Glenn Beck has taken a new tack in his war against all things “un-American.”
Beck’s radio program (syndicated nationally) and TV show (aired on Fox News) feature the host “educating” his listeners and viewers on the great threats to America’s heritage and legacy.
Beck is largely credited with the creation of the “tea party” movement. He rails nightly about things like President Obama’s birth certificate and Nancy Pelosi’s socialist agenda. He is prone to tear up over his love of his country and has authored a whole catalog of books promoting the idea, in one way or another, that America would be a near Utopia if it could just be rid of liberals and their ilk.
To dismiss Beck as a fringe player on the cable TV cast of characters would be easy were it not for the fact that his show is wildly popular and his books are surprisingly so as well. In other words, Mr. Beck has become a brand with significant market shares in a cross-section of modern media. He could be the poor man’s Bill O’Reilly, but that expression gives too much credit to his prime-time cable mate. The better description might be a different blend of the same drink (tea, of course).
In case the foregoing description doesn’t make the point obvious, Mr. Beck hates all things Democratic (as in the Party). Thus, it was no surprise when he sought out the recently resigned Congressman Eric Massa, after Massa claimed he had been forced out by the House leadership (and had previously been “strong-armed” by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel).
Beck surely thought he had scored a real journalistic coup in devoting the full hour of his Fox broadcast one night last week to an interview of Massa. He probably expected the just-resigned Congressman to throw his former Democratic Party colleagues and leaders under the bus (to use the in- vogue expression), thereby providing Mr. Beck a week’s worth of ammunition to paint the Democrats as all the horrid things he surely believes they are.
Unfortunately, Mr. Massa only gave up himself in the interview. Despite repeated prodding from Beck, Massa would not reveal any juicy stuff on Speaker Pelosi, Mr. Emanuel, or any other Democrat.
Instead, he claimed he brought it all on himself. “It” here being the utter disgrace of admitting to sexual harassment along with absolutely bizarre tales of “tickling fights” and “snorkeling” (not the underwater kind) all while claiming not to be gay.
At the end of the hour, Mr. Beck went to his chalkboard (a prop he uses to emphasize the educational value of his show) and essentially apologized for “wasting” his viewers’ time with the Massa interview, by which he undoubtedly meant he hadn’t gotten any new evidence of Democratic corruption, the implicit purpose of the interview.
The Massa interviews (he followed his appearance on Beck’s show with an equally weird one on Larry King’s) provided great fodder for Saturday Night Live, which had a hilarious segment on the Weekend Update segment with Jerry Seinfeld and Seth Myers entitled, “Really?!?” But the real news from Mr. Beck’s show, the news that got covered in last Friday’s edition of The New York Times among other legitimate news reporting media, concerned very serious remarks Beck had made the previous week.
On his March 2 radio broadcast, Mr. Beck called on his listeners to leave their churches if those churches preach or otherwise speak of social or economic justice. Specifically, he said, “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.” Those terms, he went on to proclaim, are “code words” for Communism and Nazism.
Beck added, “If you have a priest that is pushing social justice, go find another parish. Go alert your bishop.”
As might be expected, Beck’s remarks did not go over well with many religious types.
“What he has said attacks the very heart of our Christian faith, and Christians should no longer watch his show,” said the Reverend Jim Wallis, who heads a Christian anti-poverty group.
Mr. Beck claims to be a converted Mormon, which puzzled Philip Barlow, the Arrington professor of Mormon history and culture at Utah State University. Professor Barlow, informed of Beck’s remarks, said, “One way to read the Book of Mormon is that it’s a vast tract on social justice.” He then added, “A lot of Latter-Day Saints would think that Beck was asking them to leave their own church.”
As of last weekend, Mr. Beck had not recanted or amended his earlier remarks. I don’t expect that he will. Beck’s view of America is that it functions best and adheres most closely to its founding ideals when it fosters and preserves a robust free enterprise system in which the successful are rewarded for their success, thereby setting an example for others to follow.
Social justice is, for him, a code phrase for government handouts and government regulation. Economic justice equates in his lexicon with government interference with the kind of freedom most closely associated with laissez-faire capitalism. These are not laudable policies or goals for Glenn Beck.
That his attitudes are offensive to many Christians (and those of most other religious faiths) is also not surprising. Christianity (at least those versions built on the teachings and gospel of Jesus Christ) emphasizes love for fellow humans, to the very “least of these,” as Jesus himself put it (Matthew 25:40).
It espouses a true social justice and rejects the accumulation of wealth for its own sake. “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” (Matthew 19:24) is but one of many sayings attributed to Jesus that depicts the religion’s values and commitment to social justice.
And so, as Mr. Beck continues his assault on everything, including the teachings of Jesus himself, it is entirely appropriate to ask how the Messiah would fair in Mr. Beck’s Utopian America.