Monday, March 15, 2010

Update: Beck's scrambling, facile response; his pseudo-Mormonism; his charitable fellow saints

Joel Campbell at the Mormon Times has an hour-old post on Beck's latest responses to the "social justice" debacle. The Mormon Times seems as yet unaware that Beck has also openly defied LDS church leaders (I strongly support leniency on their part) by instructing his listeners to omit information on their Census forms.

Beck's producer says:
Like most Americans, Glenn strongly supports and believes in 'social justice' when it is defined as 'good Christian charity...Glenn strongly opposes when Rev. Wright and other leaders use 'social justice' as a euphemism for their real intention -- redistribution of wealth.
But here's the problem: Glenn Beck lacks the legitimacy or authority to tell religious organizations, theologians, and rank-and-file church members how to enact their version of a just social order.  It's really that simple.  And the fact that anyone chooses to subsidize his tasteless and unsupported counterproselytization makes the subsidizers worthy of ridicule and contempt.  Churches that practice "social justice" are more concerned that the poor receive help effectively and in ways consistent with various spiritual missions, than whether the agent of change is private or public.  In fact, absent arguments that public aid is less efficient or effective than private aid, the entire notion of a categorical rejection of government-based social programs simply because they are government-based is a profoundly arrogant form of deontology that literally places a label and an ideological slogan between the suffering subject and those wishing to help them.  And that kind of moral abstraction leads to dehumanization, ethical complacency, and ultimately genocide.  Beck and his fellow McCarthyites could instead spend their corporate-subsidized air time laying out the case against the efficiency of public service and the feasibility of more effective private services, but such private infrastructure doesn't exist, and they know this.  So Beck could spend his time actually trying to build private institutions that were completely non-governmental and efficient distributors of goods, but of course he won't.  We've already covered the contradiction upon which his political education rests. 

Scrambling, Beck himself says:
Now, I wasn't aware that God had politics. I would like to again join all of the liberals in suggesting we have a separation of church and state, that maybe there's a problem when your preacher stands up and starts telling you who to vote for, how to vote, and what the government should look like. Now, I know there are churches that do that. I don't attend them. I don't like them. You can do that if you want, but if you want to make sure that God's politics aren't America's politics, you know, that would probably be a good thing to check into those words of those churches. Because I don't think God has politics. I think he has the truth.
This is unconvincing. He would never categorically condemn church leaders making recommendations on policy absent his concern with "leftist" religion.  And Beck himself has come out against the very "church and state" interpretation he now invokes. In fact, questioning that separation is the bread and butter of pundits like him. It also basically contradicts the very political position outlined by his producer. The fact that he's now appealing to the apoliticality of God merely means that most of his original message has been stealthily withdrawn.

What's really happening is that Beck is panicking, knowing he's gone too far. Meanwhile, my Mormon communitarian scholarly friend Russell Fox is ready to laugh at Beck and forgive him. He writes:
But I do feel bad for Beck himself. ... and I say that not just as a believer myself, but also as someone who, in watching clips of the show, keeps feeling that Beck himself, probably like Gritz, seriously needs a hug.
Which is fair enough, I guess, until someone gets an eye poked out, or suffers some other kind of material harm because of this clownish demagogue. Still interested to see if he ends up like Bo Gritz or Sterling Allan. Beck is basically those dudes, except with his own national radio and TV show, which makes it less likely that church authorities will gather the resolve to take him on unless they were convinced he was really hurting the Mormon brand.


Russell Arben Fox said...

Because I don't think God has politics. I think he has the truth.

I could, in a charitable mood, allow that this makes some sort of since; the argument that God transcends "the political" is an argument made by theologians on both the left and the right. But if we read it in context, it's utterly ridiculous. If "politics" includes what he says it includes, then God doesn't have a position on justice, or morality, or really much of anything else.

Mark said...

But here's the problem: Glenn Beck lacks the legitimacy or authority to tell religious organizations, theologians, and rank-and-file church members how to enact their version of a just social order.

True, but he has the authority to tell the members how their money is being spent and what's being done in their name.

matt said...

That's not "authority" he has Mark--it's a media platform. "Authority" implies something more.