Where's the love? 08/29/2010 4 Comment(s) The call back to God and restoring America's honor this weekend is most encouraging. As a follower of Jesus (unfortunately, I believe the terms Christian and Christianity have been tainted), I long for the love of Christ to flow out of His faithful for His honor, glory and Kingdom. However, before you write me off as a religious nut-job (as I genuinely believe in and hope for people's right of personal belief), I do NOT find any connection whatsoever between the type of kingdom Glenn Beck and his disciples promote and healthy Christian theology. I am extremely cautious of any theology that promotes exorbitant wealth (especially as a sign of God's blessing of one's righteousness), rallies against social justice for the poor and rails against taxing the wealthiest Americans.
Please know I am not judging Glenn and his followers, and I will defend their rights protected under our constitution, but I cannot reconcile the self-love and interest that I perceive hijacks a faith and divisively pits Christians, seculars and believers in other religions against one another with Christ's message. I simply ask, Where is the love?
Let's look at reality:
- Glenn Beck's original statement on Social Justice
- Glenn Beck's definition of Social Justice
- An honest blog and interview with Glenn Beck regarding his weekend event
Again, where is the love, people? As the Apostle Paul wrote:
1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Corinthians 13:1-3
Let's first look at charitable giving, which Glenn says is acceptable (as opposed to social justice, which is code for Marxism). According to the 2010 Center of Budget and Policy Priorities, the gap between the wealthiest Americans and middle- and working-class Americans has more than tripled in the past three decades. Furthermore, as Huffington Post's Laura Bassett reports:
"The CBPP report attributes the widening of this gap partly to Bush Administration tax cuts, which primarily benefited the wealthy. Of the $1.7 trillion in tax cuts taxpayers received through 2008, high-income households received by far the largest--not only in amount but also as a percentage of income--which shifted the concentration of after-tax income towards the top of the spectrum."
Well, clearly the middle-class is shrinking and the working-class poor are growing. Yet, the rich are getting even richer through tax cuts, which proponents claim will trickle down to the middle and working class as the rich spend more, creating jobs and so forth. Obviously, the trickle-down model cannot keep up with the demise of the middle- and working-classes, which begs the question, are the wealthy giving more of their money to churches and/or charities to support the poor?
Clearly, the super rich are giving a lot. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation immediately leaps to mind. Yet, as recently reported by the New York Times' Judith Warner, "For decades, surveys have shown that upper-income Americans don't give away as much of their money as they might and are particularly undistinguished as givers when compared with the poor, who are strikingly generous." Does this sound at all familiar? If not, let me relay a story:
1 As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3 "I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on." Luke 21:1-4
As recorded only 2000 years ago, the issue of the rich giving to the poor has been a contentious issue, but the inequality between rich and poor predates Luke's gospel by thousands of years. Yet, sadly, the fact remains the same today: the wealthy are not giving enough voluntarily to offset the abject poverty seen today. I spent the majority of my career, including one year in the Philippines and seven years in South Africa, serving the poor; I've been to the poorest places on Earth, and witnessed the conditions of the abject poor, and I assure you most American's have no comprehension of true poverty.
While Jesus assures us that the poor will always be with us, it is scandalous in today's day and age--with all the wealth, power and technology--that people continue to suffer without the most basic needs: shelter; clothing; food; water; education; and health. The Bible is replete with examples of God's tender compassion and love for the poor. The Bible is replete with directions and commands for us to look after the poor. And the Bible is clear regarding the dangers of wealth. I don't believe I need to give a list of Bible versus, as most people--even the most secular of us--know some if not many of them (e.g. blessed are the poor; go sell all you have and give it to the poor and follow me; it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God).
So today I throw down the gauntlet and challenge Glenn Beck, or anyone else, to prove Jesus valued wealth creation over the plight of the poor, or how Jesus advocates low taxes so the rich can grow wealthier. Christian conservatives should all know this, but Jesus was exceptionally clear about taxes: "They [the Pharisees] brought him [Jesus] a denarius, and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?" "Caesar's," they replied. Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." Matthew 22:19-21
And the apostle Paul said, "Give everyone you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor." Romans 13:7
People, I encourage you to read Rev. James Martin's article today in the Huffington Post, where he presents one of the more eloquent expositions regarding the extension of Christ's compassion for the poor and needy. Rev. Martin, a Jesuit Catholic priest, writes such a beautifully rock-solid article regarding social justice and liberation theology, recently condemned by Glenn Beck and his followers. In my opinion, it highlights Glenn Beck's lack of understanding regarding Christ's teaching, which I would like to stress is not a judgement I make upon his soul or character; the man simply doesn't understand.
Therefore, as I close today, my heartfelt prayer (or hope, for the seculars in my audience) is that Glenn Beck and his followers do turn back to God so that social justice will flourish upon the Earth. Rev. Martin, please continue to preach and promote the truth, as will I. Amen, and again I say, Amen.
Causes Tom Wagner Supports
AMFA Foundation, Affordable Medicines For Africa-South Africa, World Vision