Ebert: On Glenn Beck

"Jesus was a Nazi. So's your preacher"

Have I mentioned how MUCH I enjoy Roger Ebert's blog? The man lost his capacity to speak, and it's ignited writing endeavors more prolific than ever.

On Sunday, Ebert wrote a post about Glenn Beck's recent - ridiculous - tirades against social justice:

Pretty near everything Glenn Beck says strikes me as absurd, but he scored a perfect 10 when he warned his viewers against the dangers of Christianity. You already know all about it. Well, maybe not, because the usual defenders of Christianity, like James Dobson and Pat Robertson, were very quiet on the topic. Not even a peep from Pat about this man who showed every sign of having hired the best lawyers to draft his pact with Satan.

Many other Christians were not so silent Dr. David P. Gushee, Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University, wrote: "He managed to do something few have been able to do... he has united Catholics and Protestants, evangelicals and mainliners, Christian progressives and moderates and conservatives."

What were Beck's unifying words? "I beg you, look for the words social justice or economic justice on your church web site," he told his audience. "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! If you have a priest that is pushing social justice, go find another parish. Go alert your bishop and tell them, 'Excuse me are you down with this whole social justice thing?' If it's my church, I'm alerting the church authorities: 'Excuse me, what's this social justice thing?' And if they say, 'yeah, we're all in that social justice thing'--I'm in the wrong place."

Ebert continues and concludes:

Beck has strayed way, way off beyond conservatism, to a land where reason itself is an evil conspiracy. This is a growing trend. In Texas... "A prominent insider has told Infowars that Texas Governor Rick Perry and other establishment neo-cons have decided to deliberately target grass roots constitutionalists with dirty tricks campaigns in an effort to derail and hijack the growing liberty movement whose influence is threatening to blow the Texas gubernatorial race wide open." Yes. Rick Perry, indistinguishable from Democrats, mainstream Republicans, liberals, socialists, Nazis, elitists and believers in social justice.

This whole argument is described by a term widely familiar on the internet, the reductio ad Hitlerum. It is also known, Wikipedia explains, as playing the Nazi card. Anyone using this argumentum, it is believed, is signaling that his logical facility has jumped the rails. It is frequently used in a reflexive sense, as when your opponent accuses you of doing the same thing: "You guys called Bush a Nazi, so it's all right for the Tea Partiers to call Obama a Nazi." To the extent that this is accurate, it is an appeal to -- why, one's sense of social justice, actually.

I am writing this because I have a blog and I needed to vent. I am told repeatedly that Fox News is fair and balanced, that it has the largest share of the (actually rather small) cable news audience, and that it speaks for ordinary Americans. To the degree that this is true, Beck has left them all behind, watching his figure shrink on the far horizon of fanaticism. He has finally, definitively, said something that is completely Wrong from every viewpoint.

Does Glenn Beck speak for average Americans? His logic indicates they must be attending churches that preach Communism and Nazism from the pulpit every Sunday. Why are they so slow to catch on? Now that Beck has alerted them, where can they flee to worship? What will become of them? They have been cast out into the wilderness, where nothing makes sense anymore. The lonely, barren, ignorant wilderness, silent but for the gnashing of Glenn Beck.

Now you should read the whole thing - here.

I'm having conversations with some folks about the classroom dynamics at my seminary. I am wholeheartedly committed to relationships, dialogue and even fellowship with folks who I dramatically disagree with - and who think I'm a heretic. I'm not afraid of disagreement. I'm not angered by conservative values. Many of them make me better - and kinder. But what I have no patience for is the inane sort of hateful vomit Glenn Beck assails the airwaves with. It's not just wrong, it's crude, anti-intellectual and ignorant in the worst sorts of ways.


Brent said...

I haven't paid much attention to any of this but will still weigh in with my limited grasp of the issue.

I don't know exactly what Beck said or the contexts because I have only read what you have posted on your sight.

Do you know what specific social justice he was talking about; Economic justice, remedial justice or distributive justice?

I would guess he was talking about distributive justice which is concerned with fair outcomes in society not just a fair playing field.

I think you are making this a big issue, when it could just be as simple as Beck taking "Social Justice" by what most people currently take it to mean; a type of socialism. I think the real problem lies in "Social Justice" being co-opted in the early 90’s by those who are pushing socialist ideas. Many Christians and many of America's founders were at the forefront of Social Justice. The Bill of Rights is social justice isn’t it? So isn't this more than a dichotomy of Social Justice Christian perspective vs (insert label) Christian perspective? I'm only guessing but the distributive justice under the umbrella of Social Justice is probably the main reason Beck is so hyped up about it.

I know it gets me in trouble sometimes but I try to look at more than just the words a person speaks and perceive their meaning based on what I know about them. To think Beck doesn’t believe in social justice is purposely staying ignorant so one can try to smear him. It would be obvious he wouldn’t agree with distributive justice as its current meaning in politics is socialism.

What are you trying to point out here? What is the purpose of this?

Anthony said...

Glenn Beck is a master of communication, and when he makes a public statement, he clearly knows two things: 1) the meaning of the statement, and 2) the political effect the statement will have on his audience. It is nonsense to claim Glenn Beck needs our coaching and Monday morning quarterbacking to make himself understood just the way he wants to be understood.

Glenn Beck did not tell us what kind of justice he referred to. He could have. He chose not to. It is fair then to assume he meant social justice in general.

I remind the commenter who wants to restrict the discussion to distributive justice, that God's requirement for his people to practice distributive justice is woven into the fabric of every part of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. To flip it off as "socialism" is flipping off the revelation of the Holy Spirit.

If the teachings of the Bible conflict with contemporary political viewpoints in any country at any time, the Christian must examine his politics in the light of the Bible, and figure out how his or her behavior can be brought into conformance with the Bible. The Christian does not examine the Bible in the light of partisan politics and correct the word of God to fit the political bandwagon of the day. It is our job to learn from God, not teach Him.

Peter said...

Thanks Anthony, well said.

Brent said...

I don't agree that Glen is a master of communication.

The heart of the problem is I want God to be glorified. If I give to the needy it comes from the love that Christ has shown me and I believe that is what brings glory to God. If the government takes my money with me agreeing or not and gives it to the needy the government (human institution) is glorified. Although I do believe a heart that is sincere and okay with the government taking their money could also be an act glorifying to God it would be less fruitful in God’s love being shown to the needy. I'm not saying to just hold our charity to those we think we can bring to Christ I'm saying don't let the light of our sincere hearts be covered by the governments bushel.

In regard to your last paragraph... Are you really that fundamental about the Bible now? “if anyone will not work, neither let him eat” (II Thess. 3:6-15). That doesn't sound like welfare which some would call Social Justice? Are you saying we shouldn't let anyone eat if they don't work? I'm trying not to quarterback here so your going to have to make yourself understood.

Anthony said...

@Brent - The Christian must form his political and social conscience in the light of the Bible. That is what I say, and I don't know if you consider that "fundamental." It leaves a lot of room for study and thought. But the Word of God is the primary authority, not a political group's current platform.

We don't want to be too concerned about maximizing our personal credit for glorifying God. What glorifies God is that the hungry are fed. It is our job to figure out the best way to feed the hungry, not to make sure our initials are on every calorie. This is just falling into the fringes on the prayer shawl trap. This teaching is explicit in the Gospels.

What is important is that God is glorified. It is not important that He is glorified by me. Further, it is not importante that he be glorified as a deliberate act by anyone. In fact, he is glorified by every mushroom. Feed the hungry. Render unto Caesar. Possess your soul in peace. Take part in public affairs aiming at the good of all the public. God is glorified.

Peter said...

"It is not important that He is glorified by me. Further, it is not important that he be glorified as a deliberate act by anyone."

This is deeply profound, and I've kept coming back to it in my mind over the last few days, Anthony. Thanks.

Brent said...

I agree that the Christian must form his political and social conscience in the light of the Bible. And I was not talking about our personal credit for glorifying God.

I agree, God does not need our glorifying of Him. But I totally disagree that its not important that He is glorified by us. Isn't it intrinsically that act inside our hearts that God desires? Doesn't God want us to have a heart that wants to glorify Him? Isn't he more concerned with us glorifying Him than the stones that have no other choice than to glorify Him?

Anthony said...

Brent, I appreciate the reasoning behind your first two propositions. My own view remains somewhat different, FWIW and speaking only for myself. Perhaps my understanding of God is too transcendental, but I find it hard to think of God as desiring anything. I suppose some would say that He desires our salvation, and I could understand that. Will is a faculty that is analogically attributed to God, so it must be the case that He wills His own will to be done; and Jesus told us to do the will of His Father in Heaven. This include feeding the hungry, etc. If in the eyes of onlookers, or of the hungry themseves, my feeding the hungry results in the glorification of God, it is because of the goodness of God's will. Anything else is the glorification of me. No, I do not believe there is any act inside our hearts that God desires as such. I do not believe that "God wants us to have a heart that wants to glorify Him." That's a very human thought process, and I don't think God gets that convoluted, nor can I think of any reason God would want such a thing. God is absolutely glorified by all his creations. The pavements of Hell glorify Him.

To your question: "isn't He more concerned with us glorifying Him than the stones that have no other choice than to glorify Him?" I answer an unequivocal No. First, He is not concerned. Second, we are not different from the stones in this regard. What power do we have to deduct from His glory?

God has made it pretty clear in Scripture that if he can be said to want anything, one of those things is to have the hungry fed. If we love Him, it is our job to figure out how to do it and get it done.

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