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. Kane


    Fact check: Hitler WAS a fascist, not a socialist, in fact socialists were persecuted along with Jews, Roma, homosexuals, and pretty much any minority group unlucky enough to be trampled by the mindless masses.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:45 pm |
  2. Jud from Colorado

    Lets get this straight... Al Gore makes bank selling books and a documentary on a social issue, liberals are a-ok with his profit. Glenn Beck makes bank selling books and a t.v. show on social issues, liberals are all up in arms at his share of profit. How can this be? Isn't Glenn's wealth going to be shared also? We will all benefit from his windfall, right? Give me a break you hypocritical masses!

    August 28, 2010 at 11:44 pm |
  3. jonathan

    And BTW – anyone who claims moral equivalency between contemporary Judeo-Christianity and Islam is a moron. Yeah, I know the 'ALL religions suck' thing is a hipness requirement for liberals, but sooner or later, one has to chose a side. As neither a Christian or a Jew, I choose Judeo Christian culture. It's worked for me so far.

    Most secular leftists won't be happy until some Imam has a foot on their throat.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:44 pm |
    • a6102658

      exaggerating much?

      August 29, 2010 at 12:00 am |
  4. SaSS2U

    A Mormon? Oh. I thought he was a MORON! Well when does he have time to get his underwear blessed?

    August 28, 2010 at 11:44 pm |
  5. Surthurfurd

    Jesus warned us about putting on religious airs and warned us (Matthew shares this) of false prophets. I am not sure Beck realized he has tripped into this; but, I do not recall Jesus promoting wealth making as an ideal.

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

      Beck is not a christian.. he is a Mormon.. does not read the bible... his heaven in on a planet with lots of wives.. kinda like the Muslims..but with eternal virgins.

      it all depends on the myths male inventors sexual fantasy preference.

      August 29, 2010 at 6:36 pm |
  6. Zapavilla1

    He is a has been radio morning jock who never became anything until he started posturing religion and missguided patriotism, the last hope of dignity of a scoundrel.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:42 pm |
  7. Rock God

    Man, I just researched Mormon beliefs. And I thought Scientology was weird!

    August 28, 2010 at 11:42 pm |
    • Emilio

      Yeah, I like your comment. The more one learns about these cults/religions the more disturbing they become. Which person in their right mind would dream up some of the things these perverted minds come up with – magic underpants, indeed. I prefer regular non-magical fruit of the loom myself. Impregnated virgin – caphooey. Talking snake – pleeze.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:50 pm |
    • Eric

      Emilio, I would respectfully like to call you an idiot, but I have no respect for you...so I wont. I'm guessing your reading propaganda from anti-mormon websites. Try going to LDS.org or mormon.org to get correct information.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:41 am |
    • freewoman

      well at least super daddy has a sense of humor while he is doing his holy crotch watching job.

      holy undies – is that tighty whities or boxy jockies?

      The ladies version... well I a speechless...

      who says holy c r a p can't be funny?

      August 29, 2010 at 6:25 pm |
    • freewoman

      But Eric.. if go to those sites you miss the fun stuff.

      All the god stuff is really a joke... REALLY..

      It is amazing all the crazy stuff people believe in those myth books..

      August 29, 2010 at 6:29 pm |
  8. End Game

    This country is literally knockin' on heavens door. And not in a good way. Couple more years before the US becomes like russia was in the 90s.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:41 pm |
  9. Maddox

    Why oh Why , The amount of people who accept unconditionally the perspective of others??/??

    August 28, 2010 at 11:41 pm |
  10. DJ McFly

    LAME STREAM MEDIA Reports: Only 200 Attended Beck Rally

    August 28, 2010 at 11:41 pm |
  11. Joe

    Honor God by making Glenn Beck rich.
    Honor God by spreading baseless, irrational fear and dilusional paranoia to weak-minded ignoramuses.
    Honor God by encoraging people to hate the president and government.

    Hey Glenn, remember Romans 13:1-3:

    "Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you."

    August 28, 2010 at 11:41 pm |
  12. Elitesack

    All the haters are raging. GO GLENN BECK! TELL THE TRUTH!

    August 28, 2010 at 11:41 pm |
    • SaSS2U

      Truth? Glenn Beck doesn't know the meaning of the word. Go get your lemon-aid. He talks nothing but narcissistic innuendo and hate/fear mongering. He even lied about being on "the View" afterward, telling some story about riding on the train to get there and some of the "View" members happened to be on the train as well. He said he was snubbed and ignored by them on the train (boo hoo). Barbara Walters and Whoopee clearly didn't even know what he was talking about and of course, denied it. He lies when he doesn't even have to. It's who he is. There is one way to know when he is lying, though: his lips move. You people that fall for his BS clearly haven't much training in facts or reason.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:57 pm |
  13. bailoutsos

    Like Jesus, Manson also had a following.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:41 pm |
  14. dyspre parts

    How come the devil gets all the good ones and we get all the retards.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:41 pm |
  15. DJ

    "Black Robed Regiment"... Yeah, nothing about THAT screams "crusades" much, right?

    August 28, 2010 at 11:41 pm |
  16. mongo

    I don't get it. All these accusations of biggotry and racism. What has Beck said or done to earn those denouncements? Please, SPECIFICS. Quotes, links, whatever. I want real evidence, not just mindless repetition of the inuendo and allegations from his detractors in the Admin and other networks.

    Who is Glenn Beck? He's an inspiration and motivation for many who oppose the direction the country has taken. He doesn't tell them what to think and say. He articulates what they already think and know. In short, he is a charismatic leader. And those who oppose him hate and fear him for that leadership. They fear an energized right as the right fears the liberal left.

    The world has had many charismatic leaders: Hitler, Lenin, Mao, Roosevelt, Kennedy, Reagan, Washington, Robespierre, Buonaparte, Obama (a real lightweight in this pantheon), etc. Their legacies are all defined by their followers...

    August 28, 2010 at 11:40 pm |
  17. Just a regular Joe

    Fred Flintstone and a6102658... Your points are very well taken. However, read the Declaration of Independence and find many, many references to God and to Christian fundamentals. The separation of church and state is clear, to be sure. However, our founding fathers (ie: the signers of the Declaration Of Independence and prior – and later – social/political leaders) were predominantly Christians, born of people fleeing religious persecution from various other secularly Christian influences and political pressures. From 1492 and the landing of Christopher Columbus through the Civil War, and up to this day America is predominantly a Christian nation. I am not suggesting this is significant (at all) to my point that Mr. Beck may be taking advantage of a current socio-political climate that is looking to hear what he is selling at the moment. I agree as USMC soldier says – honor is an individual issue... But it sure might buy votes for a good salesman.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:40 pm |
    • Peturbed Listener

      Really only one group was in pursuit of religious freedom, the Pilgrims. The other early colonists were persuing something even mightier: money! The founding fathers weren't overwhelmingly relgious. Granted there are signers of the Declaration and Constitution that were reverands, most were casually religious and mostly businessmen.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:47 pm |
    • a6102658

      My point is that I am a Christian, but I do not have an inner urge to impose it in anyone else, in fact, I never talk about it or even asked about it, it is never part of any conversation, Religion is a private and personal matter, not Glenn Beck's or any politician.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:56 pm |
    • Eric

      Yeah A6, that is what Jesus probably would have wanted, for you to keep your faith a secret. Im joking. Christ constantly continued to share "christianity" and was even crucified for doing so, im guessing because he thought it was that important. That was the example he set, and what he would want us to do. Keeping it to yourself is very unchristian of you.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:34 am |
  18. national enquirer

    There is only one God.. He's the only being that can declare anything. People have the common misconception that they know what there talking about. In reality people only know what they're talking about when it comes to religion (go figure) It's about time we respected fellow human beings and let God deal with them. This is the 21st century folks. Live and let live. No one can change someone who has the right to live freely without infringement within a belief based system, until we have all the answers as to why.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:39 pm |
    • a6102658

      Glenn Becks talks to God everyday, in fact he said that God dropped a bag of sand on his head yesterday, so there.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:51 pm |
    • freewoman

      Your god know there are other gods..
      You shall have no other gods before Me.'

      If there were no other gods, then why the did he write the commandment # 1

      God admits there are other gods... you must not put THEM before HIM, but they do exist.

      So the one god idea is not correct.

      August 29, 2010 at 6:18 pm |
    • freewoman

      god dropped a sand bag on a dirt bag and created a - s c u m bag.

      August 29, 2010 at 6:20 pm |
  19. Romas

    Beck and his ardent followers would prefer a religious theocracy, much like what the middle east is, rather than allow the US to be a free nation. It's a shame that so many people in this country do not undrstand the constitution or the bill of rights. It's a shame that Wall Street (and the greed that it represents)is more important than the rightof life, liberty and pursuet of happiness.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:39 pm |
  20. jonathan

    Beck is a demagogue? No, the Hamas supporters trying to build a mosque at Ground Zero are.

    When was the last time a group of Mormons cut someone's head off on television? Ummm . . . NEVER??!!

    Secular leftists always get it wrong, don't they?

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

      ...so Beck and Palin are Mormon... oh, you mean MORONS..OK I can see that.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:44 pm |
    • a6102658

      He said Morons...

      August 28, 2010 at 11:49 pm |
    • The Deep Toucher

      Demagogue. Look it up man. So if someone supports the mosque at ground zero, and it is popularly unfavorable, that person is a demagogue? Wow. Up is down and down is up. Beck is a demagogue; a spade.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:55 pm |
    • Jon S.

      You apparently are not familiar with the KKK, which have always tied themselves to christianity as part of their principles, the Crusades, the Inquisition, and on and on. Christianity has been used as the excuse to perpetrate some of the more horrible massacres in human history. When you tie yourself to religion, you tie yourself to an anchor of pure despair. To say nothing of the fact that Glenn Beck represents everything that is ignorant and embarrassing about America.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:10 am |
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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.