Saturday, March 20, 2010

Glenn Beck and Social Justice: Part I: Confusion over Definitions

The latest uproar caused by Glenn Beck has at least had the virtue of causing a lot of people to ask just what does that common phrase "social justice"means anyhow? During his March 2, 2010 radio broadcast, Beck said:

"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! If I'm going to Jeremiah's Wright's church? Yes! Leave your church. Social justice and economic justice. They are code words. 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?" I don't care what the church is. 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."

When Glenn Beck took a swipe at Jim Wallis and other liberal Christians who use the social justice label this past week, Sojourners reacted defensively. Jim Wallis had a clip of Beck on his website and a defensive reply that amounts to: "If you don't like social justice, you don't like Jesus. But I like Jesus and liking Jesus means liking social justice." Or something like that.

But what, exactly, is social justice? How is social justice different from just plain old ordinary justice? Why has this term become widely used only in the past 150 years or so? How is it used and who uses it the most?

In the next few posts, I want to examine the phrase "social justice" from a number of perspectives.

First, we will look at the argument that this phrase is simply another label for Marxism and those who embrace it fall into one of three categories: Ideologically Driven Socialists, Inconsistent Socialists and Dupes. Second, we will look at what the concept of social justice means in Roman Catholic social thought. Then, we will look at what a representative of Neo-Calvinist thought has to say about social justice. Finally, we will consider an Evangelical perspective on social justice and try to come to some conclusions about how we ought to use this concept.

All over the web this week liberals who don't think John Spong is a heretic were sputtering that if you are against social justice you are a heretic. They can't seem to believe that anyone on TV with a big audience would have the nerve to question them. That is pretty much the only thing I like about Glenn Beck: the fact that he seems to be able to get under the skin of liberals and reduce them to sputtering, raving lunatics. Even the village idiot is good for something.

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