Considering the fact that my last two posts here focused on Catholic social teaching, social justice and American poverty, it would be a little like ignoring the elephant in the room if I didn't at least address the recent controversy caused by conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck, who urged Christians to leave their churches if the words "social justice" or "economic justice" are part of the teaching.
It makes for some great headlines, doesn't it? But the reality is the outrageous rhetoric -- that social justice is code for Communist and Nazi ideas and ideals -- doesn't hold up and all of us know it. Most of us on the streets probably just rolled our eyes when we heard the reports. There they go again. But some Christian leaders are urging their people to turn the tables and walk away from Glenn Beck instead, according to a story on The Caucus, the political blog of The New York Times.
From the Times:
"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."
Social justice is at the heart of Christian teaching. It's the heart of what Jesus taught us. Is it radical? It can be. Then again, Jesus is radical in every way, starting with the fact that he is God Incarnate. Doesn't get more radical than that. The fact that he asked us to take care of our poorer brothers and sisters really isn't so off the charts in comparison.
We are called to make sure that those who are poor and oppressed, hungry and isolated do not fall through the cracks of society, that they get to live with dignity and justice. Jesus said that people would know we are his disciples by how we love one another. Love is not just a pretty word for greeting cards. Love is charity. So rather than run from social justice in fear, we should run toward it, embrace it and renew our efforts to bring it to all God's people. "If you want peace, work for justice," Pope Paul VI once. Amen to that.