In an October 14 Sojourners' column, Rev. Jim Wallis called on Glenn Beck to "make the connection that [Martin Luther] King did between the violence of the tongue and that of the fist, and to take responsibility for how he speaks about those with whom he disagrees." Wallis was referencing Beck's boasts of being a "progressive hunter" and Byron Williams' claims in a recent interview with Media Matters that Beck was his "teacher."
Last week, Media Matters reported on how Glenn Beck and the right-wing media drove Byron Williams to reportedly plot the assassination of the leaders of the ACLU and the Tides Foundation.
After citing a Biblical passage that he said "warns that our words, for better or worse, can turn a ship or light a forest ablaze," Wallis pointed to Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Nonviolence Pledge," which Wallis said, "reminds me why this is all so important." Wallis explained:
King clearly connects the violence of the tongue, fist, and heart. Walking and talking in the manner of love is required. Compare King's admonition to seek "justice and reconciliation -- not victory" with the political victory-at-any-cost strategies and methodologies that are heating up just three weeks before the midterm election. The attempt is not just to disagree with one's opponents (a perfectly legitimate and, indeed, healthy activity during the democratic processes of elections), but to demonize them; not to treat them as adversaries but as enemies. MLK's pledge should be a spiritual exercise for all of those on the campaign trail.
I was pleased to see the MLK nonviolence pledge on Glenn Beck's website, and to hear that he learned about the pledge during his preparation for his speech at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28. But I cringe when I hear him boast about being a "progressive hunter," and when I hear Beck regularly demonize the people he disagrees with.
I read an alarming report last night on a recent interview with Byron Williams, who was arrested after a July 18 shootout with the police. He had a car full of guns and planned to kill people at the Tides Foundation and ACLU in San Francisco. Williams said in this interview that he sees Glenn Beck as his "teacher," and that he was agitated by the virulent things his teacher had to say about the people at Tides. While it is unfair to blame Beck for everything his audience might do, it isn't unfair to ask Beck to make the connection that King did between the violence of the tongue and that of the fist, and to take responsibility for how he speaks about those with whom he disagrees.
Wallis went on to recount a conversation he had with his son, at the height of Glenn Beck's smear campaign against Wallis. He explained that Beck led an effort to have Wallis disinvited from speaking to a youth festival in Wisconsin. Wallis said that his son asked him after the festival whether those opposing his appearance were armed. Wallis wrote:
To be honest, I had to tell him that some of them probably did in Wisconsin, but I was sure that I would be fine. After I spoke on that Friday night, the first call I received was from Luke, just wanting to know if everything had gone all right and that I was okay. The fear in my son's heart was not unjustified, but such things shouldn't be happening in America today -- but they are.