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!


Revnerd said...

Someone posted this to me of FB:

Problem is Phil, Republicans already freely donate more to charity... the other side wants to take more from us when we already give more. If you are so worried about it, you don't take from others to give to others, YOU do the giving. NOWHERE does it say force others to give over their money. Give your own. Show me that principal in the Bible.

Good question. Here is my FB response:

I couldn't agree more. Forced charity is not charity. I won't fault people calling it socialism. I just don't want that label put on myself. Protecting the poor from being oppressed by the rich is the duty of a just government. And if the government doesn't do this justice, God will judge it. I believe that the Bible says the increase in terminal sexual deviations like homosexuality, pornography and abortion are the proof of God's disfavor. So, I think we need, the body of Christ, needs to look at ourselves. I am merely trying to ask the question. What can we do? Are we excessively materialistic? Has the Christian Church in the West bought into the God of Mammon? Does the Prosperity Gospel confirm this?

Leslie, or is it Martin? We gotta get over this "the other side" mentality. As I mentioned about the two boards of directors I serve on, sincere believers do work well together for the common good. My prayer is that the parties may follow our example. If we keep our conversation civil, and talk to each other not at each other, maybe they would as well. Maybe a Health care bill that we all like could have been made. I certainly am not happy with all the components of it, and not from a liberal perspective, but I wish more conservative issues were included. I just rejoice that we started. I pray for the politicians to tweak it into something that is more just, for all, rich and poor alike. This is the mountain that I am speaking to in my prayers.

Maybe we can assuage our feelings of patriotism by calling something like a single payer plan, "forced insurance" instead of socialism. I don't like that word because we have all agreed with the principle of insurance for many years. This bill is an attempt to make it just. All of the other free countries in the G20 have forced insurance. And the people are still free. Their governments are not fascist.

I have a young couple in my church who just returned from a 1-year mission experience in Korea (teaching at a Bob Jones University sponsored Christian School). They told me about technology, equipment and medical procedures that are far advanced above ours. Both of them took the opportunity to get their wisdom teeth pulled while there. The people aren't taxed to death or unhappy with the system. And yet, in conversation with him, the single, biggest "rallying cry," "point of passion," or to use the metaphor of American Christianity, their "Pro-Life" cause is the Communism of North Korea that divides their land. So, in a culture whose ethos is fighting Communism, a culture very sensitive to Marxism, no one decries their universal health care coverage.

Food for thought. It leads me to wonder if the Health Care bill is simply a metaphor for party politics.

Could that be?

End of response.

BTW, in response to "show me where that is in the Bible"

This is in the form of a tax. The Bible says, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's.”

And, in the OT. Every 3rd year a different tithe was taken and the purpose of it was not to fund the Levites, or, the second yearly tithe, to fund a party at Passover, but every 3rd year a tithe to go to the poor and to the Levites. It was a command. Look Here: Deuteronomy 14:27-29 and 26:12-15

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree I'm afraid. I believe it is a 'this' platform vs. 'that' platform and 'this' vote vs. 'that' vote. It is clear, we will choose one or other. We are NOT allowed by God to steal from someone to give to someone else, even if they're dying. Persuade absolutely, using wisdom etc... but I see nothing in His Word to back that up. ... See MoreNothing. We cannot break one commandment even to 'help' someone. That is not an option. The only authority the government has is force, imprisonment, fining, taxing. They are not the ones to do this, we can do it ourselves. Are these people giving as much on their own, yet they demand we do? No, they don't give. Facts just don't support that. HYPOCRICY!! Are they speaking out and encourage others to donate and they so worried about it and dedicated to teaching others the importance of giving? No. They steal, it's that simple. They know nothing of an individuals situation, but they force it from you. I will not sugarcoat it too appear 'nice'. That's called stealing. Another principle in the Bible is taking care of your own family. I have 20 aunts and uncles, and umpteen cousins etc... THEY deserve any help first, not some stranger to be elsewhere. It's just wrong and stealing. It's that simple. We have five kids ourselves and do okay financially. My married liberal/socialist cousin has no kids makes more than we do, and I'll apparently donates DIDDLY in comparision. I give because my poor mom and poor Grandma were giver examples and GOD says so, not because some Gov't tells me too. There is but One King. Let me be clear, and am not mad at 'you' although I am mad, I am also so SAD. I can only but speak the truth, no matter if the Emporer's New Clothes Believers thinks it's harsh but hopefully they will see the naked truth.

Revnerd said...

Oh. Richard David Stacey correctly took me to task about beating people over the head with scripture and saying it from a perspective that might make them feel like I will judge them if they think anything different from me. I am sorry that I have come across that way.

So, if you want me to, I will answer your initial question for me to show you that principle in the Bible. I can think of three off the top of my head.

Anonymous said...

lol Go ahead Phil. :) It's hard to come across strongly online without also sounding 'mean' even if that isn't your (MY!) intent. :)

Revnerd said...

The Health Care Bill is a tax.

The Bible says, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's.” It's in the imperative, BTW.... See More

It isn't stealing when the Government uses your tax dollars to give you roads to drive on, libraries to read in, courts to get justice in, police, firemen, and ems to protect you? Is it? So, if I drive 10 miles to work, and the national average is 20 miles to work, every day, do I get a half-price rebate? Does the person driving 40 miles to work have to pay double?

It isn't stealing when the government provides a military to protect us, or is it? Yet, I am bound by my faith to not participate in war. I am forced to pay for something I do not believe in. Are you saying that I am being abused? They put guns to our heads, forced us into labor camps, anywhere but near our families so that we had to suffer, some of us were literally starved TO DEATH in order to participate in trials to learn how to revive Nazi Concentration Camp Victims, many of us, in Southern Ohio, lost our farms -some their lives- because we were a significant part of the underground railroad. And we did it quietly and peaceably without whining. We were glad to be singled out.

And you can't allude to the fact that Caesar was a pagan dictator and that whole "bearing not the sword in vain" thing in Romans 14 (or is it 13?) is just proof of the current administration also being evil. 1 Timothy 2 is a flat out command to pray for, instead of curse, our rulers. Paul was referring to Nero, one of the worse despots ever.

We are commanded by Jesus to pay taxes, even to despots. All of those taxes have elements of spending that may or may not directly benefit us. We live in a community. We are a proud people because we have these systems and laws in place to share the expenses. I think this whole thread started with the concept of fair tax. It is something I believe in.

That was the New Testament, now let us look at the Old Testament:

In the OT. Every 3rd year Israelis were commanded by law to pay a different tithe was taken and the purpose of it was not to fund the Levites, or, the second yearly tithe, to fund a party at Passover, but every 3rd year a tithe to go to the poor and to the Levites. It was a command. Look Here: Deuteronomy 14:27-29 and 26:12-15

Now, it isn't anywhere near the extortion, abuse and misuse of public welfare happening in the US today. If you figure it, the Jewish people paid yearly 10% to the Levites, 10% to each other for the Passover Party (Deut 14:24-26) and then that 3rd tithe taken every 3 years. So, the average is 23.333% per year. Praise God that almost half of it is for a Party! Only that 3.333% was to be given to Charity and the text isn't clear if it wasn't partly bonus pay for the Levites, or Money the Levites were commanded to give for the poor.

Revnerd said...

Let us arbitrarily say, that the Levites kept half and gave the other half to the poor. 1.1565% given to the poor. That is a far cry from what we are doing now. The Charity list in the OT does not include the slothful and lazy people. It is specifically listed as: to the alien, to the orphan and to
the widow.

I ain't saying that the welfare system isn't broken and abused. I am not saying we put healthy people on the dole just because they are lazy. But, I am saying that both the Old Testament and the New Testament command to give charity. It isn't an "if you feel like being generous, go ahead. God will bless you." It is a command.

And the good news is, Christians are generous. I go to Haiti a lot. Wherever there is a mission compound nearby, people are clothed, they have basic nutrition. And more than that, they also have sustainable farming and industry because they are being taught to love Jesus and take care of the land in such a way that the can produce crops. The Church is the only agency that is working for the good down there.

I make a part time wage as a full time pastor, my wife makes $11 per. We give close to 30% of our income. I pretty much give to whoever asks because the one who lends to the poor, lends to the Lord.

And about the platform and never being a chance for consensus. That is just wrong. Jesus said, "A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand..." I know He was talking about Spiritual warfare, but His spiritual warfare reference went back to an obvious political principle. I believe that if people like you and I can have a conversation, understand the sincerity in each other, trust the Lord to help us move mountains then God will be pleased. I have not wasted my time this week. I have lost a few dear friends because they disagree with my positions. I am saddened that almost all the disagreeing comments center around Patriotism instead of scripture. My wife has been upset with my time use. I got 4 hours of sleep last night because I was up till 2:00 answering these things.

It has cost me a lot, but I feel God is calling me to it.I have taken a lot of insults, and heard a lot of praise. I regret being caustic and offensive, I really believed that I wasn't, but it is a passionate issue. If we can get a conversation started, then we can understand that their are honest, sincere, ethical and Christian people on either side. Those people, if they truly are Christians, should be able to foment discussion. Through discussion we will learn to respect each other. Through respect, we will learn to actually like each other. And we will fulfill our calling to reconcile people to God through Jesus Christ, and to one another. I believe God wants the Church to step us and do this. He is giving us a chance to lead.

Join me?

Anonymous said...

I was reading your response to someone about Black Liberation Theology. I hope you'll look into it further, although maybe you have. Before the election, I looked into Rev. Wright's church website; the books, the close association with Farrakhan, etc. I do not believe this is a peaceful movement nor loving, although it may have been in the past. I think it seeks to divide, and how can that be a good thing? They also promote feminist theology, etc. I think they are moving further and further away from Christianity and rewriting it to fit a current social agenda, JMO. I also see many people seeking to keep things divided, as it profits them and keeps them in power. This happens on both sides. Very sad.
I know this is a frustrating time when we all have very strong feelings about the directions things are taking. You seem to be trying very hard to keep it civil and that's great, because I know that is very hard when people are attacking you. Hang in there! Although it appears we disagree, I know you are sincere and want the best for this country, as do I.

Revnerd said...

Thanks Michelle. You are right, there is a lot of wrong in the whole concept of keeping it a divisive issue. BLT has embraced it as well. It is very sad to me. In our local ministerial association, almost all the Churhces are African American and they really don't want to partner with a multi-racial movement. Promise Keepers for Clergy went a long way toward that racial reconciliation, it was one of the highlights of my life. But since then, the movement has died down. I don't know why. And the problem isn't really coming from our side. Bummer. Real bummer. I was at a meeting for church school partnerships downtown Dayton. I purposely choose to sit at a table with African American leaders. The discussion of racial disintegration on Sunday morning came up. And one person said to me "can't we have a place where we can worship by ourselves?" I was sad.

My defense of the movement was not to validate the radical elements of it, but to demonstate the distortion of truth (was it a lie or ignorance?) perpretrated by Beck against me, and other Christians like me. It smacks of Mcarthiasm (sp?). I do think peoples attitudes against it would change if they understood the gospel of the oppressed.

Maybe it's the suspicion by African Americans that some of the backlash against the current adminstration is caused by racists. My neighbor said to me, "I am Democrat, but I am switching my allegiance because I don't want a black man leading this country." The African American believers in my church are also community leaders. They continue to stand for racial reconciliation, and even though our worship music is nothing compared to their early own christian traditions, they are here as a metaphor for good people, from different sides working together and keeping it civil. They see the politics and know that staunch Republicans want Democrats to fail across the board, and that is without respect to race. And that is the majority of the those who oppose the current administration. But the suspicion is that the reason why it is a larger percentage than politics, large enough to create serious doubt among Democratic Senators and Representatives, is because there is also enough of a group of racists who want a black man to fail, regardless of their political affiliation. I think those Dems should stand for what they believe is right instead of putting a finger to the wind and keeping their jobs. You are so right, both sides are more interested in power then in doing right. It seems similar to me of Jesus and his time when the extreme right, and the extreme left, The Pharisees vs the Saducees came together to murder Him because He spoke the truth to power. They committed a poltically motivated judicial murder in order to maintain what little control they had over a terribly oppressive legal system imposed on them by the nation that lied to itself that their military conquests were simply to bring Pax Romana, The Peace of Rome. The peace of the sword, enforced by the terror of Roman execution, the cross.

Revnerd said...

Jesus lived, died and rose again in the context of the oppressed people. In Philip Yancy's book about Christ, he points out how much Jesus avoided the dominant Roman cites in Israel. He could have reached a lot more people and more of the global culture if He had peached there as well as primarily Jewish centers. When I began to understand the theology of the oppressed, instead of the theolgy of power, I also became more understanding of the ethos behind Black Liberation Theology.

The good news is, God loves both. If you see the emphasis of the four gospels, Mark is written to Roman (western power structures, and Word of Faith churches prefer that gospel, it speaks to them the most), Matthew, in its presentation of Jesus the Passover lamb, is written to the Jewish religious community, Luke, the Greek doctor/historian is written as an historical account and John, who served most of his ministry in India and the East was written to connect with people of Eastern Philosophical idealogy. Especially the philosphy of "detachment" or anti-materialsim and anti-power (as opposed to the Western/power philosophy). My point? God loves eveyone. God is calling everyone to Him. He is calling the Demo, the Repub, the Libertarian, the black, the white, the weak and the strong. God is less concerned about the politics and philosophical ideologies of any nation than he is with their salvation and return to Him.