Yesterday was Glenn Beck’s big day. His “Restoring Honor” rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial came off without a hitch. At least, I assume it did, I didn’t watch it. I tried, but it made me want to vomit, so I stopped. It’s no secret I don’t care for Beck. I think he’s an arrogant, pompous blowhard who’s only interested in self-promotion and is exploiting the current wave of dissatisfaction in this country to his own benefit. What that benefit is I’m no longer sure. Before today, I thought it was selling books, pimping his TV and radio shows and some general “Look at me!” ego-stroking. Now, I’m not so sure. Along with his co-speaker today, Sarah Palin, Beck is a darling of the Tea Party movement and those people hang on his every word. Lately, he’s been injecting a lot of religious rhetoric into his speaking and a recent CNN article speculated that he’s setting himself up as the new leader of conservative Christians. And, that’s a cause for concern.
It’s not so much about what Beck, himself, might do; it’s about what he brings out us. On her blog today, Karen Zacharias listed a series of Tweets (if you’re unfamiliar with Twitter, read the blog post linked to her name. She explains better than me) about the rally today and they’re not very nice. And, those were the tip of the iceberg; I found worse ones when I looked. Accusations of racism, irresponsibility and unAmericanism were flying hot and heavy from both sides. Why am I worried about what’s being said on something like Twitter? Because it’s indicative of the way polite discourse has gone in the toilet in this country. Used to be, we could agree to disagree on things like politics and religion. Not any more, both topics are a short-cut to an argument and not a friendly one. Conservatives have a chip on their shoulder and liberals think they’re the only ones who care about what’s happening in the world and when the two get together, things turn ugly quickly. Add in some of the good, old-fashioned rabble-rousing a la Beck and things go to hell even faster.
What’s bothering me more than anything else is that, for all Beck’s supposed piety, most of what I hear coming from him doesn’t square with the Christian faith I’m familiar with. To my understanding, as Christians, we are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick and visit the prisoner. And, that we should work to change systems that perpetuate these conditions. These are the basic tenets of social justice and liberation theology, both of which he has intimated as being Christian doctrines perverted by Marxism or socialism. I hate to break to all my conservative Christian friends, but Jesus and the early church had more in common with Marxists and socialists than a hard-core capitalist like Glenn Beck.
So, what do we do about this situation? The honest answer is: I don’t know. Ignoring people like Beck isn’t really an option, that’s what got us where we now. Yet, shouting them down won’t work either; not only is that unAmerican, it’s not Christian. What I do know about this situation is that what we’re doing now isn’t working worth a damn.