Glenn Beck recently took it upon himself to offer his audience of millions some religious advice:
I’m begging you, your right to religion and freedom to exercise religion and read all of the passages of the Bible as you want to read them and as your church wants to preach them . . . are going to come under the ropes in the next year. If it lasts that long it will be the next year. 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.
He even went so far as to link social justice to communism and Nazism:
Both the communists, who are on the left — they say — you know, these are communists. And the Nazis are on the right. That’s what people say. But they both subscribed to one philosophy, and they flew one banner. One had the hammer and sickle; the other was a swastika. But on each banner read the words, here in America, of this — “social justice.” They talked about economic justice, rights of the workers, redistribution of wealth, and surprisingly — I love this — democracy.
Many voices in the faith community have responded to this bizarre attack. Dan Schultz offered a lengthy (but not exhaustive) list of scripture passages that Beck might find offensive or frightening, James Martin deals him a thorough theological and historical lesson, and the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good is raising $5,000 “to develop and distribute a short video that will directly confront…his assertion that caring about the lives of others is code-language for fascist or communist infiltration in our churches.” To contribute to their effort, click here.
I don’t know what to make of Beck’s absurd rant. The fact that a person with a multimedia platform and an audience of millions is either so addled that he believes social justice is a tool of tyranny, or so craven that he would use fearmongering and vitriol to come between people and their churches, is – to say the least – a troubling indictment of what we as a society value and reward. I just hope nobody comes to believe that the Gospel According to Beck is the word of the Lord.
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When former Bush administration staffer Marc Thiessen appeared on EWTN (a Catholic television network) last week and cloaked torture under the euphemistic guise of “enhanced interrogation” and made a theological case for waterboarding, many people of faith took exception and refuted Thiessen’s preposterous claims.
Now Faithful America is launching the taking the “Don’t Spin Our Faith” campaign, flooding EWTN with email petitions calling for a correction of Thiessen’s misinformation — which they made no effort to do while he was on the air or afterward — and reminding them that they have a moral and journalistic responsibility to tell the truth about torture.
EWTN is certainly not the first outlet to let torture defenders spin and deceive (recall that the Washington Post hired Thiessen as a columnist), but religious media have a special obligation to the millions of people of faith rely on religious media to stay informed on the pressing issues of the day in a manner consistent with their values. Click here to join Faithful America’s campaign to make sure that religious media is a “No Spin Zone” when it comes to torture.
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Together, not Torn: Families Can’t Wait for Immigration Reform” got off to a strong start yesterday with a powerful telephone press conference with national leaders and Members of Congress. But the grassroots events that are part of this movement are also pretty inspiring.
Check out this footage from a local event in Grand Junction, CO yesterday. Faith leaders stood alongside business, political, and immigrant leaders to push for immigration reform that keeps our families together and protects the dignity of all workers.
With hundreds of similar events scheduled across the country, soon there’s be no denying that just, humane immigration reform is a top priority for people of faith.
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As I was compiling the news reel this morning, I sorted through dozens upon dozens of “best of 2009″ lists– from the top religion stories to the top Catholic chief executive and everything in between. And while I think it’s helpful to look back at the year and assess the landscape, frankly, I prefer looking ahead.
PBS Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly has a few pieces that fit the bill, including a roundtable discussion that gives a helpful overview of a few religious and political issues that are sure to be in the news in 2010.
E.J. Dionne had some great insights regarding the interaction between our moral values and the economic crisis we face:
DIONNE: I think, first of all, we may have the discussion on morality and the economy that was, I think, a little bit delayed, that people were trying to come to terms with what the downturn meant. I think there is going to be now a real look back and look forward as to why did we get into this mess–how much of it were practical problems, how much of it were about people not taking responsibilities seriously that they should have–the stewards of our economy, the people with a strong position in our economy. I think that debate will very much affect the elections.
The conversation is already happening. Before Christmas, faith leaders gathered in front of the U.S. Treasury to push the conversation about morality and the economy forward, and to fight for families facing foreclosure.
One of those leaders was Jim Wallis, who in a recent Washington Post op-ed provides a silver lining of sorts to the economic crisis:
This could be a moment to reexamine the ways we measure success, do business and live our lives; a time to renew spiritual values and practices such as simplicity, patience, modesty, family, friendship, rest and Sabbath.
I like the idea of reexamining our economic structures and the way we live our lives. And I hope that 2010 proves to be a year where we’re able to make some serious progress on fixing our societal brokenness. I hope the religious community can help families keep their homes, feed their families, and be healthy and safe. And I hope our political leaders will have the wisdom and courage to tackle (and in some cases, to continue tackling) these important issues.
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As 2009 draws to a close, the Religion Newswriters Association took a moment to look back and vote on what they thought were the top religion stories of the year. President Obama’s landmark speech in Cairo was #1 on the list. Second on the list was the role of faith groups in the health care debate. From the results:
2. Health-care reform, the No. 1 topic in Congress for most of the year, involves faith-based groups appealing strongly for action to help “the least of these,” and others, such as the Roman Catholic bishops, for restrictions on abortion funding.
We’ve spent much of 2009 working to lift up the voices a wide swath of faith groups and leaders dedicated to making quality healthcare affordable for all American families; I’m glad the media took note!
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