When Glenn Beck attacks Christianity, some just see red. Others — they spy opportunity.
Dan Nejfelt, a communications associate with advocacy group Faith in Public Life, has been high on Beck’s smear-list ever since his group began running Christian radio ads quoting scripture as a way of encouraging believers to stop paying attention to the right-wing Fox News personality.
The group, which says their ads are sponsored by over 100,000 members nation-wide, has gone so far as to target their ads for every city Beck is visiting this summer.
Their efforts have been getting Beck’s goat in a big way. In recent days he’s even played their ad on his radio program and increased the ferocity of his rhetoric against Christians who see poverty, war, climate change and economic tyranny as core social ills.
But to Nejfelt, it’s just a greater shot at exposing Faith in Public Life to the very audience they hope to reach: believers duped into buying Beck’s “warped gospel.”
“Not only are you wrong, the vast majority of people of faith know that you’re wrong,” Nejfelt said, lobbing his words directly at Beck in an exclusive interview with RAW STORY. “We’re going to keep doing what God tells us to do. We’d appreciate it if you’d stop doing what you’re doing.”
The conversation took place following a recent exploration by RAW STORY into Beck’s latest assault on the teachings of Christ. Beck claimed, in the second such attack since March, that “liberation theology” is the driving force behind Christian efforts to help the poor and make peace among men, and that President Obama is a secret subscriber to such a philosophy, which he thinks has become the front for humanity’s evils.
After his first assault on Christianity in March, numerous religious leaders stood up to the host in the media, calling him out for a fundamental “misunderstanding” of scripture.
“We’re going to have these moments of opportunity, like Glenn Beck going after social justice,” Nejfelt said. “People can counter Beck’s warped gosple by organizing and finding people to help spread our message. We say, we’re tired and sickened by a lot of the attacks on faith and the abuse of faith by extremist pundits.”
In a media advisory put out the same day as RAW STORY’s exploration of Beck’s gospel, Faith in Public Life says:
Beck has frequently used his television and radio programs to distort the Christian commitment to social justice, a central principle of Christianity rooted in Biblical values and also emphasized in diverse religious traditions.
In March, the host urged his listeners to leave their churches if pastors talked about social or economic justice. Even after prominent clergy from across the faith and ideological spectrum refuted his arguments, Beck has continued his smear campaign by equating social justice with Marxism and Nazism.
“Would you support a leader who said Jesus’ teachings can lead to Nazism or who attacks Christian pastors for preaching the full Gospel? Then why do so many Christians tune in to Glenn Beck?” the ad asks.
Beck also recently alleged that the Jewish concept of the common good led to the Holocuaust, saying, “This is exactly the kind of talk that led to the death camps in Germany.” Faithful America is airing the ad on Christian stations to reach viewers and listeners who frequently tune into Beck’s programs. While Beck may think he speaks for Christians, thousands have signed petitions rejecting his views and expressing their outrage. The ads are part of Faithful America’s “Driven by Faith, Not by Fear” campaign, an effort to counter the fear, lies and hateful rhetoric of extreme pundits and the Tea Party.
The group is distributing bumper stickers and accepting donations on their Web site.
‘We must stand up to people’
Faith in Public Life takes a direct approach to countering Beck: by correcting blatant misrepresentations of Christ’s teachings, they hope to attract a large community of Christians who will defend the cornerstones of their faith.
“People have been working for social justice for a long time,” Nejfelt explained. “This isn’t something that cropped up in talking points last week. This is a centuries long committment, and not just in the christian community.
“Along comes this Glenn Beck character and tries to paint this very sacred concept as though it was hatched by the Nazis or the Marxists. It was kinda like, such a foundational insult to our faith that we just felt we had to respond. It’s not just faithful America: it’s people across the country. It’s a cause for outrage. I’m glad to be a part of helping to channel it and stand up to say no, you’re wrong. What you’re doing is wrong and we’re not going to stand for it.”
That’s the driving thought behind their radio ads blasting Beck’s right-wing hybridization of christianity. In their ad, they quote directly from the book of James in cautioning that the tongue is like a small spark which can set a whole forest ablaze. Faith in Public Life further cites the book of James in cautioning Christians against praising their lord in one breath and cursing their fellow man in another.
“Would you support a leader who said Jesus’s teachings can lead to Nazi-ism, or who attacks Christian pastors for preaching the full gospel?” they ask. “Then why do so many Christians tune in to Glenn Beck?”
Nejfelt explained to RAW STORY: “To worship God and to obey God involves loving your neighbor. Loving your neighbor involves more than just praying for peole and being kind. We need to bring about conditions on earth for people to flourish. Trying to turn society into a place where needs are met are completely in accordance with what God commands. To love your neighbor as yourself is part and parcel to that.”
Compassionate immigration reform, he said, a “foremost example” of a social justice effort being led by people of faith.
“We want fairness and opportunity,” Nejfelt said. “When we have people dying at the border and families being torn apart, that’s a justice issue. We need a place where people who want opportunity can come to this country, as people have for generations.”
He also lists universal health care as in-line with Christ’s teachings, insisting, “Everybody deserves to get the health care they need.”
While admitting that many progressives better identify with social justice issues, Nejfelt added, “They aren’t doing it because it’s the liberal thing to do: they’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do. [...] The values we’re talking about supercede labels like liberal and conservative.”
Despite their efforts, Beck seems to have only intensified his assault on Christian values, insisting during his Monday broadcast that policies enacted toward these ends are from the “enemies of God”.
“God is about freedom and equal justice, not equal stuff in our homes,” he insisted. “Then again, according to — what is the name of this faith initiative? They’re playing ads about me on the radio and saying I am perverted!”
He countered Faithful in America by trying to kick sand on the scientific consensus over global climate change, calling churches “evil” if they take the matter seriously. However, in doing so he ignored the Republican-leaning Christian Coalition, which urged Republicans to support climate change legislation for “religious reasons.”
“As conservatives, we stand up for our country’s national security and the health of our economy,” they explained. “And, as Christians, we recognize the Biblical mandate to care for God’s creation and protect our children’s future.”
In attacking Faith in Public Life, Beck also mocks the Evangelical Climate Initiative, which has the support of 86 prominent evangelical leaders from across the U.S.
“Pollution from vehicles, power plants, and industry is already having a dramatic effect on the earthÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s climate,” they explain. “The vulnerable are being hurt by the early impacts of climate change. Left unchecked, global warming will lead to more severe droughts, more intense storms, and more devastating floods, resulting in millions of deaths in this century. Prudence and compassion require us to act.”
“If I could ask a question of Beck, it would be personal,” Nejfelt told RAW STORY. “I would ask him what it is that he wants. If he’s talking about social justice being such a threat, I’d ask, ‘What is your vision for American society? Should we be a nation with opportunity and broad prosperity? Or a place where anger is the dominant emotion?’ I don’t know if he disagrees with our tactics or the outcome we want to see … but, it doesn’t really keep me up at night. I’m more concerned about the effect he has on believers.”
This audio is from July 16, 2010, taken from Glenn Beck’s radio broadcast, as snipped by watchdog group Media Matters.
Correction: A prior version of this story called Faith in Public Life a “Christian” group. They are an inter-faith organization dedicated to promoting “justice-centered work of the faith community.”