Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Will This Finally Convince People to Stop Paying Attention to Glenn Beck

Over the past year or so, Glenn Beck has made some pretty wild accusations and statements, whether declaring President Obama to be a racist, fear-mongering about FEMA concentration camps, or any of a host of other wild and often dangerous claims. Yet people continue to watch his program and listen to his rants (though advertisers continue to flee his program). A few days ago, however, he may have finally taken a step to show people how truly deranged he is and, at least to me, that derangement is dangerous.

On his radio show Beck said this (audio available here):

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!

For the record, I’m a conservative Jew. So I followed Beck’s advice and looked (I knew what I’d find…) at the website of The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and found a whole page on Social Action including a sub-topic of Social Justice that includes such things as climate change, Civility in Public Discourse, Confronting the Common Enemy: Hatred, Dialogue with Presbyterian Clergy, Jewish Community Budget Priorities, Domestic Violence, Heading Off Bias Crimes Before They Occur, Serving Our Seniors, gay marriage, Judaism and Health Care Reform, Organ Donation, and numerous other issues. Ooh. Scary stuff, right? Well, no. Not really. In fact, those positions are things that make me proud to be a Jew and proud of my affiliation.

My synagogue is also affiliated with Reconstructionist Judaism. Guess what? There is a social justice component to Reconstructionist teaching as well (though sadly the website doesn’t have a dedicated social justice page). Similarly, the website for the Union of Reform Judaism also has a whole page devoted to social action that includes, among other things, Heath Care for All, Economic Justice, and Greening Reform Judaism.

Now according to data that I found on Wikipedia (I know, I know…), there are between 5.1 and 6.5 million Jews in America (the lower number does not include children). Apparently, 4.3 million are “strongly connected” to Judaism. Of those, 46% belong to a synagogue and of those who do belong, approximately 71% are affiliated with either the Reform, Conservative, or Reconstructionist movements, all of which have a social justice component. So by my rough math, Beck has told approximately 1.4 million American Jews to leave their respective Jewish affiliations!

If that wasn’t offensive enough, here’s why Beck wants people to disaffiliate from churches that advocate for social justice:

That’s right, social justice led to the gassing of 6 million Jews. At least it did in Glenn Beck’s paranoid, freakazoid, sleazy, world o’ fear. (For the record, Beck was raised Catholic but became a Mormon.)

I’ll leave members of other religions (especially Catholics) to talk about how offensive Beck’s comments are to them; I can’t and won’t speak on their behalf. But for Beck to attack social justice — which is a central focus of much of modern (progressive Judaism) — is so far beyond the pale it is hard to fathom. But to then tie that social justice to Nazism is … well … frankly, I’m at a loss for words on this one.

Tell Fox News that it is time for Beck to go before he manages to incite his own racial, religious, ethnic, or political civil war. Then again, maybe that’s what Fox wants. After all, a good ol’ fashion civil war or even simple race riots or an assassination or two might be good for ratings.

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