Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Glenn Beck: A Mighty Farce
During the Beckapalooza "coincidentally" held on the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, the self-identified rodeo clown, like a modern Elmer Gantry, exhorted his followers and America to turn back to God, (when exactly did his worshipers and America turn away from God, may I ask? This country is still the most religious country of all western democracies, and you'd have to go clear across the Atlantic, past Europe, and land in the Middle East to find another country as devoted to and hysterical about religion.)
Beck also predicted that miracles would happen, (ZMOG! a flock of Canada geese flew over the throngs, just like they fly overhead everywhere in this country EVERYDAY, but that little fact didn't stop Beck from calling it some sign from God and A MIRACLE!) The rodeo clown also declaimed that this day would change America forever. (Well at that point, I changed the channel and tuned to the Three Stooges, who weren't as funny as Beck, but they did make more sense.)
The next day, on his puppet master's teevee cable nooz station, Beck, glorying in his triumph as America's newest messiah clown and forgetting his own empty words of reconciliation, love, brotherhood, acceptance of our fellow man, and exhortation to "restore honor" to America, he slandered, attacked, and cast aspersions on President Obama and his religion, asserting that the president does not conform to “true” Christian values. How Christian of him. Excuse me, I should say "how Mormon" of him. Beck's an converted Mormon. [BTW, Christians do not consider Mormons Christians--Christians refer to Mormons as a "Satanic cult." How Christian of them.]
Beck said he regretted that earlier in this year he called President Obama a racist who had a "deep seated hatred of white people," and that he should have pointed out that the president does not practice Christianity, but rather, "Liberation Theology."
Now I don't know where the voices come from that apparently invade the caverns of this charlatan's oily skull, but whomever he's taking notes from doesn't know a flea's turd about "Liberation Theology."
The Dean of Yale's School of Divinity and a Jesuit priest and author, who actually, y'know, are educated and know more than what Beck learned in his 5-minute university, destroy Beck's sophomoric statements--statements calculated to further demonize the president and to convince his followers who eagerly buy into Beck's calumny that Mr. Obama is not only not a "true" Christian, but perhaps not a real American:
FROM THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR:
"My individual salvation rests on our collective salvation,” says Obama in one clip Beck showed. Beck jumped on this equation as his most critical evidence that the president is not really a Christian – and by implication, not a loyal American. Then he unloaded.
“It does not. It does not," Beck asserted. "That is not a Christian belief.”
“This is nothing but political rhetoric,” Harold Attridge, dean of the Yale Divinity School said after reading a transcript of Beck's Tuesday show. At best, he adds, Beck has a very narrow view of what constitutes “true” Christianity.
“There are many Americans with many views of Christian faith that align with what the president believes,” Dr. Attridge says, noting that the tradition of individual responsibility to the larger community runs deep in Christian teachings. He notes, for instance, in Matthew 25, Jesus says that what one does to the smallest member of a community, one has done to Christ. In Romans 12, Paul says that we being many are one body in Christ, and the Gospel of John says that we do belong to one another, by the grace of God we have to care for one another. But most important, Attridge says, this is not really about a genuine religious dialogue. “This is political rhetoric designed to stir up anti-Obama sentiments,” he says.
Now read what Rev. James Martin, S.J., Catholic priest and author of 'The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything' has to say about Beck's abusive attack on Mr. Obama and his religion:
FATHER MARTIN writes:
"After his colossal "Restoring Honor" rally in Washington, D.C., Glenn Beck took aim at one of his favorite targets, Barack Obama, but in a novel way. Beck regrets saying a few months ago that President Obama was a "racist." What he should have said, he now realizes, was that he didn't agree with Obama's "theology." And what is Obama's theology, according to Beck? Liberation theology.
Here's Beck's definition of the arcane area of study known as liberation theology:
"I think that it is much more of a theological question that he is a guy who understands the world through liberation theology, which is oppressor and victim....That is a direct opposite of what the gospel is talking about...It's Marxism disguised as religion."
As Ronald Reagan used to say, "There you go again." A few months ago, Beck decided to demolish the idea of "social justice," by telling Christians that if their priests, pastors or ministers use that buzz word on Sundays they should leave their churches. As he may or may not have known, the tenets of "social justice" encourage one not only to help the poor, but also address the conditions that keep them poor. He called that "communist."
That approach didn't work out that well for Beck since so many Christian denominations these days, particularly the Catholic Church, espouse social justice explicitly. So he backed off. But liberation theology? Really?
A little history: Liberation theology began in Latin America in the 1950s and 1960s, and was later developed more systematically by Catholic theologians who reflected on experiences of the poor there. The term was coined by the Rev. Gustavo Gutierrez, a Peruvian priest, in his landmark book A Theology of Liberation, published in 1971. Briefly put, liberation theology (there are many definitions, by the way) is a Gospel-based critique of the world through the eyes of the poor. Contrary to what Beck implies, the liberation theologian doesn't see himself or herself as victim; rather proponents call us to see how the poor are marginalized by society, to work among them, to advocate on their behalf, and to help them advocate for themselves. It has nothing to do with seeing yourself as victim. It is, like all authentic Christian practices, "other-directed."
It also sees the figure of Jesus Christ as the "liberator," who frees people from bondage and slavery of all kinds. So, as he does in the Gospels, Christ not only frees people from sin and illness, Christ also desires to free our fellow human beings from the social structures that keep them impoverished. This is this kind of "liberation" that is held out. Liberation theologians meditate on Gospel stories that show Christ upending the social structures of the day, in order to bring more--uh oh--social justice into the world. Christians are also asked to make, as the saying goes, a "preferential option for the poor."
It's not hard to see what Beck has against "liberation theology." It's the same reason people are often against "social justice." Both ideas ask us to consider the plight of the poor. And that's disturbing. Some liberation theologians even consider the poor to be privileged carriers of God's grace. In his book The True Church and the Poor, Jon Sobrino, a Jesuit theologian wrote, "The poor are accepted as constituting the primary recipients of the Good News and, therefore, as having an inherent capacity of understanding it better than anyone else." That's pretty threatening for any comfortable Christian. For not only do we have to help the poor, not only do we have to advocate on their behalf, we also have to see them as perhaps understanding God better than we do.
But that's not a new idea: It goes back to Jesus. The poor, the sick and the outcast "got" him better than the wealthy did. Perhaps because there was less standing between the poor and God. Less stuff. Maybe that's why Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew, "If you wish to be perfect, sell all you have, and you will have treasure in heaven, and follow me." Like I said, pretty disturbing, then and now. It's hardly "the opposite of the Gospel," as Beck said. The opposite of the Gospel would be to acquire wealth and fail to work on behalf of the poor."
So there it is. Glenn Beck is a charlatan. People were fooled by his touchy feely exhortations to be loving, be accepting, love one's neighbor, turn back to God and "restore honor" to America. The very next day, after his miracle love-fest, this evil, cynical monstrosity impugned the President of the United States' religion, and suggested that Mr. Obama is not a true Christian.
Mr. Beck, it is none of your clownish business what religion Mr. Obama practices, or if he practices any at all. It is grossly unAmerican for you to even be talking about it. But in doing so, you join the ranks of the repressive mullahs in Middle Eastern countries who combine religion and government and seek to eliminate anyone who does not conform to state sanctioned religion.
Beck is no better than the worst of the Taliban. And the 87,000 people who came to watch this snake-oil salesman perform his cynical act on Saturday should look beyond his hypocritical words and understand what he is up to. HINT: It has absolutely nothing to do with America's honor.
Sheria of The Swash Zone has a post up on the Beckapalooza. Here's the link.
Ross Douthat of the NYTimes on Beck's Mormonism, Evangelicals and politics. Link here.
Now go read this piece by Tom Junod of Esquire on how corporations, in this case Transocean Deepwater Horizon, cynically used religion to deceive the families of their deceased employees. Link here.
Junod closes the article with this:
"...but also the spectacle of a corporate shill like Glenn Beck calling for national Christian renewal in an event blessed by Rupert Murdoch. The partnership brokered by the Republican party thirty years ago between the unfettered church and the unshackled corporation has paid off in an historic American divide between individuals and the institutions they serve; has paid off in an America whose culture of individual virtue exists in complementary equipoise with its culture of institutional corruption; has paid off in an America where the individuals are better than the institutions they serve, and know it. Fox and its minions address that divide by insisting that the real divide is between believers and non-believers; companies like Transocean by having its executives speak of the Lord at an event that ultimately owes its existence to corporate negligence. But one of these days, Mr. Beck might learn what Mr. Newman is starting to find out."