Much of the news and political discussion now is centered around yesterday’s “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington D.C. hosted by radio talk show host Glenn Beck. In addition to the normal partisan reports about the rally, there are the wildly fluctuating estimates as to how many people were actually there.
Peter and Paul claim 750,000 people show up in the hills of Galilee to hear Jewish preacher; CNN estimates the crowd to be closer to 86,000.
Much of the news also seems to be centered on Beck’s calling America back to Christian values. I don’t have all that much interest in the politics of a radio host anymore. They all remind me of Lewis Prothero…
That’s quite enough of that, thank you very much.
But Beck’s focus on Christianity this weekend causes me to revisit something from earlier this year that he said on his show.
“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!” (audio)
The term “social justice”, as applied to the teachings of the Church, is rooted in the encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum; believe it or not, the first time the Holy Father deemed it necessary to address the issues of labor, corporations, economics, the poor, and property rights in an official Church document. As an encyclical, the contents of Rerum Novarum–literally “Of New Things”…in 1891, industrialization and the rights of workers were new things–are binding upon Catholics as teachings of the Ordinary Magisterium. This is not to be confused with an ex cathedra or infallible teaching, but still binding on Catholics who follow Church teachings yet absent the threat of excommunication for heresy for standing in opposition. The fact that the term did not come into widespread use until it became part of the teaching of the Church, and the fact that no other church or faith uses the term to describe social teaching makes it clear that Beck was referring directly to the Catholic Church in his screed. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church states “a large part of the Church’s social teaching is solicited and determined by important social questions, to which social justice is the proper answer.” (ibid 81) The Catechism of the Catholic Church, the official reference of the teachings of the Church (aside from Holy Scripture, of course) dedicates a section to social justice.
There is no doubt that Beck is referring to the Catholic Church as he later tells people that if they have a “priest that is pushing social justice, go find another parish, go to the Bishop“. It isn’t even so much that Beck later equated the teaching of social justice to communism and Nazis, he tells Catholics to leave the Church if they hear this teaching. Let me repeat that: if Catholics hear their parish priest refer to what is an official teaching of the Church, they should leave the Church. Make no mistake, Glenn Beck is, in his clumsy code, telling all Catholics to leave the Catholic Church for political reasons. He is telling me, he is telling my friends, he is telling those going up for first communion today to leave the Church that was designated by Christ Himself as His one and only Church. That is Matthew 18:6 type stuff.
Such a statement can only come from a deep-seated hatred for the Catholic Church. Beck is a former Catholic. He left the Church for a reason, and my experience has been that those who leave the Church are often the most bigoted toward the Church. All this talk about Glenn Beck as this wonderful Christian man is making me sick to my stomach. The fact that fellow Christians will not refute this man’s bigotry because they like his politics speaks volumes about the state of Christianity in America today. And I don’t ignore the fact that many, many Catholics fall into this same group and I would tell them to seriously reflect on if they believe authority lies in Christ, as given by Him, to the Holy Father or if it lies in your own personal political leanings. If you truly believe that authority lies in your political beliefs, then you need to think about taking Beck’s advice. I would prefer a smaller, stronger Church over a large Church watered down by those who use Christ as a political tool on either end of the political-philosophical spectrum.