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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. Seattle Slim

    Do many of you people understand how hypocritical you are? Many of you say that Glenn Beck is full of hate and that he is a moron. Those that act like that are the true problem with our country. It is one thing to disagree with someone, but it is an entirely different thing to display such hatred. The words being used to describe him are truly horrible and hateful. Short of a serial killer, a rapist, homicidal dictator, etc. such strong and sad language should not be used to describe a human being. This rancor proves that America does need to seriously change its attitude adjustment I get frustrated with both political sides because of how dispicable the name calling and bitterness can be. If you want people to have a dialogue, maybe we should treat them with respect and understanding. That goes for liberals and conservatives. I thought the message of Beck's rally was thought provoking. I found it tasteful and engaging in the same way that I find some liberals to be truly concerned with our country's welfare. The fact is, America is on a slippery slope and we cannot afford to merely go with the status quo. Amerians cannot merely go on acting without realizing there are consequences and reprecussions to every decisions we make.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:41 am |
  2. Bud

    Here we go again. FOX creating the news. I just have one question. Howz come Beck and FOX never held a rally during the 8 yrs. Bush was wrecking our economy ?

    August 29, 2010 at 12:41 am |
  3. Jeff

    Glenn Beck is someone I tried to avoid by watching CNN. A lot of good that did me. He's omnipresent. He's the next Joseph McCarthy... I miss Paddy Chayefsky and Edward R. Murrow.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:41 am |
  4. Jesus Jones

    Lonesome Rhodes in rare form today . . . what's next? Handling snakes on TV while using his blackboard to chart out the 10 Surefire Ways to Identify Obama as a Secret Muslim(tm)?

    August 29, 2010 at 12:40 am |
  5. stuttering stanley

    so when's the beerhall putsch scheduled?

    August 29, 2010 at 12:39 am |
  6. Pete

    Looks like ol' Glenn forgot to take his meds again. Nutbar.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:39 am |
  7. tina

    IPwn, what do you mean this was the wrong speech to give? It is what 1000000 of us are feeling and/or thinking. I love Glenn Beck and am happy that someone is helping to get our voices heard! God Bless America

    August 29, 2010 at 12:39 am |
    • Mark

      Then you're just as crazy as he is. How're your 17 cats doing, "Tina"? lol

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

      What are you thinking or feeling? The speech sounded like an Obama speech to me.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:52 am |
    • Not4Stupidity

      Don't tell us that there is 1,000,000 stupid people out there. Ever heard of Consumer Beware he is selling ya'll crap.

      August 29, 2010 at 3:17 am |
  8. dingdong

    he's the guy version of sara palin...yuck!

    August 29, 2010 at 12:38 am |
  9. Roy G.

    We know about Elmer Gantry and now his name is Glenn beck.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:38 am |
  10. Doug

    Just what we need. Another misguided individual giving Christianity a bad name.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:38 am |
  11. 2ndAmendmentRemedy

    What I want to know is when is Glen Beck going to come out of the closet? There is lots of evidence that he is gay. A number of gay men from his past have started to come forward. The sooner he gets ahead of this, the better. He could hurt the chances of Republicans in the fall if this blows up in October. My guess is that is when democrats (yes, his former lovers are part of the radical gay agenda) will be all over the media by then.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:38 am |
  12. Billy

    He said "God told me what America needs to get back on track." So, if you believe him, you are accepting him as a prophet.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:38 am |
    • Emilio

      The gut needs medication for his delusional personality. Crazy SOB.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:40 am |
    • mmemery

      Which is a very scary thought. It has been said that when a person talks to God, it's called prayer. When God talks back, it's called schizophrenia. Let's all hope that Beck was speaking metaphorically.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:44 am |
    • freewoman

      I would like to see that bag of sand.. l'd like to check the contents..

      I suspect it may have been a bag or Bull $ hit. and it went strait to his head...

      August 29, 2010 at 9:02 pm |
  13. RP

    He is opportunist only after rating for his own show with no regards to America or American people. Wake up people, smell the rat and think.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:37 am |
  14. NoFortunateSon

    Also, does anyone get the impression that Glenn Beck is really just jealous of Barack Obama.

    Rallies? Talks about "Hope"? And yet he hates the guy.

    I watched the speech today, and couldn't help get the impression that Beck just wants to rip the guy off. And lo and behold, the AP is now reporting that many of the lines used in Beck's speech were actually lines used in Obama speeches. It's just creepy.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:37 am |
    • JDoe

      YEAH...BECK'S " JEALOUS" OF OBAMAO....THAT'S IT !

      OF COURSE.....BECK COULD BUY AND SELL OBAMAO ABOUT 50 TIMES OVER ....AND BECK

      IS GETTING MORE POPULAR, WHILE OBAMAO IS GETTING LESS POPULAR....

      YEP, SOUNDS THE HALLMARKS OF JEALOUSY TO ME ! 😉

      WAY TO CALL IT "NO FORTUNATE ONE"...SPOT ON !

      August 29, 2010 at 12:48 am |
  15. Lee Reach

    There will always be those of you liberals who question everything and embrace nothing. You are the same who think that the louder you are and the more complaining you do the more right you are. You are the loud and obnoxious minority and the time is coming when the silient majority will rise and silence your whining. It will be done by what took place this weekend in D.C. We have put up with enough of your supercilious and pompous attitudes.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:37 am |
  16. Midwestmatt

    Do NOT underestimate this man. He has the silver tongue of a con man and a heart of extraordinary avarice.

    He is building a following of those that will not pick up a book to see if he's citing history or his interpretation of it.

    He can be neutered very easily by getting up and voting for moderate candidates of either party.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:36 am |
  17. Barbara

    This poor guy is going off the deep end for sure. He gets more and more delusional each day. I used to think it was all an act for profit, but I am honestly starting to think he actually BELIEVES he has been anointed by God to save us all. It is just a matter of time before he crashes and burns like so many other crazies we have seen over the years. The scary part is that there are literally millions of people who love this guy and believe in him. YIKES!

    August 29, 2010 at 12:36 am |
  18. Reality

    HEY GLENN: 15 MINUTES CALLED. THEY WANT THEIR FAME BACK!

    August 29, 2010 at 12:36 am |
  19. bill

    You anti-beck/anti-religious/anti conservative people are ridiculous....you know nothing about Beck because you cant see anything through all your hate. Anyone who is conservative, your view with hate. Add in the fact that your boy Obama is falling flat on his face just drives you all to more anger and hate. Give it a rest for once. The problem in this country is progressives and their agenda of bringing down the USA and what made us great...... I wont bother to list those since you all are too ignorant to understand anyway.

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

      How are progressives the problem? They are a tiny minority, don't hold much power, and their democratic allies certainly weren't holding power when things started heading south.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:40 am |
  20. mfaphoto

    I think he may actually believe that he is chosen by God to do what he is doing. Next, he may believe he is chosen to be President. Not kidding!

    August 29, 2010 at 12:35 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.