Many people base their progressive politics on Christian teachings about our obligation to the poor. (Jesus said a lot about serving the poor, after all, and he was relatively silent on government regulation.) But there is a difference between a moral ideal itself and a particular political application to serve that ideal. Small-government conservatives don't believe in conflating the two, and we should be extra-careful about making the distinction between social and political ideals if we're going to rail against "social justice" as a political euphemism. A smart conservative draws this distinction every time the subject comes up to avoid looking like a completely heartless lunatic.
But that's not the biggest problem I have with Glenn Beck's remarks. It's that he has the chutzpah to tell people that they ought to leave their churches if those churches espouse ideals that scare him. Leaving aside the fact that "social justice" has more than one possible meaning and application, given the diversity of religious traditions that talk about it, let's just play pretend for a minute. Let's imagine that some popular talk-show host said that "protecting marriage" was code for "anti-gay bigotry," and if your church won't reconsider its emphasis on protecting marriage, you should leave that church. Or, alternatively, that "sanctity of life" was code for "controlling women's bodies," and if your church won't back off on the "sanctity of life" issue, you should leave that church. I don't know about anyone else, but I can decide for myself if my church supports a creeping totalitarianism and whether or not the good my church does -- for me, my family, and my community -- outweighs any particular political concerns I might have. That's my business, and you really must have a lot of nerve to suggest that the concerns of my soul should come second to your political agenda. If I weren't (allegedly) a Christian, I'd tell you to [jump in a lake].
No one ought to know better than a religious conservative that churches and religious folks have a right -- some would say even a responsibility -- to advocate policies that are morally in line with their beliefs. Since this is America, not everybody forces their morality down other people's throats in the same way. When Glenn Beck warns me that my right to exercise my religion and interpret the scriptures as I see fit will "come under the ropes" if social justice is allowed to run amok in the pews, I just don't know what he's talking about. I suspect that he doesn't know what he's talking about. So why is he talking at all? Why is he telling people to run at the merest mention of "social justice" instead of articulating the conservative vision for fulfilling the Biblical mandate to serve the poor and afflicted? If anything, the Book of Mormon is even more insistent on our obligations to the poor, so if Glenn Beck wants to contribute to the Mormons Are Christians cause, he should stop giving the impression that social justice is an ideal for Commies.
I can't say that I ever lose any sleep over what a Mormon celebrity says or does. I don't feel embarrassed by Glenn Beck because if someone wants to judge me or my church based on what some jive-talking loudmouth on the TV said or who won American Idol, there's not a lot I can do about that. I believe that most people's opinions of Mormons are based on their experiences with Mormons they actually know, which is why I'm more concerned with the lady in my local ward who uses the N-word than I am with Glenn Beck. Personally, I find it very easy to ignore him. (Pleasant, too. Certainly more of you should try it.) But I thought we could use some more diversity in anti-Glenn Beck posts, so here it is: I'm conservative, I'm a Mormon, and Glenn Beck doesn't represent me.
Rebecca J. is a blogger at By Common Consent, where this post first appeared. It is reprinted with permission. Rebecca is also a writer, housewife, and mother of four. Her hobbies include tap dancing, subgenre metal concerts, and food. You can learn far more about her than you would ever wish to know at madhousewife.wordpress.com.