Monday, September 13, 2010

Glenn Beck, religion, and individual rights

He wants religion to emphasize them more. Larison, as always, says what needs to be said with style, and I love this irony: "Because he is reading political categories back into theological questions, which is the very thing he finds so offensive about liberation theology, he gives the impression that he is repudiating what most Christians would consider to be a core teaching of their faith."

Beck is clearly not someone to debate rationally (as if he ever debates anything aside from the straw men he creates), but it's worth noting that in Christianity there is a clear presumption of personal freedom, but also a very clear set of limits to be placed on them (i.e. the Ten Commandments, etc.) that reflects a pretty coherent view of humanity, one that Reinhold Niebuhr characterized as humanity's tendency to exceed its creatureliness. If you see murder as exceeding human authority by playing god and taking another's life, theft as exceeding human authority by deciding you should have what someone else has, and so on, it all pretty much fits into place. What unnerves me about Beck is that his rhetoric doesn't really ever acknowledge these limits, and it makes sense why: if there are limits that need to be observed, then you need to have an authority to enforce them. A government, say. And that means taxes to pay for what the government does. And all of a sudden we're back to where we started, and the Mormon libertopia that Beck desires goes away. Not that it's plausible to begin with, of course, since we are both individuals and members of society, and as members of the richest society on the planet we have a much greater chance at success than someone born in the Third World. Beck himself being born to upper-middle class parents in Spokane gave him probably 90% of what he needed to succeed as a morning zoo DJ, and I don't want to say that the guy hasn't worked hard or anything, but he certainly had an easy go of things compared to a poor kid in the Appalachians or even one in Somalia. Some of us feel that the arbitrariness of this arrangement leads to a duty to ensure that everyone gets at least a chance at success, but Beck does not, which is a valid point of view but one that requires an essentially God-like view of the powers of the free market, which is just not the case for something that moves primarily based on the mostly unconscious actions of people. In the end, Glenn Beck is a puffy-headed fraud, but you all knew that already, right?

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.