Television and radio host Glenn Beck has, as Steve Benen puts it "doubled down" on his opposition to Christian churches that speak of "social justice."
Yesterday, Beck told his radio listeners to "look for the words 'social justice' or 'economic justice' on your church Web site. … If you find [them], run as fast as you can. … They are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes!"
As Joe Carter noted at First Things, taking Beck's advice would require all Roman Catholics to leave that church, since "Social Justice" is — for Catholics as for almost every longstanding Christian denomination — an integral aspect of the church's teaching. ("Social Justice" is, in fact, the title of Section One, Chapter Two, Article 3 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)
Glenn Beck continued his attack on "social justice" today, arguing that it entails "a perversion of the gospel" and is "not what Jesus would say" (MediaMatters has the audio).
This is an astonishing claim to anyone who's ever had a Bible and their eyes open at the same time. Justice is an inescapable, relentless, pervasive, nearly omnipresent theme of that entire volume. It is impossible to read the law and the prophets, the Gospels and epistles, the histories, wisdom literature and apocalypse without being confronted incessantly with the theme of justice, justice, justice, justice, justice, justice, justice.
That accounts for justice, in the Christian teaching of every Christian church, being regarded as a cardinal virtue and an attribute of God.
I'm guessing that Beck would argue that he's not opposing justice per se, only "social justice" — which he sees as a "code word" for Nazicommunism or something. But this is nonsense. Not just the slander that every Christian from the original disciples on down is a Nazicommunist, but the very idea that it's possible to speak of "justice" as distinct from "social justice."Justice is, by definition, social. Justice, by definition, is something that exists only between and among individuals and groups of individuals and groups of groups. One might argue that "social justice" is redundant, but one cannot oppose "social justice" without opposing justice itself.
(I can't even imagine what "individual justice" might mean. Perhaps some kind of self-help therapeutic babble — "You need to be fair to you …" Or maybe the title of a violent action movie starring Vin Diesel as a judge whose daughter has been kidnapped by drug dealers.)
That trailblazers of wingnuttery like Glenn Beck would explicitly condemn justice itself shouldn't be surprising. You'll recall that just a few months ago, Beck and his allies (including most of the Republican caucus in Congress) were loudly railing against a related prerequisite virtue, empathy.
Yes, that's right, they said empathy was bad. Once they decided that, then it was only a matter of time before they were bound to come out against justice as well, because empathy is the foundation of justice. (See if you can arrive at some conception of justice that does not rely upon empathy. No philosopher, ethicist or religious genius ever yet has managed to do so.)
Let me be clear: When Glenn Beck asserts that justice is incompatible with the Gospel and with the teachings of Christ, he is not following the Pauline/Augustinian argument that perfect love transcends justice ("Justice that is only justice is less than justice," in Reinhold Niebuhr's phrase). He is, rather, saying that justice itself is a bad thing.
Glenn Beck is anti-justice. And he's telling his radio audience that Jesus Christ was anti-justice. It's hard to see how that doesn't make Glenn Beck anti-Christ. (The word there is an adjective, but the noun would also seem to fit.)