Sound Bites Remixed

A popular Fox TV News commentator and talk radio personality named Glenn Beck is targeting Jim Wallis with his “hammer.” You can read Jim’s first response here.
As a friend and colleague of Jim’s, of course, I empathize and wish he didn’t have to go through this kind of thing. It’s draining and unpleasant, and no matter how thick your skin is, it hurts to have your words twisted out of context and mocked. But my suspicion is that in the coming days, this interchange will give Jim and others of us the chance to explain our views more clearly. Hopefully, we can do so without responding to fire with fire, hammers with hammers, mockery with mockery, and so on, as Don Miller recently said so well.
Here are two Scripture passages that should be crucial to our thinking about the relation between Jesus, the gospel, and social justice:

And Mary said,
My soul magnifies the Lord
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
For he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely from now on all generations will call me blessed;
For the Mighty One has done great things for me,
And holy is his name.
His mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
And lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
In remembrance of his mercy,
According to the promise he made to our ancestors,
To Abraham and his descendants forever. (Luke 1:46-55)

Mary’s words could be turned into a powerful sound-bite on talk radio, don’t you think? (Sounds kind of like the Marxist principle of redistribution of wealth….) Jesus could also be quite effectively skewered by the right talk-radio personality for saying,

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
Because he has anointed me
To bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To let the oppressed go free,
To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:17-19)

It gets worse in the following paragraphs (Luke 4:20-30) when Jesus affirms God’s preferential option not only for the poor but even for people of other religions. It gets worse still when Luke, the author of these episodes, celebrates values even higher than private ownership among the early Christians (Acts 4:32 ff.). Imagine how this could be fodder for the right sound-bite artist on cable TV or talk radio.
It’s a fascinating time to be alive. The story of Jesus, his revolutionary message, and his transformative work continue to unfold in and through all of us. Today as then, some are inspired and some are infuriated … and perhaps others will be made curious to learn more.