Beck’s infusion of religion into civic life

By Becky Garrison Father James Martin, SJ reflects how one can find some underlying Christian reasons for confronting hypocrisy: “Remember … Continued

By Becky Garrison

Father James Martin, SJ reflects how one can find some underlying Christian reasons for confronting hypocrisy: “Remember that Jesus addressed often people who were considered beyond the pale. After all, the Jewish people didn’t exactly consider the Romans to be kindred spirits, and Jesus often took on the Roman authorities. He always did so with charity–but he also didn’t shy away from exposing hypocrisy, cant and lies.”

In that spirit, since Glenn Beck started issuing his critique against social justice, many Christians have offered correctives to Beck’s misinterpretation of this basic tenet of Christian teaching. Unfortunately, Beck lacks the inquisitive curiosity of say Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin who chose to engage with Jesus even though his fellow Pharisees branded Jesus as “the enemy.” (See John 3:1-21) In lieu of exploring what his Mormon faith teaches about this topic, he chose instead to practice a form of McCarthyism by demonizing his opponents.

So how does one confront Beck, Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter and other performance artists who are selling their schtick, without becoming a part of the performance? Beck relies on well-intentioned groups like Faithful America and Sojourners to launch campaigns against him because their anti-Beck advocacy efforts play into his persona as a persecuted American being hunted down by godless Nazis.

Instead of baiting Beck, why not just tune him out? Lest anyone feel that ignoring Beck at this point will only cause him to wreck more havoc, let’s look at the case of Pat Robertson, a man that provided more comedic fodder than any other living televangelist. Notice how after his 2005 assassination faux pas, he’s no longer seen as a relevant player in even the most conservative circles. Similarly, Ann Coulter’s attempt to repackage herself as a gay GOP icon appears to have backfired, and she no longer gets nearly the media coverage she once enjoyed. So, turning off the media spotlight when someone veers from conservative to crazy can prove to be an effective means of bringing the curtain down on this particular sideshow.

After you’ve avoided partaking of any Beck related media, see what you can hear, feel, and taste using your own senses rather than simply regurgitating someone else’s soundbites. Then let’s explore how we can make the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear not just a day long blowout on the National Mall but a mantra for how we conduct ourselves in the public square? What could happen if enough of us will allow the white noise to die down so we can begin to engage our critical thinking skills? Maybe then we can explore our differing political and religious viewpoints sans soundbites.

Like comedian Eddie Izzard, “I believe in us,” and I believe there exists a desire among many Americans to explore what it means to live as citizens in an increasingly pluralistic global society. But do we possess the will to practice what my ancestor the Rev. Roger Williams termed “liberty of conscience,” the idea of uncoerced faith that should be free under God to act on its own without state sanctions?”

That question remains to be answered because so far many Americans seem to be blind to this seeping infusion of civil religion into the political mainstream. In this misguided quest for a tolerant common ground, too often religious leaders forsake their prophetic voice and end up sinking into quicksand. As I noted over at Killing the Buddha, Jeff Sharlet observes in his new book, C Street, that fundamentalism sells, but only if it’s low-class, the purview of sweaty Southern men in too-tight suits pounding pulpits and thumping Bibles. C Street–a distinguished address, an upscale clientele, an internationalist perspective–simply did not register.

And therein lies the real horror story–the populists’ Tea Parties represent easy targets one can attack as a means to enhance one’s political profile and donor base. But what will it take for religious and political voices to unite and demand an end to the National Payer Breakfast and other “Family-friendly” activities that serve up a Capitalist Christ that’s far more deadly than any dish ever concocted by the Fox News team or the former junior senator from Wisconsin?

  • mgardener

    I agree would should have less palin and beck in general, but who will observe and attack the distorted message?

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