What Would Republican Jesus Do?

So I let Chesya Burke get loose on a post here yesterday on Glenn Beck (which isn’t the first time I let someone run amuck on my blog, as my brother did his “Letter from a Former Black Conservative” not too long ago).  These days I don’t find myself nearly the political animal I once was.  I considered myself a black Republican, though my strong social justice leanings apparently made me the worst Republican ever.

Anyway, to stave off the comments/e-mails (like the ones I received after my How I’m Still Pro-Life and my No Longer Marching to the Pied Dobson pieces), I don’t care about your politics.  Seriously.  To be quite honest, I didn’t even know who Glenn Beck was.  I did used to listen to Rush Limbaugh way back in the day and figured Beck was just another in the line of agent provocateurs of that ilk.  A conservative Republican showman, more court jester to give voice to those who need the rhetoric and someone to provide fodder for The Colbert Report.  Am I missing something?  What gives me pause, as I looked Mr. Beck up, is when someone cloaks themselves in God language in order to bless their politics.

“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.” –Glen Beck

I know, I know religion and politics have been not so strange bedfellows for as long as there have been either.  I know I have attended several churches where being a champion for Jesus meant voting Republican (and I still remember the scathing message left on my Facebook Wall the day after President Obama was elected).  It always troubled me, if for no other reason than it was presented that no Christians could be, dare I say it, a Democrat (or for that matter, even a patriot), until I realized that politics trumps theology in this brand of “Christianity.”

When folks of any stripe wrap themselves in the flag and God, conflating their politics and their Christianity, I get a little antsy.  Politics and religion have different jobs to do and I can only imagine how difficult it must be for a man of faith to navigate political waters.  When people “fear” religion, this is one of the things they’re talking about.  And we’re not even talking about religion in the strictest sense anyway.* This is more about a civil religion–call it “generic Christianity” or “Christianity in name only”–than about the Gospel.  The only thing civil religion does is allow people to be united under the banner of allegiance to the United States of America … under God.

So let’s not confuse a “civil religion” with Jesus flavored rhetoric with a Jesus-shaped Gospel.  There’s a huge difference between an American civil religion/watered down Christianity vs. the kingdom of God.  The American government is not my Lord.  The Republican Party is not my God.  Politics is not my call to worship.  Jesus didn’t die for lower taxes, smaller government, pro-business policies, and an individualistic worldview.  If your religion is to mean anything, then be about the poor, the “least of these”, and then get back to me.  Until then, spare me your rallies and rhetoric.

*Speaking of unlikely bedfellows, the Glen Beck rally provided an interesting confluence of differing religious ideas:  Mormons (Beck) and Evangelicals finding themselves under the same covers (didn’t Glenn Beck even give a commemorative address at Liberty University/Jerry Falwell U) in order to accuse President Obama of being Muslim/having “a perversion of the Gospel”.

Glenn Beck = Honor?

Guest Blog by Chesya Burke

It is estimated that tens of thousands of people attended Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor Rally on August 28th.  While I’m not exactly sure what honor Beck is trying to restore, there are a lot of “people” with whom this movement resonated.  There were thousands and thousands of them fighting for liberty, just as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did forty seven years ago on the same day.  That’s right, ONLY forty seven years ago, scores of blacks and minority people were literally dying in the streets to achieve equal rights.

Beck claims that this day was chosen purely by accident—guess it was divine intervention or something, because he wants his rights restored just like King.  Beck wants to go back to a simpler time, a time when…well, blacks were dying in the streets.  Oh, he masked his message as “honor,” and he pretends that America has lost something that it never quite had in the first place, but make no mistake, Glenn Beck does not fight for injustice of marginalized people, he does not want equality.  Neither do any of the thousands of people who chose to “march” with him.

Of course Glenn Beck, like anyone else, has to right to march anywhere he likes.  The problem is his bizarre assertion to “reclaim the Civil Rights Movement.”  The two movements are not the same, and it’s very telling that Beck is trying to “take back” those whose voices were silenced throughout the history of our country.  In the past, millions of people died on ships and in bondage in order for King to be able to walk the steps of the Memorial and speak about peace.  As Beck suggest, King’s speech wasn’t totally aimed at blacks.  No, instead, it was for “relief” from those in power to accept minorities as equals.  Glenn Beck says the government is too big, but without our government’s interference many Civil Rights laws would not have been enacted.  How does Beck justify this obvious conundrum?

Let’s take a closer look at these thousands of people who willingly marched on a day that others hold sacred (even if these present day marchers don’t). Also, it’s worth noting, that while these people were willing to pay money (and lots of it) to come and demonstrate, there are others, perhaps millions more who couldn’t make it or who hold these and similar views that they have been victimized by some unknown villain.  I say that to provoke an image: imagine every single person with these ideas, everybody, every face, as a step away from the progress that MLK wanted to achieve.  After this, imagine these people will birth new children and those will produce more and so forth and so on.  For every one tower of a person that people of color climb, there are thousands more to tackle, until there is a never ending ladder of stone, cold stairs, never moving, never willing to change or accept difference. Never ending.

Glenn Beck claims to fight for justice and a lost America for all people.  However, in his speech on the Washington Memorial, he said, “recognize your place to the Creator. Realize that He is our King. He is the one who guides and directs our life and protects us.”  Forty seven years after a man named Martin Luther King made history fighting for equal rights, Glenn Beck assures his crowd that there is only one praiseworthy “King.”

Although it was only a passing sentence, Glenn Beck is known for finding associations in many seemingly non-connected things.  So, Beck of all people should understand the importance of his words.  Of course, even this may be dismissed, if there weren’t other racial, underlining messages within these parties.  “We want our country back” is often code for “We want to continue to be the dominate race and we don’t like it if that seems to change.”  The accusation of others not being “Real Americans” means within these parties “only White Americans can be real, because everyone else is “fake” if they don’t act like “I” think they should.”  “We voted for a black man as president, so by God we have to be living in a post racial society,” is code for “minorities should stop making us think about race, they are really the people who won’t let it go,” or “I don’t want to have to think about all the ways that my actions and thoughts oppress others.”

And shall we ask from whom Beck plans to reclaim the Civil Rights Movement?

As a kid, my mother always told me she preferred open bigots to those who hid and didn’t say what they felt.  I never understood this as a child, but it’s perfectly clear now.  You cannot fight what’s hidden.  This is why Glenn Beck preaches his message about peace and honor and harmony.  Because anyone who attacks him, will be attacking these virtuous traits, opposed to his true hurtful message.  Another wonderful thing for Glenn Beck is that he can gather troops for his cause and everyone can pretend that they aren’t against minorities, or gays or women or anything that threatens the status quo.

Like many people, most of the time I don’t want to talk about these issues, I don’t even want to think about them. Nobody does.  It’s easier to ignore them or pretend they don’t affect me or that those people are just ignorant.  But is this best?  Ignore them?  Pretend that it doesn’t matter that little black kids can’t run for president at some unheard of Mississippi school, or that Dr. Laura expounding the “n” word was simply a matter of being misinformed?

In the end, I remind myself that people suffer because of complacency. Sometimes they die. But mostly things never change.