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Salvation: Collective? Individual?

September 15, 2010

As a follow up to this post from a couple of weeks ago (which has also inspired a number of comments),  here’s Peter Montgomery, Senior Fellow at the People for the American Way Foundation, pointing out what he sees as a contradiction in Beck’s statements on “collective” vs. “individual” salvation:

On one hand, Beck and [conservative historian and frequent Beck guest, David] Barton are placing huge political and historical importance on a belief in individual salvation, as opposed to the collective salvation envisioned by liberation theology. But when it comes to worshipping God, religious right leaders insist that individual prayer and praise is not enough; Americans have what you might call a collective duty, as a nation, to acknowledge our dependence on God…

In the Tea Party era, ‘collective’ is a four-letter word. Beck and Barton don’t even like the terms “human rights” or “social justice” because they see them as collectivist. In a televised conversation in April, Barton dismissed social justice, saying “That’s collective rights. Jesus was not into collective rights. He didn’t die for world in large. He died for every single individual.”

…But that commitment to individual liberty, and hostility to the collective, seem to disappear with the insistence that it is not only individuals but America as a nation that must “turn back to God.” …Beck tells us, “you must fall to your knees and you must reconnect with God. He is not asking you. He is commanding us as a people to get behind Him…”

“Commanding us as a people.” Doesn’t that sound dangerously collective?

…Which brings us back to America’s Divine Destiny, the [Beck led and organized] event at the Kennedy Center [two Fridays ago]. One of the speakers, Professor Patrick Lee of Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, insisted that we “owe to God thanks and reverence for his many blessings” and said “this is true not only of us as individuals but us as a community, us as a country.” This was just after Beck and Barton were hyping the importance of individual salvation and individual Liberty.

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