that it is "only the responsibility of the Church" are correct in the fact that the Church dropped the ball when Constantine "got saved" and Christian Social Welfare became a function of the State Church. (BTW, Christians Social Welfare by the State Church in England works very well. Jim Wallis' Spiritual advisorship to our President has mainly to do with ways that we can maintain constitutional freedoms and still support "faith based initiatives." Isn't it ironic that the Red Party, who decried the limitation of Faith Based initiatives during their won administration is now in effect lining up AGAINST THEM?)

Likewise, the church cannot pass the law to provide health care to the 30+ million Americans who do not have it. The government has responsibility for social justice, and it is Biblical. Look at this scripture about the greedy of King of Judah as Jeremiah compares him to his Father and talks about why God blessed his father: Jeremiah 22:15-16 "Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? Did not your father have food and drink? He did what was right and just, so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" declares the LORD.

Christians, do you want to see revival? Then embrace God’s Word:

Amos 5:24 (The Message)

21-24"I can't stand your religious meetings.
I'm fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
your pretentious slogans and goals.
I'm sick of your fund-raising schemes,
your public relations and image making.
I've had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want?
I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it.
That's what I want. That's all I want.


Isaiah 58 (The Message)

Isaiah 58
Your Prayers Won't Get Off the Ground
1-3 "Shout! A full-throated shout! Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!
Tell my people what's wrong with their lives,
face my family Jacob with their sins!
They're busy, busy, busy at worship,
and love studying all about me.
To all appearances they're a nation of right-living people—
law-abiding, God-honoring.
They ask me, 'What's the right thing to do?'
and love having me on their side.
But they also complain,
'Why do we fast and you don't look our way?
Why do we humble ourselves and you don't even notice?'
3-5"Well, here's why:

"The bottom line on your 'fast days' is profit.
You drive your employees much too hard.
You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
You fast, but you swing a mean fist.
The kind of fasting you do
won't get your prayers off the ground.
Do you think this is the kind of fast day I'm after:
a day to show off humility?
To put on a pious long face
and parade around solemnly in black?
Do you call that fasting,
a fast day that I, God, would like?

6-9"This is the kind of fast day I'm after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
cancel debts.
What I'm interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You'll call out for help and I'll say, 'Here I am.'

A Full Life in the Emptiest of Places
9-12"If you get rid of unfair practices,
quit blaming victims,
quit gossiping about other people's sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
firm muscles, strong bones.
You'll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You'll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You'll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.

13-14"If you watch your step on the Sabbath
and don't use my holy day for personal advantage,
If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,
God's holy day as a celebration,
If you honor it by refusing 'business as usual,'
making money, running here and there—
Then you'll be free to enjoy God!
Oh, I'll make you ride high and soar above it all.
I'll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob."
Yes! God says so!