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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. Randy Johnson

    Well I guess after Ted Haggard, and Jim and Tammy Baker we need another fool. Just go on you-tube and type in Glenn Beck and you will find out all you want to know about this idiot.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:23 am |
  2. Kohaniem

    yeah like hitler wasn't the pope

    August 29, 2010 at 12:22 am |
  3. Buddy Gilmour

    So, who is the bigger threat to the American way of life: Glenn Beck or the Taliban?

    August 29, 2010 at 12:22 am |
    • Ohio-gal

      My money's on Glenn Beck!

      August 29, 2010 at 12:30 am |
  4. steve

    I'm not a Glen Beck fan but I would say that after looking through these condescending responses that repeat the same insults over and over, all of these posters are scared of the guy and his message. These repetitive angry posts must be cathartic. Get those angry, out of work, cant hold a job, left at home on prom, dropped out of high school, cant get a girlfriend, frustrations out on something that you didnt even witness today. Now thats the right way to be informed and form opinions. Libtards never learn.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:22 am |
  5. Lee

    Mormanismi is NOT a Christian Religion.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:22 am |
  6. Too Funny

    Oh Lawd... Here comes the Anti Christ....

    August 29, 2010 at 12:21 am |
  7. Kathy

    Beck reminds me of George W going on the Christian Network and telling Pat Robertson that God spoke to him (George W) and told him to become President. We all see where that got us – in a big fat mess of JACK SQUAT.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:21 am |
    • Fly737

      You remind me of someone who went into the 7-11 and said the slurpee machine spoke to him and told you Obama should be president. Look what THAT got us......

      August 29, 2010 at 12:25 am |
  8. Sensible Joe

    Glenn Beck hasn't beguiled and deceived all Christians. Many of us haven't forgotten how he repeatedly accused churches that preach practicing the social dimension of Jesus Christ's gospel - feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, caring for the sick and visiting the jailed (Matthew 25:31-46) - of pushing "Communism" and "Nazism," and called on Americans to boycott them. Romans 16:17-18 warns against him and his type: "Brothers and sisters, look out for those who cause dissension and scandal, contrary to the teaching that you learned, and avoid them. Such people serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own appetites - and with smooth talk and flattery, they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded." His behavior and his lifestyle belie his words and reveal his appetite for wealth and power is what drives him. Like many afflicted with addictive behaviors, he has simply replaced his addiction to alcohol and drugs with addiction to power, wealth and attention to give his ego some sense of worth.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:21 am |
  9. Religious freaks

    Beck is a freak

    August 29, 2010 at 12:21 am |
  10. Peter

    Beck stated "God dropped a giant sandbag on his head"
    I wonder if God can make it a giant bag of concrete next time.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:21 am |
    • freewoman

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

      August 29, 2010 at 8:48 pm |
  11. Liberal Conservative

    Glenn Beck is not qualified to lead squirrels out of a paper bag. No degree, no pertinent experience, and unstable, histrionic personality. The idea he is "positioning himself as a conservative leader" is beyond laughable.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:21 am |
  12. Kohaniem

    Thank u glen beck for commanding the heathen to return to My God of Torah, because if they do not, they will surely perish, as noted in Torah, or so they say

    August 29, 2010 at 12:20 am |
  13. lynntn

    Judging by the comments, it's a liberal crowd at CNN. Do you guys really know the tenets of the Declaration of Independence? A government by the people For the people and NOT for the Elitists!!!

    August 29, 2010 at 12:20 am |
  14. mfb0

    nobody cares and it's always about the money...

    August 29, 2010 at 12:20 am |
    • freewoman

      god use to be satisfied with burnt doves, goats and rabbits... then he discovered money and its been ching ching ever since.

      The Jews use to sacrifice animals to god.. those animals we the animals god of the Egyptians.

      then at them.. was meant to be an insult to the Egyptians..little know myth history,

      sacrificing the sacred animal gods to their god.. too funny.

      August 29, 2010 at 8:45 pm |
  15. DJ

    "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."

    Yeah, they have faded because their scandals have come to light. Doesn't the religious right ever stop to notice that the people they follow often turn out to be exactly the kind of people those leaders are screaming out against? And how many times will they have to hear/read that people like Ralph Reed were caught gloating about how easy it is to play them like a fiddle before they wise up? Beck? Really? There's an easy one to spot, folks. Was he a "religious leader" last week? No. Is he sincere? No. Seriously, stop hitching your wagons to the loudest posts.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:20 am |
  16. Yankedoodle

    I think he is trying to sell Mormonism to mainstream. He will not fly. He believes that if he beats LDS drum over and over again then people will start buying into Romney. Christians should not forget that LDS is a cult. Stay away from its adherents.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:19 am |
  17. Moon

    After all the coke and meth he did in the 90's during his career as a morning shock jock, it's no surprise he's having delusions of grandeur and seeing God.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:19 am |
  18. Real American

    If you don't know who Glenn Beck is by now you should really stop spending so much time smoking pot and playing video games. Glenn Beck is one of the only present day cable news personalities who says what he thinks and steers completely clear of any political (that is, R or D) agenda. And by the way, what Beck says actually makes sense!! In my opinion, Glenn Beck stands for the uniquiely American values of hard work and individual responsibility. You liberals are too dumb to realize that America is great because of hundreds of years of individuals working in their own best interests without the government tying them down and giving them incentive to sit around and do nothing! It is impossible for the federal government to legislate its way to a perfect, poverty free society. The individual is the answer to hapiness and prosperity, not the freaking government.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:19 am |
  19. Tim

    Glen Beck is the ANTI-CHRIST!!!! What exactly does he mean by his meeting called: "Glen Beck's Devine Destiny"?? Why exactly is he creating a Religious Regiment modeled after the American Revolution? What does he mean by taking back America??? Glen Beck is the Anti-Christ, and him and his Tea Party Fanatics are declaring War on America!!! They intend to make the the way they want, or as Angle says they intend to practice their "2nd Amendment Rights to Bear Arms!!" The Republican Tea Party should be categorized as a Terrorist Organization now, before it's to late!!!!

    August 29, 2010 at 12:19 am |
    • Kohaniem

      is so i sure like glen beck!

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

      Why do you fear Glenn Beck so much? This event was not even a tea party event, far from it. I'm confused because the same people screaming 1st amendment rights want those rights removed from other people. The whole event of 800,000 plus people was peaceful today. The only incidents I witnessed were from people who were angry that we were there.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:28 am |
    • Michelle

      I couldn't agree more!!!

      August 29, 2010 at 2:14 am |
  20. UrShadow

    A man who wants to be a God.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:19 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.