Opinion

Sound off: Glenn Beck’s 'Restore America' is about privilege

By Dick Hall

On the 47th anniversary of the delivery of the “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., a nearly all white gathering filled the area in front of the Lincoln Memorial for a “restore America” event featuring Glenn Beck. In my opinion “restore America” and “Take back America” are code for a return to white privilege. Glenn Beck has continually attempted at every opportunity to claim that white Americans are victims and has even, inexplicably, called President Barack Obama a racist.

The speeches at the “restore America” gathering promoted a conservative Christianity that celebrated a prosperity gospel and unquestioning support of war and military honor. On NPR the Southern Baptist Conference spokesperson, who is a supporter of Beck’s event, declared that the thrust of the gathering was against liberation theology and the changes of the 1960s. The pastor thinks that is a good thing — to undo the 1960s and reject liberation theology.

I agree with his analysis but disagree strongly that this is a good goal. Liberation theology has its roots set firmly in the Hebrew prophets and in the nonviolent, inclusive example of the “rebel” Jesus. In my reading of the reports on the “restoring America” event the thrust was against helping the marginalized (a participant was quoted as saying Jesus would not support a redistribution of wealth), and in favor of maintaining privileges for the wealthy.

The recent gathering was the opposite of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In 1963 over 250,000 met in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Approximately one quarter of those present were white. Most came from the rural south where they faced beatings, police dogs, fire hoses, arrests and even martyrdom for attempting to register to vote, integrate busses, sit at a segregated lunch counter or violating any number of Jim Crow laws. Birmingham was known as “Bombingham” for the terrorist actions of the KKK and white supremacists. Three young girls had been killed in a Birmingham bombing of a black church prior to the March on Washington.

The Black Freedom Movement was a “bottom up” movement of protest against a racist system that imposed white privilege. The movement used the tactics of Gandhian nonviolence, and, despite the violence they faced, demonstrators maintained the nonviolent discipline and principle of love overcoming hate. The organizational and spiritual core of the movement came from African American churches. The ideals of the movement were best articulated by a young Baptist preacher who on Aug. 28, 1963 gave a sermon for the ages.

Dick Hall lives in Coupeville.

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