When it comes to politics I try to, first and foremost, ground myself in Biblical understandings and commands. Specifically, I try to let Jesus be my guide. As a result, there are some things that I happen to line up with Republicans on and others I line up with the Democrats. Still others I line up with Green party candidates and even sometimes find myself in the same camp as some of the libertarians. I’m usually willing to have a civil and honest debate with just about anyone on any issue.
However, I recently found my religious tradition staring down the barrel of the Glenn Beck paranoia machine.
If you have been living under a rock for the last couple of years Glenn Beck is an outspoken commentator on Fox News. He’s one of the key people who has been responsible for bringing a relatively fringe set of beliefs into the mainstream consciousness. Basically he’s adopted the language and arguments of the militia movements and the libertarian movements and helped force out traditional Republicanism, at least on the Fox News network.
At the beginning of march however, he sent out a warning on his radio program that people should look for the phrases “social justice” and “economic justice” in their churches and if they find them they should run as fast as they can. He goes on to say that these are “code words” for Nazism and Communism. To be fair, glen does then go on to clarify that everyone’s probably heard a sermon on this but you really have to be worried if your church holds these things as core doctrines or teachings.
Being a Mennonite, whose tradition has held these things as core values for over 400 years, I naturally found myself quite befuddled to suddenly find out that I was really a Nazi and a Communist.
Sorry Glenn. Wrong answer, try again.
Social justice and economic justice are a core part of churches across all denominations not because there is a vast Christian Communo-Nazi conspiracy. It’s a core part of many churches because it’s a core part of the Bible and of Jesus.
For those of you who might actually be taking Glenn’s warning seriously, let me make my position clear. Yes, I believe in Social and Economic Justice as core doctrines and beliefs associated with the Christian faith. Yes, Mennonite Church USA would also hold these as core beliefs. And Yes, I hope PVMC also holds these as core doctrines.
But rather than ramble on and on about the core relationship between economic and social justice and the faith, I’ll just let the Bible to the talking for me.
7 If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor. 8 You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be. 9 Be careful that you do not entertain a mean thought, thinking, “The seventh year, the year of remission, is near,” and therefore view your needy neighbor with hostility and give nothing; your neighbor might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt. 10 Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. 11 Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, “Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.”
8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rustg consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rusth consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,g you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
And that’s just getting warmed up.
As my friend Tim would say, “Glenn, Thanks for comin’ out. Next time remember to bring your glove.”