Sunday, March 14, 2010

Social Justice Christians

Recently, Fox News personality Glenn Beck attempted to convince his audience that the term "social justice" is a "code word" for communism and Nazism. He then urged people to leave any church that embraces the notion that the community of faith has a responsibility to work toward social and economic justice.

"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. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!"

This latest batshit crazy notion of Beck's has set off a firestorm of protest and anger amongst Catholics and mainline Protestants, most of whom take seriously Jesus' teachings regarding poverty and justice.

The Rev. Jim Wallis of the progressive Christian organization, Sojourners, has suggested that Beck's show is in the same category as Howard Stern's and that Christians should no longer watch it. Since Beck urged his audience to leave any church that preaches social justice and to "alert the church authorities", Wallis is asking Christians to "turn themselves in" to Beck.

I'd like to suggest to Mr. Beck, the self-proclaimed theologian, that he read these biblical passages. Then we'll discuss who is perverting the message of the Gospel.

Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife, made the statement, “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." I believe that we are not only called to give to the poor but we are to question the systems that lead to poverty and injustice. If "We the People" is a true reflection of the American system of government, then as bible-believing Christians we have a responsibility to advocate for policies which promote social, economic and racial justice.

People of faith have a long history of promoting social justice issues. The church has been highly influential in anti-slavery, women's suffrage, child labor and civil rights causes. In 1908, Christians came together in their efforts to ease the human costs of industrialization and developed the "Social Creed of the Churches". One hundred years later, the PCUSA (the denomination to which I belong) approved "A Social Creed for the 21st Century" which offers a "vision of a society that shares more and consumes less, seeks compassion over suspicion and equality over domination, and finds security in joined hands rather than massed arms."

The video below introduces both the 1908 and 2008 Social Creeds and the church’s prophetic concerns in the century in between. Presbyterian and ecumenical leaders speak to why and how the church has used its voice and built structures for economic, racial, women’s and environmental justice. A final section looks at how the Social Creed can help address new challenges to Christian social witness in the 21st Century.

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Today as I attend one of those "communist" churches which proudly promotes social justice, I will meditate upon the words of the prophet Micah:

“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice,
love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.”

Feel free to pray for me.


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