Let’s hold Glenn Beck to his pledge of nonviolence

On his radio show earlier this week, Glenn Beck read a vow of nonviolence, which he said he’d been working on for about a year, and pleaded his followers to take it as well. The pledge itself is actually quite good, and even Gandhian, at parts. Here is an excerpt:

Today, quarters of the Earth are endangered by tyranny, discrimination, barbarism, and subjugation by fellow man. With an understanding of basic rights and equal justice, we must remain loyal to God and deliver the rights which His benevolence has bestowed upon us to those who have been denied the blessings of liberty, justice, and equality. More importantly, we must protect them from being robbed in the future, so that forever the world may be safe, and her people free from malevolence. Together, we must be prepared to do our duty no matter the cost and we must do so inexorably. We must march forth steadfast and unconquerable and defeat the forces of evil not by sword, but through our love for mankind and his creator.

Martin Luther King stood before the Lincoln Memorial over four decades ago and proclaimed during his most famous speech: “We must not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”  Therefore, let us carry forth Dr. King’s mission to future generations so that our children and our grandchildren may defend it in the years to come. Let us persistently oppose evil just as much as the person who uses violence, but let our methods always be nonaggressive. We must always be passive in body but active in spirit and we must always be peaceful in our fight for justice.

Let us aim our attack against the forces of evil, not against the individuals propelling those forces. Let us do our utmost to carry out His eternal will and pledge ourselves—in person and in body— to these nonviolent principles.

He then has a Declaration of Rights and Responsibilities, which similarly has some surprisingly good stuff in it. For example:

2. Because I have the right to worship as I choose, I have the responsibility to honor the right of others to worship as they see fit.

3. Because I have freedom of speech, I have the responsibility to defend the speech of others, even if I strongly disagree with what they’re saying.

[…]

7. Because I have the right to equal justice, I will stand for those who are wrongly accused or unjustly blamed.

8. Because I have the right to knowledge, I will be accountable for myself and my children’s education…to live our lives in such a way that insures the continuation of truth.

9. Because I have the right to pursue my dreams and keep the fruits of my labor, I have the responsibility to feed, protect and shelter my family, the less fortunate, the fatherless, the old and infirm.

My problem isn’t generally with the words here, but with his interpretation and implementation of them. While I wasn’t ever an avid watcher of his television show and have never listened to his radio program, the little that I do catch regularly violates this pledge and declaration.

If he really seeks to “defeat the forces of evil not by sword, but through our love for mankind and his creator,” then how can he support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or any war for that matter?

And if he really wants to direct his “attack against the forces of evil, not against the individuals propelling those forces,” why go to the blackboard and rail against George Soros and others in the progressive world as villains who are destroying the world? While we differ on who is propelling those “forces of evil,” his approach is not exactly going after the system rather than the people in the system.

As for the declaration, if he were to take these “responsibilities” seriously, then there could be no demonization of Islam or Muslims on his shows, he would speak out against Guantanamo, and he would work diligently to take care of the homeless and poor. Maybe he’s volunteering at the Catholic Worker on the weekends—or building shelters and food banks with his fortune—but somehow I doubt it.

That said, I’m glad he’s talking about nonviolence in a positive light and calling on his listeners to take these ideas seriously. We should do what we can to hold him to his word and to push his followers to take this pledge and declaration to heart, even if Beck isn’t exactly leading by example.

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