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The new Defender of the Faith has spoken. The decree from Glenn Beck has been declared. His judgment rendered.

According to Beck, President Obama practices a version of religion that is “a perversion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as most Christians know it,” according to a Washington Post news story.

Beck explained why this is the case in an interview with “Fox News Sunday.”

The president, he said, “is a guy who understands the world through liberation theology, which is oppressor and victim.” Beck then added, “You see, it’s all about victims and victimhood; oppressors and the oppressed; reparations, not repentance; collectivism, not individual salvation.”

It was strange timing for the recently self-appointed theologian-in-chief to render his definitive assessment, since he spoke between two Sundays when the Gospel readings from the Ecumenical Lectionary were from the first 24 verses of Luke 14.

This is an extended passage about having a correct self-understanding of one’s importance and what follows from it.

Jesus counsels his hearers that when they are invited to a gathering, they should never seat themselves in a place of honor since someone more important might come and force the host to move them, embarrassingly, to a lower place. Instead, Jesus says, seat yourselves at the lowest place and there just might be a chance the host will reward you for your humility and place you in a higher place.

Furthermore, Jesus tells anyone who hosts a gathering, you shouldn’t invite friends and relatives and rich neighbors because nothing is to be gained if they simply return the favor and invite you to their party. Instead, “invite those who are poor and maimed and lame and blind” because they can’t repay you and, therefore, in the end you will be found righteous.

Jesus then continues his teachings about who should be invited to gatherings. If you invite those with power and money and social standing, Jesus tells his listeners, they might well find an excuse not to come.

That’s exactly what happens in the parable Jesus tells. So having been rebuffed, the angry host tells his servant, “Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in those who are poor and maimed and blind and lame.” When that is accomplished and there is still room, the host tells the servant, “Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.”

Any simple and straightforward reading of these Gospel lessons makes it abundantly clear that those to be invited would be, to use Beck’s terms, the victims and the oppressed, who are to receive collectively the reparations due them.

That’s what the Gospel clearly says.

Maybe America’s new Defender of the Faith should have read it before he pontificated.

Now, it could well be true that what Jesus said is “a perversion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as most Christians know it.”

But that’s their problem, not the president’s.

Larry Greenfield is executive minister for the American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago. He also serves as editor and theologian-in-residence for The Common Good Network.

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