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August 28th, 2010
08:50 PM ET

At rally, Beck positions himself as new leader for Christian conservatives

Among those surprised by all of conservative TV host Glenn Beck's recent religious talk - including at Saturday's Washington rally, where Beck said that "America today begins to turn back to God," - is the Rev. Richard Land, a Southern Baptist leader.

"I've been stunned," said Land, who directs public policy for the Southern Baptist Convention and who attended the Saturday rally at Beck's invitation.

"This guy's on secular radio and television," Land said Saturday, "but his shows sound like you're listening to the Trinity Broadcasting Network, only it's more orthodox and there's no appeal for money ... and today he sounded like Billy Graham."

Beck's speeches around his "Restoring Honor" rally have brimmed with religious language: "God dropped a giant sandbag on his head" to push him to organize the rally, he said Friday.

On Friday night, Beck held a religion-focused event at the Kennedy Center that was billed as Glenn Beck's Divine Destiny.

Beck's speech Saturday also evoked the feel of a religious revival.

"Look forward. Look West. Look to the heavens. Look to God and make your choice," he said.

Beck has also begun organizing top conservative religious leaders - mostly evangelicals - into a fledgling group called the Black Robed Regiment.

The organization, whose charter members convened in Washington this weekend, takes its name from American clergy sympathetic to the Revolution during the 1700s.

Beck's emerging role as a national leader for Christian conservatives is surprising not only because he has until recently stressed a libertarian ideology that is sometimes at odds with so-called family values conservatism, but also because Beck is a Mormon.

Many of the evangelicals who Beck is speaking to and organizing, including Land, don't believe he is a Christian. Mormons, who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, call themselves Christian.

"There's a long history of tensions between Mormons and evangelicals and some of that is flat-out theology," says John C. Green, an expert on religion and politics at the University of Akron. "Mormons have additional sacred texts (to the Bible) and a different conception of God."

"It's also competitive," Green said, "because evangelicals and Mormons are both proselytizing in the U.S. and around the world."

Some evangelicals criticized Christians for partnering with Beck this weekend because of his Mormon faith, provoking a number of evangelical political activists to pen defenses of their decision to join Beck.

But Evangelicals and Mormons have also stepped up cooperation around conservative political causes in recent years. In 2007 and 2008, presidential candidate Mitt Romney reached out strenuously to evangelical leaders, winning endorsements from the likes of Bob Jones III, a Christian fundamentalist.

Evangelicals and Mormons led the successful push to pass California's gay marriage ban, Proposition 8, in 2008. Activists from both traditions say they can set aside theological differences in the name of moral issues.

"The evangelicals participating in the Restore Honor event are not endorsing Glenn Beck's theology, nor is he asking them to," said Ralph Reed, former executive director of the Christian Coalition, who attended Saturday's rally.

"Together, we and millions of our fellow citizens are calling America back to its Judeo-Christian values of faith, hard work, individual initiative, the centrality of marriage and family, hope, charity, and relying on God and civic and faith-based organizations rather than government," said Reed, who leads the Faith and Freedom Coalition.

But Beck has sometimes upset religious conservatives. For instance, he said recently that opposing gay marriage is not a top issue for him.

Since launching his 9/12 Project last year, which is meant to "bring us all back to the place we were on September 12, 2001," Beck has gone in a more religious direction.

The second of the project's nine principles is "I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life."

The Southern Baptist Convention's Land, who hadn't talked to Beck before a few weeks ago, has started getting questions from the TV and radio personality about theological issues.

"I think he's moving - I think he's a person in spiritual motion and has been," Land said.

"He has said as much to us," Land said, referring to fellow pastors. "That he has moved in the direction of being more spiritual, more concerned with cultural issues and seeing that politics isn't the answer."

In discussing religious values, Beck generally speaks from a nondenominational perspective, avoiding specifically Mormon or evangelical references.

Beck's religious rhetoric appears to counter the prevailing conventional wisdom that the power of religious conservatives has been eclipsed by the Tea Party movement's small-government conservatives.

But Green says that "groups of religious people who care about social issues have not gone away."

"Some of their leaders faded but that group didn't disappear," he said. "They are waiting for new leaders and my sense is that Beck would like to be one of those leaders."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Mormonism • Politics

soundoff (1,965 Responses)
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    July 21, 2012 at 7:39 am |
  2. kathy

    when did a non christian become a spokesman for Christians...

    November 24, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
  3. dave gershner

    After his initial victories on tax cuts and defense, the revolution effectively stalled. Deficits started to balloon, the recession soon deepened, his party lost ground in the 1982 midterms, and thereafter Reagan never seriously tried to enact the radical domestic agenda he'd campaigned on. Rather than abolish the departments of Energy and Education, as he had promised to do if elected president, Reagan added a new cabinet-level department–one of the largest federal agencies–the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    Though his budgets requested some cuts in some areas of discretionary spending, Reagan rapidly retreated and never seriously pushed them.

    Reagan also vastly expanded one of the largest federal domestic programs, Social Security. Before becoming president, he had often openly mused, much to the alarm of his politically sensitive staff, about restructuring Social Security to allow individuals to opt out of the system–an antecedent of today's privatization plans. At the start of his administration, with Social Security teetering on the brink of insolvency, Reagan attempted to push through immediate draconian cuts to the program. But the Senate unanimously rebuked his plan, and the GOP lost 26 House seats in the 1982 midterm elections, largely as a result of this overreach.

    The following year, Reagan made one of the greatest ideological about-faces in the history of the presidency, agreeing to a $165 billion bailout of Social Security. In almost every way, the bailout flew in the face of conservative ideology. It dramatically increased payroll taxes on employees and employers, brought a whole new class of recipients–new federal workers–into the system, and, for the first time, taxed Social Security benefits, and did so in the most liberal way: only those of upper-income recipients. (As an added affront to conservatives, the tax wasn't indexed to inflation, meaning that more and more people have gradually had to pay it over time.)

    October 12, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
  4. Dr. Rock

    Jim Jones Pt. II

    September 14, 2010 at 1:49 pm |
  5. klarg

    Congratulations. But when did Beck convert to Christianity?

    September 13, 2010 at 11:02 pm |
  6. spokane computer repair

    Perfect! this solved our issue at work. I can't wait to read more =D

    September 8, 2010 at 2:37 am |
  7. Mario

    Some in our Church believe that Glen Beck is the Anti-Christ after this 8/28 "Religious" event. He fits the scripture. He presented himself as a Religious figure while Obama presents himself as not religious at all.

    Beck claims that God is giving him a plan to share with mankind at 8/28 rally. According to the Book of Revelations the anti-christ will be a man, in his 40s, of Irvingites (Mormon) desent who will deceive the nations with persuasive language, and have a massive Christ-like appeal. The prophecy says that people will flock to him and he will promise false hope and world peace.

    “The individual person of Antichrist will not be a demon, as some of the ancient writers believed; nor will he be the person of the devil incarnated in the human nature of Antichrist. He will he a human person, perhaps of Jewish extraction, if the explanation of Genesis 49:17, together with that of Dan's omission in the catalogue of the tribes, as found in the Apocalypse, be correct. It must be kept in mind that extra-Scriptural tradition furnishes us no revealed supplement to the Biblical data concerning Antichrist. While these latter are sufficient to make the believer recognize the "man of sin" at the time of his coming, the lack of any additional reliable revelation should put us on our guard against the daydreams of the Irvingites, the Mormons, and other recent proclaimers of new revelations.” New Advant online Catholic Encyclopedia

    Beck only talks about God not Christ. Morman dissenters claimed that Smith had become the Anti-Christ in 1834 when he changed the church's name from " Church of Christ " to " Church of Latter Day Saints ," deleting the name of Jesus. Maybe they were off by a few years.

    September 6, 2010 at 3:12 pm |
  8. Robert

    Glenn, Is a great man, Now as far as Obama. Well, Obama Can Kiss My ass, 9.6 percent? Sound familiar? What happened to this wonderful Stimulus? I am not a republican, Believe Me. I hated the Bush administration just as much as Everyone else, but as far as this one, He is a Lying snake, Full of backroom deals, Bills that get rushed through congress, A vacation more then He should, He is on the TV everyday when he should be doing HIS JOB. You people Voted for him WHY? to get Bush outta office, Or because you felt that IF you didn't vote for the First Black president that you'd be labeled a Racist? I don't care what you label me, I don't care If you Think I am a scaremonger or what ever, I Am AN AMERICAN. With a Deep love for my country, and When I see ANYBODY trying to change How America is Ran, I will do what ever it is in my power to stop that. Have you ever Wondered why The American Government couldn't give the PUBLIC some of that $900 billion? Think of how many people there are in THE WORLD let alone America. They could have Easily gave EVERY AMERICAN A BILLION DOLLARS AND STILL Would have had 3/4 the original amount. Do you Realize HOW Much Money would Have POORED in to the Economy? WE would have been out of that rescission in as Little as a month. People would have been spending left and right, Buying new cars, OH THERE Goes the Auto Industry out of debt. BUT NO THEY DIDN't. All it was, Was one big Pay back to every body who supported Obama. It went to places that we don't even know. It went over seas, it went to Wall street, It went to companies who SCREW US EVERY CHANCE THEY GET. Seriously People Think about what you Could have done with a billion dollars. Paid of every ounce of Debt, Bought a car in full, bought a new house in full, could have got your Kids a Full College degree paid IN FULL. DO YOU GUYS THINK ABOUT THIS STUFF OR DO YOU JUST SWALLOW EVERYTHING THIS MAN SELLS TO YOU. You ever wonder Why they sold those pens from the health care bill, Or why did he need what was it 28 pens? He is MONEY HUNGRY. POWER HUNGRY. COME ON AMERICA, I AM 18 Years old And i could have Got us out of Debt quicker then The president. STOP IMPORTING GOODS AND START EXPORTING YOU IDIOTS. How can America ever expect to pay off the debt if we ALWAYS BUY EVERYTHING OFF OF OTHER COUNTRIES? Do me a favor, Next time you are in WAL MART OR ANYWHERE for that matter, See how many things you can find that has been made in China. EVERY DOLLAR Bill you have to your Name is fake, Worth Nothing. If our government is supposed to back up these dollars bills with the promise that this Dollar bill has some worth of gold somewhere, How can They when every ounce of Gold they have is debt to other countries. When China Realizes that America is throwing around Monopoly money, They could shut of all supply to us. Now think about how bare every single store would be. Stop Importing, Start Exporting like we used to. Yeah it'll cost more to make here, BUT EVERY BODY WOULD HAVE A JOB TO WERE THEY COULD AFFORD IT. It is basic economic policies. We start selling our OWN GOODS, we can Start making our OWN MONEY. SIMPLE SIMPLE SIMPLE. THINK ABOUT IT, don't just defend your 'Savior' Obama. He is not In it for America, He is in it For the perks, just like every president since FDR. Its Fame, Its Fortune, Its TV time, Its Vacations, Its POWER. Please please please, For the sake of Our kids, and Their kids, Get this Man out Of office, And actually PICK a candidate that is worth more then A pretty picture. Values people, STAND UP FOR THEM. Do you actually want a nanny state? Do you not Feel like everyone in power treats the American Public like retarded little four year olds who Just don't know whats good for them, Or Do you want them To treat us Like THEY WORK FOR US?!?!?!?!

    September 6, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
  9. bonbon

    I really don’t care what religion Beck claims to be. I just want to know what he has done to prove he is a Christian. I am not just speaking of him going to church once a week or reading the bible. I want to know the following:
    1. How many hours has he spent feeding the poor?
    2. What has he done to help the homeless?
    3. What has he done to help sick children?
    4. Has he opened his doors to the needed?
    5. Has he walked among the poor and gave them comfort?
    I just love it when people go around preaching about being Christian, but not willing to actually live like a Christian.
    Sure lets get God back into our lives, but let us also live as God would want us to live. I don’t think God appreciates the fact that we are dividing ourselves with hate. Shouldn’t we be practicing what we preach?
    Doesn’t the bible state to beware of wolves that come in sheep clothing?

    September 6, 2010 at 12:45 pm |
  10. writwing

    Annie,

    I am confused; are you referring to the progressives that imprisoned blacks, Germans and Italians during both World Wars? Or the progressives that promote eugenics? Or what about today,s progressives that want to have death panels.

    Perhaps you believe in a government which states that we must allow them to pass a bill to find out whats in it, but I do not.

    September 5, 2010 at 6:14 pm |
  11. writwing

    Bet you haters would live to imprison him for his words. Imagine someone wanting this country to return to its founding principals of freedom.

    Dont you just hate someone who gives his sources to back his argument? That only leaves you with personal attacks.

    September 5, 2010 at 6:08 pm |
    • Kate

      @writwing

      I think it's more concerns over him trampling all over the first amendment freedoms that's the problem – you remember those, no state-sponsored religion, freedom to practice religion, freedom of assembly?

      Just sayin'

      September 5, 2010 at 6:13 pm |
  12. Something to ponder

    The Bible states the coming of the Anti-Christ. Beck has\had referred to President Obama as the Anti-Christ. Who is Glen Beck? Could he be the Anti-Christ? Hmmmmmmmm

    September 3, 2010 at 2:38 pm |
  13. gail

    Did any of you people go to the rally? I did! God is waking up the Church and nation. He once spoke thru a donkey, so why can't He use a Glenn Beck?

    September 3, 2010 at 1:14 pm |
    • Kate

      @gail

      Good point – since they're synonymous

      Just sayin'

      September 3, 2010 at 1:21 pm |
  14. awasis

    Obviously the Mormon magic underwear is very powerful. Where can I get a pair? Do I need to become a Mormon? And will Beck at his next rally be baptizing dead Jews?

    September 3, 2010 at 7:54 am |
  15. Mish

    Glen Beck is NOT a Christian! Mormonism is a heretical cult! Joseph Smith was a pedophile who crated this BS of a "religion" so he could take his brainwashed idiot cronies on a trip across America so he could practice inbreeding and polygamy with his cousins. People who consider themselves Christian should be disgusted that this inept retard is supposed to represent them with his cultist religion. I am a conservative libertarian and Glen Beck makes me sick. He over simplifies his messages, must be that his followers are a little slow!

    September 3, 2010 at 5:40 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.