Christians Urged to Boycott Glenn Beck
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN 4:51 p.m. | Updated
Last week, the conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck called on Christians to leave their churches if they heard any preaching about social or economic justice because, he claimed, those were slogans affiliated with Nazism and Communism.
This week, the Rev. Jim Wallis, a liberal evangelical leader in Washington, D.C., called on Christians to leave Glenn Beck.
“What he has said attacks the very heart of our Christian faith, and Christians should no longer watch his show,” Mr. Wallis, who heads the antipoverty group Sojourners, wrote on his “God’s Politics” blog
. “His show should now be in the same category as Howard Stern.”
Mr. Beck, in vilifying churches that promote “social justice,” managed to insult just about every mainline Protestant, Roman Catholic, African-American, Hispanic and Asian congregation in the country — not to mention plenty of evangelical ones.
Even Mormon scholars in Mr. Beck’s own church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said in interviews that Mr. Beck seemed ignorant of just how central social justice teaching was to Mormonism.
The controversy began when Mr. Beck said on his radio show: “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.
“Am I advising people to leave their church? Yes! If I am going to Jeremiah Wright’s church,” he said, referring to the incendiary black pastor who led the church attended by the Obama family members when they lived in Chicago. “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?’ ”
Religious bloggers, from the Rev. James Martin, an editor at the liberal Jesuit magazine America, to Joe Carter, at the conservative magazine First Things
, took Mr. Beck’s decree as possibly an attack on Catholic teaching, and definitely an affront to Christianity.
Father Martin wrote on the Huffington Post:
“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.’ ”
Mr. Beck himself is a convert to Mormonism, a faith that identifies itself as part of the Christian family, but which is nevertheless rejected by many Christians. Two Mormon scholars said in interviews that social justice is integral to Mormon teaching too.
Kent P. Jackson, associate dean of religion at Brigham Young University, said in an interview: “My own experience as a believing Latter-day Saint over the course of 60 years is that I have seen social justice in practice in every L.D.S. congregation I’ve been in. People endeavor with all of our frailties and shortcomings to love one another and to lift up other people. So if that’s Beck’s definition of social justice, he and I are definitely not on the same team.”
Philip Barlow, the Arrington Professor of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University, said: “One way to read the Book of Mormon is that it’s a vast tract on social justice. It’s ubiquitous in the Book of Mormon to have the prophetic figures, much like in the Hebrew Bible, calling out those who are insensitive to injustices.
“A lot of Latter-day Saints would think that Beck was asking them to leave their own church.”
Mr. Barlow said that Mr. Beck’s comments were particularly ill-timed because just this year, the church’s highest authority, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, issued a new “Handbook of Instructions” to church leaders in which they revised the church’s “three-fold mission” and added a fourth mission statement: care for the poor.