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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. Mary Lynn

    Take a good look at Glenn Beck folks, because you are looking at the most dangerous man In America. He is a jack-booted Nazi hiding behind a mask of righteousness. May God save us and help us to see evil for what it is and may God help us to remember the old adage that The devil is the most dangerous when he is being pleasant.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:52 pm |
    • yellahammer

      Whew......I feel better now, Sharpton was ANYTHING but pleasant.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:55 pm |
    • Matt in Des Moines

      Mary Lynn, How is bringing 300,000 people together to talk about the benefits of faith, hope, charity, honor and unity evil?

      August 29, 2010 at 3:35 am |
  2. Howard Sims

    G Beck is the one of the most ridulous TV characters I have seen in the last five years appealing to an American audience who feel their country has lost its direction because we have brilliant, characsticmatic and thoughtful president who happens to be an African America.

    G Beck is not the smartest guy on TV and anyone who follows him really needs to think about the " rodeo clown' they are following. the problems America is facing right now took decades to create and it will take us many years to correct.
    If you G Beck will change things you are sadly mistaken.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:51 pm |
    • Norris from Texas

      Stay in denial. I will pray for your continued denial.....Yes he is charismatic... the current president... but so was Jim Jones.... and David Korresh and the infamous charismatic character that flew out of the solar system on the Hale Bopp comet. Thanks to the pres... we are doomed to a social nightmare that conservatives will have to fix once again... Certainly, will take years to reverse but could occur sooner if the would do real economic stimulus by reducing taxes and letting the backbone of this country (small business) grow and grow and grow until once again some socialist thinks the Big government is our savior.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:01 am |
    • Kevin

      ....15% real unemployment, out of control spending, wreaking the healthcare system.....these are the things our "intelligent" president stands for.....Get your life raft ready....the November Wave is a comming......

      August 29, 2010 at 12:01 am |
    • Vera Waitress

      Everyone who complains about overspending, let's do some buget cutting.

      We'll start with the military. Wikipedia reports that the US spends more on defense than all other countries combined.

      August 29, 2010 at 5:28 am |
    • Vera Waitress

      New rule on posting here:

      If you post, you must say what industry you're in. (I'm in entertainment.)

      That should minimize all the ranters who are really disgruntled military/defense contractors (worried about democrats shrinking the military), and health care employees worried about profit shrinkage under the new health care anti-trust laws.
      Hee hee, this should be fun.

      August 29, 2010 at 5:40 am |
  3. Raymond

    Beck is praising God and the military. His message today – Kill them all ... Let God sort em out.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:51 pm |
  4. Norris from Texas

    For those that have religious bones and actually listened to his entire speech, he is a prophet for sure. There is an awakening and will be immortalized in the realms of history. If Beck has a fault in this he is just jumping on the band wagon to a movement that has already begun. Call it from God or Call it scary. One thing is for sure it is real!!! And I hope the liberals are in denial until election day.

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

      What exactly is his movement again?

      There was no coherent message today. 87,000 people showed up. They talked about religion and honor, which is nice. But this is going to be forgotten in a week.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:02 am |
    • a6102658

      What is the movement? I am not aware that the Sky is Falling.......creep!

      August 29, 2010 at 12:05 am |
  5. Joe from Ohio

    Ratings slipping among Americans? Who's left to fleece? The final suckers to tap $$ from... the religious

    August 28, 2010 at 11:51 pm |
  6. Brandon

    Umm does anyone get a vibe like Hitler is being born agin or anything it just seems odd the formation of a super religious fanatical group of individuals and all

    August 28, 2010 at 11:51 pm |
  7. thank god!

    stole this land from the american indians and talk about your country.......
    came to our country made us slaves and wonder why we use the race card.........

    August 28, 2010 at 11:51 pm |
  8. 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 11:50 pm |
    • NoFortunateSon

      87,000 people showed up. That's not a real groundswell. It's more than a MLB game and less than a big 10 football game.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:04 am |
  9. Gezellig

    Glenn Beck is head of the White Sheet Brigade, although he calls it the Black Robed Regiment.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:50 pm |
  10. Jennifer

    I am so proud that he voiced the truth! It is time that we turn back to God and get this nation on the right track. If you look at the decline in society since prayer has been taken out of public school the crime rate, poverty rate, abortion rate, kids in jail, and all those goes with the moral decline, we are living soley on the grace and mercy of God. (What else would you call it? Why do you think there has been a decline in society?) I wish people could understand and see with their softened hearts that the Bible says "you choose life or death, blessing or cursing, choose life" is saying we have the CHOICE to make how we are going to live. The Bible also says that don't bother arguing with someone who is not a beliver because they will not understand. So my prayer for America is that the bliners be taken off the eyes of the people and that the true will set you free! I am behind Beck 100%. Jesus is the ONLY living God-and he loves you!

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

      Jennifer, you say you want prayer in school. No you don't. You want YOUR prayer in school. Why would you turn over the religious teaching of your children to people who may not share your beliefs an morals. If you want prayer in school. I challenger you to come up with a prayer that you feel is appropriate. It will either be so objectionable to other people of faith, or it will be so watered down as to be objectionable on that basis alone.

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

      Go preach your message to the corrupt televangelists who are forever lying about their deeds and who wear their piety boldly for all to see, but in the shadows are some of the worse criminals on Earth. Talk to Pat Robertson about the gold and diamond mines in Africa that has made him billions. Talk to the reverend Ted Haggard about his hypocrisy and abhorrent behavior. Talk to Jimmy Swaggart about his not so holy behavior. Talk to Jim Bakker about his dishonesty. Anyone who professes yet acts contrary to what they profess is an hypocrite and the religion industry is replete with them.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:01 am |
    • a6102658

      You are creepy !!

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

      I think we're screwed if we take Beck seriously. I heard him speak on Fox news and caught a few lies here and there.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:22 am |
    • Observer

      We just had a president who talks to God all the time. We ended up with TWO wars (one was optional), the worst attack ever on our soil, the worst natural disaster in our history, and a plummeting economy. Apparently the talks didn't help any.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:26 am |
    • Love My President~

      Jennifer, you sound like a member of the Taliban, only with a different guidebook. Please don't procreate. If you already have, give them up to normal people and give them a chance.

      August 29, 2010 at 8:03 am |
  11. bailoutsos

    "under God" was not added to the "pledge of alligence" until Eisenhower was in office. America did okay before that.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:49 pm |
  12. shaunlandry

    Who is Glen Beck? He is a radio Shock Shock from the 80's who is not trying to pick up a religious demographic. (read: No one listens to morning zoo's anymore. This is his new niche market for ratings and power.)

    August 28, 2010 at 11:49 pm |
  13. Suzy

    I would just like to point out that Harry Reid is also a Mormon. Not all Mormons agree with Glen Beck, myself included.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:49 pm |
  14. bailoutsos

    "under God" was not added to the "pledge of alligance" until Eisenhower was in office. The nation okay before that.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:48 pm |
  15. thank god!

    thank god i am not stupid enough to follow this jim jones jr.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:47 pm |
  16. geoff

    uhm...how can he be a leader of the christian conservatives when he's a self-acknowledged mormon?

    August 28, 2010 at 11:46 pm |
  17. Miles

    What a freak!

    August 28, 2010 at 11:46 pm |
  18. Observer

    Apparently, Beck made it through the whole speech without having to resort to FAKING TEARS like he did for the magazine shoot. Guess he didn't try to sell people on buying gold to profit him either.

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

      The "tears" have a rich foundation in Mormonism that most people misinterpret. The truth behind them is harder to explain, but just as sad as faking them

      August 28, 2010 at 11:49 pm |
  19. Spence

    With all the comments from the atheists and other low life's, Beck must be pretty good. He has managed to pull every anti-American and anti-Christian out of the woodwork. Lots of hate coming from those people.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:45 pm |
  20. King

    He's an opportunist, nothing more, possibly less.

    August 28, 2010 at 11:45 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.