Monday, March 15, 2010

Sullivan Defends Beck?

Andrew Sullivan offers a heavily qualified defense of Glenn Beck's pronouncement that Christians should reject their church if it preaches "social justice" or "economic justice."

Money quote:

I have to say I'm going to side a tiny bit with Beck on this matter.

It seems to me that although helping the poor is obviously a critical facet of Jesus' teaching, it is a legitimate matter of debate how to help the poor.

Socialism, for example, clearly does not help the poor: it just makes everyone poorer. It can spring from envy, not charity. It can instill dependency, not self-respect. And charity is not something anyone can delegate to an institution. A state cannot feel love and cannot be redeemed. Only a human being can. Sometimes, an over-weening welfare state can actually remove the capacity of many people to be personally generous by taxing their worldly goods before they have a chance to give them away.

My own view is that there should be a collective and strong safety net for the poor, combined with, for Christians, a very powerful, indeed binding, injunction to give and give generously to others, and to take a personal interest in the needs of others. There's a balance here, in other words, between social justice and statist redistributionism. And while Beck is obviously out of line - the Catholic Church's teachings on social justice could not be further removed from Ayn Rand - I'm suspicious of the dangers of taking the virtue of social justice and turning it into the system of socialism.

Beck's statement is, I think, verifiably false. But the response to Beck has been a little overstated. Saying that Beck is wrong isn't quite the same as saying that free-market ideology is fundamentally un-Christian. I'm certainly not a Biblical scholar, but I think the conservative position on social justice is fully reconcilable with the message of Jesus.

A person can support social justice, while still opposing federal policies that seek to mandate social justice through income redistribution or price controls.

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