Talk show host Glenn Beck has made some enemies in a corner of American society where most Fox News pundits would prefer to have friends: The Christian community.
Beck has upset the socially-conscious, activist side of the Christian movement with comments last week that listeners should "run" from churches that talk about "social justice" because they are espousing ideas that came from communists and Nazis.
On his radio show last week, Beck told his audience that churches which use the expression "social justice" are following an extremist agenda.
"I'm begging you, your right to religion and freedom to exercise religion and read all of the passages of the Bible as you want to read them and as your church wants to preach them ... are going to come under the ropes in the next year," Beck said. "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!"
Download an audio clip of the segment here.
Then, on his Fox News TV show, Beck explained why he felt so strongly about the issue.
"Both the communists, who are on the left -- they say -- you know, these are communists. And the Nazis are on the right," Beck said. "That's what people say. But they both subscribed to one philosophy, and they flew one banner. One had the hammer and sickle; the other was a swastika. But on each banner read the words, here in America, of this -- 'social justice.' They talked about economic justice, rights of the workers, redistribution of wealth, and surprisingly -- I love this -- democracy."
Beck's linking of socially conscious churches to communism and Nazism hasn't sat well with some Christian groups.
"Economic and social justice are central to the gospel of Jesus Christ," the petition reads. "Quit using your bully pulpit to spread misinformation and fear by comparing faithful Christians who care 'for the least of these' to Nazis and communists."
The New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, a group advocating -- among other things -- nuclear disarmament and responsible environmental policies, has started a campaign to raise money towards a video rebuking Beck's assertion.
"We are launching a campaign to reclaim love of neighbor, especially the least, last, and lost, as an Evangelical Christian value. We believe love is central to everything Jesus taught, and we think Glenn Beck needs to hear about it," the group stated on its Web site.
Beck has been railing against "progressive" churches for some time now. Last December, he said churches where preachers supported health care reform had been "infiltrated" by un-American ideas.
"If you see things that are now being preached about from the puplpit in many churches about health care, warning. Warning. Many churches have been infiltrated with this line of thinking that is absolutely against the freedoms that our founding fathers designed," Beck said.