The folks at America have been listening to Glenn Beck recently–as have the folks at First Things. And they’re both mad at Beck for the same reason. It seems Glenn Beck is warning folks to beware if their church talks a lot about “social justice” or “economic justice.”
I’m begging you, your right to religion and freedom to exercise religion and read all of the passages of the Bible as you want to read them and as your church wants to preach them . . . are going to come under the ropes in the next year. If it lasts that long it will be the next year. I beg you, look for the words ‘social justice’ or ‘economic justice’ on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes.
In another clip he talks about how both Communism (Socialism) and National Socialism both argued on behalf of social or economic justice, and redistribution of wealth, and democratic economics. James Martin of America says, “Mr. Beck equated the desire for a just society with—wait for it—Nazism and Communism. ” Now, I haven’t seen an audio or video clip of Beck that puts these things together. I’d like to see the full context. No one is providing that at present.
But Martin has heard enough, and he’s mad.
The attack on social justice is the tack of those who wish to ignore the concerns of the poor and ignore the social structures that foster poverty. It’s not hard to see why people are tempted to do so. How much easier life would be if we didn’t have to worry about the poor! … But ignoring the poor, and ignoring what keeps them poor, is, quite simply, unchristian. I
Martin believes in “social justice.” And he lays out the official teachings of the Catholic church that support this idea that the church must be concerned about “what keeps them poor.”
But let’s not overlook history. Let’s not forget that in the name of “social justice” some Catholics have indeed gone to extremes.
Liberation Theology was the attempt by Latin American theologians to use Catholic social justice teachings to advocate Marxism. No less a figure than Joseph Ratzinger warned against this in 1984–outraging leftist priests and publications like America and National Catholic Reporter.
Fifty years earlier, Fr. Charles E. Coughlin was publishing a magazine called, Social Justice. He founded a National Union for Social Justice. He preached against communism and against free market capitalism and democracy–and in favor of fascism. And he wasn’t the only Catholic who has done so–we could mention Franco, Pinochet, Perón, etc.
Both the Catholics who have supported Marxism and those who have supported fascism agree that the teachings of Christ must inform economics–that Gospel values must transform society to eradicate poverty and to ensure justice. They agree that capitalism and democracy are the “social structures that foster poverty,” and must be limited.
They claim Jesus as their guide–but Jesus never instructed Rome on economics. He never protested for better wages, or cheaper prices, or eradication of “social structures that foster poverty.” He urged compassion and charity, in accordance with the Torah’s principles:
Deuteronomy 15:11 “For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.'”
Mark 14:7 “For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me.”
He had no economic program.
John 18:36 “Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.'”
Yet the Catholic Church has said that Christ does have an earthly kingdom, and Pope Pius XI instituted the feast of Christ the King to remind the world that his laws are to be followed. See his 1925 encyclical, Quas Primas:
19. When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony. Our Lord’s regal office invests the human authority of princes and rulers with a religious significance; it ennobles the citizen’s duty of obedience. … If princes and magistrates duly elected are filled with the persuasion that they rule, not by their own right, but by the mandate and in the place of the Divine King, they will exercise their authority piously and wisely, and they will make laws and administer them, having in view the common good and also the human dignity of their subjects. The result will be a stable peace and tranquillity, for there will be no longer any cause of discontent. Men will see in their king or in their rulers men like themselves, perhaps unworthy or open to criticism, but they will not on that account refuse obedience if they see reflected in them the authority of Christ God and Man. Peace and harmony, too, will result; for with the spread and the universal extent of the kingdom of Christ men will become more and more conscious of the link that binds them together, and thus many conflicts will be either prevented entirely or at least their bitterness will be diminished.
20. If the kingdom of Christ, then, receives, as it should, all nations under its way, there seems no reason why we should despair of seeing that peace which the King of Peace came to bring on earth–he who came to reconcile all things, who came not to be ministered unto but to minister, who, though Lord of all, gave himself to us as a model of humility, and with his principal law united the precept of charity; who said also: “My yoke is sweet and my burden light.” Oh, what happiness would be Ours if all men, individuals, families, and nations, would but let themselves be governed by Christ! “Then at length,” to use the words addressed by our predecessor, Pope Leo XIII, twenty-five years ago to the bishops of the Universal Church, “then at length will many evils be cured; then will the law regain its former authority; peace with all its blessings be restored. Men will sheathe their swords and lay down their arms when all freely acknowledge and obey the authority of Christ, and every tongue confesses that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.”
21. That these blessings may be abundant and lasting in Christian society, it is necessary that the kingship of our Savior should be as widely as possible recognized and understood, and to the end nothing would serve better than the institution of a special feast in honor of the Kingship of Christ.
We can’t single out the Catholic church, of course. A theocratic vision of society has also been promulgated by Calvinism–whether in the robust forms of Calvin’s Geneva or Puritan New England, or in the watered down form promoted by the United Church of Christ.
But Christ said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” And if your church is teaching that it is–something’s wrong. Whether it’s teaching the leftist version preferred by America or the rightwing version preferred by First Things; whether it’s teaching the ideas of Charles Coughlin or Ernesto Cardenal–something’s wrong. (And Mr. Beck–don’t forget about the history of your own church).