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. Davep

    blah blah blah. All this fighting is getting old. I think I'll head out and get another tattoo. At least that one thing all American's agree on – at least from my last visit to the public pool – is a good tattoo.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:22 pm |
  2. James

    This is terrible. For those who are actually Christians and have discernment, I hope you can see right through this guy. Don't be fooled. America needs Jesus not this circus show. Go to a church that teaches about the hope found in the gospel of Jesus Christ, that's where you will really see honor restored.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:21 pm |
  3. Erik


    CNN BIAS is disgusting – keep appealing to your bigoted audiences and keep dividing America.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:21 pm |
    • Howie2g

      Because that's what he made it out to be, not a political one.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:25 pm |
  4. tbird

    what sort of nutty thought process is this about this once great America. Which one? Back when most of the people that lived here couldn't even vote and everyone with brown skin lived under the threat of the most dangerous terror campaign this country has ever seen – lynching? I mean really? This notion that America has some sort of lovely, perfect history is just so ludicrous. I suppose if feeling patriotic is a dumb way to feel your ego inflating – you could call it a patriaboner – than you need some absurd narrative about our pure origins that less than 5% of people with a history degree would be on board with. I mean please! Half the people talking history here are talking about some fairy tale in a Texas approved junior high history book/ nationalism manual.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:20 pm |
  5. SJB

    Glenn Beck is different things to different people....and to himself depending on what is marketable that day.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:20 pm |
  6. tacitus

    Why is anyone surprised? Since the beginning of the nation, religion has been the best money-making scam there is. It was only a matter of time before a narcissist like Beck decided to mine the Faith gold. Who will be next?

    August 28, 2010 at 11:20 pm |
  7. john

    FOX news offered more money...so he swithced from left to right...and that's exactly what this is all about...MONEY. He wants to be a Rush Limbaugh and get 400,000,000 a year. Watch, he'll announce a new book very soon. The christain conservatives are a HUGE emotional market. Emotional markets are the best...ask any marketing major...it's all about the money.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:19 pm |
  8. DJ McFly

    YES, I See How "Tolerant" Lefties Are........Like The muslims You Worship..........Ha HaHa Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha

    August 28, 2010 at 11:19 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    I am not questioning aything I am just stating a Biblical fact. That Christians and Mormons are not the same. That makes Beck a Hyprocrap!

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

      You are correct. Of course Mormons and today's Christians are not the same. Today's Christian is apostate to what Christ taught. Mormons are true to what Christ taught. It's as simple as that.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:26 pm |
  10. John

    Please remember that swine cannot appreciate pearls

    August 28, 2010 at 11:19 pm |
  11. Howie2g

    This guy is one of the most hate filled consertative hosts I've ever see and for him to even speak of god, who is loving of all people regardless of faults, is ridiculous. He's disgusting.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:19 pm |
  12. karma

    what he meant to say was "capitalists dropped a big bag of money in my hand"

    August 28, 2010 at 11:18 pm |
  13. simpee

    Glenn Beck and Fox News sleep in the same bed together.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:18 pm |
    • John G

      I think the fact that Obama and the MSM is would be much more disturbing.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:21 pm |
  14. O-ZerO

    What a bunch of libtard tard farts!!!! Estimates today top 500,000 and all you pukegressive ZERO's can do is stroke your O-ZerO dolls and yourselves!!!! HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAA!!! See you wastes of Oxygen in November!!!!!!!

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

      An I'm guessing you had to take care of that hard-on you had watching your leader all by your lonesome.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:22 pm |
    • LMD

      and exactly what percent of that is the total population? Do not be fooled by false faces. This man is a self declared entertainer. And that is what he gets paid for..entertaining

      August 28, 2010 at 11:26 pm |
    • O-ZerO

      Estimates were around 400,000 for President O-ZerO's inauguration!!!!! ROFLMAO!!!!!!!

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

      The latest estimate for the crowd today was 87,000, which seems about right based on the pictures.

      That's still a lot of people, less than a big 10 football game but more than your average MLB game being held today.

      But creating insane and outlandish estimates is only going to make you look desperate and foolish.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:58 pm |
  15. misanthropicus

    Nice – and the liberals' reaction at this is much like demons' or vampires' when they hear in the night the cathdral bell –
    In Hoc signo vinces – gone will be the libberal occupiers ptretty soon –

    August 28, 2010 at 11:18 pm |
  16. Susan

    This Blog highlights exactly what is wrong with our country right now. Why is it that in particular those who tend to be more liberal resort to name calling? I noticed a reference to what we learned in kindergarten earlier. Didn't we all learn that name calling gets you a time out? If people would spend more time thinking about what each of us individually can do to make things better than they are and spend more time asking what we as American's have in common rather than fixating on our differences, we wouldn't need Glen Beck to tell us we have to come together. This division is coming from teh top down in politics. Can't we try to make focusing on traits that can bring us together from teh bottom up? What is amazing to me is that people can tell me all the time about how bad things are, but I live in Atlanta and live and work and interact and am just live side by side with people from all walks of life. I don't see neighbor hating neighbor as everyone claims. It's the "groups" that hate other "groups". We need to start looking at ourselves as Americans who are individuals who all share being an American.

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

      Susan, actions speak louder than words.

      I heard a lot of platitudes today from Glenn Beck, but how has Glenn Beck lived up to his words? How has Glenn Beck furthered charity? How has Glenn Beck furthered tolerance of his fellow man?

      That's why I think this whole affair went over flat. It was all talk and no action.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:55 pm |
  17. Red Apple Mom

    Be careful before criticizing Beck's history. Most of the Bible's central figures were people of questionable backgrounds. God has often chose the "unrighteous" as his messenger. Face it – who among us is truly "righteous"? If this is all you have to attack Glenn Beck, please educate yourself and come back with a more intellectually grounded opinion.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:17 pm |
    • DrVonBrain

      Thanks for the good laugh you gave me. Good irony.

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

      Red Apple Mom,

      Well said!

      August 29, 2010 at 12:00 am |
  18. ken

    Come over to FOX. We will show you The Way!

    August 28, 2010 at 11:17 pm |
  19. Tim

    Glenn Beck is a charismatic but ignorant loud mouth with delusions of grandeur who has managed to ride into fame and fortune by stoking people's fear and anger in an uncertain time.
    Some wise person said that being a Republican is a borderline personality disorder. Glenn Beck has pushed beyond that border into real mental illness.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:17 pm |
  20. Glen

    its amazing of the amount of hate in these posts...no wonder CNN if full of fail. keep up the good work.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:17 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.