Tag Archives: Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck: Restoring Jack Squat

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I am continuously astounded that many on the far right – which has a large contingent of fundamentalist Christians – have been more than willing to overlook Glenn Beck’s Mormonism because they like his brand of low-brow, popcorn-density “journalism.”  I think that his particular blend of civil religion – one that confuses any reference to “God” to an endorsement of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and cannot distinguish enlightenment Deism from orthodox Christianity – is so vague than many of these Christians on the right honestly can’t tell he’s coming from a different place from them theologically.

A friend of mine pointed me to an article by Dan Webster over at Episcopal Cafe’ that makes some interesting connections between Beck’s Mormon faith and his political program:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormon Church, believes Christianity fell into apostasy when the original apostles died. Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon Church, believes he was called by God to restore the gospel that Jesus taught but had been radically changed by second generation Christians and those who came after.

So when Beck says America has been “wandering in darkness” and that he is here to help lead the country back to God he is emulating the founder of his religion. He wants to restore America’s greatness just like his church believes it is called to establish the “restored gospel.”

I don’t agree with Webster on all points, but he makes some interesting arguments that I have not seen elsewhere.  Webster also points out that, while Beck is vague on his own theological proclivities, he isn’t shy about attacking the details of others’ faith.

He’s expressed discomfort with Obama’s brand of Christianity (hey, props for calling Obama Christian!) due to its affinities with liberation theology, which he calls “socialist.”  And to an extent, he’s right.  Where he is wrong is finding any expressions of a strong faith in Obama’s policies.  It may be there, to the President, at least.  But Obama’s not really talking about it; whether because it’s not there, or he’s trying to distance himself from Bush, his outspoken evangelical predecessor, is not really possible to know.  Beck has made too much hay out of something he knows little about.

In his piece, Webster argues that Beck is channeling Joseph Smith moreso than Martin Luther King, Jr.  And so far as that comparison goes, he’s spot on.  But Smith wasn’t really a restorationist; he wasn’t restoring an existing church, he was making a new one.  The LDS church is a creation of his own mind, which I think makes him equal parts huckster and genius.

Like Smith, Beck isn’t really trying to restore anything so much as create something that never existed and in the process garner a great deal of attention, wives, money, and power: a pristine, just, and prosperous America that is simultaneously the sole superpower and completely God-fearing (though,significantly, the question ‘whose God?’ is never asked).

I think that makes Glenn Beck more like the Pied Piper of legend.  A man playing a flute, making pleasant noises, leading us away like children…on a journey to nowhere.

Follow Up: Wallis on Beck

I don’t often agree with Jim Wallis – he is too much of a run-of-the-mill liberal Baptist for my liking – but it’s worth letting him have his say on the Glenn Beck statement I recently commented on.  Agree or not, Wallis is a passionate, intelligent man who practices what he preaches.  Literally.  As for Glenn Beck, well, let’s hope he catches severe laryngitis very soon.

See Rev. Wallis’ comments here.

Wallis is right: justice is at the heart of the gospel, of all the Biblical witness.  But there is both distributive justice and retributive justice.  For one, few of us have room in our political philosophies for both (most of us pick one).  For another, the distributive justice envisioned in the prophets and in the Kingdom have little bearing on how or if the power of the state should be used to those ends.  For those of us who are suspicious of both the power of the state and its ability to do anything effectively, the way that the church should effect distributive justice is through the church, and not the heavy hand of Caesar.

I can’t stand Glenn Beck because…

….sometimes I have to hate myself a little bit for agreeing with him in even the smallest way. Case in point: I have to agree with him in disliking the terms “economic justice” and “social justice.”  But in his equation of this idea with Nazism and Communism, and his advising people to leave churches that teach and preach this, I cannot find words strong enough to condemn his virulent comments.

I’ve covered this territory before, but I’m guessing all the Beck-hate will garner a lot of new traffic thanks to a provocative title (yes, this means you).  Face the facts: no one can define what “social justice” or “economic justice” means.  This doesn’t mean they are super-secret “code words” for totalitarianism, though they are generally associated with people of a leftist persuasion.  Both terms describe various schemes for distributive justice.  Some conservative commentators have pointed out that anyone government powerful enough to establish a perfect state of “social” justice would be unjust by the sheer fact of its magnitude, coercion, and requisite violation of the private sphere of life.  In other words, if advocates of social justice had their way, the policies the would require to fulfill their vision would likely run roughshod over the rights of many others – particularly property rights – in pursuit of their ends.

This does not mean mean advocates of distributive justice are all totalitarians in our midst.  It is simply an undefined bit of language that some on the left use to denote a whole host of attitudes with no single definition.  On the right, an equivalently problematic and undefined phrase might be “family values.”  In my experience, most people who advocate social justice are good-hearted souls who want to help people, particularly the poor and oppressed (however defined).  If they are guilty of not thinking through all the presuppositions of their language, well, that makes them anything but special.

But Glenn, you’re a carbuncle on the face of American conservatism.  I wish you were in a less unsavory place, like the buttocks or armpit where no one would see you, but the fact is your brand of populist nonsense is front and center on the airwaves.  The sad part is, this is coming from someone who has watched his share of Fox News – so don’t go calling me a Commie.  You desperately need a lobotomy or a kick in the pants, maybe both.

We have enough people leaving churches.  Our modern suspicion of all institutions, traditions, and authorities, is taking care of that.  There are good reasons to leave churches – we all know this.  But social justice? Really?  Was it that slow of a news day?

Do us all a favor: crawl into a hole, shut your mouth, read the Bible until you have enough humility to realize it should stay shut permanently, and find something useful to do with your time that does not involve infecting American politics with your bleating lunacy.