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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)
  1. Peter

    Google Elmer Gantry.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:04 pm |
  2. VegasRage

    Glen Beck is like another figure that appeared during the last major economic crisis, the great depression, his name was Father Charles Coughlin and the parallels between their type of rhetoric are stark. Do a little research on the two and you will see history is repeating itself.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:03 pm |
  3. steve

    If all you people would sit and listen to glen beck or rush limbaugh besides hearing what the media says you might see different. liberals are lost souls wandering around in a giant lie but we love you liberals to maybe you will see the light one of these days.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:03 pm |
  4. Terry

    The only thing Beck could've possibly done to have his enemies' panties become even more tightly wound would be to interject orthodox Christianity into his message. Voila! LOL

    August 28, 2010 at 11:03 pm |
  5. gman7111

    I still like Jeff Beck better...

    August 28, 2010 at 11:03 pm |
  6. Jeff

    You idiots crack me up. You all judge a man based on what Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Katie Couric, Brian Williams, & Joy Behar tell you about him. Congratulations. You embrace the opinions of a sportscaster, a girl who thinks she's a dude, a cheerleader, a college drop-out, and an entertainer. Yeah those are great sources of responsible journalism. With the comments and level of thinking that is present in this forum, one can only surmise that America is doomed.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:02 pm |
    • ReDiJeDi

      Did you hear about blow hard Ed Schultz having a temper tantrum because his name wasn't going to be listed on election day coverage on MSNBC. The president of MSNBC called him into his office and told him if he does it again he was going to be fired. He broke down and cried like a baby.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:06 am |
    • Elaine

      You idiots crack me up. You watch Beck and can't see him for the fraud he is. After 10 minutes of watching him, I get totally disgusted. How anyone can take that @$$ clown seriously is beyond me.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:47 am |
  7. borisjimbo

    "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." Yes, but that doesn't mean they aren't part of an ordered society that must believe in scripture. We don't steal or kill because we don't want those things to happen to us. Many of us manage to behave honorably and ethically without attending church or reading "the" Bible. Sorry you have a problem wrapping your head around that.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:02 pm |
  8. Dave

    If Beck were truly serious about his message, he would renounce his bully pulpit on Fox News and walk away from the exorbitant salary. I hardly believe the boardroom at Fox News resounds with talk of spiritual matters...

    August 28, 2010 at 11:02 pm |
  9. simpee

    All politicians sleep in the same bed together. They are bought and controlled by corporate giants. It is time for a change. Beck is not the answer.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:02 pm |
  10. Adam

    If any one of you thinks Glenn Beck is a fascist or ANYWHERE near that ball park you really need to educate yourself on what Left and Right truly are. Fascists and Communist are basically one in the same, both totalitarian government rule. Most of the right are for limited government, so calling people like Beck, fascist, are just plane ignorant. Please do your research before you make idiotic comments.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:02 pm |
    • Henry Miller

      "Most of the right are for limited government..."

      That's true of what's been called the "Libertarian right," and, to some extent, the "fiscal right," but it's certainly not true of the "national security right," or the "religious right."

      That's one of the problems of trying describe political philosophy to a simple, linear, spectrum.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:13 pm |
    • The Deep Toucher

      Wow Adam. For someone willing to preach about political awareness you sure suffer from a certain illiteracy. Communism and fascism are not the same thing. Fascism, under Mussolini, recognized the power of industrial capitalism and used the government to augment its powers. Communism thought everyone should be farmers. So, actually, Beck is a Capitalist and populist par excellence. The suggesting that he resembles a fascist is not at far fetched.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:36 pm |
    • GenericName

      yea Adam, before you start throwing around terms like fascism, totalitarianism, and communism, you really need to learn what you're talking about. Specifically, as was pointed out, that fascism and communism are diametric opposites. There was a war fought over it, right around the mid-20th century...you may have heard of it.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:42 pm |
  11. John

    The way this country is going downhill I'm glad I'm 64. In 20 years the US will be a third rate country for most people. There will be a few people well off, but only a few.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:01 pm |
  12. Kevin

    Glenn Beck should be the new spokesperson for Black & Decker because he is the biggest Tool in the world.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:01 pm |
  13. Patrick

    Cuckoo, cuckoo...

    August 28, 2010 at 11:00 pm |
  14. idisagree

    "Beck has also begun organizing top conservative religious leaders – mostly evangelicals – into a fledgling group called the Black Robed Regiment." – be afraid. Be very afraid.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:00 pm |
  15. John G

    Beck's rally held the spirit of MLK much more than Shapton's did. Liberals can twist it anyway they want but the facts speak for themselves.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:00 pm |
    • Susan

      John, your so right, MLK would of been so proud to hear Beck's words of love for God and for his fellow man. His talk today was inspiring. Most here haven't even heard his talk, but get tibits from CNN or other liberal news outlets that are racists and bigots, and hate mongers, and they all hate God and anyone that embraces faith and God. Thank you for sharing and speaking the truth.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:05 pm |
  16. DC678

    I guess some people are so gullible, they will follow Beck's leadership just like a number of people once followed Jim Jones' every word. I never cease to be amazed at what people can get away with when it is cloaked in religion.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:00 pm |
  17. Mike Yahwak

    The Anti Christ was born today.

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

      Mike, Beck isn't the anti-Christ. he doesn't want you to follow him, he only ask that you follow your God. I guess you didn't hear his speech for your self. I can't believe your afraid of someone asking us to be better citizens of America and to be better fathers and mothers and friends. He asks us to love our families more and to turn be better Americans' Don't read to much into it. He isn't raising a mega church. he doesn't want your money, or you to worship him. But to only worship your God and to become a better person of faith no matter what faith you embrace. So hear his speech for your self. Stop spreading lies, he isn't trying to be your leader, but he does give great American history lessons. You could learn alot from him, you never learned in highschool, or college with thier far left loonies agenda to hate America and her freedoms.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:11 pm |
    • GenericName

      Susan, why don't you take a history class from a college professor (you know, from someone who has devoted his or her entire life to studying the topic, as opposed to a college-dropout former DJ), and then you can see for yourself just how much Glenn Beck doesn't know.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:36 pm |
  18. libhick

    Beck is all theater and gimmick. I find it rather funny, and a little embarrassing, that this many people actually buy in to his extremism. Yikes!

    August 28, 2010 at 10:59 pm |
  19. Randy

    Jeff Beck for President!

    August 28, 2010 at 10:58 pm |
  20. paulm5545

    Regarding the post from Greg at 9:46pm: Glen Beck was never a guitarist for the Yardbirds – that was Jeff Beck.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:57 pm |
    • GenericName

      pretty sure he was just kidding

      August 28, 2010 at 11:32 pm |
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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.