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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. steve

    He knows what fills his wallet. The guy is one of history's best flim-flam man.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:27 pm |
  2. savjic

    He is a modern P.T. Barnum, and his followers proove "there's a sucker born every minute"!!!

    August 28, 2010 at 11:27 pm |
  3. Rock God

    Well, we know where this self-described "rodeo clown" got his Messianic Complex from: As Beck later recounted in his books and stage performances, his first attempt at self-education involved six wide-ranging authors: Alan Dershowitz, Pope John Paul II, Adolf Hitler, Billy Graham, Carl Sagan, and Friedrich Nietzsche.[19]

    August 28, 2010 at 11:27 pm |
  4. MK2

    ysoura, you are telling people to read and it seems you are the one that needs to read history. Hitler was a Nazi (socialist) not a fascist you twit. Beck is not a nazi or fascist, you just repeat zombie liberal hate speech.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:26 pm |
  5. Peterburbed Listener

    Beck and his new cult status is a bit alarming. Today he created the concept that the millitary was the only part of the "The Government" worthy of respect and trust. Follow that slippery slope and you have a call for a coup when the next elections don't follow the "word of God." Meanwhile, as the nation as a whole looks on either enraptured, bemused, or disgusted, other members of the far right/ GOP reinvent themselves as a more "moderate" answer for the independents that Obama and the dems have managed to alienate. Watch as Mike Huckabee makes a miraculous conversion into a center-right politician. He is not. This is the greatest slight of hand ever pulled off on the country (other than the invasion of Iraq). Pay attention folks.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:26 pm |
  6. DJ McFly

    BECK: One Million Patriots............SHARPIE: 2,00 D.C. Deadbeats

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

      BECK: One million rich white folk who prey on SHARPIE's poor mix. SHARPIE by the way manipulates them too.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:28 pm |
  7. Gary

    People who talk to make believe other people are kooks. Not to mention he's a Mormon convert who cries on TV.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:25 pm |
  8. jam

    RELIGION divides peo ple SPIRITUALTY UNITES PEOPLE

    August 28, 2010 at 11:24 pm |
  9. David of VA

    I find it funny how you can attack a man that brought Millions togeather on a single message... I would like to see my President get as many people to show up for one of his speaches.. i think not... thank you Mr. Beck Mabye Our President has learned somthing from you today.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:24 pm |
    • Joe

      Did you happen to catch the inaugural speech? 2 million showed up for that.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:27 pm |
    • John G

      Joe – That's when Obama had the public all glassy eyed over his hope and change.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:30 pm |
    • a6102658

      See, there you are denying the fact that Obama had millions of people in his speeches, facts means nothing to you, why do I bother?

      August 28, 2010 at 11:34 pm |
    • Surthurfurd

      Beck mocked Obama for doing just that on several occasions, and his turnout was much larger. Obama is certainly no great prophet; but, (unlike Beck) Obama has not passed himself off as one.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:40 pm |
  10. Rich Fisher Construction

    I was there . I am not religious. I sometimes wish I was. Loved it. beck did not use an invisable telepromter. His ability to express truth did not require one.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:24 pm |
    • DrVonBrain

      I know a good religious de-programmer I can refer you to...to get that glassy look out of your eye now.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:25 pm |
  11. txmomma2

    Heaven forbid a bunch of people get together (a large majority white) and the NAACP and other AA "leaders" come out in droves calling it everything but a blatant conspiracy against Blacks. Just goes to show who the Racist folks really are.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:24 pm |
  12. Joe

    Turn America back to God by making Glenn Beck rich by buying his books and listening to his radio show as he spreads dilusional fear and paranoia to weak minded ignoramuses, encouraging them to hate the president and the government.

    Here's a Bible verse Glenn may not be familiar with:

    "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment." – Romans 13:1-2

    August 28, 2010 at 11:24 pm |
  13. Scott

    I don't mind at all that the majority of this country's people is composed of Christians. It's deeply rooted in historic European tradition. Before the arrival of Europeans, there was no Christianity in America at all. Or Judaism for that matter. I think it's good that people have their own faiths to help them get through the night. I don't have any faith whatsoever. I am a secular agnostic Freethinker. And that's the way I want it to stay. I don't want anyone trying to actively convert me to anything. The fact is that the existence or non-existnence of God is scientifically unfounded. And so long as it is that way, I won't convert. I don't believe that God exists, nor does Satan or Heaven or Hell or sin or anything of that nature. Can't we just make our laws based on humanitarian principles? I'm concerned about the religious right. Not because I hate Christians. Because I don't. But because the collective religious right wants to legally define for me such things as what constitutes a lawful civil marriage. And to me, I think opposite-sex and same-sex couples are entitled to that same right, as the issue of civil marriages deals with governmental recognition, not religious recognition. It is a secular issue. Why there is even a debate about this just blows my mind. If it's an issue of the word "marriage" and traditional definitions, just change the word to something more politically correct and move on.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:23 pm |
  14. LMD

    I watched,I Listened. And with the Emmy's near he should most certainly get the best actor award. As for the dlusions about "God",which one? There are so many different religions in this country,that choosing one certainly would be a biased thing to do.Not everyone in this country is a Christian,and thus should not be forced to pray or worship someones ideas on religion just because they say so.You want to pray and worship,go right ahead. There are churches,your homes,anywhere you choose as long as you do not usurp someones choice not to.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:23 pm |
    • Shelly's mom

      Which one? Seek and you shall find. He guarentees it cause He can not deny Himself. It says so in the Book.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:39 pm |
  15. Amy

    All I can say is wow. I don't follow the news much on the Internet, but I wanted to read about the "Restoring Honor" rally after I saw most of it on CSPAN and CNN seemed like a good choice for news. There's not much out there on the topic today if you look around. I didn't realize that I would find all of this hate and nastiness. Some of the comments here are absolutely shameful. It truly makes me wonder if we could fall any lower in this country when I read things like these posts. My take on the rally was that it was put together to promote goodness. Not just Christian faith, but all faiths, and goodwill towards each other. The speech by MLK's niece was outstanding, as was the music. Beck's speech was very motivational. I find it hard to believe that if you had seen the event, you would have all of this hatred towards it, and Glenn Beck for organizing it.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:23 pm |
    • a6102658

      Here is some homework for you, find in the internet a couple of Glenn Beck's radio show podcasts, from 1 or 2 weeks back, then you comeback here and tell us who is the hate monger.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:30 pm |
    • carol

      Beck is so far from Christian it is silly that anyone would believe anything he says. His message is more old testment the book on which the Jewish faith and muslim faith are based. Why do so called "Christians" so often use the old testment which Jesus was so determined to reform as their basis for abuse of others. Jesus was a man that stayed away from politics and work with the poor, the people with leprosy and the only times he showed angry was at those making a profit at the temple.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:51 pm |
  16. John

    Glenn Beck is an American who has different views then some. Glenn Beck is no different then anyone else who screwed up once or twice in their lives. Those who point out his screw ups - please tell us all you were perfect, so we can marvel at how wonderful you are. Those who call him an iidiot, please tell us how to solve our most complex problems, how to cure cancer and end death, so we can marvel at your genious. What do you have to offer, because at least he is trying and the only hate I see is from those bashing him.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:23 pm |
    • a6102658

      Glenn beck trade on Fear and Hate, and he has no credibility.......I could not be more clear.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:27 pm |
    • John G

      Still waiting for Obama to show leadership skills, of ANY kind.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:31 pm |
    • Howie2g

      @ John G

      It's hard to see something you don't want to see and will immediately rail against.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:42 pm |
  17. Char

    No matter what they say. Mormons are NOT Christians. It is cult.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:23 pm |
  18. The Orange Rod

    Can someone please shut this guy up ?\

    orangerod.blogspot.com

    August 28, 2010 at 11:23 pm |
    • ken

      gee that sounds like a threat! Naughty naughty!

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

    I choose not to be religious. I don't need a crack pot like Beck shoving God down my throat. God will not save this country, the people will, the people who are not racist, not stupid, misinformed and listening the a crazy man.

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

      Why not? You let Oilslick Obamie RAM Obamacare down your liberal throat!

      August 28, 2010 at 11:24 pm |
    • John G

      Religion isn't like health care.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:24 pm |
    • Howie2g

      Wow! I guess the oil spill and the need for an immediate new method to close something like that us Obamas fault? That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:32 pm |
  20. Sean

    He's rallying the troops for what's to come next, I imagine. I don't think America will care to know this, but the rest of the world - we/us - think America is a bit.... awkward. You know when you're in a quiet social setting and one of your friends (that you secretly hate) rips out a gigantic fart? Glenn Beck is that fart.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:22 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.