Monday, June 7, 2010

Glenn Beck, Social Justice and Catholicism

Saturday morning I had a class and during it we watched a video of a speaker, Jack Jezreel, talking about Catholic social justice and my mind wandered to the quote of Glenn Beck that raised such an uproar a couple months ago. Glenn Beck, the conservative radio/television host, was quoted as saying, "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! …If you have a priest that is pushing social justice, go find another parish. Go alert your bishop and tell them, “Excuse me are you down with this whole social justice thing?” If it’s my church, I’m alerting the church authorities: “Excuse me, what’s this social justice thing?” And if they say, “yeah, we’re all in that social justice thing”—I’m in the wrong place."

I happen to like Glenn Beck, although I rarely watch him or listen to him. But I remember that when I heard this quote I thought to myself that he had certainly gotten it wrong this time. The gospels point not only vertical-- upwards to God--but they point us horizontal. They point us in the direction of our fellow humans and direct us to take care of them also, especially the weak and the marginalized. Repeatedly, Jesus tells us to take care of the sick, the elderly, and the poor. He tells us that whatever we do to take care of those we do take care of Him.

The United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) have highlighted seven themes that are the heart of Catholic teaching. These themes are more fully described here. They are

  • Life and Dignity of the Human Person-all human life is sacred
  • Call to Family, Community and Participation--marriage and family is the central social institutions and should be strengthened
  • Rights and Responsibility--everyone has a right to life and a right to those things required for human decency
  • Option for the Poor and Vulnerable--we must take care of those most poor and vulnerable
  • The Dignity of Work and Rights of Workers--basic rights of workers must be protected
  • Solidarity--We are one human family
  • Care for God's Creation--we are responsible for the planet that God has given us
One interesting thing that I got from this video we watched Saturday morning was that even though God focuses His attention on the poor and wants us to do the same it doesn't mean that he loves the poor more than he loves the rich. It's like a parent who is attending to an injured child doesn't love that child more than another. He loves everyone unconditionally. God is giving those of us who are doing well the opportunity to grow spiritually. By reaching down and assisting those less fortunate we are able to grow spiritually because we cannot help to grow in love by helping them.

Here is the problem with what Mr. Beck had to say. The first is that it was taken out of context. What he said was so brash that it was easy for those who might disagree with him to take it and run with it. If you re-read it you will think to yourself that he must be an idiot. The thing is, he was talking about those churches that actually are pushing a political agenda. The second is that Mr. Beck's definition of social justice is a little difference than what we may think. Glenn Beck defines social justice as "Forced redistribution of wealth with a hostility toward individual property rights, under the guise of charity and/or justice." The third mistake was making a comment that would make people think that this is what Catholic social justice is--as one could assume by him using words such as "priest" or "bishop."

The Catholic Church has rejected communism and socialism--they've shown themselves to be atheistic and totalitarian. Likewise, she has rejected "capitalism individualism" because it, in itself, fails social justice (2425-Catechism of the Catholic Church) She recognizes that government isn't going to properly take care of those in need just as the market place isn't. We need to get off our rear, take care of our brothers and sisters, and stop relying others to do it.


  1. Amen! I love this. I get so frustrated with fellow CAtholics or really anyone who believes it is the Government's responsibility to take care of the marginalized, poor, elderly, etc. is the people's responsibility. and guess what...individual charities do it WAY better than the government could ever do it (one need only look at all the social programs the government has "taken over" and see all the problems it creates).

    What's so sad is that PEOPLE will not volunteer their time, donate their money...our country has a true poverty of true Stewardship. That is one of the things lately I have been praying for...for myself as well as fellow parishioners, fellow Catholics and fellow Americans to become inspired with a true sense of Stewardship and recognizing their gifts come from God. and We must return a portion of all of those gifts back to God.

    Thanks for this post. Very nice.

  2. Best post I have read today.....I use to like Glen Beck but have since lost respect for him in all that he has been saying and how he has been acting, he and many others need our prayers very much right now. We don't have to love him, God does.........:-) Hugs

  3. So, I think I'm glad I read this, though I admit, I had one finger on the red 'x' in my upper left corner (I do not like Glenn Beck, not a bit).

    Thank-you for the clarification about where he was coming from though.

  4. Jamie, It sounds like you understand well the message Jack Jezreel brings to us. How we treat others is indeed our relationship with God. "When I was hungry..." God actually experiences our love or our apathy or rejection through our care or lack of care of others. As we are formed and transformed as Christians, our love for others grows. Part of this process includes learning which voices speak truth, and which voices have some other agenda.

  5. In our parish, the "social justice" group is all about forced charity and redistribution to a wide variety of often non-Catholic "charities" and suspect causes. And many priests think this is Catholic. As Catholics, we need to take back the meaning of "social justice," and make it authentically Catholic again, rather than its current use as a code phrase for socialism and communism.

  6. I agree with Glenn Beck. I left my Catholic Church and went to a neighboring Catholic Church because the prior Church was more of a Pro-Liberal, Pro-Obama, Pro-Soicalist bend. Every Catholic Church is different. Many are very Socialistic in their idea of Social Justice. Others are the correct version of Social Justice.

  7. Ditto. Beck's dead on on this one and I hope the Catholic church comes out and clearly states its position on it. Nowhere in our bible do you ever see the phrase "social justice". NOWHERE. Charity is something the individual does. Charity through the government isn't charity at all. Lets face it. When was the last time you filed taxes and paid more or even felt good about the taxes you were paying. On the other hand, how great is it to help others through words, actions, and wealth out of your own doing rather than an entity mandating it. After all, lets not forget that this entity can misappropriate our "charity" and even use it for sinful or evil reasons (hint, Abortion, Planned Parenthood, etc...)

  8. While scripture may not use the phrase "social justice" the Catholic Church does INDEED teach that it is the GOVERNMENT'S job to take care of the least in our communities. There is very clear teaching regarding this. In their book "Sharing Catholic Social Teaching" the U.S. Catholic Bishops make it clear that it is the government's job to guarantee and protect the common good especially for the poor. While this is not code for socialism and communism it is a very clear message on who's responsibility it is.

  9. Why is my comment not posted? It is the truth that the Catholic Church teaches that the government is responsible in helping the poor. Please acknowledge that. This is NOT simply my opinion, it is found throughout Church teaching.

  10. Your comment wasn't posted because I've been away from the blog for awhile. The writing you talk about says that it is role of government to "protect human life and human dignity and promote the common good."
    That is one of two places I see where it talks about government. The other sentence talks about government's responsibilities and limits. The rest of it speaks on how it is OUR responsibility to take care of the poor. It seems to me that it says that government has a role but we have a bigger role to take care of our fellow man.

  11. Did you do some research on Jack Jezreel? You will find out that he is tied to liberation theology/ marxists beliefs. He also promots dissenters from the Catholic faith like Fr. Richard Rohr and the woman priestess movement. While I don't always agree with Glenn Beck, I believe he is right for the most part to warn people of the dangers of Social Justice as we would find here in the church in this country. Sadly because of the US bishops allowing and promoting dissent for the past 40 plus years.

  12. Glenn is right. Social justice is code for progressive collectivism. The individual can't succeed on his or her own. Capitalism is bad because it opens the door for individual success. Promoting these through religion will undermine true Catholic teachings. Solidarity means redistribution and caring for the earth is paganism.

  13. "Social Justice" isn't in the bible, but "justice" sure is! "Social Justice" makes its debut in the Catholic world in Quadragesimo Anno, an encyclical by Pope Pius XI... there he defines it in varying ways, but it does, in fact, entail redistribution as an end vast disparities. Just because individual parishes misinterpret this beautiful tradition (some churches encourage socialism while others love capitalism), the church tradition shouldn't be thrown out. Admonish the sinner, sure, but preserve these amazing teachings on the Catholic's role in the world. And, to comment to a comment, Jack Jezreel promotes the church's teaching in it's fullest. I have read just about every papal document and bishops' pastoral and know them well and I have heard lots of what Jack Jezreel has to say and he is really an articulate, orthodox, intelligent guy. Peace and blessings.