Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Glenn Beck and Dealing in Politics

I have made it pretty clear through my posts here that I believe the American political system has compromised much of the Gospel in the American church. It has become difficult to discern the Gospel from the right wing political alignment of the Religious Right. There is certainly a wealth of disagreement when it comes to the nature of the Gospel and politics. Whenever I have some time, I'll be taking some time to study and work through some of the more critical matters involved here - I've recently just touched the surface. I foresee a discourse on Romans 13 coming soon.

For now, I want to take a moment and post a thought or two about Glenn Beck. I used to tune into his show occassionally just to stay abreast of what his very influential show is teaching. I would get so frustrated in watching it I came to the conclusion that it wasn't very beneficial for me to participate. However, I went to the gym last week and, his show on one of the televisions, I caught wind of his recent attacks on the "social justice" movement. As someone who has read a good bit in this area, I was intrigued as to what this great conspiracy was holding.

I actually dvr-ed the Glenn Beck show (never thought I would do that!) and, when I later watched what ensued, to say that I was outraged, disappointed, saddened, and appalled all at the same time wouldn't do justice to the range of negative emotions I felt. What Beck says doesn't bother me much - he is what he is; an entertainer, a personality, larger than life - all that. What I found so appalling was to see two prominent figures in the American church standing behind his shadow and mimic his agenda. All you conservative friends, keep in mind, I have no political allegiance - what appalled me wasn't so much the Republicanism (I'm used to that) it's their compromise and public debunking of fellow Christians . . . right next to Mr. Latter Day Saint, Glenn Beck. Beck's LDS is another topic for another day . . . what I find so amazing is that, by their actions, the president of the leading Reformed seminary (Westerminster) and wellknown evangelical (from Liberty University) more closely align their ideology and perspectives from someone from a false teaching - the LDS than from a liberal-voting evangelical Christian (though they didn't come right out and say it).

I have been looking for some perspective in addressing this sensitive matter. No doubt any posting in this regard will stir quite a flurry of comments and downright arguing. Is it possible to avoid that? Perhaps not. I found this blog posting over at Vanguard Church that I think has helped me focus this on the pertinent matter.

Glenn Beck is a false prophet. That's the title of his post . . . and I think Bob, the blog's author, is getting at the issue. I keep hearing people - Christians - crying out that we can't get involved in politics, that we must remain neutral. I know what they are saying. I'm not in complete disagreement. However, Glenn Beck's false teaching and compromise of the Gospel must be addressed. It is perhaps here more than anywhere else where the church's Constantinian compromise most vividly comes alive. I just read a book by Alan Hirsch entitled The Fogotten Ways. The point is about how the methodology of the church has been compromised by culture to the point that we can no longer envision another kind of church. At one point he makes the point, "the template of this highly institutional version of Christianity is so deeply embedded in our collective psyche that we have inadvertently put it beyond the pale of prophetic critique." (p. 51). The point of the book is more about the form and life blood of church but I make the same accusation of the church's involvement with politics. We have become so compromised by political power and might that we have lost our way - we can have put ourselves beyond the pale of prophetic critique.

I don't expect most people who read this to agree with me. I know my audience much too well. My hope is that you can take a moment and look inside yourself. What factors have led you to these political ties and perspectives that you hold so dearly? Why do you get so energized in the midst of these conversations? Could you be wrong?

I will share this on Facebook . . . not sure that's the best idea . . . but I hope you can engage in constructive dialogue . . . no matter what your perspective.


Adam said...

Great thoughts, my friend (but then, you aren't terribly surprised that I agree with you on this, are you?)

Bob Robinson said...

How many of the graduating Seniors at Liberty University know that the speaker at their graduation ceremony and the one awarded an honorary doctorate from the school is a member of the LDS?

Ryan said...
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Ryan said...

Though I know that we don't agree on all points, we certainly agree on one point. You are right that "the methodology of the church has been compromised by culture."

The door swings both ways, however. I must ask whom have "become so compromised by political power and might that [they] have lost our way?" Just a couple of days ago this column appeared: The apostasy of 'social justice Christians'. The idea that only the Conservatives have morphed Christianity to fit their template and worldview is simply not true. 

One reason that many political-Conservatives like myself recoil at comments that come from Christians who claim they have no political allegiance is that we rarely hear any sort of balance from them. If we heard Christians of this persuasion speak against the moral evils of government-imposed socialism and collectivism, for example, with any degree of similarity to their rantings against capitalism (a moral good, in my estimation), we might take them as a reasoned, balanced voice. There's always an agenda, and I'm not convinced that anyone has no political allegiances of which to speak.

The reality is that the Social Justice movement at work today is a worldly political movement. This can not be overstated. Today's Social Justice movement seeks to use the Federal Government to impose charity. That's not my opinion, it's their stated goal. And I simply cannot understand how this is compatible with the Scriptures.

The dirty little secret is that the reason the Social Justice movement seeks to impose charity is not for the benefit of any recipients, but to empower the central government. One must ask himself, "Why do those currently in power want to spread this message of 'Social Justice'? Are they motivated by the Holy Spirit?" The Christians who are so closely aligning themselves with the current Social Justice movement are soon going to find out that the power structure with which they were so cozy will no longer need them once their power is cemented. Or they're going to be exposed as the frauds that they are, having little interest in Christianity and lots of interest in notoriety and power.

Perhaps that will take us away from Constantinian influence and towards an era where the church is a distinct and separate entity. Until that time, though, I find it interesting that folks who wanted to separate religion and politics when it wasn't convenient for them are now interested in some aspects of a hybrid: the aspects that can increase their power.

I'm all for charity and Biblical social justice, but not by government's force.

Debra Smith said...

Glenn Beck is becoming a very scary person. In his latest rant, he claims to have a plan for America handed to him by God. This suggests to me that Mr. Beck has acquired political ambitions or worse.

The Metzes said...


I appreciate your comment and always appreciate dialogue with you because, though we differ, we can hear each other out and make each other think. We could ramble on and on about this whole thing, and I think I am going to do a series of posts in the coming months about pacifism and interacting with Lee Camp and J.H. Yoder's stuff. So . . . some of it I may save for later and make it a little more palatable read - I don't won't to waste too much of our time on this stuff, but like you, I do feel it's important.

First of all, your call for balance in critique is valid. I can only justify it as follows: my setting is much more heavily Right-leaning than left. The impact Beck and the others have on my parishioners is 100 to 1 of the impact of Maddow and her gang. So, in offering prophetic critique it isn't balanced but that has to do with the intended audience. I plan to make a critical assessment of the Left part of upcoming posts.

Your assessment of capitalism as a "moral good" is overreaching. If you say "better than alternatives" of "positive" or other comparative descriptions I'd be more inclined to agree . . . but there is much in question about capitalism (or any other -ism for that matter) that I feel comfortable blanketing as morally good. The entire system is based on competition. Is that even biblical? I can't think of a single instance where competition can be supported biblically. That doesn't mean it is inconsistent with the Bible - but neither does it condone it. (And yes, it does call into question our sports affiliations - but that just hits too close to home ;-) As you say, there is critique to be had of socialism and other economic systems - but again, I defer to my audience. Not hearing from alot of socialists in my circles.

The history of social justice has roots in the early 20th century with the likes of Dorothy Day and Walter Rauschenbusch. Beck labels them Socialist, throws them in the "bad" pile, and moves on. As Christians, these are brothers and sisters who have done great things in the name of God and cannot be so conclusively dismissed.

Your statements on the motives of those in power are interesting to consider. I've thought a lot about those lately. It's an awfully negative view of human nature to picture these people rallying for health care to think, "Yeah, they say health care for the needy . . . but they are really just trying to create an untouchable governmental enterprise." I'm not saying that's not what's happening . . . I'm just wrestling with it. Sounds too Calvinistic for me - the whole total depravity thing. But I'm coming around :-)

I completely agree with you that people should not depend on the government to meet their needs. This is an ideological affirmation, not a biblical one. Remember, the Old Testament had some very socialistic sounding "programs." In the end, I'm not worried about the govt. taking the place of the church. It won't happen. "Look at Europe" comes the cry. "Their churches are dead." The govt. did not kill those churches. They were already dead. Perhaps all the social programs did in Europe was expose the faith of many of their Christians as white-washed and not really there in the first place. If this comes down to the govt. versus the church . . .I take the church. No matter what the govt. does. I'll use what they give me. I'll take what they give me. I'll give my two drachma and move on to the bigger kingdom matters.

Thanks for your thoughts, and we'll continue on.