Glenn Beck declares War on United Methodists

::update 3/14/2010:: followup posts here (Glenn Beck v. UMC, part deux) and here (Welcome readers! Let's talk about Justice!)

Again, I don't talk partisan politics on this blog (there's plenty of that on the internets for all of us), but sometimes things are just so egregious and misinformed that they bear discussion.

Last week, conservative talk show host Glenn Beck said the following about churches that preach "social 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!"
~ Glenn Beck 03/02/2010
So, church websites with "social justice" huh?  Glenn Beck declares that social justice is a code word for fascism and communism and everything. And people should leave churches that preach it.

If you believe him, then everyone in America better leave the UMC:
The United Methodist Church has a long history of concern for social justice. Its members have often taken forthright positions on controversial issues involving Christian principles. Early Methodists expressed their opposition to the slave trade, to smuggling, and to the cruel treatment of prisoners.
~ UMC Social Principles (original in 1908)
And you'd better dig up John Wesley and flay him (h/t Kevin Watson):
Directly opposite to this is the gospel of Christ. Solitary religion is not to be found there. ‘Holy solitaries’ is a phrase no more consistent with the gospel than holy adulterers. The gospel of Christ knows of no religion, but social; no holiness but social holiness.
John Wesley, “Preface to 1739 Hymns and Sacred Poems”

There is no holiness but social holiness.  Any call to leave a church because of "code words" is laughable, but any call to leave a church because of a commitment to social justice is antithetical to the Gospel and ought be exposed as such.


Anonymous,  March 8, 2010 at 12:22 PM  

preach it Jeremy! Thank God that you are speaking out!

Rev. Jeremiah Thompson

Danny Bixby March 8, 2010 at 12:28 PM  

I also vomited a bit when I saw this Glenn Beck bit linked from @patrolmag today.

Thanks for giving the pushback some more legs, this is absolute garbage that Glenn Beck is pushing and (as you said) is completely antithetical to the Gospel.

Another great piece about it is here:

Rev. Whit R. Martin March 8, 2010 at 2:27 PM  

I dunno, folks. I severely believe that the quote from Wesley is HORRIBLY taken out of context. 'Social Religion' or 'Social Holiness' has nothing to do with the un-Wesleyan tract the Methodists took after Wesley died. I would advise you take a read of William J. Abraham's book, "Waking from Doctrinal Amnesia" ( or even Campbell's "Doctrines and Discipline" for a better understanding of how we Methodists strayed PRETTY far off from what Wesley intended.

Social Holiness is a statement against those who seek to live out the Christian life alone, which we know is erroneous since we are called to be a community. The Trinity Himself is 'relational', corporate. We are to look after one another's needs and live in unity, having 'one mind', the 'mind of Christ', even to do justice and love kindness (Micah 6.8) but the vein in which Beck described 'social justice' is one that is not much different than what communism seeks after (or what he and other's claim Obama is after). The Social Justice movement itself is one that places a 'level playing field' above all else, and sometimes at the expense of the Gospel. Remember, what we see as unjust (having servants and slaves) Christ and Paul did not. We must be careful (and NO, I am not abdicating slavery)

We are called to be holy, as John Oswalt's book is titled and suggests, and to be holy as a people unto God for the transformation of the world. But seriously, don't misquote Wesley and then think that Beck is against social holiness or justice. Let's not forget the importance of 'context,' folks.

Rev. Whit R. Martin

metazai March 8, 2010 at 3:17 PM  

Rev. Martin-

Respectfully, I have to disagree with you on some points. The "Social Justice movement" is a way of thought and behavior does not operate as a uniform group with some kind of shared manifesto delineating ideas such as a "level playing field". Social justice itself can be defined in a multitude of ways, from feeding and clothing the poor to giving away your wealth to showing love and acceptance to the outcast or disreputable, all of which Our Lord heartily endorsed. In advising his audience to live in fear of mere words that, more often than not, used to descrbe the instructions and deeds of Jesus Christ, I fear Beck will do no more than cause others to stumble in their faith by placing his political beliefs over Christianity's message of love, which I believe is best expressed through any literal definition of the term "social justice".

Kevin,  March 8, 2010 at 4:41 PM  

Social Justice is whatever you define it to be. Unfortunately I have run across too many people who equate social justice with the latest Democrat Party platform. By tying social justice to secular politics we insert a dimension into the conversation that simply divides people by their political views. Since I am against gun control, the health care reform bill, higher taxes, cutting defense spending, don't believe in global warming conspiracies, don't support gay marriage then I would be labeled as against social justice. When I hear the phrase "social justice" the hairs go up on the back of my neck because I know I am about to be treated to more Democrat nonsense.

Rev. Jeremy Smith March 8, 2010 at 5:34 PM  

@WhitRMartin, based on your research, are you claiming that John Wesley would not embrace a concept of seeking social justice like we define it in contemporary churches? You seem to define social justice as seeking ultimately a "level playing field" which is a narrow definition...useful for critique in seminary classes, less so to critique practical efforts.

Your parish is in the North Georgia Conference, which has 27 items for "justice" on its website, 7 for "social justice." The term on each page refers to resisting violence, empowering women, seeking ethnic diversity, rural & migrant support, the ministry of the deacon, MLK Jr, and United Methodist Women. Please connect for me how (a) Wesley clearly didn't mean we should be in those ministries, and (b) how all those ministries are about a "level playing field" and thus perhaps "socialism."

Conversation about what Wesley meant by Social Holiness is helpful, but Beck narrowly limits the term "social justice" to socialist propaganda, just as you limit its ideal to a "level playing field." Neither of which, sadly, honors the breadth of social justice work done by churches and agencies in your conference and mine.

Rev. Jeremy Smith March 8, 2010 at 5:34 PM  

@Kevin, it *is* incredible the conflation of church values with politics. I always ask "what do you mean by that word" then reply with my definition to see if there is shared meaning between us. That seems to help conversation and ensure neither party is blinded by propaganda.

Blake Huggins March 8, 2010 at 6:17 PM  

Bonnie majored in SOCIology in undegrad. That must mean she is the antichrist. Who knew?

I don't know what is more disturbing to me -- the fact that someone like Beck spews his nonsense on television or that a good number of folks actually listen to it.

cspogue March 8, 2010 at 9:53 PM  

I wonder sometimes whether it is better to jump on all the stupid things that Glenn Beck et al say on a regular basis or wait until (for instance) someone actually says that they are leaving the UMC because Glenn Beck told them to. Are we giving him more publicity?

Also, he is selling his church short since they sponsor LDS Family Services and do not tell their members to support capital punishment or even to oppose abortion (as two examples). It might be good to ask Glenn whether he supports the ministries of his church. :-)

barking reed March 9, 2010 at 10:00 AM  

Keep it up, hombre. Justice is gonna come, and when it does there are going to be some really surprised people. I'd like to say, "I'd love to see the look on their faces", but it's just too sad.

Anonymous,  March 9, 2010 at 11:59 AM  

I am a life-long Methodist, as was my Mother and 4 generations previous. I believe in the foundations of John Wesley and the principles by which he lived. He called upon the Church to maintain social holiness, meaning we were to be connectional and responsible for each other's moral and spiritual life and growth.

There are a mulitude of issues within the Methodist Church with which I disagree, I am free to do so because I am Methodist, Social Justice is a modern interpretation of Methodism that frankly perverts our doctrine.

Wesley never called upon the governments of the nations to be ruled by His or Methodist principles, he called upon Methodists to do so. Methodist opposed slavery, except those who did not. Methodist supoort gay rights, except for those who do not. Methodists believe governments are required to support the poor, except for those who do not.

The list could go on, but my point is that I can listen to and support the ideas of Glen Beck (not holding his Latter Day Saints Beliefs against him) and still be Methodist, and still enjoy Social Holiness while not supporting the polictical "progressive" movement leading our church into a position of shame locally and globally.

Wesley, a personal hero of mine, wrote and preached of sociall holiness and I still hold these teachings dear.

Billy Gilson, Texas

johnmeunier March 9, 2010 at 1:44 PM  

I think it is possible to condemn Beck for his silly attack on churches that teach social justice while also making the distinction between the concepts "social justice" and "social holiness."

Wesley clearly meant by social holiness the idea that we have to be in connection and relationship with other Christians to be holy. You can't sit in your closet and by holy. You have to be with other people to love them.

Wesley clearly attacked the injustice of slavery and had no love for gambling, greed, or many other social ills. He just did not have those in his sights when he wrote about social holiness.

Of course, all these distinctions are lost on Beck - as much else is.

TLS,  March 9, 2010 at 9:21 PM  

Wesley's understanding of social holiness included acts of piety and service for the common good, not just support for one's spiritual growth.

That is why Wesley established schools and hospitals before building a chapel. That is why John and Charles slogged through the wintery streets of London to deliver coats to the poor and visit prisoners jailed for their debts. That is why Wesley was an abolitionist and why he sought (however ineffectively) to establish relationships with the first nations.

While we may want to semantically divide social holiness and social justice, Wesley clearly did not.

Anonymous,  March 9, 2010 at 10:39 PM  


Wesley called upon us as a connected group to establish hospitals and schools, to give coats to the poor and debtors, oppose slavery and be socially responsible. In his time he did great deeds as a Methodist, never calling upon the government to take our responsibilities and make them national. Wesley would never agree with the modern interpretation of Social Justice. We, as Christians, have abdicated our roles as caretakers of the needy in favor of political remedies that end up benefiting no one.

Billy Gilson, Texas

Rev. Jeremy Smith March 9, 2010 at 10:52 PM  

@Billy, I believe that defining social justice as something coming from the government is a narrow definition. Clearly, John Wesley would not define social holiness in that way, given that the 18th century government was British and overseas and thus unresponsive to local injustice. So to define social justice in those terms, then claim Wesley wouldn't define it that way, is an erroneous comparison.

Rev. Jeremy Smith March 9, 2010 at 10:53 PM  

This conversation revolves around how you define social justice. Is it solely governmental assist, as Billy claims? Is it "leveling the playing ground" as Rev. Martin claims? Is it socialism, as Glenn Beck claims? Is it acts of piety fused with personal spiritual growth, as TLS claims? The narrower the definition, the easier to claim it is irrelevant to the UMC.

So what is social justice anyway? And why are we so eager to limit its definition for an ease of dismissal?

Carolyn March 10, 2010 at 8:34 AM  

I define social justice as the proper response to the Gospel of Christ. Following the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10, Jesus said, "Go and do likewise." That is social justice. If I fail to love my neighbor and care for those who are ignored by society at large, I'm not doing the responsibility part of "responsible grace." I'm saved by God's grace, and if I truly understand that I am saved, I must respond to whomever around me is hurting.

What exactly that looks like varies depending on the situation. What is the need? What are my capabilities or resources for responding? I will not limit social justice to anyone thing or action or attitude or political position. Sometimes social justice is buying a hamburger for a homeless druggie on the corner. Sometimes social justice is giving a hug to a Down Syndrome friend and telling her, "Always remember God loves you and I love you too."

Anonymous,  March 10, 2010 at 8:38 AM  

Jeremy, thanks for a platform for civil discussion of this issue, but respectfully I submit that the local church, not just Methodist, has given up the Wesley tradition.

What we define as Social Justice or Leveling the Playing Field is not a function of government, I believe that Wesley felt it was a function of the Church, indeed our responsibility. I admit, I am a slacker, I don't reach out enough, I don't help others as much as I should, I admit that it is easier to let others do the gritty work, but in the end I know that as a body of believers, that includes others like me, we can make a difference. We can help level the playing field, give people a helping hand and move them from the ranks of the down-trodden to self sufficient members of the community.

My definition of Social Justice is not narrow, it is just not so wide as to assume that I am not a part of the problem, or that I cannot be a part of the solution.

Again thank you for providing your forum.

Billy Gilson, Texas

johnmeunier March 10, 2010 at 10:42 AM  

Maybe this is pedantic, TLS, but folks who study Wesley for a living have corrected me on this issue, so I just pass it along.

Yes, Wesley did establish hospitals and schools and preach about all manner of good works under the name of mercy. These fell into his general rule to do all the good we can to the bodies, minds, and souls of our neighbors.

These works are part of social holiness but they are far from the full extent of it. Social holiness was set against solitary holiness. We cannot be holy unless we are holy with other people - in community with other Christians. Holiness is about more than justice, although it certainly includes justice.

All I am suggesting is that we cannot conflate the term "social justice" and "social holiness" just because they have the word "social" in them.

Wesley was always pretty individualistic in his thinking. Even his attacks on slavery were appeals to individuals to save their souls by getting out of the slave trade and dropping their support for it. He specifically decided not to make an appeal to Parliament on the issue because he thought it would have little effect. He tried to change the social order one person at a time.

We don't have to adopt his approach, but we should not cram him into our frame too quickly or easily.

Rev. Jeremy Smith March 10, 2010 at 2:09 PM  

@johnmeunier, I think it's a mistake to emphasize Wesley's individualism at the cost of communal focus. You reframed his attacks on slavery to be individualistic; likewise, his attacks on alcohol were not primarily motivated by individual holiness, but because the price of the grain went up as more grain was demanded for alcohol production. This negatively impacted the poor's ability to provide for themselves. So, there's an individualistic-looking concern that instead was fueled justice. (I will provide the reference for that later, since we apparently must appeal to Wesleyan authorities for such claims).

Social Justice is part of Social Holiness, just not all of it. We can agree there. Where I cannot agree is that attacks on the contemporary expressions of social justice are not attacks on Social Holiness. I believe they are.

Anonymous,  March 11, 2010 at 11:05 PM  

Interesting conversation. Those who believe Wesley never lobbied politicians for social justice have apparently forgotten that he was one of the primary forces in pushing for prison reform, even going so far as to advocate that prisoners of war be kept in better conditions. He did so because what he saw when visiting prisons convinced him that systemic change was necessary. The modern social justice movement started in much the same way, when those who visited the poor, largely women, realized that the social and political decks were stacked against women and children. They subsequently worked to enact labor laws, prohibition, and suffrage. It seems perfectly Wesleyan to say that social justice is not only pulling bodies from the river, but also walking upstream to see who is chucking them in.

rev jeremy peters

David Hawkins March 11, 2010 at 11:16 PM  

I can't help but ask this question when it comes to Beck's comments on social justice and Christianity:

How many of those who agree with Beck consider the United States of America a Christian Nation?

If this country is not Christian, just a nation, then perhaps there is no governmental obligation towards social justice unless a majority of the populace deems that a priority.

However, if this country is CHRISTIAN, then there are clear obligations and some are rather radical. Turn to the Old Testament covenant and look at concepts such as the year of Jubliee and the prohibition against usury. Heck, Deut. 15:4 says: "There should be no poor among you." And that verse is surrounded by admonitions about how to actually accomplish that with things that sound remarkably like regular and systemic redistribution of wealth. God's a socialist, who knew.

I have heard from many who claim the OT covenant doesn't apply to followers of Jesus. Maybe so, but that doesn't change the fact it was God's preferred plan. It failed not because God was wrong but because the people were stubborn and greedy.

In the end, I could probably accept the stingy view of solitary charity (you give if you feel compelled, but don't try to compel me) if the people who adhere to that belief would simply stop holding up this country as some holy example to the rest of the world. It can't be both ways. If this country is Christian, then it should follow God and Christ's principles when it comes to social justice. If those principles can't be embraced in civic as well as individual practice, then let's drop the pretense of any national spiritual identity.

Anonymous,  March 11, 2010 at 11:17 PM  

Here's a good piece on Wesley's support for prison reform. While there's no mention of Wesley directly lobbying politicians, he publicly supported the nation's foremost reformer, and he was clearly outspoken on the issue. He both called for individual Methodists to do all they could to improve conditions (by giving), and he praised those who worked for and accomplished systemic change.

rev jeremy peters

Anonymous,  March 11, 2010 at 11:21 PM  

Here's a good piece on Wesley and prison reform:

While it doesn't mention Wesley lobbying politicians directly, he was an outspoken supporter of the nation's foremost reformer. He asked individual Methodists to help out through charity, he brought the problem to the attention of the public, and he praised those who worked for systemic change.

rev jeremy peters

Rev. Jeremy Smith March 11, 2010 at 11:37 PM  

@Jeremy, thanks for your (a) parent's choice of a great name and (b) contributions. It is clear that grace is not stagnant, and one cannot offer charity for too long without a desire to seek justice. Your example of Wesley in the prisons is a helpful one!

Anonymous,  March 13, 2010 at 1:02 AM  

Wow Jeremy how convenient for you to leave out Mr. Beck's words between "leave your church?" and "Yes!" He only said "if your church is that of Jeremiah Wright!"

Either you Mr. Smith are blissfully ignorant or deliberately deceiving. Either way you are fostering "False Witness". Shame on you. Recommended reading for you would be the Ten Commandments.
Ray in Springfield Missouri

Here you can actually hear the words of Mr. Beck and not one of them disses Methodists, Baptists, Mormons or Muslims. Are you afraid to listen and reply to the truth?

Anonymous,  March 13, 2010 at 1:10 AM  

I believe this article is taking Mr. Beck out of context. He is referring to the transference of wealth as mandated by a controlling and oppressive government to meet the ends of social justice. Many churches, (perhaps the UMC?) are being co-opted by the progressive movement, pushing for government led social justice all in the name of Jesus. Faith, hope, and charity and giving are a choice, not a mandate. How many clicks does it take to get to a progressive/socialist website from here?

Mark G,  March 13, 2010 at 8:52 AM  

The absolute problem is that the UMC pushes liberal democratic social justice. Not justice in truth as outlined by the bible. A perfect example is Mr Winkler on the UMC staff. THis is exactly why I left the Methodist Church a year ago. The liberal agenda of the UMC made me sick. Prayer, worship, and reaching the lost are what God commands of us. Not ensuring that there are an equal number of ethnic representatives in a particular group. Love without truth and biblical justice is blind.

Anonymous,  March 14, 2010 at 5:18 PM  

Since Jeremy has failed to reply to the post about leaving out the part "if your church is that of Jeremiah Wright" and has created a nw blog part Deux (probably better named part DUH), then i accept that he feels his church is that of Jeremaih Wright and that Beck encouraged him to leave specifically the Methodists. I had not considered it from that perspective. How silly of me. Better run from Jeremy's and Jeremiah's church!!

BrianM March 14, 2010 at 8:24 PM  

Rev. Smith, it's a real shame that you base your take on Mr. Beck's coments on some other blogger's reporting on this rather than ACTUALLY listening to Mr. Beck's show. Maybe you can't bring yourself to do such a thing, but, if this is the case, then I would strongly suggest that you refrain from commenting on the issue. Do your homework, sir, rather than relying on someone else's research. The quotes in your article are hacked-up bits and pieces of the actual words from Mr. Beck. I know because I heard them. But I guess the name of your blog should give an indication of how you are going to approach these kinds of topics. Shame on you, sir. As a servant of God you should be better than this.

Anonymous,  March 14, 2010 at 8:49 PM  

Wow, I am shocked that this tripe is linked to the UMC website! I was listening to the Glenn Beck show when he was talking about social justice and what you wrote is NOT what he said.

As you perverted what he said, I guess I should not be shocked that you also perverted what Jesus said. Jesus never suggested that it was the responsibility of the Romans to raise taxes and use the money to care for the poor. What he demanded was that people care for one another, not because they are made to, but because they want to. What you are suggesting by your stance on social justice is that Jesus was wrong and you know better. Best of luck with that.

Blake Huggins March 14, 2010 at 8:49 PM  

BrianM -- I took the time to watch this particular episode since it caused such a stir and I've seen enough of Beck's drivel on accident in the past to gather his MO.

I don't find this to be a misrepresentation at all. In fact, I think you'd be hard-pressed to argue that it is.

Blake Huggins March 14, 2010 at 8:54 PM  

Sorry, that should have been listened rather than watched. All this started on his radio program.

Rev. Jeremy Smith March 14, 2010 at 9:08 PM  

In the follow-up post (Part Deux), Beck gives a similar argument and I transcribed the quote myself. You are welcome to claim source errancy on this post, but unfortunately Beck's follow-up is without source errancy and he expresses the exact same sentiment.

Without critiquing the content, I'm afraid all you achieve is an obscuring of the issue: Glenn Beck claims that social justice is the equivalent to social welfare (a top-down handout) and is a perversion of the Gospel. On both counts, Beck is incorrect. Social justice is not merely social welfare, and social justice is found throughout the Gospels and in every incarnation of the Christian church...including Beck's and including yours.

David Anderson,  March 15, 2010 at 9:56 AM  

Social Justice, as I see it applied most often today, is Socialism. Pure and simple. The Church (all denominations) should be opposing this at every step. Jim Wallis is twisting the teachings of Christ to push a political agenda, a socialist agenda.

Chad Holtz March 15, 2010 at 9:58 AM  

First time commenter here but I'll have to make it a habit :)

I'm a UMC student pastor at Duke Divinity. I'm glad you and others are speaking up about this. I just weighed in myself, asking some questions that I feel are being overlooked.
grace and peace,

Anonymous,  March 15, 2010 at 12:11 PM  

"Social justice": Code words for wealth redistribution and social engineering, to the end of rewarding laziness, inability, and immorality, at the expense of others with opposite qualities.

Chad Holtz March 15, 2010 at 12:14 PM  


I wouldn't want my name associated with such an ignorant view, either.

Anonymous,  March 15, 2010 at 2:32 PM  

Glenn is Glenn. But, he does have a point. Our "social justice" is really code for "we support Democrats."

Social justice means borrowing and wasting trillions of dollars.

Social justice leave people in poverty.

So.....preach it, Glenn!

Anonymous,  March 15, 2010 at 2:51 PM  

Well...Glenn is an entertainer.

But, he does bring up some valid points. Social Justice is often code for "support the Demoncrats."

The proof is in the pudding, UM friends! 40 years of pushing social justice and our church has lost millions of members and on the brink of financial bankruptcy.

David N. Field,  March 16, 2010 at 4:53 AM  

I am member of the UMC in Switzerland although originally from South Africa - as I have read through this blog my first reaction has been how myopic - how American centred as if the participants have forgotten that the UMC is a global church. Many of the participants look at the issues through the spectacles of the US two party political and religious systems. Liberal - against conservative (Democrat - Republican) as if these are the only two options. For most Europeans the Democrats are rather conservative. Simply put to have a passion for social justice or to see it as integral to Christian faith does not make one a liberal. To give a simple example from a hot issue in the US - abortion. Abortion is a social justice issue. The issue is what does justice demand in this case. Both conservatives and liberal are engaged in a political struggle to have their agenda implemented through the political and legal system. They have different understandings of what justice requires.
But more to the central point. It would be anachronistic to equate Wesley's social holiness with social justice - but a careful reading of Wesley will show that what he understood by holiness involved the pursuit of social justice. It is worth quoting what he actually wrote:
The gospel of Christ knows of no religion, but social; no holiness but social holiness. "Faith working by love" is the length and breadth and depth and height of Christian perfection. "This commandment have we from Christ, that he who loves God, love his brother also;" and that we manifest our love "by doing good unto all men; especially to them that are of the household of faith." And in truth, whosoever loveth his brethren, not in word only, but as Christ loved him, cannot but be "zealous of good works." He feels in his soul a burning, restless desire of spending and being spent for them. "My Father," will he say, "worketh hitherto, and I work." And at all possible opportunities he is, like his Master, "going about doing good." (The gospel of Christ knows of no religion, but social; no holiness but social holiness. "Faith working by love" is the length and breadth and depth and height of Christian perfection. "This commandment have we from Christ, that he who loves God, love his brother also;" and that we manifest our love "by doing good unto all men; especially to them that are of the household of faith." And in truth, whosoever loveth his brethren, not in word only, but as Christ loved him, cannot but be "zealous of good works." He feels in his soul a burning, restless desire of spending and being spent for them. "My Father," will he say, "worketh hitherto, and I work." And at all possible opportunities he is, like his Master, "going about doing good." (The Works of John Wesley, Bicentennial Edition Vol. 7, Nashville: Abingdon)

This is not about merely about living ones Christian life within the context of the community of the church. It is about active engagement to meet the needs of others. For Wesley that it included involvement of the church in what we would call social welfare. But it also included the struggle for social justice. This is clearly seen in his opposition to slavery (an extremely controversial issues in his day) Read his "Thoughts on Slavery" he also sought to promote government intervention and increased taxation to help deal with poverty. Read his "Thoughts on the Present Scarcity of Provisions". For Wesley holiness at its core was loving God and Loving ones neighbours and enemies. Such love drives one to work actively for the benefit of others this includes what we would call social justice. The failure of Methodism has been its failure to follow Wesley in this area. One need only look at the way slavery and racism was tolerated in US Methodism.

Chad Holtz March 16, 2010 at 5:50 AM  


Great comment. All that is very true.

I don't think we can ever overestimate the impact toleration of slavery and segregation had for US Methodism. While it helped us grow in number during the 19th and early 20th century it took us far off the path from our roots and we have been trying to catch up ever since (much to the chagrin of many descendants of those who think things were just fine "back in the day.")

Anonymous,  March 16, 2010 at 7:57 AM  

I have been a Methodist all my life. I love and support my church. I also find Christ through work with volunteers in mission.

I also own a gun, drive a gas guzzling truck, belive global warming is a hoax, believe Obama is destroying the U.S. economy, don't support gay marriage, and support the U.S. military.

While the practices of social justice may have ended slavery and gave the birth of the civil rights movement, the last 40 years of United Methodist-style social justice has led to the membership and financial colapse of our Denomination.

Glenn is right on.

Anonymous,  March 16, 2010 at 9:03 AM  

"[A]ny call to leave a church because of a commitment to social justice is antithetical to the Gospel and ought be exposed as such." For this proposition the author cites John Wesley and the UMC Social Principles, but not, ironically, the Gospel itself. Is this perhaps what Glenn Beck is talking about?

Rev. Jeremy Smith March 16, 2010 at 9:25 AM  

One of the joys of the internet is that a blog is a niche authority, meaning that people read it for its perspective on one slice of a multi-faceted issue like social justice. I don't have to re-write what others have written or re-cite the verses others have cited. In the follow-up post, I link to several others who have extensive citations that will help your yearning for scriptural support.

Anonymous,  March 16, 2010 at 8:02 PM  

I listen to Beck and I heard the show in question. He was not attacking the UMC. While we all have a christian duty to help one another in need, it is not the resonsiblity of the state nor the church to tell you to do so. God's greatest gift to us all was choice.

Anonymous,  March 16, 2010 at 9:13 PM  

I am a life long member of the Methodist Church, and recently read Hitler's Mine Kampf to try and understand how a man can use words to creat evil, and Social Justice was used by Hitler and the Nazi's to help to pursuade millions of people, ( Even millions of Americans) to support their fascist and evil actions. We all know what the result was. So words do count, and unfortunately for the Methodist Church, Social Justice has come to be the calling card of many groups and people who use the words to hide their true objective to take people's liberties. The Methodist Church needs to drop this language.

pastorbecca March 16, 2010 at 9:51 PM  

Alright, I'm going to just throw this out there.

I don't think social justice = socialism.

BUT, if it did, if we were talking about churches that preached, say, that property should be held in common, that those who have possessions should sell them and distribute the proceeds to anyone in need, that no one within the community should be in need, because landowners would sell their property and lay it at the feet of those charged with fair distribution, even, dare I say it, suggest that those whose greed and self-serving desires cause them to withhold their wealth from the beloved community may find unfortunate consequences for that, causing at the very least a death of self and ostracizing from the community... should we run from a church that preaches that?

It sounds like outright travesty to me! It also sounds a whole lot like chapters 2, 4, and 5 of the book of Acts.


Anonymous,  March 17, 2010 at 12:02 AM  

Jeremy, this is a great discussion! I'll admit, I didn't read ALL the comments, so I don't know if this has been said already....But there are those out there who are actually thanking Glenn Beck for his ridiculous comments - because it seems to be stirring a response, which hopefully will become a movement, within the church universal to stand up for justice. As the chair of my local congregation's "Church & Society" committee, which we have aptly renamed "Advocates for Justice and Peace," I'm proud to say my local church and my denomination have a long history of supporting the biblical call to justice. (And whether you use the term "social justice" or not - justice is always a social issue - and justice is clearly a high priority for Yahweh and Jesus.) We just finished a study on Bill McElvany's book, "Becoming a Justice Seeking Congregation." It is a GREAT tool for congregations looking for practical ways to move from simple charity (which is not a bad thing, just not enough) to doing acts of justice. No political party or ideology has a strangle-hold on what justice is or how to get it right every time. That's why we need the church to be involved as a catalyst for freedom and human and civil rights (that whole "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done ON EARTH as it is in heaven" thing). But the fact remains that government and politics affect our lives in tremendous ways - sometimes as a force for good, sometimes as a force of oppression. As McElvaney puts it, "Public policy decisions impact our lives in so many important ways from health care to educational priorities, human rights, religious freedom, taking care of the infrastructure of highways and bridges. How then, can we as Christians not be involved in the public arena?"

It's a really great book! I highly recommend it for anyone who takes seriously Jesus' mission to "bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour."

Becky Walker

Joel Zimmerman March 17, 2010 at 12:36 AM  

Not that #47 warrants a response, but I can't help it. I recently read the Bible, and continue to use that book to understand how I should live my life. It uses language about love for neighbors, helping the poor, etc. I think the United Methodist Church also uses that text in its mission. But to use absurd babble to 'continue' the conversation, perhaps we can have a discussion on how far an African swallow can fly with a coconut. As long as we're quoting random people, "Won't you be my neighbor?" - Mr. Fred Rogers (I ask this question because you are my neighbor and I'm called to love you no matter what, and I will. Some may call that social for those not cared for.)

SusanHunt,  March 17, 2010 at 11:56 AM  

To look at this from another angle, what economic system *does* the Bible advocate? I don't believe it is Capitalism.

Anonymous,  March 17, 2010 at 12:43 PM  

From "pastorbecca"

"should we run from a church that preaches that? "

If a church preaches that we should do all those things via government mandate, then YES!!! We *should* run from that church.

There's nothing charitable or Christlike about "giving" when it's done by threat of fines and/or imprisonment.

Mona,  March 17, 2010 at 8:51 PM  

#47 is spot on! And Godwin's law is just more politically correct BS. I, too, have read Mein Kampf as well as studying literature of the Holocaust, War and Peace and Doctor Zhavago. (yes, I know that the latter 2 are fiction, but they give us a view into the mindset of the time.) Unless we study the past we will fall into the same old traps. Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Chavez all used the same "Social Justice" rhetoric we are hearing today.
If I choose to give, I am free to do so. Last year I was on mission trips for 4 weeks out of the year and worked to raise thousands of dollars, but if the government "made" me. There is no way! I give from my heart freely, not because I am forced at the threat of prosecution.

Anonymous,  March 17, 2010 at 10:35 PM  

I didn't feel like making an account so please forgive my not having an identity.

Perhaps we should read the Bible, quit depending on people for guidance, and ask God what he wants us to do. Through his spirit, we should get the guidance we need. This type of debating is why the secular world is turning their back on the Church. By the way, as a whole for the US, how are the numbers going? You people make me sick.

Anonymous,  March 18, 2010 at 10:19 AM  

I also listened to the radio that day. I don't usually care for or listen to Glenn Beck, not because of political stance, but because of his style and the time he is on. I find it troubling that this blog starts without stating the whole truth about what Glenn said. He never said that he was against social justice, only that he was against what many on the left refer to as social justice. He cited as an example Rev Jeremiah Wright. As I was reading the blogs above I noticed that many were referring to John Wesley and his involvement in social issues (social justice issues) as the authority in such matters. Just an observation, John Wesley is a fallable human too. We ought to be turning to the Bible for guidance. One post cited the passage from Acts 2,4, and 5. I have considered that passage also, but the government was not involved, nor were those who sold their possessions compelled, or even asked to. They responded as a matter of their personal choice. Reading from Acts 5: 4, Peter tells Ananias, "While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived thes deed in your heart? Yo have not lied to men, but to God." ASB) The sin was lying to God, not holding back a portion of the proceeds. The Bible also says God loves a CHEERFUL giver.
After 28 years as a United Methodist pastor I can testify to the far-left leaning ideology that is spewed from the General Board of Church and Society, and from many of the seminary professors training our clergy. Other agencies are more focused on the work of the church, to inspire and encourage faith that will issue in works of love and compassion which are done in the name of a loving God rather that an intentionally godless state.

Matt Algren March 18, 2010 at 11:23 PM  

I'm fascinated by the stark difference between comments by people who identify themselves and comments by people who choose to remain anonymous.

I don't know why it surprises me; it's been that way since forever.

Mike Q.,  March 19, 2010 at 9:59 AM  

Well I won't remain anonymous. I am fascinated and disappointed at the same time that so many mainline denominations have become so political. STOP trying to push health care through. STOP trying to get gay marriage legal. STOP calling illegal immigrants "undocumented." STOP marching for abortion rights.

In stead START living like Jesus did. If you want to really make a difference for young, pregnant women, help them pay for the birth of their child and help them find a home for him or her. Christian doctors: START helping people who need help. START helping immigrants get their citizenship the proper and legal way. START responsibly teaching people Biblical truths in an educated manner and we will make a difference.

Why did I post this here? I feel it ties in with why Glen Beck said what he said about social justice. When I see it used by the UMC, it is political. I am tired of the church trying to use the government to change life in America. STOP trying to use the government and START doing something as the church.

Rev. Dr. Frederick M. Monk March 19, 2010 at 10:35 AM  

I must be Anonymous #2, posting #56, if I cn find a way to identify myself... I co pletely agree with the other Anonymous, it is about time the church start doing the things Jesus expects us to be doing. Spiritual growth is not measured in degree of commitment to social activisim, but love for God and for His creatures. I am tired of the alliance the upper echelons of the church have with liberal political causes, using the name of the church where the grass roots is largely in disagreement with that agenda. The people I have served with in the churches over the past 28 years have almost uniformly been conservative in both theology and politics. They are distrustful of the higher leadership BECAUSE of statements that come from the General Agencies and the Council of Bishops. I share their frustration!
One other observation, the growing churches strongly tend to be conservative, and actively engaged in ministry to the local community. They don't need to rent space to pay bills!
OK, now I'm venting. Sorry! But the frustration of a declining church can be found in the departure by the leadership from core Biblical values.

Methodist in Chile,  March 19, 2010 at 5:18 PM  

Quite a debate!
I'll add a thought from the hymn: "The Church's One Foundation" set to music by Samuel S Wesley in 1864:

Though with a scornful wonder we see her sore oppressed,
by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed
yet saints their watch are keeping, their cry goes up, "How long?"
and soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song!

... O happy ones and holy! Lord give us grace that we,
like them, the meek and lowly, on high may swell with Thee.

Open hearts, open minds, open doors.

Anonymous,  March 19, 2010 at 6:23 PM  

Great discussion. Everyone. One theological aspect left out is the tsedaqah u mispat words in the Old Testament. They are translated to mean righteousness and justice and used many times (Isaiah 9.7; Jeremiah 9.24; Psalms 33.5. The concept of justice is present in the very character of God (Psalm 33.5, Ps. 37.38, Ps. 99.4, Isaiah 61.8), and its not about an individualistic inner experience alone. I heartily recommend a great book BRING FORTH JUSTICE by Scott Waldron which gets at the heart of these two words which travel as a pair.
The two refer to something central to the heart of God, and the word social justice, or social holiness go in the direction of what is meant. Social well being is a part of especially what is meant by tsedaqah, and in my studies I came up with a definition of "ecology of social wellbeing." God is and has a view, an expectation, a vision, and it is not to be neglected, and it does include an order of social wellbeing.
Beck is playing fast and loose to create fear, and he is attacking as Jim Wallis says all the Christian churches in this call. He has now threatened to ruin Jim (Sojourners Community, editor of Sojourners) for callling him out on his call to leave the churches with this in their life, with a call to leave Glenn Beck.
God has an intention for government (Romans 13), God has an intention for community life, and while it does not equate to "social justice" as a front for something else, nowhere is Beck responding to the Biblical call for change, and a just order, which others would say was Jesus most important teaching "Basileia" or the Reign of God.
As a missionary in Brazil for about a decade, the Brazilian Methodists sang about this inseparable dynamic of social/spiritual can't be divided, prayer and action for our human family are inseparable, you can't eliminate one with out eliminating the other.
I agree with one of the comments, that we are not listening to the world in our political fear mongering extremist bickering. Obama is a centrist, not a socialist, nor a communist. In fact he has shored up the capitalist system and the world sees that. The very fact that Beck pulled out both a swastika and a communist symbol shows a small, unbelievably naive and uneducated mind. He has no idea of the breadth of discussion of both socialism and communism that exists in other parts of the world. He needs an education before he tries to educate either in economics, fascism, or social justice.
Beck is a fear monger, uneducated, untraveled. A debate between he and Jim Wallis would be a great education for the country, if he (Beck) would permit it. Beck tends to hide behind words himself, and refuse to define so as to attack the current president and administration.
The bottom line for all of this discussion is what does the LORD GOD want. We know. Beck knows. It's clear as a bell. It is social justice and a world of abundance, for all. And it is very clear that there will be a judgment on the basis of how we care for our fellow human beings, and whether or not we as nations and individuals are working for tsedaqah u mispat, the Reign of God (Matthew 25:31-46).

Steve Cain
Trinity UMC
Fort Wayne, Indiana

Anonymous,  March 20, 2010 at 6:56 AM  

I come from generations of Methodist Ministers in my family in Ohio, PA, CA, and NC. They always wanted to help others in need.
I do not agree with Glen Beck. He is an evil man that wants to brain wash people who are willing to agree with a lunatic. Sorry. Fox news is out of control.
God Bless you all. Remember the Methodist Church is here to help people.

Anonymous,  March 20, 2010 at 7:19 AM  

Unfortunately, a lot of folks in this country embrace this new McCarthyism and extreme right wing fear's sad. That stuff is everything Christ is not. Jesus didn't need to scare and control people.

Anonymous,  March 20, 2010 at 9:25 PM  

I am interested in the question of why we have become a punditocracy, that is we are seeing the pundits wield such power, seemingly more power than in other eras. Here's my initial thoughts:
1. Largescale distrust of government---JFK, MLK, RFK assassinations never fully dealt with. Even the 9/11 accounts are really wierd and suspect to a lot of people. Seems that there are some secrets we just won't know about for a while.
2. 8 plus years of Bush rule...with its secrecy, lies or errors, betrayal of US values, pandering to the rich, leaving a diminished and downtrodden middle class;
3. White angst at immigration issues as we hurtgle toward a Hispanic plurality by 2057.
4. White angst/racism at a black president; I personally am excited about an intelligent multicultural, multilingual president; I voted for Obama and have no regrets at this point;
5. remorse over the failure of compassionate conservatism and the reneging of the Republicans on their own values as many were misled and left high and dry by the 8 years of Bush II.
6. Fundamentalism-Republican/Political on Right (M.Marty-fundamentalism=a retrieval of tradition for the purposes of survival);
7. Lack of a William BUckley for taming and reining in the extreme right;
8. Not having learned our lessons from Vietnam, we enter another war, based on more untruth, and there seems to be a culture of untruth being created (I Corinthians 13.6); actually a culture that enjoys drama, verbal fights and verbal violence;
9. 9/11 causing the baser instincts of the USA to become more prounounced as we let fear dominate. ??

What do others think? Really interested that spiritual and intellectual lightweights like Beck and Limbaugh can have such an influence.


Mike Q,  March 22, 2010 at 10:08 AM  

Much of this discussion is why people are leaving the mainline denominations in droves. They are tired of double talk. The are tired of people who want the government to play Robin Hood. And the mainline denominations need to get off the bandwagon. If you want to take a responsible look at Acts Chapter 2 you will see that they made a choice to share everything they had. I think it is the right choice, but it wasn't mandated by the government.

Jesus didn't fight for the government to ban cheating, lying, stealing, fornicating, He wanted us to live our lives without those things.

Why is the liberal UMC trying to cram its agenda down our throats? The churches that are really changing peoples' live are not the churches with seven levels of bureaucracy. They are the churches that don't spout off with their agenda, they simply do what is necessary.

"Feed My sheep" was the command. It wasn't "spend all kinds of time lobbying congress and developing committees." Jesus didn't say, "Develop a social policy, vote on it at Annual Conference, hire 5 people to oversee the office, commission a Board of Church and Society, and then raise everyone's apportionments to pay for all these positions.

There is a reason people are leaving the UMC. They won't leave because Glen told them to. If you turn the social agenda into a Biblical one, it might not be too late to turn the train around. And for those of you chomping at the bit to reach into your screens and hit me, save this comment on your computers and see if I'm right in 2 years - or even 6 months.

Anonymous,  March 22, 2010 at 9:11 PM  

Billy Gilson, Texas

I agree with you and now want to leave the UMC for their positions and actions. How can I be with a denomination that supports socialism, IE this health care bill with Nance Pelosi?

Anonymous,  March 22, 2010 at 9:18 PM  

rev jeremy peters

acting on changing prisons is very different than taking from one person, by force, to give to another. that is what socialism is, force, with badges and guns.

this is about force vs. free will. are you about forcing someone to doing something or persuasion?


Anonymous,  March 22, 2010 at 9:28 PM  

Social Justice, is Socialism in the present term. Socialism is force, force is wrong. Communism is force and also wrong.

The Church is taking us down the wrong path and not where Christ would lead us. It is too cozy with the UN and redistribution of wealth (Global Warming) schemes. I have made up my mind to leave and start looking for a new home.


Anonymous,  March 25, 2010 at 11:44 AM  

The late Brazilian Archbishop Dom Helder Camara famously summed it up: “When I feed the poor, they call me a saint,” he said. “But when I ask why the poor are hungry, they call me a communist.” Both charity and justice are essential principles that must coexist together, not as competing claims on our conscience. When confronted with the moral scandals of poverty, war, and racism, Christians are called to ask “why” and set about building something more equitable and humane.
As for the antics of Mr. Beck, most Christians will be sticking with their church and tuning him out.
John Gehring is the Director of Communications for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.

Dean,  March 28, 2010 at 4:15 PM  

Great discussion.

I think that Mr. Beck has it right: social justice should be taught and practiced by the church, but not through the government.

There is nothing charitable or spiritual in the government. There are countless examples of fraud, waste, and dishonesty. This is just a fact of history. Political leaders are not spiritual leaders, they will take what they want for their purposes first.

I grew up in the Methodist Church and appreciate the values that I learned and the fellowship that I shared. There are many Methodist churches where the preaching of social justice and gun control are avoided because that would violate the conservative beliefs of the local congregation. They go along to get along, but I left the UMC and will not return as long as these government-enforced activities are part of the official policy of the church.

The fact is that the unintended consequences of these policies are destructive, they always have been and always will be. They create evil.

Jim H.,  March 29, 2010 at 12:56 PM  

Mike Q., you are right on and I couldn't have said it better. Our country is divided. Considering the drop in membership of the UMC we need to be aware that we are alienating about half of our members.

Anonymous,  April 16, 2010 at 3:59 PM  

You people are idiots. Maybe you should listen or read Beck's comments in the context that they were meant. He did not attack the UMC or any other church, he was attacking pseudo-churches who preach redistributionism and marxism under the guise of "social justice". Beck donates a ton of money to many different charities - more than likely, he donates a much higher income percentage then most of the people reading this rag. Instead of leading people away from God, he is trying to make people aware of churches who are not God-centered, so in reality he is trying to pull the scales from the eyes of church-goers who are being duped by marxist preachers (like Rev. Wright or Rev. Wallis for examples). He did not say not to give to the poor, on the contrary he says to give until it hurts. But, people should give of their own free will as the good Lord intended. They should not be forced at the point of a gun to give. I do not think that anywhere in the Bible God explained that we should consider giving to the government as giving to charity.

Sharon Campbell,  April 30, 2010 at 2:37 PM  

I am an United Methodist and I side with Glenn Beck. The church should not play partisan politics. Siding with one of the two major political parties will split the church. I doubt that anyone left because of what Glenn Beck said, but I believe that Nancy Pelosi's mention of the United Methodist Church immediately prior to calling for a vote on the very controversial health care bill did cause a significant number of conservative and moderate Methodists to leave or at least consider leaving. If you continue to use your position to promote the Democrat Party, you will have only Democrat members.

Anonymous,  July 29, 2010 at 2:20 PM  

I left the Methodist Church almost two years ago for two reasons. One, the extreme lack of preaching the Gospel. More often than not, our minister quoted some philosopher on what they thought people should be. I wanted to hear bible preaching, not Eckhart Tolle or some such. Second, I left because of the injection of politics and what we should be doing as a church with no emphasis on me as an individual. The church doesn't save. Good works don't save. God's grace and giving your heart to Jesus saves. It doesn't matter a whit what anyone does to rebuild New Orleans.

Anonymous,  August 19, 2010 at 9:20 AM  

Sorry, but Beck is correct. As a United Methodist member, this “social justice” tripe disgusts me to the point that I have left the church.

The UM Social Principles creed is seemingly ambiguous and harmless enough at face value until reading a little further into the proclamations. At SP 163, The Economic Community, we begin to get a very clear understanding of exactly what the UM church is truly about:

“We support measures that would reduce the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. We further support efforts to revise tax structures and to eliminate governmental support programs that now benefit the wealthy at the expense of other persons.”

Folks, that is 100% pure communism and that is blatantly evil. Given that the UM’s boast of “open doors”, I would definitely run for the nearest one.

Anonymous,  August 28, 2010 at 3:42 PM  

This is why I don't attend church services anymore. I am so sick of going to church and having politics rammed down my throat. I don't remember anywhere in the Bible that Jesus commanded us to discuss politcs. My politics are just that ..........MINE!!! I don't need a preacher OR a radio host telling me what to do or believe. I am intelligent enough to decide on my own. If something is bothering me and I am having trouble deciding which way is right I GET DOWN ON MY KNEES AND PRAY. Now that is what we were commanded to do. I dont want or need loud mouth radio hosts spewing hate or preachers who feel obligated to tell me how to vote to run my life. People WAKE UP!! God gave you the Holy Spirit and a good brain to take care of business and do whats right. Stay out of all of this arguing.No matter which side you are on you are not helping to lead anyone to Christ. You are not feeding one hungry child. You are not helping one sick person. You are not helping one lonely senior. Gods people nedd to be just that GODS PEOPLE. Not the worlds.

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