Fox News host Glenn Beck has revealed that he will be spending "a lot of time" talking about social justice in the coming days.
After drawing fire earlier this month for equating social justice with communism, the conservative host doesn't plan to back away from the polarizing debate.
He has not specified when he will re-engage the issue, but his earlier comments – that "social justice" and "economic justice" are code words for communism and Nazism and that believers should run from churches that advocate it – continue to spark debates among Christians.
On Friday, the head of the National Council of Churches opposed Beck's assertion, saying, "How many of you think that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is a better theologian than Glenn Beck?"
The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the ecumenical group, is in Washington, D.C., this weekend for a conference to mobilize Christians for advocacy on various domestic and international policy issues, particularly immigration reform. His comments on Friday were met with loud applause from attendees.
"My point is not to take cheap shots at an unworthy target, but rather to affirm that social justice is at the very heart of the gospel, a mark of faithfulness to the One who taught us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves," Kinnamon said.
He noted that the NCC is best known for its translation of the New Revised Standard Version and its advocacy for social justice.
"We think those two things go together," he said.
While some Christian leaders have come out defending social justice as biblical, others have submitted a more balanced argument on where social and economic justice fits in the church.
"While Jesus confirms that concern for others is important, he makes it clear that salvation takes precedence," said Corey J. Hodges, pastor of New Pilgrim Baptist Church in Salt Lake City, in a commentary Thursday in The Salt Lake Tribune.
Hodges affirmed the practice of caring for the poor and less fortunate but stressed that the core of Jesus' message isn't social justice, as some pastors suggest.
"In the Bible, Jesus said, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, this is the first and greatest commandment.' Here, Jesus is referring to salvation – one's relationship with God," the Salt Lake City pastor explained. "He goes on to say, 'The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.'
"The central theme of the Christian faith is God's love for humanity, resulting in Jesus' death on the cross as a means of restoring man's relationship with him."
Though Jesus fed the hungry, healed the sick and associated with societal outcasts, each time he met a physical need, it was accompanied by the fulfillment of spiritual need, Hodges underscored.
"[H]is social causes never were devoid of the message of salvation," he stated. "Some churches become a platform for social justice and horribly neglect the message of the salvation; the church's primary mission is to preach the gospel."