Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Glenn Beck Rant

OK.  I haven’t done this for a while, but I have to do it.  Every time I visit my dad, he is watching Fox News.  He watches it all day long.  He assures me that Glenn Beck is a brilliant guy, he assures me that it is the only balanced news on tv.  I still didn’t really give it a try.  I have been busy and really don’t have the time to dive into politics. 

But because everyone got so crazy this week about health care, I decided to spend a little time on the news.  I watched a balance of CNN, FOXnews and of course checked in on the Colbert Report and Daily Show.  The news has been very entertaining.  Conservatives are super upset and liberals are gloating and celebrating.  Both of the displays are equally nauseating to me.  But it is a big display of morbid curiosity. 

Anyway, since I have been watching a little more news than usual, I checked into Glenn Beck.  I had heard and blogged about his statements a couple of weeks ago telling people to avoid churches who were supportive of social justice.  What I expected from watching Beck was to be surprised that he is more balanced and less manic than most people paint him out to be.  I expected him to be more grounded in reality and to make some good arguments.

The first thing I saw the other day was that he was clearing up his statements about social justice in churches.  Beck said “here is my definition of social justice…” and flipped a chalk board to show what he calls social justice.  His definition of social justice was that that government would forcibly take money away from citizens to give it to others.  This was more balanced than what I expected.  Personally I don’t think that churches should be preaching about politics and what the government should or should not do.  I don’t think that a church should tell me to say the pledge, sing the national anthem, or who to vote for.  I don’t think that a church should tell me where the president should stand on issues.  I don’t want that in a church.  I know that my dad and millions of others would disagree with this statement.. but I really don’t believe that what our government does is important enough to waste the church’s time.  It is pretty much futile.  The only possible exceptions being when lives hang in the balance in the case of war and abortion. 

Beck shouted that Jesus never told us what to do in relation to the government except to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.”  Of course this is not true, but people who thrive on hyperbole don’t fact check big statements anyway.  When Jesus said “go the extra mile” He was talking about when a Roman soldier would ask you to carry their pack of gear for them, you were legally required to carry it for one mile, but Jesus was saying, “carry it an extra mile.”  This was directly related to the government with which I am sure Jesus and most of the Jewish people of His time disagreed with. 

Why might Jesus say something like this?  Quite possibly because the difference between Jew and Roman in that day, though HUGE in the eyes of those cultures at those times, was small in the eyes of Jesus.  Jesus was saying that when you have the opportunity to show grace, peace, to GO THE EXTRA MILE.  Was this a mandate or a law from Jesus?  No.  Does this justify the Health Care Reform Bill?  No.  I can only indirectly support or refute the health bill with scripture.  And, FYI I could easily indirectly support AND refute it easily with scripture. 

I am digressing a bit from my original Beck rant here and will get back to it in a second, but… in my humble and private opinion, though this is one of the first laws of my lifetime that actually will affect my life a little bit… it is not that big of a deal to me and won’t affect my life personally that much. 

Now, I can see the argument that some are making about how government should be smaller and shouldn’t tell me what kind of health care I should get.  I can see the argument that even though the congressional budget office says that this will only save the American people about 100 billion over a decade at most, that it will probably cost a lot more than what we are estimating and will cost a lot.  The price tag is almost a trillion dollars, and I really think that is not going to be recouped easily.  I can see the argument that we may be strapping more debt on our kids.  All of those arguments are well founded in reality and in history.  I share those same concerns. 

But what is Glenn Beck doing?  Is he using those same arguments?  No, he’s taking it further.  He is saying that we are moving toward socialism, marxism, communism, and nazi-ism.  Of course, anytime the government regulates anything, you can argue that we are inching toward socialism.  There is nothing wrong with that argument.  I personally don’t think that the government should be able to tell me to wear a seat belt or a motorcycle helmet, BUT I am fine with the government telling me that I should reasonably protect my kids when I transport them.  Is having the government regulate whether I endanger my kids, a step toward socialism?  Maybe it is.  But I welcome the government protecting children from parents who might get them killed. 

At some point the United States had to make decisions that if we were to have order in our society and prevent people from stealing at will we would have to have a group of people to protect the rights of the citizens.  Government had to decide what rights to protect and to what extent it could go to protect them.  Is this a step toward socialism?  Maybe, but I think we need the police.   I think that America would be a country of total anarchy without police.  We went as far as to get an FBI, a CIA and many other organizations funded by the people to protect the rights of the people.  The genius of the USA was that these things are created and overseen by a representative government.  This, of course is far different than many countries that have formed a military, police and social services to do the bidding of the government or dictator of the time. Ultimately, if the government gets too big, Americans can vote for the person and people who will shrink it.  Also, ultimately there are three branches of the government, any of which can shut down a law that they deem to infringe on the rights of citizens.

When I heard the first statement by Beck and was pleasantly assured that he did not say ALL of what I thought he said about churches and social justice, I was glad, but what Beck is doing in almost every case that I watch him dissect, is he is taking everything to it’s most extreme.  He seems to think that every person will go to their extreme.  If a person is on the left, they will be a socialist, if they are on the right, they should be a conservative patriot holding to the wishes of the founders.  He is extremely frustrated by anyone who does not end up on one extreme or the other.  He assumes that any centrist is either hiding their real agenda, or that they are not informed well enough about an issue, otherwise they would be on an extreme.

I watched the show yesterday where he put up pictures of Jeremiah Wright, Jim Wallis, Bill Ayers and Nancy Pelosi.  He played a sound clip from all except Pelosi.  He had short sound bytes from Wallis saying that he believed in a government that would redistribute wealth, also a quick sentence without any context of Wallis saying that he was a Marxist like some other woman that he is referring to.  He quotes Rev. Wright saying some of the things that were well publicized during the election.  He plays a clip of Ayers saying that he wasn’t sorry that he set bombs as a revolutionary in the 60’s.  None of it was in context.  But he assumes the worst from each.  He then makes the statement that these people are all communists who were confidants of Obama and were his trusted advisors and says: “what kind of person surrounds themselves with radicals day in and day out?  A Radical.”  Therefore, Obama is a socialist that wants government to control all.

Do you see the leaps of logic here?  First of all, are these people really communists?  Ayers was an anti-war demonstrator.  He did terrible things in his anti-war demonstrations, but later amassed a fortune.  Obama has served on a committee with this man, and according to Obama has barely had a conversation with him in the past.  Rev. Wright was the pastor of one of the great downtown churches in Chicago.  Wright was a supporter of aid for the poverty afflicting the city.  Wright was a pastor who loved people and loved families.  He said some radical things, but very few of his sermons focused on the radical liberation theology that he seems to subscribe to.  Pelosi is hated by conservatives in such a massive way that she qualifies as a communist without Beck even needing a soundbyte.  Wallis, we are told is Obama’s special religious advisor and one of Obama’s key policy advisors.  This is a funny statement because you’d think that Wallis might have mentioned on his website that he is a key policy advisor.  The truth of course is that Wallis, who is the editor of Sojourner’s magazine is one of many on the presidents’ council on faith based and neighborhood partnerships. 

In reality, Wright was Obama’s pastor, Wallis is one of many on a council with Obama, and Ayers has barely ever talked to Obama.  These people are not his advisors.  He does not surround himself with them.  In fact, he rarely sees any of them besides Pelosi.  These are not difficult facts to sort out.  But Beck not only chooses to not sort out facts, he projects half truths in a way that manipulate the viewer.  If you take Beck at his word, these 4 people are full blown communists and are all advisors surrounding our president.  If either of those things were actually true, it would be worrisome, but it is all just a manipulation.

Beck does this in other ways.  Last night, he showed on his chalkboard, a diagram depicting a triangle of how things should be.  God should be at the top, affecting, the decisions over health care and other issues that make up our government’s priorities.  He then said, if you flip it, you see what Marxists believe, that government is their God, and that government dictates our morals and our morals are manipulated to make us believe that the health care bill is the right thing to do.  What Beck makes us believe is that communists are Godless people, which certainly is not always true.  He also said that Americans and especially the founding fathers were “God-fearing” people and full of faith, hope and charity.  Of course those things are not ALL true either.  The founders were slave owning people who justified wars, and several of them were not what we would call Christian today.  Some of them were God-fearing, some of them apparently used the name of God to justify their own lifestyles.  Some of them were war heroes, some of them owned slaves, some of them had affairs with slaves and other women, some did all three.  Beck paints them all with the fattest brush, because that is what he does.  He flipped the triangle telling us that is what “progressives” do.

What Beck is unwilling to believe is that Wallis is a God fearing man, whose relationship with God and experiences drive him to believe in social justice in a different way than Beck.  Rev. Wright is a God fearing man whose relationship with God and experiences drive him to believe a certain way about the United States.  And Beck is a God fearing man whose relationship with God and experiences have caused him to believe what he believes. 

Faith in the same God can lead to differing opinions about leadership, about politics, and about just about anything.  Jesus did not endorse capitalism or socialism.  I think that Jesus would have been Jesus under either government, and I think that Christians like Wallis and Wright and Mormons like Beck can also have faith under either government. 

The big problem that I have with Beck is that he believes that because Glenn Beck is right and justified in what he says, that Wallis is wrong, that any policy from the government is wrong because it expands the power of government, that any aid from the government is wrong because it comes from taxpayer dollars.  This is one way to believe about the government.  It does not make the opposition wrong.  It just makes the opposition different.  Also, because the founding fathers believed something 200+ years ago, does not make it right today.  We can see that in the way they went about slavery, expansion, mistreatment of other cultures and peoples and their justifications for war.  The founders were not perfect.  Their words do not endure forever.  That’s why there is a Bill or Rights and amendments to the constitution.  The founding fathers had great intentions for America, but that does not make them right.  Some people who have expanded or suggested changes have also had great intentions and motives, the fact that they wanted change did not make them wrong. 

In my opinion Beck is either a person who adamantly believes what he is saying and his way of justifying his logic.  If this is true, I think that Beck is pretty simple minded and is not able to understand the complexities of differing opinions.  OR Beck is a master at knowing that his exaggeration and rhetoric are very inflammatory and are getting people very riled up and angry.  In my understanding, this would make him a master manipulator who is not at all genuine.  OR He is fooled by his own grandstanding and ego to believe that people who disagree with him are morons and that he is the prophet.  In my understanding this makes him delusional with epic grandeur and an unfathomable hubris.  Perhaps my mind can not think through the complexities of Glenn Beck’s persona.  Perhaps it is a mix of all of the above.  Perhaps there are other variables in these equations that I am not seeing, but Beck is not helping anything.  He is stirring up anger that is not helpful to any part of the process.  I have watched all week so far and he has not suggested one helpful strategy that Americans could use to help themselves.  He has only preached anger, and misunderstanding. 

I’ll watch a few more of these to see if he is just angry and raging about the Bill being passed.  But I am getting less and less hopeful that there is anything that he is doing to help anything at all.

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