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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. cac1231

    glenn beck is a man who cares about america. he cares about the american values. call him a nut, call him a demagogue, call him an extremist, it doesnt matter. none of those things change that. whether you hate him love him or don't really care, you should respect that. at least he's trying for his country. maybe if more people did that, we wouldnt need someone like him to rise up and "speak" to tens of millions of people every day on TV and radio. getting to where he is isn't easy and it isn't fun. and, quite honestly, he couldn't care less what most people think about him. he cares what they do about him.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:17 pm |
  2. ken

    Why dont you IDIOTS try something factual to debate instead of character assassination???? Thats all you lefty LEMMINGS with zero brains can do.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:17 pm |
    • Rick in WV

      Have you ever listened to Glenn Beck before today? Character assassination void of real facts is half his shtick.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:02 am |
    • mmemery

      "Why don't you IDIOTS try something factual to debate instead of character assassination???? That's all you lefty LEMMINGS with zero brains can do."

      Jeez, Ken, I thought you didn't like character assassination. You sound pretty good at it yourself.

      August 29, 2010 at 2:46 am |
  3. Liz

    the anti-christ is occupying the White Housee now – or the devil – whichever you prefer

    August 28, 2010 at 11:17 pm |
  4. Bill Fitzgerald

    Has there ever ever been as much envy and jealousy about one person before? By the way Frank 563, Separation of church and state has been twisted. It was meant to keep government out of religion, not prayer out of school. Go Glenn, and those who cry and whine about him speaking up about God, too bad, we have a voice too and we need more to stand up.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:17 pm |
    • Shelly's mom

      Amen.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:19 pm |
    • Rick in WV

      Actually, Jefferson was pretty clear about Church and State being separate. Law and governance should be based on agreed upon ethics over morality. Leave God in your life, don't impose you idea of Him into mine!

      August 28, 2010 at 11:41 pm |
    • Ohio-gal

      "Separation of church and state" was meant to keep religion out of gov, not gov out of religion...Glenn Beck sounds all for putting religion IN government as much as possible to me!

      August 28, 2010 at 11:46 pm |
    • Rick in WV

      Don't take my word on, and please don't take Beck's. Read for yourself ,in their entirety, the writings of our founding fathers. From Madison and Jefferson to Glenn Beck. He totally misses the point. This is the same man who said he could never be President because we'd run out of missiles in the first 20 minutes. Some "Christian" he is.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:00 am |
  5. TC

    Wow! This is a frightening development, because Beck is clearly talented at what he does, combined with the ignorance and craziness of his base audience.....I'm scared.

    TDS will be fun to watch Monday night.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:17 pm |
  6. Salina

    Beck is like the pyromaniac who is awarded "man of the year" for rescuing people from the burning building! He gave a lovely speech about "unity", but he and his kind have been doing everything within their power to divide people ever since the Dems won the 2008 election!...big hero!

    August 28, 2010 at 11:16 pm |
    • mmemery

      Actually, Salina, they've been doing it since 1969 with what poly sci students and policy wonks call "Nixon's Southern Strategy," in which Republicans sought to capitalize on the anger felt in the Southeast regarding the Democrat's support for civil rights legislation in the mid-1960s. Do you know what Nixon himself called it? "The mobilization of discontent." Pretty telling, no?

      August 29, 2010 at 2:39 am |
  7. DrVonBrain

    In reality Beck is trying to drum up fear. That's all there is to this. The perfect instrument to drum up fear in a populace is religion. Mix in a little false sense of patriotism and voila....control your mob like zombies.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:16 pm |
  8. Piper

    Beck is a demon disguised as an Angel of the light!. This guy is fascist if anyone is. Christians need to get back to helping the poor, giving them good jobs to support their families, taking care of the sick, and quit watching football while people are suffering. Thinking about love thy neighbor and love for man. BECK and the Tea Party and the RIGHT is all about spit on the lazy poor trash. TheBECK is the symbol of all those wealthy corporate monsters playing the puppet strings of people like BECK. The sad thing is Christians fall for it. The eye of a needle baby, The eye of a needle.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:16 pm |
    • ken

      Define "fascist" please. You liberal morons are so quick to throw out words you cannot pronounce much less define.

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

      Definition of FASCISM : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition

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

      [Fascism is] a genuinely revolutionary, trans-class form of anti-liberal ideology to generate a populist mass movement through a liturgical style of politics and a programme of radical policies which promised to overcome a threat posed by international socialism. A fascist movement is dictated by the most wealthy classes and organizations in a specific nation which conditions its ideology, propaganda, style of politics and actions is the vision of the nation's imminent meaning and cause.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:30 am |
  9. ken

    The only morons I see here are those who question him or his beliefs. America was founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs no matter WHAT the elitists want you to believe. SO why should he not turn toward God?

    Yes We Can..Take BACK America!

    August 28, 2010 at 11:16 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Why did White Evangelicals condemn Black Ministers that attended the Million Man March with Farrahkan but it is okay for them to attend Mormon Glen Beck's rally? Just curious!

      August 28, 2010 at 11:18 pm |
    • DrVonBrain

      What if native Americans decided to take back the America that was stolen from them by white Europeans?

      August 28, 2010 at 11:18 pm |
    • Davep

      We would boycott them, just like we are boycotting Arizona.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:25 pm |
    • emundorf

      Ken,

      Let them question him with boldness. In that I mean truely question what he says. We who do listen to his shows are not mindless sheep. We need to not just take his word, but to investigate and be sure what he says is true. We must question all news reporters and leaders. Or we will be spoon fed whatever they want us to think.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:44 pm |
    • GenericName

      America was founded on the principles and ideas fomented during the Age of Enlightenment. Diderot, Kant, Rousseau, and Voltaire, to name but a few, are more responsible for the founding of this country than any religious tradition you care to name.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:00 am |
  10. Jim

    He's an opportunist looking to make a boatload of cash. He'd betray everything he espouses if there were a buck in it.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:15 pm |
  11. DJ McFly

    THE REAL "MILLION MAN MARCH".....Phony Rev Sharpie had what....2, 000.

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

      When is Sharpton having one?

      August 28, 2010 at 11:18 pm |
    • DJ McFly

      John G: Rev Sharpie Is Having The "2,000 D.C. DEADBEAT MARCH"

      August 28, 2010 at 11:22 pm |
  12. Mario

    Glenn Beck is a disgusting racist, lying pig. Anyone who takes him seriously is an idiot. He isn't religious, he's a soulless gold digging parasite.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:15 pm |
    • Piper

      no he is worse than that

      August 28, 2010 at 11:18 pm |
    • emundorf

      Prove what you suggest is true. If you can show me that he cares more about money than his country, I'll never listen to him again. But make sure you look into the $5.5+ million raised for Special Ops Wounded Warriors from the 8/28 march. This is an awesome project.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:52 pm |
  13. emundorf

    Beck has a child with a disability, as does my daughter (Down syndrome and autism). Unless you've lived the life, you will never understand it. Beck is part entertainer...and he admits it. But when I here him speak of his child with autism, I know he is genuine, BECAUSE YOU CAN'T FAKE THESE EMOTIONS!!! He is a teary eyed sap at times. How horrible. But listen to the message and challange yourself by questioning the message instead of the messenger.

    I'm a tea party, 912 Patriot, that has become involved in local politics. I listen to both sides. I question with boldness. My main concern is that the federal government has gone too far. I voted for McCain, and I'm glad Obama was elected. McCain is a progressive as well, but he would not have pushed so hard so fast. Obama has allowed Pelosi and Reid to go full speed ahead which finally woke us up.

    Final point: I don't want my daughter to be dependent on the government for her livelyhood, but liberals will tell you that your kids should not be allowed to inherit wealth. These are also the same people that badgered me and my wife to abort Alexis. She's now 11 and competes in a special needs cheer squad. The cheering crowds fills my heart.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:15 pm |
    • a6102658

      Nobody has pity for Glenn Beck's personal life, he is a horrible person, I remember when he was acting out on his show, trying to poison Nancy Pelosi, I bet you do not remember that?

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

      I never said you should pity him or myself. I feel more enlightened because of my daughter. As for Nancy "The Worst Actress" Pelosi, she is one of the main reasons this country is upset with our government. I don't give him a pass for ignorant comments. But damn, Pelosi is the epitome of what is wrong in government. Why do you feel compelled to bash Beck when Congress provides you with far better targets!!! He's just exposing them. Are you scarred he may be right??? Do your own discoveries on anything he reports on.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:39 pm |
    • GenericName

      I have done my own research on the issues about which Glenn Beck "reports." Most of the time he's completely mistaken. He's not credible.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:49 pm |
    • emundorf

      I'm sure you have, "GenericName".

      August 28, 2010 at 11:54 pm |
    • Navy wife

      Please explain how the government badgered you to abort your child?

      August 29, 2010 at 2:13 am |
    • Shasta

      I agree that Beck's experience with disabled children must be factored into his position along with his recovery from substance abuse. A new-found perspective from a recovering person does sound 'evangelical' and that optimism laced with crazy-talk is what I hear. He's in process -- before everyone. There's probably a new 'Glen' emerging from all this. Because of his ADHD diagnosis, I am wondering exactly where this will land. The integrating concept of god/God is working for him - it is simplifying in a confused and erratic world. Stay tuned. NOTE: I recently called into a local radio station asking them to take him off the air for his disparaging comments regarding children with asthma and the families that support them. He definitely LOSES HIS TRAIN OF THOUGHT in midstream.

      August 29, 2010 at 8:11 am |
    • Sean

      "You can't fake these emotions"? Are you serious? I have 2 family members who are in theater school who have proved you wrong on numerous occasions. It's Beck's job to fake emotion. He's a used car salesman who doesn't check his own facts. A fraud.

      August 29, 2010 at 8:58 am |
  14. Frank

    Awww Man, just when I thought he was turning libertarian he goes theocratic on me. PLEASE leave morals and religion up to the parents and not the govt!

    August 28, 2010 at 11:15 pm |
  15. simpee

    Reverend King was true hero. He spoke the truth.

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

    Although Beck is extremely talented and a fellow conservative, I still think he's an opportunistic NUT JOB and will ultimately bring shame to the conservative movement – especially through mixing religion and politics.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:14 pm |
  17. tbird

    America is totally doomed. I mean, people with a high level of intelligence indicate that RM is "a girl who thinks she is a dude." Wow, that's some really sophisticated gender analysis. Being a lesbian is not being confused about your gender. Everyone knows that, unless you've been holed up in your double-wide reading scripture and eating hot-pockets.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:14 pm |
  18. Just a regular Joe

    To Bill Arterburn... well said. A good posting. Let's stop the "bull"; cut back on the phony imagery, and get back to the basics that made America what it was and can be again. Those who use their inventiveness, new ideas, risk-taking, and hard work will likely lead the way. Maybe even add – "stop whining" to the list.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:14 pm |
    • TTommy

      I'm with you. America has become soft. Too many people stand around with their hands out waiting for someone to put something in it. They would have starved to death during the great depression. We have to get back to what made this country great. All the things you mentioned.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:24 pm |
  19. Jim

    Glenn Beck's first call after his appearance was to his agent. The only thing Glenn Beck has done is position himself to make a lot of money.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:13 pm |
  20. A jones

    Glenn Beck is a Mormon.
    By definition, Mormons are not Christians.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:12 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.