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. O-ZerO

    I wonder what pukegressive organization has gotten up over $5.5 MILLION for vets???????????????

    August 28, 2010 at 11:38 pm |
    • Dave

      So I guess the guy who raises the most cash for your cause if the "right" guy. I see that you have discovered your "price".

      August 29, 2010 at 12:09 am |
  2. JAM

    he is the antichrist!

    August 28, 2010 at 11:38 pm |
  3. Jaime

    I found it interesting that Tom Joyner ended his speech with,"I love all of you black people out there." I wonder how the other groups supporting the Reclaim the Dream rally felt about that?

    August 28, 2010 at 11:38 pm |
  4. Tired

    This is why our country is going down the tubes. I can't believe anyone with a brain could take this guy seriously. Why are we having Sarah Palin shoved down our throat every day. Give it a rest.... they are both morons. I weep for our future. The dumbing down of America has run its course. "Mission Accomplished"

    August 28, 2010 at 11:38 pm |
  5. Jack

    As is he, my friend.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:38 pm |
  6. Clayton

    Not involved in politics? That's a joke right?

    If any of these idiots are seriously elected, I'm out of this country. It'll turn into a religious wasteland like Iran.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:37 pm |
  7. DonJ

    … a WHOOOOOOOLLE lot of villages are missing their idiots today…

    August 28, 2010 at 11:37 pm |
  8. Jason

    God helps us all if the conservative religious right comes back. Sarah Palin for president? Could the anti-christ also wear Pradas?

    August 28, 2010 at 11:37 pm |
  9. linda carlton

    I see that beck has got them rumbling so sad to see those silly comments and we wonder why america is in the shape its in. At least beck had good things to say about the U.S.A. unlike our pres B.O. ..the pres thought the white house was all about vacationing and spending .I wonder what he will pull out of the bag next .his hope and change are both about gone.leaving americians with no change and little hope

    August 28, 2010 at 11:37 pm |
    • a6102658

      Weak minded sheep, Glenn Beck is milking your wallet blind and with your consent.........sad,...by the way, did you buy some gold lately?

      August 28, 2010 at 11:47 pm |
  10. Phil

    Plain and simple Glenn Beck is a retard,all he does is try to divide the country.He is right about one thing there are two sides, the Glenn Beck retard side and the sane side.I think I liked him better when he was a drunk, he made alot more sense.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:37 pm |
    • DonJ

      …so what you’re saying is “they went FULL RETARD”…

      August 28, 2010 at 11:40 pm |
    • freewoman

      Jennifer Aniston used the "R" word and got creamed by the special Olympics.

      soon it is will impossible to use any word that might offend a special interest group.

      Even if you use the word in a context that has no relation to the offended group.
      PC is getting insane..

      August 29, 2010 at 6:10 pm |
  11. BIg Bad Vodoo Daddy

    Glenn Beck is not a teacher, he is not a historian, he is not a politician, nor is he a newsman, he is an entertainer. Period. He is one of the highest paid entertainers in television history. He is a comedian who neither proves his points nor has he come up with any resolve. Where's the punch line? Why do people take him seriously? He's a joke. SERIOUSLY!

    August 28, 2010 at 11:37 pm |
    • a6102658

      He preys on weak minded sheep.

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

      Exactly. As a matter of fact, when Beck was on "The View" last year, Joy Behar asked if he was a journalist and he said, "No, madam, I am an entertainer." From his own mouth, on national television, for all to hear, and he still fools people into thinking that he is some sort of intellectual. We might as well be taking moral lessons from Jay Leno.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:45 pm |
    • freewoman

      Beck will never
      carry a bible
      wear a cross
      tell a bible story

      drum roll

      be a christian...

      August 29, 2010 at 6:06 pm |
  12. mmemery

    Glenn Beck is exactly what the Democrats need to win in November because the kind of nativist, 1930s fundamentalism that he was speaking today will scare the hell out of moderates and independents. Listening to him, it's as if Billy Sunday and Father Coughlin had had a love child. If Beck and his religious blathering hadn't come along, the progressives would have had to invent him.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:37 pm |
  13. Jud from Colorado

    Glenn is an average guy, who has stuck a cord with a huge number of patriotic Americans who are in disbelief at the way our country is being smothered in liberal nonsense. He is reminding a generation of our Godly heritage, values, and personal responsibility. This generation is attempting to re-write history, and blot out everything that is good about our sovereign nation. Glenn, no matter how annoying liberals find him; is just resounding the sentiments of patriots around the nation.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:36 pm |
  14. Rev. Kenn Storck

    Beck's first act as a newly self-ordained 'evangelical' preacher should be to ask forgiveness from Obama for calling our President a racist, and to reconcile with Jim Wallis – a dedicated pastor who works for the poor and impoverished – whom Beck has tagged as a Marxist.

    Rev. Kenn Storck
    Lutheran Pastor – ELCA

    August 28, 2010 at 11:36 pm |
  15. Chaos

    So, he wants to force religion on people. So much for his talk of freedom. His followers are idiots.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:35 pm |
    • Emilio

      Agreed, but you've got to give them some sort of acknowledgment for their persistency. I guess termites and cockroaches are also persistent in their own destructive ways. I equate all religions to cults and they're all bundled together in the same logic area of my brain as are the cockroach and the termite.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:43 pm |
    • freewoman

      I have never been called a "fake Atheist" or a "so-called Atheist"

      wonder why?

      August 29, 2010 at 6:02 pm |
  16. DJ McFly

    HOPEY CHANGEY, HOPEY CHANGEY, HOPEY CHANGEY.........Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha....... Liberalism Is A Mental Disorder.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:35 pm |
    • Emilio

      And you've just displayed your own derangement.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:36 pm |
    • O-ZerO

      Look, I am not a Beck fan, HOWEVER, he has done more to help veterans this day than ANY Progressive Movement in History EVER did!! You who knock Beck do so at your own peril. Many, Many folks took time out of their busy lives to come to Washington to be part of Honor and Assistance and there are tens of MILLIONS who could not come but were there just the same. When November 3rd comes around and the elite political class find themselves out of power, who will you libs blame??? The stupid american people that want no part of your statist vision???? lol?????

      August 28, 2010 at 11:48 pm |
    • Love My President~

      It is odd that so many of Beck's Brainless Bimbos defend him, or denigrate the President, with such juvenile language and playground antics. The all caps, the cliche acronyms – never anything thoughtful, well-thought-out, or original. If you ever wonder why you are laughed at, or lumped together, consider that.

      August 29, 2010 at 7:56 am |
  17. saftgek

    This post seems to be futile. Those who believe in Mr. Beck will continue to believe in him. Those who are experienced and astute enough to have watched and learned as Mr. Beck established himself as a self-designated Messiah.

    Mr. Beck ranks right up there with Messrs. Limbaugh and Hannity as those who take advantage of the ultra-Right Wing extremists. These sad, pitiful sheep follow whomever spews hate, elitism and venom.

    Perhaps the web space can be better used on another topic?

    August 28, 2010 at 11:35 pm |
    • Love My President~

      Well said. And yet....here we are. But someone must point out the absurdities to the Beck crowd. If we manage to educate just one....just one....it will be a worthwhile effort and a public service.

      August 29, 2010 at 7:53 am |
  18. Elperroguapo

    Eh, the best compliment we can give Glenn Beck is to even pay attention to him. All cult figures that find it inconvenient to back their rhetoric with fact gravitate toward religious ideologies. As long as he can shroud himself in God, he has the leeway to say whatever he wants without recourse. The question of whether he is really a "Christian" or not is interesting though. One way or another, I do believe that Beck has fully bought into himself as a cult of personality, and I would not doubt if he actually believes that God talks to him. If he ever says something intelligent I'll listen to him, but I've been waiting for quite awhile.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:34 pm |
  19. mn

    Why are all of YOUR comments / POSTS so HATE filled. Your all acting in such Self rightous words , your all acting dishonest. He raised his goal of 5 million for the Special Operative Soliders family's – not for him but A GREAT CHARITY to help the soldiers family's BUT HOW COULD I HAVE NOT EVEN HEARD A MENTION???

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

      The money raised is to be divided. read up on nit. AFTER they pay expenses(Beck.Palin,cleanup crews etc) then the rest will be donated. If he wanted to raise money,why not do this for free

      August 28, 2010 at 11:38 pm |
  20. r smith

    Raul G.
    Great, all we needed now was a Western version of the Taliban...
    August 28, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    That's already here, alive and well in the Muslim stronghold of Detroit,Mi. Your late observation is appreciated.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:34 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.