Glenn Beck's Faulty Logic
I do not usually watch Glenn Beck's program. So many books, so little time. However, on April 6, while working on another project, my intuitive mind told me to watch Glenn Beck. So, I did. Half of the program was already over. When I joined the program, Beck was saying that President Obama was an intelligent man who chose to surround himself with Marxists. He referred to Rev. Jeremiah Wright. (I know Rev. Wright, and he is a social justice preacher/teacher from within the tradition of Black liberation theology and not the caricature that the media portrayed during the presidential campaign.) Beck played a sound bite of Rev. Jim Wallis talking about redistribution of wealth.
Beck also referred to two other former White House aides in the Obama administration to make his case that Obama was a Marxist not to be compared with James Madison.
I do not spend time on Beck because his logic is usually fallacious. In this instance his bad logic walked hand in hand with an ignorance of the U.S. Constitution. And all of this was conflated with a question about whether the government could do anything better than the private sector and a lamentation about the federal budget deficit.
Beck's logical error is where he thinks that if someone uses a term such as social justice or redistribution of wealth that this makes her the same as every other person or organization that uses the term. Such logic would say that because Marx's statement: "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs" is similar to the Christian text Acts 2: 44-45: "And all who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need," therefore Marx is a Christian. Marx was not a Christian.
Further, if Beck's problem with President Obama is that he will expand government and lay a heavy tax burden on the nation in the name of redistribution of wealth, this is no problem at all. According to the Constitution, taxation is not a presidential power. The legislature holds this power, specifically the House of Representatives. The founders, concerned with taxation without representation, wanted the power of the purse to reside with the chamber that answered directly to the people every two years. Thus, Beck's complaint is with the 535 members of Congress -- not with President Obama, his present or former appointees, nor with his spiritual mentors.
When we think about redistribution of wealth, it is important to remember that the redistribution in this country is from the young to the old. It reflects our societal values and obligations.
Personally, I am happy to have a president who seeks advice from people of faith. Our religious traditions help to lay the moral foundation upon which our laws ought to rest. A logic of love that Jesus lived and taught is the day star that ought to guide our personal, societal, economic, and political decision-making.
Dr. Valerie Elverton Dixon is an independent scholar who publishes lectures and essays at JustPeaceTheory.com. She received her Ph.D. in religion and society from Temple University and taught Christian ethics at United Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Theological School.