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Kristin M. Swenson, Ph.D.

Kristin M. Swenson, Ph.D.

Posted: May 24, 2010 10:00 AM

I'm tempted to put an exclamation point at the end of that title statement, but that would be wrong. You see, in northern Minnesota where I grew up, people use this expression all the time, but they do not inflect it with passion or zeal. Rather, it's delivered, like any good green bean casserole, with a combination of a simple "well, there you have it" and the hint of an invitation to respond. It's up to the recipient to interpret -- good or bad -- and to respond accordingly.

"Really quite something" can be a compliment or a criticism. When a person says this, she suggests that she has an opinion on the matter and is inviting the other to share his. Of course, if the other thinks he'll disagree and that he'd rather fix the lawnmower than debate it, he may respond with a non-committal, "Yup," thereby ending the exchange.

To say of a person that she's "really quite something" is an eyebrow raiser. It adds a crispy layer of uh-huh, suggesting that said person has a high regard for herself when the truth is that we all know she's right around average, just like the rest of us. But enough of Speaking Minnesotan 101!

Glenn Beck stirred the collective pot some weeks ago when he chastised believers for including social justice in their understanding of the Christian gospel and mission. Now he's added concern for the environment to his list of Christian no-no's and the insidious threat of socialism. God forbid that you care about others, much less the earth! Ah, but with a twist of sarcasm, I've showed my hand. So I'll come right out and say it: nonsense.

I'll say this, too: I appreciate Beck's inflammatory remarks precisely because they send people who are deeply committed to seeking out and doing what is right and good rushing to decry him like immune cells to a hangnail. As millions of Jews and Christians will attest, the Bible supports a posture of stewardship, of active care for creation, and an ethic of responsibility in our treatment of the earth, its inhabitants, and its resources. In other words, they have found that environmentalism is a facet of faith, not at odds with it. A small sampling includes the Evangelical Climate Initiative , the Catholic Conservation Center, the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, and the Evangelical Environmental Network. Back in 1993, Lutherans put out a statement on the environment, "Caring for Creation." And recently the United Methodists appointed the Reverend Pat Watkins as the executive director of "Caretakers of God's Creation."

The truth is, I suspect that Beck doesn't really care that much about what he's saying but only that it keeps him in the public eye and making truckloads of money. But I don't know; maybe he really does think he's got a corner on the Christian message. The problem, to my way of thinking, is that there are also thousands of good people earnestly trying to live by the gospel who believe him. So, step away from the lawnmower and let's talk, 'cause that Glenn Beck is really quite something.

 
 
 

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