At least Glenn Beck isn't among the nearly 1 in 5 Americans who believe President Obama is a Muslim. Nor, as far as he's yet admitted, is he among the majority of Republicans who actually told Newsweek's pollsters that they believe the president hopes to impose Islamic law on America.
No, Beck believes that Obama schemes to impose collectivism because he is an adherent of liberation theology.
On Sunday, the Fox News personality, fresh from his rally on the National Mall, told his colleague Chris Wallace that he regrets calling the president a "racist," because he now realizes that Obama "understands the world through liberation theology, which is oppressor-and-victim. People aren't recognizing his version of Christianity. ... It's all about victims and victimhood; oppressors and the oppressed; reparations, not repentance; collectivism, not individual salvation.... It's a perversion of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as most Christians know it."
It's an odd enough allegation on its own — mainly because there's no evidence that the president is an advocate of liberation theology — but there's little doubt about what Beck believes it implies. In a broadcast last month, he linked the movement to the Black Panthers — again without evidence — and charged that liberation theology "leads to genocide."
Beck may no longer believe the chief executive is a racist, but he is strangely bent on linking race and liberation theology: first the Panthers, then the president and, in another broadcast last month, the weird allegation that the distinguished African Methodist Episcopal theologian James Cone is "one of the founding fathers of liberation theology."
Like the philosopher-theologian Cornel West, Cone is one of the African-American scholars who have applied principles borrowed from liberation theology to their reflections on the condition of black America. He certainly is not among its founders.
Liberation theology is a movement that took shape in the late 1950s and '60s among Latin American Catholic thinkers, foremost among them the Peruvian Dominican priest Gustavo Gutierrez, who coined the term (and is now a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame). The other "founders" were the Uruguayan Jesuit Juan Luis Segundo; the Spanish Jesuit Jon Sobrino, who has spent most of his career in El Salvador; and the Brazilian Franciscan Leonardo Boff.
Their common position was that social injustice is a form of violence arising from sin. They urged the poor — and those acting in solidarity with them — to reflect on Scripture from the perspective of the poor. To that end, some argued that certain facets of Marxist analysis, particularly those having to do with social class, could be helpful. None of this is particularly mysterious, nor does it have anything to do with Obama. In fact, it's hard to imagine anyone touched by liberation theology supporting anything like the Wall Street bailout.
Beck also has alleged that Pope Benedict XVI condemned liberation theology as "demonic." That's another fantasy. As the cardinal in charge of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he acted in 1984 and 1986 to condemn "certain forms" of liberation theology for elevating practice above orthodoxy and for promoting a notion of struggle against hierarchy that could be extended to the Roman Catholic Church itself. As pontiff, his writings on social justice don't differ substantially from those of most liberation theologians.
His predecessor Pope John Paul II counseled Latin American bishops that any moral concept of private property "must lead to a more just and equitable distribution of goods."
Perhaps Beck should go back to peddling misinformation about the Founding Fathers.