The always controversial Glenn Beck has stirred up quite a fuss by the outrageous remarks he made on his March 2 TV program. Fox News has removed access to the YouTube video of that show, but you can read about it here if you are not familiar with what he said.
Basically, Beck urged his listeners to leave churches that preach social justice, saying that the latter term is a code word for communism and Nazism. There has been an outpouring of outrage by many Christians because of Beck’s shocking statements. (You can read about Jim Wallis’ response here.)
Before I knew about the stir Beck created, I had already planned to write a blog piece with this title. Based largely on Jeremiah 22:15-16, the liberation theologians of South America have long emphasized that “to know God is to do justice.” Those words are in the title of a subsection in Gustavo Gutiérrez’ s book A Theology of Liberation (1988, pp. 110-2). It is also in the title of the fourth chapter of Robert McAfee Brown’s Unexpected News: Reading the Bible with Third World Eyes (1984).
The justice emphasized in the above works is clearly social justice, which includes such things as helping the “poor and oppressed” of society to have greater access to the necessities of life, free of exploitation by the wealthy and powerful.
In 1 John 4:7-8, we read, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” But some might ask, What has that got to do with social justice?
I think the “third proposition” in Joseph Fletcher’s Situation Ethics (1966) is true: “Love and justice are the same, for justice is love distributed, nothing else.” Thus, paraphrasing the above Bible verses, we can say that everyone who does justice knows God, and whoever does not do justice does not know God.
So, thinking about what I wrote in the two previous postings about experiencing God, let me now suggest that not only have many or most people of other religious traditions not experienced God, many or most people of the Christian tradition have not experienced God either.
If loving / doing justice are the sure indicators of knowing God, as the Bible seems to suggest, then perhaps we can say there are some people in most religious traditions and some who are not “religious” who know God and there are many in all religious (and non-religious) traditions who do not know God.
And, if this be the case, we each must ask ourselves, Where does that put me? Have I truly experienced God? Do I know God? How is that shown by my love for others and by my actions for social justice?