Why the television host’s recent comment betrayed a fundamental misunderstanding of the gospel.
Question: What is your problem with Glenn Beck?
James Martin: Glenn Beck’s comment really betrayed a fundamental understanding of the gospel. Jesus in the 25th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew basically says that the litmus test for how we’re going to be judged at the end of our lives is not what church we pray in, how we pray, even how often we go to church. It’s how we treat the poor. I mean it’s pretty cut and dry. If you want to enter to heaven, treat the poor well. Now social justice is a way of looking at what keeps people poor and as the church in its 2,000 year history has reflected on Jesus’ commandment to serve the poor and love the poor it has realized that we need to look at what keeps them poor. It’s not enough to give someone a handout. It’s important to look at what keeps the people poor, so someone told me the other day the gospel story of the good Samaritan where the guy sees someone by the side of the road who has been beaten and he takes care of him. He brings him back to an inn. He dresses his wounds. He gives him money for staying overnight in the inn. Someone said to me today we’d also be looking at why that road is dangerous. What is it that makes that road dangerous? How can we fix the situations that lead for crime and things like that? So that is what social justice is. It’s basically working for a just society. Now how anybody can be against that is beyond me frankly. He compared people who support social justice to Stalin and Hitler and I just found that frankly, outrageous.
There have been people other than me that have talked about this and he has responded by saying, “Well I didn’t mean this.” “What I meant was this.” “I meant that charity is okay as long as it’s not sponsored by the government.” But once again, how else does the community respond socially other than through governmental policies? You can do things individually. You can do things in church, but I mean we have all sorts of public works in terms of social security and Medicare and Medicaid and public transportation. That, in a sense, is providing for the common good, so I still think he basically just doesn’t like the idea of helping the poor. I think often times this critique of social justice is really just a thinly veiled excuse for not wanting to deal with the poor and a lot of people find the poor as Pope John Paul said, irksome intruders into our comfortable life. But what good is the gospel if it doesn’t disturb you? It’s supposed to disturb you.