My Twitterverse was recently lit up with friends who were absolutely incensed with Glenn Beck’s urging of people to leave churches that preach “social justice.”

He did not say the “Social Gospel.” this was a trend in American theology in the late 19th and 20th century. Walter Rauchenbush was one of the primary voices in this movement. Like most theological movements, it was a reaction to the situation in which the proponents found themselves. The overwhelming poverty of the period was the catalyst for this theological genesis. Because this theological movement was predominantly ‘post-millennial’, the movement sought to rid society of those barriers to the improvement of the condition of the ‘least of these’ within society prior to the initiation of the kingdom of God.

Beck did not say ‘Social Gospel.’ He said, “social justice.” His commentary implies one of two conditions. First, it may be that he has no idea of what preaching is about; in that preaching is fundamentally a exposition of a scriptural text, an ‘opening’ if you will, of God’s word. It could be that he doesn’t understand what preaching is. The other possibility is the Beck doesn’t know what the bible, and the new testament, is predominantly about: God’s plan for the redemption of creation.

This leads to the second possibility, that Beck is not familiar with the bible.  I say this because justice is a central theme of both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.  This idea of redemption is not an individual salvific plan, so to speak, but rather than a transformation of the entirety of creation.

This idea has been noted in a variety of texts. Micah 6:8, Matthew 25, shall I go on?

The liberation theologians of the 20th century varied from the Social Gospel in that there was a basic assertion that in the gospel (primarily Luke) there existed a preferential option for the poor. I read Juan Luis Segundo, Gustavo Gutierrez, and Leonardo Boff. But the liberation theologians are not limited to this Latin American genre [Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) provided the most significant criticism of this theology)]. Rosemary Radford Reuther, and of late, Mary Daly added woman’s voices. James Cone provided an African American voice to this chorus.

My point is this: it is abundantly clear to this privileged, white, tall, heterosexual, male, that when I read the bible, and Luke’s gospel in particular, there is an aspect of this ministry of Jesus Christ that is particularly concerned for the outcast, the poor, the marginalized, the sick, the suffering, and not the principalities and powers of the world.

Glenn Beck has it all wrong. If you church does not preach a gospel that lifts up the poor and the powerless, that calls you, in the name of Christ to give generously to these same ones, you should leave it. It isn’t faithful.

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