Don’t get mad — speak up!

Posted: March 11, 2010 in Uncategorized

There was a point in my life when I regularly listened to talk radio shows on AM stations. Mainly, it was because I worked inside a building that was obviously FM-proof and these AM stations provided the only signal that was clear enough to hear.

But I could only take so much of the constant negativity of these shows. There was just nothing uplifting, nothing prevailing. What was celebrated was often something that was wrong with someone else. The hosts reveled at the misfortune of others, provided that they were on the opposite end of the political spectrum.

A couple of weeks ago, I was flipping through the TV on a Saturday night and I came across what I thought would have really been odd just a few years ago. FOX News was running a “breaking news” alert on a partisan speech at a meeting of conservatives. That’s their business and their news and they do what they want. But, what seemed so odd to me about this situation is that the person giving this speech was one of their own employees — Glenn Beck. I remember that standard I was taught in my journalism days. Journalists aren’t supposed to be the news; they are supposed to cover it.

Glenn Beck resurfaced in my life earlier this week. He advised his audience to run from churches that have “social justice” as even a part of their Web site.

At first, I just thought there those pundits go again, taking shots at the church. But the more I thought about it, I realized that it made me mad. It’s a swipe at the essential meaning of the message that God calls me to preach and proclaim.

Now, I was thinking, how many people would this imperative actually impact? I know that my denomination, the United Methodist Church has a long and outstanding history in the area of social justice. Of course, more could always be done, but I am proud to be associated with a denomination that thinks that way.

The Roman Catholic Church, the largest denomination in the world, openly states it believes in social justice. Numerous other denominations use these very words.

Even the Mormon Church, which Beck is most often associated with, has a group devoted to social justice.

Is Social Justice then, just another code word? Or, is it something more?

In Luke 4, in one of his most famous sermons, Jesus gives us the “talking points” of the Gospel. We are anointed (set apart) by God to preach Good News to the poor (a group that’s often on the receiving end of a lot of kicks from upper classes), to bring freedom for prisoners, to restore sight to the blind, to release the oppressed and to declare this the Year of the Lord.

John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Movement, was preaching social justice when he ministered to the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the death row inmates and everyone else he came in contact with. Wesley and others were preaching social justice when they fought to abolish slavery.

Many, including Martin Luther King Jr., preached social justice when they stood in pulpits, on street corners and anywhere else that they could and declared that segregation is not moral. They changed the world.

A church that opens its doors and creates a soup kitchen to feed the homeless is preaching social justice. A church that sponsors a free clinic is preaching social justice.

A church campaign to bring water to those who desperately need it in Africa is another way of preaching social justice.

Christianity is more than just a personal decision and a lone-ranger approach to faith. It’s about the people of God, members of the Kingdom of God, working together in communities of faith to transform the world. If that’s the social justice you’re running from, exactly what are you running to?

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