Against The Wisdom of Fools: Glenn Beck the Theologian?

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Against The Wisdom of Fools: Glenn Beck the Theologian?

Glenn BeckI read with dismay Glenn Beck’s article entitled, “Liberation Theology and Social Justice.”  Upon reading it, my vision of holistic reparations was clarified.  And, Glenn Beck is certainly in need of reparations!

In his article, Mr. Beck railed against Liberation Theology and the concept of social justice.  It is irresponsible for him to give the impression that his is an educated opinion that has been well-thought and is sound in formation.  And with millions of listeners following his program, his inflammatory remarks are nothing short of reckless.

Worse is his misconception of Liberation Theology and tragic is his inability to reconcile social justice with the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Worse still is his misappropriation of theology.  Think of the spiritual damage done to his listeners.  And, while he stands before his chalkboard presuming to instruct the masses, I am reminded of what St. James said: “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly (3:1).”

Herein lies my hope that Glenn Beck “gets his reparations!”  For as I have said and believe, “Reparations is an expression of Christian love.”  Reparations might consist of some sort of recompense.  Yet, that is not important.  Rather, our plea for Reparations is one of compassion; one of love for mankind. For our God does not delight in the death of the sinner but that he should repent and live.

The sin here is that Glenn Beck presumes to be a teacher, and has failed to educate himself on the matters of which he speaks.  One may take issue with Liberation Theology, yes.  One may take issue with Dr. James H. Cone.  And although I understand the climate in which it was birthed, I myself, have some disagreements with Black Theology.

Glenn Beck and his article “Liberation Theology and Social Justice” presents a perfect opportunity to explain my disagreement with Dr. Cone and Black Theology.  I do not believe there should be a Black Theology.  Christ prayed that we (humanity) would be one as He and His Father are One.  That entails a symbiotic relationship (a perichoresis) in which all persons within humanity are interdependent.  To that end, there should be ONE Christian Theology.  A so-called “Black Theology” allows the fallacy of Western (European/White) Theology to pass for authentic Christian Theology when the theologies of the Western (“civilized”) World has been complicit and/or encouraging in the ecological and anthropological crises of the world.

I am tired of seeing the Gospel trampled underfoot and the Lord being used to serve the selfish and inhumane ways of man.  Mr. Beck’s article is theologically inaccurate at best and intentionally disingenuous at worse.

Mr. Beck asks, “how does a white person get salvation in that system” and takes issue with Dr. Cone suggesting that in order to be Christian (to be saved) one must be willing to give up their wealth and privilege.  Certainly Glenn Beck also disagrees with Christ.  When asked by the Rich Young Ruler in Luke 18:18-23 what one must do to be saved, our Lord told him that he must keep all of the commandments.  In other words, Christ instructed him to obey the (societal) law.  Yet, this man felt justified in his conduct and confident that he was thus “saved.”  Ultimately our Lord told him: “There is still one thing you haven’t done.  Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me. (vs. 22)”

Isn’t it ironic?  While White people were “masters” they sold the people they had enslaved a theology of obedience to masters, enduring injustice now for the “great reward” in heaven.  Yet, I am sure many will attempt some form of intellectual gymnastics to circumvent the command given by our Lord in Luke 18:22.

Glenn Beck’s primary argument against this is that the concept is devoid of “merit.”  He then attempts to juxtapose the concept of merit with that of grace.  However, the Christian concept of grace is in direct conflict with that of merit.

Merit is defined as: “something that deserves or justifies a reward or commendation.”  Yet, in Matthew 10:8 our Lord exemplifies His grace when He says: “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.”  St. Paul goes further in Romans 5:8 and says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Merit indicates something earned or deserved.  The Christian concept of grace indicates something unearned and not deserved.  The grace we have received from Christ should not harden our hearts to the sufferings and injustices of humanity.  Rather, the grace given to us sinners through our Lords compassion should compel us to freely share our grace with others…giving them what they have not earned and do not deserve.  Certainly, we should be compelled to give what they have earned and do deserve!

The fallacies continue with Mr. Beck’s views on salvation.  And I must include Dr. Richard Land since Glenn Beck says he consulted him on this position.  (I can only hope Glenn Beck took Dr. Land’s comment out of context.)  Mr. Beck says that, “salvation is an individual relationship between a person and God through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross…I can’t be saved for someone else and they can’t be saved by me.”

Wow!  I wonder if we think of the theological implications of the stuff we pass off as authentic Christian witness?!  What would that statement mean, if it were true?

Well first, if it is true that others cannot “be saved by me” as Beck suggests then that completely negates the “White Man’s Burden,” and flies in the face of Western Christian (premillennial) thought that has justified Western society’s quest to subdue the earth and resulted in the enslavement of Africans, colonization of people across the world and displacement of indigenous people.  The excuse had been that Europeans were doing a service to the “backwards people of the world” by oppressing them and bringing them to Christianity so they can be saved.

Second, if we are not saved for others as Glenn Beck suggests, then how does our Lord’s individual sacrifice have any collective efficacy, even for the collective of individuals?  We have been commissioned to continue His work on earth.  And if His work on the Cross was for others, should not our labors be for others as well?  Again St. Paul said it well, “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.”  This is not Black Theology…it is not White Theology.  This is Christian Theology, and something to which all who proclaim their allegiance to the Cross must submit.

May we not follow those who are foolish, that we might not die for want of wisdom!  And, may the foolish amend their ways and conform to the image and likeness of Christ!

Share Your Thoughts!

Comments 4

  1. >I agree with many things you say, and I, too, am troubled by what Glenn Beck said, perhaps more so that he railed against liberation theology ultimately to turn it back into a political screed.

    That said, I must respectfully disagree with your interpretation of what Jesus said to the 'rich young ruler' in the gospel of Matthew. Jesus, being Lord, surely knew that the only thing that would help this young man who approached him was for him to give away everything and identify with those whom he obviously had contempt for. He was a man very much like those I grew up with on the Upper East Side, who ostensibly 'earned everything they had' (much like Glenn Beck claimed in his program) and who, mistakenly, ignored that what we gain as white people [I am white] is sometimes at the expense of others or at the very least is given by the gracious hand of God.

    But Jesus' instruction can't be rightly interpreted as a commandment for all for salvation. For if this is true, then what he says about Zaccheus in Luke's gospel is contradictory. Zaccheus made reparations more than the Jewish law required and also gave away money, but he did not give 'all' away. Also, we do not see Jesus telling other rich people (Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea) to give away all their money. More, we even see people like Joanna and other rich people traveling with him.

    My point is that (1) your interpretation of Jesus' instruction as a 'commandment' is mistaken, and (2) reparations that are forced, rather than encouraging charity and even venture capital that empowers people will leave all parties embittered.

    I have respect for your perspective and hope that I have earned the same from you.

  2. Jabriel Ballentine

    >Yes, you definitely have my respect as I appreciate you engaging this issue. I agree with you wholeheartedly, there is NO efficacy in forced reparations. So, I would NEVER agree with Government-sanctioned redistribution of wealth. Nevertheless, St. John Chrysostom in his treatise "On Wealth and Poverty" does show how the redistribution of wealth is called for by the Gospels, out of Christian Love. (Think of the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man.) Actually, this posting has prompted another one (forthcoming) on that very issue, the redistribution of wealth.

    You are right, one does not have to be poor (physically) in order to attain salvation. However, one must be poor in spirit…or rather, have the spirit of the poor – of the sufferer…of those who stand at the point in history with their backs against the wall (Thurman). Those rich people you mentioned were not commanded to give up all they had…in this you are right. However, you would also agree that they took no care for their riches and observed "the greater part" – to follow the Lord, not just in their walk but in their compassion upon and mercy for others.

    In that vein, I don't think we really disagree. For based upon your well-thought response, I am certain we share that perspective.

    Peace!

  3. >Amen and amen, Jabriel.

    Thanks for clarifying. I think the problem is with the word 'redistribution,' which whites like myself always associate with 'govt-forced reparations' and which goes against the grain of freedom and charity.

    I think–and I believe this is in agreement with you–that no one can say he has a vibrant Christian walk if he is not moved to voluntarily give away even his most precious resources out of love and out of recognition of God's love for us in Christ.

    True charity, and what it appears God has wanted from us all along since the Garden, is voluntary and cheerful. My prayer for a long time now has been that Christians everywhere will sense the Holy Spirit upon them and will become radically generous toward others. (Even those who don't follow Christ are moved by the Spirit to give in a time of disaster: Katrina, tsunami, Haiti.)

    With this Spirit-led revival, we'll have 'redistribution' in the best sense as we see in Acts 4 and elsewhere.

    Thanks for your gracious response to my original comment.

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