This Week in God

THIS WEEK IN GOD…. First up from the God Machine this week is a fairly contentious dust-up in progressive faith communities after the latest offensive from deranged media personality Glenn Beck.

Beck picked the fight in March, urging his followers to abandon houses of worship that believe in “social justice,” which he considers to be code for some kind of communist plot. Time‘s Elizabeth Dias reported this week that Beck is growing increasingly agitated about churches whose commitment to the downtrodden and powerless he finds politically offensive.

“If you just tuned in, boy, this has got to be the weirdest damn episode you’ve ever heard on the Glenn Beck program,” Glenn Beck admitted late last night, as he took another shot at Christian social justice missions. This time he claimed that black liberation theology — theology that believes Jesus saves victims from their oppressors — forces whites to unnecessarily confess to racism and inspires the government to redistribute money from wealthy whites to victimized minorities. Because Jesus is not a victim, in Beck’s words, “Social justice isn’t in the Bible.”

However three days before the resurrection, Jesus, a Palestinian Jew, himself was tortured and hung on a cross. Beck says that even then Jesus was only a victor — “If Jesus was a victim he would have come back from the dead and made the Jews pay for what they did.” But the Jews did not kill Jesus, the Romans did. And revenge does not exactly sound like Jesus’ command to love one’s neighbor. Moreover, liberation theology does not mean Christians must be victims to be saved. Liberation theologies emerged across the globe in the 1960s to respond to social injustices, often at the hands of colonizers. Black liberation theology certainly is not the only version out there — Latin American liberation theology, Palestinian liberation theology, and Minjung liberation theology also draw attention to suffering around the world in order to find hope from a God who has suffered too.

A core Biblical command is to follow Jesus’ example of humility, not of conquering, and to show compassion for the least of those in our midst.

Beck’s attacks on churches that preach about social justice have generated a strong response from Faithful America, which unveiled a new Christian radio ad campaign this week, airing spots in several cities Beck visits on his national summer tour. As Faith in Public Life explained this week, “The ads are part of Faithful America’s ‘Driven by Faith, Not by Fear’ campaign, an effort to counter the fear, lies and hateful rhetoric of extreme pundits and the Tea Party.”

The radio ad, which you can listen to here, asks listeners, “Would you support a leader who said Jesus’ teachings can lead to Nazism, or who attacks Christians pastors for preaching the full gospel? Then why do so many Christians tune in to Glenn Beck?”

Also from the God Machine this week:

* In the wake of its international scandal involving the sexual abuse of children, the Vatican this week “issued new internal rules making it easier to discipline priests who have sexually abused minors.” But in a move that “infuriated victims’ groups and put United States bishops on the defensive, it also codified ‘the attempted ordination of women’ to the priesthood as one of the church’s most grave crimes, along with heresy, schism and pedophilia.” Victims’ advocates were also disappointed by the new rules’ omission of possible punishment of bishops who looked the other way when priests molested children on their watch, and the failure to require “mandatory reporting of sex abuse to civil authorities even in countries where it is not required by civil law.”

* In Nevada, the Canyon Ridge Community Church has offered support to pastor Martin Ssempa, a Ugandan anti-gay activist helping drive the country’s “kill the gays” bill. As a result, the Southern Nevada Health District in Las Vegas will no longer work with the church on public health issues.

* And working under the assumption that AIPAC “pulls some punches,” the Emergency Committee for Israel is getting to work, combining the efforts of far-right neocons like Bill Kristol, and evangelical Christians like Gary Bauer. (thanks to D.J. for the tip)