US Catholic Faith in Real Life

In defense of social justice

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I laughed when I heard that Glenn Beck said that Christians should leave their churches if they talk of "social justice." I knew that Beck was simply ridiculous, but this just put the nail in the coffin in confirming how irrelevant he is to any real, productive conversation.

In fact, this statement is so silly that I couldn't even think about how to blog about it. "Breaking news: Once Christian nation listens to Glenn Beck, now has 0 Christians." (Sidenote: I don't actually think this is a Christian nation.) The story seems to belong under "odd news."

And yet, some people do listen to Glenn Beck, so Christians of all stripes--including scholars from Beck's own church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka Mormons)--have responded to say that social justice is an essential component to the Christian faith. The New York Times has a good summary of their responses. I personally like Jim Wallis' grouping of Beck with Howard Stern in the ridiculousness category.

But while we have Glenn Beck saying that we should leave the Catholic Church because of our tradition of social justice, we have some liberals saying that the Catholic Church shouldn't qualify as a religion and should have its nonprofit status removed because of our lobbying on abortion and health care reform.

Besides perpetuating factual errors, people like this lack the big picture as much as Glenn Beck does, denying the role of social justice in the church. The Catholic bishops do want health care reform--and the church's on-the-ground experience in health care, deeply rooted in faith, gives them authority to speak on this issue. They might not know it but liberals don't want the Catholic Church to get out of our work on behalf of the poor, which includes advocacy and working for systemic change within government.

The pundits might not understand it, but the important part is that we Catholics understand the fullness of our tradition, which includes the right to and dignity of life from conception to natural death.

Photo by Gage Skidmore from Wiki Commons