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)
  1. some joe

    a guy that i wish i was 10 cents behind..... 🙂

    August 28, 2010 at 10:57 pm |
  2. JD

    Glen Beck is Rush Limbaugh's Mini Me.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:56 pm |
  3. blanche

    Face it America you more divisive than you've ever been and you are an empire in decline. Actors as presidents and governors and this moron with his newfound fervor. How many wives has he had? What about family values?
    Look over your shoulders at Russia and China, the real economic powers. Your day in the sun has set.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:56 pm |
  4. Randy

    With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. – Steven Weinberg

    August 28, 2010 at 10:56 pm |
  5. SEE Glen Run

    You people put the guy down caus u don't like what he says. He seems to like the USA. What have u got to loose, this country is going to hell in a hand-basket anyway. If u want to make a difference, pray to ure god (the god of money, material etc)
    Look where Glen is today,

    August 28, 2010 at 10:56 pm |
  6. Shelly's mom

    This is a reply to Carolyn who writes, "The founding fathers were extremely clear on this topic . Religion must always be kept separate from politics."

    The founding fathers wanted us to have freedom of religion not freedom from religion. If religion must be kept separate from politics then how can we pass a law against murder or robbery? After all, "Thou shalt not kill" and "Thou shalt not steal" is certainly scriptual.

    Most Americans are familiar w/ Lincoln's Gettysburg Address but his second inaugural speech has been called his greatest speech. I challenge all of you to read thru it. It is all of 4 paragraphs long. http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/inaug2.htm

    Separate religion from politics? Tell that to Abraham Lincoln.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:55 pm |
    • CSh

      Law is about maintaining social order – not religion. We would have laws against murder and robbery even if everyone was atheist. BTW, atheists have morals too. Religion isn't required for that either.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:04 pm |
    • CSh

      BTW, that link ISN'T the Gettysburg Address – LOL!

      August 28, 2010 at 11:07 pm |
    • SEE Glen Run

      Commandment 1-4 is for our relationship between man & God, Commandment 5-6 is for our relationship between each other.
      The 2nd set could be classified "civil law" lying, steeling & killing etc.
      Every time in history & currently in certain countries, when the Church or other religion run the political government, THERE IS PERSECUTION !!!

      August 28, 2010 at 11:09 pm |
    • Deephaven

      First of all, Lincoln was not a founding father of the U.S.A.

      Secondly, most of the founding fathers were deists.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:17 pm |
    • The Deep Toucher

      The laws of this nation absolutely contradict the judicial Ethos of Moses' Tablet. Our Laws are situational; the happy Ten are, supposedly, not. It is lawful to kill people in some situations in under our laws.
      So before religious scripture there were no laws against killing and theft? There were law abiding societies before the ten commandments. In fact, society existed for approximately 40,000 years before your ten commandments even were carved. How is the American public so woefully undereducated? Get over your religious self-righteousness.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:21 pm |
  7. John R. Chapman

    May God help this country. I expected exactly what the majority of comments are saying in response to this call to return to what made America great. Perhaps it is because the vast majority of those who want us to return to our traditional values are not viewers of CNN.
    It is quite astonishing that many comment posters obviously did not read the whole speech but rather conjured up a concoction of their own biased opinions.
    Again, may God bless America.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:55 pm |
  8. tifoso

    Beck is the wannabe Dr. Goebbels.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:54 pm |
  9. Daniel

    If Americans in any numbers go for this drivel it means we are ripe for takeover. By that I mean takeover by a really smart, cunning fascist who can mesmerize the masses. Beck and Palin aren't sharp enough. We may see a military dictatorship in my lifetime.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:54 pm |
    • Emilio

      Sadly, what you've stated is true.

      August 28, 2010 at 10:57 pm |
  10. Cliff

    1. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints ARE christian. Note the name?
    2. Beck, no matter what he calls himself, is a dangerous demagogue.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:54 pm |
  11. countreeboy

    Rev. Glenn Beck, doesn't that ring a bell?! I never seen that coming with all the hate this guy spews! I know the Rev. M.L.K. is rolling in his grave! LMAO @ this Beck guy what a character!!! LOL

    August 28, 2010 at 10:53 pm |
  12. TTommy

    Although I am happy to see the pendulum starting to swing back to the right, I'm with the left all the way when it comes to religion. As an atheist, I don't want religion in our schools and I don't want to hear about it in politics. I think it hurts the conservative cause and I can understand why the left mocks them. I wouldn't watch Beck or Hannity if they were the last thing on TV. Nothing turns me off more than a politician telling me how religious he (or she) is or how they have some insight into what God wants for us. The radical religious right scares me as much as the lunatic liberal left.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:51 pm |
    • Emilio

      Tell us, please, what part of the Left is the lunatic liberal left? Is it the part that's concerned for the well being of all?

      August 28, 2010 at 10:55 pm |
    • TTommy

      Emilio Tell us, please, what part of the Left is the lunatic liberal left? Is it the part that's concerned for the well being of all? --- There is a difference between people who need help from the government and those who don't. The problem with radical liberals is, they won't accept that. They want to create a cradle to grave society where we rely on government for all of our needs. Whereas I believe we should all stand on our own two feet and embrace self reliance. One is a capitalist philosophy and the other is a socialist philosophy. Since I've never taken a dime from our government, you can probably see which side of the fence I'm on.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:11 pm |
  13. Tom in TX

    Who would have thought that the antichrist would have such little taste as to sometimes look like a pudgy white baby faced mormon, sometimes like a se#ually repressed bespectacled librarian, and sometimes like a fat, angry, pill-filled pig with a radio show.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:51 pm |
    • Daniel

      Those three are just softening us (them) up for the real guy. He'll have some tricks that will blow your mind. Many outwardly holy and religious folks will support him.

      August 28, 2010 at 10:57 pm |
  14. kp

    To Richard Hurley and drscott–your ignorance and hatred is clear here. Yes, several people spout off but can you not see what Glenn Beck does. He feeds on your stupidity, he tells half truths and he makes lies seem reasonable. I am sad for you because you just don't get it. Wake UP!

    August 28, 2010 at 10:50 pm |
  15. DeadCenter

    right wingers forget we had eight years of bush and nothing good happened for them except they got to jack off to the fact that gays couldnt marry and blacks were murdered by blackwater in the aftermath of katrina

    August 28, 2010 at 10:50 pm |
  16. Alex

    Never trust a recovering alcoholic

    August 28, 2010 at 10:50 pm |
    • Susan

      alex, that's such a nasty remark about not trusting him because he once was a drunk. Then why should i trust you telling me not to trust him. Your a fool, and so aren't all these other idiots here on CNN comment board. I'm leaving this very hateful, racist posting board. God help you fools. but remember this, God will always win in the end, and the people on God's side is more then the idiots on your side. Good decent people who fear God will always win over evil and your kind.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:01 pm |
    • a6102658

      Susan: The man has no credibility, that is why people has a lot to say, by the way did you already buy some gold from him?

      August 28, 2010 at 11:04 pm |
    • freewoman

      just because he traded one drug for another, does not mean he can now be believed or trusted.

      there is very little difference between a chemical drug and a mental one, your still scre wed up.

      August 29, 2010 at 5:33 pm |
    • freewoman

      just because he traded one drug for another, does not mean he can now be believed or trusted.

      there is very little difference between a chemical drug and a mental one, your still scre wed up.

      August 29, 2010 at 5:35 pm |
  17. LouAz

    "When facism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” – Sinclair Lewis 1935

    August 28, 2010 at 10:49 pm |
    • DeadCenter

      no friggin kidding

      August 28, 2010 at 10:51 pm |
    • Tom

      Actually, what Beck is advocating is the OPPOSITE of Fascism. Problem is, liberals don't bother to learn the facts. You just HATE AND HATE AND HATE.

      August 28, 2010 at 10:55 pm |
    • Tom in TX

      Tom, you don't know what fascism is. You also don't know what liberal means. Go and read a book. These words were coined in Europe. After WWII, people in Europe understood very well the marks of fascism. Here in the US, you can rub it into people's faces (such as yours), and they won't know.

      August 28, 2010 at 10:59 pm |
    • Emilio

      Had this been an earlier time, when the KKK was terrorizing the black community, I could see Glenn Beck prancing around in his white sheet and mask. In a way Fox News is the platform for the reformed KKK to rally around, just look at all those haters spewing their bile every night and at every opportunity to place black people in the worst possible light.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:04 pm |
    • Joe in Kansas

      Tom, expressing an opinion different than yours is not HATE AND HATE AND HATE.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:16 am |
  18. countreeboy

    @ Csh, I totally agree! Beck is losing it!!! If he ever had it that is.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:49 pm |
  19. Tom in TX

    Who would have thought that the antichrist would have such little taste as to sometimes look like a pudgy white baby faced mormon, sometimes like a sexually repressed bespectacled librarian, and sometimes like a fat, angry, pill-filled pig with a radio show.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:49 pm |
  20. Kathy

    I am confused wasn't it the Christian right who at one time declared the Mormon Church to be a cult. If the Christian right continues to believe the Mormon church is a cult, the Christian Right is going to have a cult member as it's leader.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:49 pm |
    • freewoman

      The Jewish commandment were written on stone.

      the Christian myth in sand. changes with the tides of money and power.

      August 29, 2010 at 5:26 pm |
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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.