Of Glenn Beck and Jim Wallis

Posted: March 13, 2010 in Justice

An old friend asked my thoughts on the latest Glenn Beck flap, so I thought I’d throw together a little blog entry.

Honestly, I probably have no business commenting on it at all since I never listen to Glenn Beck, which includes the latest flare-up when he reportedly told Christians to leave churches throwing around the words “social justice.” Since I am on the Sojourners email list, however, I did receive Jim Wallis’s response that asked Christians to leave Glenn Beck.

Anyway, first of all, Mr. Beck started trying to explain what he meant (READ HERE). Then, Mr. Wallis issued him an invitation based on those explanations (READ HERE). Reading those two links will probably do more to catch you up on the little controversy than anything else so those of you who haven’t heard of the mess can form your own opinion.

So, my thoughts?

First, Glenn Beck is an entertainer who makes money by making people angry with one another. Therefore, as a professional anti-peacemaker, his advice regarding Christian discipleship should be naturally suspect. (That many of my Christian friends enjoy the Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs of the world is difficult for me to comprehend.)

Second, forced to temper his inflammatory rhetoric after creating a successful brouhaha, Beck reverted to the worldview of the political base he represents by stating that the government should stay out of the business of helping the poor.

Therefore, I think what Beck is saying in a nutshell is that religious folks who believe the government has a role in helping the poor should be avoided at all costs.

Them’s my thoughts. Please enlighten me where I’m mistaken.

But while I’m here.

I find the entire debate over exactly how much or how little government should be involved in addressing the needs of the poor overly tiresome. There are a few crazies on both ends of the spectrum (one advocating government only, the other urging government never), but truth be told, most everyone is somewhere in the middle. Very few liberals want socialism, and very few conservatives (I hope) want to repeal Medicare and make old people pay market prices for insurance. So the idea of one side being right and one side being wrong is just silly.

What I propose is an entirely different kind of debate.

I propose a vision of the world where we all get out of our properly zoned, homogeneous neighborhoods and learn how to share life and be friends with people all across a socioeconomic spectrum. Not the occasional service project. Not the annual week-long mission trip. Not the once-a-month volunteer gig. But a life where our “circle of friends” is a true kaleidoscope of humanity.

Then, our thoughts on the role of government or churches or big business or whatever will not come from a perspective of what any should do for “the poor.” Instead, our thoughts will be what government or religion or business should do for David, or Elvin, or Rosie—for real people with real names and real problems.

I guess what I’m longing for is a day when Glenn Beck’s inflammatory rhetoric falls in the forest, and because we are now neighbors and not insular categories, it doesn’t make a sound.

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