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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. Noly

    I think little of Beck. I think less of Palin. (Has there ever been a family that needed a mom at home more than hers?) Having said that, I'm most impressed with all of the folks from the red states that are chiming in (defending Beck) and fully able to use their computers to do so. God Bless America! With love, from Canada.

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

    ARE YOU JUST ANOTHER ILLEGAL CATHOLIC?

    August 29, 2010 at 12:28 am |
  3. Darryl Schmitz

    So much for his claim to be "libertarian". How many more times will this charlatan reinvent his public persona before his fans recognize him for the publicity chow-hound he is?

    August 29, 2010 at 12:28 am |
  4. Kathy

    We better ALL get out the vote & VOTE IN NOVEMBER! We cannot let this happen again! It is taking way too long to clean up the mess from the Bush Admin.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:28 am |
    • Fly737

      You tell em girl!! Lets keep blaming Bush for the next couple years too.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:33 am |
    • Elaine

      We will keep blaming bush because we are still dealing with his mess. It will take years to undue that nightmare.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:57 am |
    • Matt in Des Moines

      Has anyone ever thought that perhaps, rather than "8 years of failed policies" we're dealing with closer to 80 years of failed (progressive) policies? Fannie and Freddie, Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, progressive income tax and regulation of the business and financial systems all started many many years before 'W". It is possible to be short-sighted in retrospect as well as in looking to the future.

      August 29, 2010 at 3:54 am |
  5. florida

    This is really weird, watching Glenn is scary. He puts me in mind of the antichrist. Something not right about him.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:28 am |
  6. Ohio-gal

    “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”–Sinclair Lewis 1885-1951

    August 29, 2010 at 12:27 am |
    • Matt in Des Moines

      Or perhaps it will be wrapped in a flag and trying to ban crosses?

      August 29, 2010 at 3:43 am |
  7. Religious freaks

    Beck is a speck,,,The people who listen to people like Beck are our biggest threat, He's a whimp

    August 29, 2010 at 12:27 am |
    • Liberal Freaks

      Glad you are scared.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:35 am |
  8. Reality

    What GB should have said:

    Jesus was an ill-iterate, sim-ple preacher man who suffered from hal-lu-cinations and who has been characterized anywhere from the Me-ssiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:27 am |
  9. thehomelessguy

    I don't understand why CNN allows another network to promote itself and it's particular spin here, as if it's news.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:27 am |
  10. Schmoediddles

    Of course Beck is turning to religion to spread whatever message he has. He's pulling the same bull that the PTL, the 700 Club, Falwell, Bakker, and Reverend Sharpton have pulled for years. Religion is the easiest way to manipulate millions of people on a grand scale. And it gives you powerful, deep pockets to play with too.

    Is it any wonder that he chooses religion in a difficult economic time when people are struggling and willing to listen to any yahoo on the pulpit.

    While I agree we need to bring back integrity, nobility, respect and strength back to America, religion is not the way to do it. There is a good reason why this country was founded with a separation of church and state. So-called faith is not a good way to run a government or to make major decisions. So many countries around the world prove that everyday.

    We need respect for fellow Americans regardless of religion, race, political party or ideology. We are all entitled to our beliefs but when they are used to divide us then cooler heads with common sense must prevail. Beck is not a 'cool head'. Common sense seems elusive in America at this time. Why can't we all just get along and respect each other.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:25 am |
  11. Reality

    What GB should have said:

    Jesus was an ill-iterate, sim-ple preacher man who suffered from hal-lucinations and who has been characterized anywhere from the Me-ssiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). Analyses of Jesus’ life by many co-ntemporary NT scholars via the NT and related documents have con-cluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles) added by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan se-cts.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:25 am |
  12. Louis

    This meeting was created by design to belittle Dr. Martin Luther King. Beck states that his meeting is not politically motivated but it is. He just wants to get the easily gullible Christians on his side for whatever political agenda he has in mind.He is also working on the minds of our military.This guy is hideous, prejudice and outright non-human. I am an American with latino background and am greatly offended by this creep!

    August 29, 2010 at 12:25 am |
    • Peter

      On the contrary, over 30 minutes of this event were dedicated to MLKs message of peace, brotherly love and unity amongst the races. His niece spoke for much of that time. Nobody owns the date of 8/28? I witnessed nothing short of respect and honor for MLK at this event. I'm sorry you saw it otherwise.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:35 am |
    • freewoman

      Beck pulled a fast one in the MLK guys,.. got the date reserved for the mall right under their nose.

      first come first served.
      I bet the MLK folks will never let that happen again!!

      August 29, 2010 at 8:52 pm |
  13. dbarak

    Glenn Beck is a chameleon, able to change to fit whatever he thinks will lead him to the most money, power and fame. I don't for a second believe he's found religion, and I don't for a second believe he's got any real political convictions. He's found that the political right, in general, is an audience hungry for a messiah figure that tells them what they want to hear. Not EVERY person on the right is like that, but many are.

    And... before anyone spouts off about the political left, yes, there are those on the left that tend to look for their own messiah figures. Gullibility is an equal opportunity weakness.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:25 am |
  14. maria kevers

    It is always funny to see the ignorent come out in full force against something they don't understand. Liberals get your head out of your ass and see what is in front of you. If we end up in a horrable situation, we have you to blaim. Onfortunatley you are to brainwashed to know what I'm talking about. O and by the way congress is incharge of the defiset, and the Dems were in charge of it during 2007, 2008 and now 2009, 2010. So Obama was given this defisit by his own leftesis. You own more than you think

    August 29, 2010 at 12:25 am |
  15. Mark

    The guy is just a glory hound, he'll say anything to be famous. The sad part is the suckers are buying it. That's how we got stuck with Bush for eight years. America, a country of morons . . .

    August 29, 2010 at 12:25 am |
  16. Dominic

    I"M STUNNED...by how stupid Beck is.
    If Beck had his way, the United States would be a Christian version of Iran.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:24 am |
    • Kohaniem

      No matter glenn, HITLER porked a girl 20 years his junior then married the catholic, then blew his brains out

      August 29, 2010 at 12:27 am |
  17. Saad

    great, that what this country needs. GROUP of nuts who live under the greatest governing system exists and Want to destroy it. Small govrmnt....?? I see Mikhail Gorbachev likes in the tea party. U.S. government is us.This system that was created by mind and reason and what made America a rule model to the world. NOT some superstious miracle.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:24 am |
  18. D79

    So many self prescribed brilliant people on here passing judgement on the intelligence of others.

    Nothing new here move along.

    Typical rantings from high minded brainwashed liberals guiltly of the very thing that you are accussing others of, which is; out of control egos, narcisism and and an over inflated opinion of your own intelligence which has been conveniently spoon fed to you from your very own personal sources of propaganda via left wing machinations.

    You're so much more simular to what you say you hate than you obviously realize. If you dont like Beck ignore him and those that like him ! What should it matter to such intelligent all knowing beings what those who are so inferior to you do or believe?

    What a bunch of jerks you're laughable – not really – pathetic sheep that have been convinced that you're "God like" is more like it. Such tolerance being exemplified from the liberally minded on here. If Hateful hate filled diatribe is all you got go talk it to mirror. It bores those of us who are well read and strive for true intellect.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:24 am |
  19. followthemoney

    Glenn Beck has publicly stated that he doesn't care about his work. So what exactly is the point of a Glenn Beck rally and an even better question is what do people believe they are getting by following him?

    August 29, 2010 at 12:24 am |
  20. Kohaniem

    Does beck have a secretary? Why can't she tell us which god he was referring to ?

    August 29, 2010 at 12:23 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.