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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. oneStarman - Walla Walla, WA

    RODEO CLOWN is how Glen Beck describes himself. That is an interesting image. A Rodeo Clown is a distraction, waving his arms and shouting, so the Bull Rider – who may be injured – can get away from the Horns of the Bull. I am not sure who the Bull Rider is – but I fear that we are – perhaps – the Bull.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:12 pm |
    • a6102658

      Interesting take, but right on point.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:14 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    No real Christian would give a green light approval for anyone using hate speech such as the N-word Sarah Palin,who claims to be a Christian should know this. She needs to re-read her bible. Jesus said to even say "thou fool" with hatred in your heart could land you in Hell! Sarah it is in Matthew 5:22

    August 28, 2010 at 11:12 pm |
    • DrVonBrain

      Oh? But I thought God (if he/it exists) had unconditional love?

      August 28, 2010 at 11:13 pm |
    • Emilio

      This god complex is confusing. How can he be all the things these delusional people say he is? He's loving, yet feared. He's forgiving, yet very jealous. I think this god fella needs to see a shrink.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:19 pm |
    • ken

      I LOVE how you liberal morons take one Bible verse. I am surprised you know what a Bible is.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:21 pm |
    • freewoman

      Palin is also a Mormon.. moron...

      August 29, 2010 at 5:44 pm |
    • freewoman

      atheists lesson on the bible.

      women are not to teach a man..
      Woman should not speak in public. but to her husband in private
      Should not wear clothing of more than one type of fabric.
      Should not eat pork
      etc etc.
      Palin is a poster child to what a christain should not be.

      I think she must be one of those fake christians that teen declared in DC we now have too many of.

      August 29, 2010 at 5:51 pm |
  3. DrVonBrain

    If there is a God, I am sure he needs a blowhard to speak for him....that includes all fire and brimstone preachers.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:11 pm |
  4. simpee

    Rush Slimbaugh is a fools fool.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:10 pm |
  5. DrVonBrain

    Someone asked who is Glen Beck?

    He's a guy from Mount Vernon (upper armpit washington state)

    August 28, 2010 at 11:09 pm |
  6. bailoutsos

    God was gay. He created Adam first, then Eve who had 2 sons.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:08 pm |
    • emundorf

      bailoutsos,

      If you really think we evolved from single celled organisms, then your statement that "God is gay" is harmless. But if you ever experienced the miracle of birth and realized this could not have happened out of pure chance, you are playing with fire. God is forgiving. Christians are sinners. Don't confuse your distrust of imperfect Christians with the notion that God does not exist. Please don't let others short comings keep you from your personal relationship with Him. There was only one perfect man: Jesus Christ, the son of God. All other WILL fall short!

      August 28, 2010 at 11:29 pm |
    • freewoman

      it does not have to be true.. you just have to believe it.
      God does not allow questions.....
      s/h/it is perfect that is all you have to know. beyond that is it none of you business.

      get too smart and your out of the garden. stupid human....

      August 29, 2010 at 5:41 pm |
  7. gman7111

    If I am forced to listen to this...I will much rather listen and watch Benny Hinn and Robert Tilton...

    August 28, 2010 at 11:08 pm |
  8. teresa dillard

    we can all make light of this, and i am as guilty as the next guy... but, right now, i am at a place where i fear what is to come.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:07 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    Basic Christianity does not endorse Glen Becks faith (Mormonism) as authentic Christianity. Glenn Beck is dangerous to the teachings of the four Gospels and real Christianity and he is confusing people. Why are Christian Evangelicals promoting Beck while demonizing Pres. Obama for not being what they feel is a Christian. Neither is Glenn Beck. Why is their a double standard for Beck? He is a counterfeit Christian and false prophet!

    August 28, 2010 at 11:07 pm |
    • John G

      False prophet = Obama. Democrats / liberals can't seem to grasp the concept that Obama's not the messiah.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:16 pm |
  10. tbird

    Last night I had a dream that Glen was standing alone in a field and storm clouds were gathering around him. He stood tall and strong and proud like a good tall strong American, and he spoke the Truth. A beautiful ray of light shone out of the sky and God's clearly masculine and patriotic voice could be heard by all who had come to gather around and kneel before Beck. He spoke of the terrible bigotry of the American Left and what a shameful and socialistic path this country was going on. Mr. Beck just shook his head yes, and tears were streaming down his face. Of course, I don't know if this is because he was pleased to finally hear Gods voice repeating what he had been hearing so long in his heart, or because God appeared in the form of Big Bird from Sesame Street.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:07 pm |
  11. Frodo

    Beck/Palin? The horror... the horror...

    August 28, 2010 at 11:07 pm |
  12. Bushed

    Glenn Beck is a modern incarnation of Sinclair Lewis's character Elmer Gantry.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elmer_Gantry

    August 28, 2010 at 11:07 pm |
  13. Jason, Boston

    Maybe hes not getting enough money from duping people into buying overpriced gold, now he wants the religion cash too...hand round the hat, 'Do As I Say, Not As I Do!' is in town

    August 28, 2010 at 11:07 pm |
  14. Frank563

    .. and there he stands with an agenda wrapped in the shroud of a religious crusade. Yes, we need religion but our founding fathers had it right when they advocated separation of church and state- Glenn Beck- "get the message?"

    August 28, 2010 at 11:06 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Christian Theology proclaims the Mormon religion is a cult. Not authentic! Glenn Beck followers are not Christians if they endorse Mormonism. They are fakes and frauds. You will never see a cross over a Mormons Church. They do not accept the Cross of Christ as an obtainment to Salvation. Google Glenn Becks autobiography and Mormonism. Then read on what Christianity is. Two different things. If his followers don't know the difference they are mental cases!

      August 28, 2010 at 11:16 pm |
  15. Henry Miller

    The American Taliban is forming up...

    August 28, 2010 at 11:06 pm |
  16. schoong324

    This country is so far off track it's frightening. Somehow Obama has achieved god-like status for liberals and everyone else is hated and torn apart. Liberals are all for free speech unless you say something they disagree with...then you are Satan in the flesh. God help us.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:06 pm |
  17. Jason, Boston

    Bring on the hood..I think we have ourselves a new whites only extremist christian leader..the tea party should be proud..donning their multicultural masks and dumping the constitution into the washington reflecting pool...anarchy 2010 -- the new religion

    August 28, 2010 at 11:05 pm |
  18. Bushed

    Elmer Gantry comes to mind...
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elmer_Gantry

    August 28, 2010 at 11:05 pm |
  19. blahh

    beck reminds me of the warden in "Shawshank Redemption". Google it.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:05 pm |
  20. simpee

    Adam do your research, that is why 20 million Russian people died at the hands of the Nazi government.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:04 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.