On Glenn Beck's radio program March 2nd, he told his listeners:
"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. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes! If I'm going to Jeremiah's Wright's church? Yes! Leave your church. Social justice and economic justice. They are code words. If you have a priest that is pushing social justice, go find another parish. Go alert your bishop and tell them, "Excuse me are you down with this whole social justice thing?" I don't care what the church is. If it's my church, I'm alerting the church authorities: "Excuse me, what's this social justice thing?" And if they say, "Yeah, we're all in that social justice thing," I'm in the wrong place."
I have often heard Beck called an extremist, an alarmist, an opportunist, and a patriot, a hero, a gifted pundit, etc. I will leave those judgments to his listeners and his opponents. (I am neither.) In this case, I have to say that he is decidedly on the wrong side of the issue.
Let me predicate this entire post by saying this: It is a well known fact that I am libertarian with conservative leanings, ESPECIALLY, when it comes to the role of government in the lives of citizens. My antipathy towards big government programs, Johnson's Great Society, John Maynard Keynes, and almost every aspect of modern "liberal" and "progressive" thought has been stated on numerous occasions and in numerous places. It is true that many demagogues have used, (and continue to use -Hugo Chaevz-), social justice as a rallying cry or as a means of forced economic redistribution.
Now then, to heart of the matter, social justice and religion, specifically Catholic Christianity. Beck rails against religious organizations, (for the sake of simplicity we'll call them all "churches.") He claims social justice is code for the progressive agenda. In the political sense, perhaps he is right. In the religious sense, he is deliberately ignoring scripture or he is displaying a tremendous level of ignorance.
The teaching of social justice in the Catholic tradition goes back to the old and new testaments and is traced through the Church Fathers and into the political debates of the 19th century that have shaped the modern era. The key tenets have always been, Human Dignity, Solidarity, Charity, Subsidiarity, and Distributism. These are not code words for any progressive take over nor are they the framework for the suppression of free will. They are bulwarks of freedom. Human Dignity, all life has intrinsic value as a reflection of the divinity of the creator. Solidarity, the unity of humanity in the basic fact of existence. Charity, the relationship between man, God, and man. Subsidiarity, that no greater power has the right to take away from people their ability to do for themselves or to force action upon people through deprivation of their rights. Distributism, society should allow for economic freedom across all social and economic lines.
Were it not for social justice and the tenets of it the world would be a far more dark and cold place. A few things to consider:
1. There would be no defense of life from Conception to Natural Death.
2. The nation of Poland, and much of the world, might still remain under the oppressive rule of the Soviet State.
3. Economic enslavement whether disguised as robber-baron capitalism or redistributive socialism would have no one to stand in its way. The rights of the individual worker and the business owner would be subject to the whims of whomever claimed power.
4. Nations rooted in the rights of man based on natural law would have no foundation upon which to stand.
5. Nations rooted in the oppression of man based on its own law would have nothing of which to fear.
In response, when you hear the words social justice, consider their source, not their sound. When rooted in truth, social justice is as relevant today as it was in 1st century Judea. When rooted in the tenets listed above, social justice transcends temporal political debate and the actions and motivations of men. It's tenets are eternal and will continue long after Beck, his supporters, his opponents, and you and I have gone on to what awaits us in the next life.