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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. mt

    he's an entertainer – only sheep follow him

    August 29, 2010 at 12:47 am |
  2. christopher

    The people who follow glenn beck are sad- pitifully sad. They obviously have many personal demons to concur and have little in their life to celebrate. The man is rude, cruel, loud, shallow, egotistical and preys upon people who are looking for something drastically missing from their lives. He has no credibility as a scholar and he delivers trash news. The people who follow this idiot would be better off joining a good book club.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:46 am |
  3. Emilio

    Just think, if I could act as nutty as this fruit loop I too could get a gig on Fox News and make millions. Problem is Glenn Beck benefits from what is known as "white privilege", the very thing that allows him to go unchallenged for some of his most outrageous comments.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:46 am |
  4. forty

    Did he mention that he was a Mormon? How many people understand the Mormons? People in Utah listen to this guy like he is divinity. Anything like "Their will be false prophets" ring a bell? This along with the idiot that is planning on burning the Koran on 9/11 are the beginnings of the holy war!

    August 29, 2010 at 12:46 am |
  5. john catao

    if you put glenn beck in a monkeys cage in the zoo, you would not know who is who. They both behave the same.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:46 am |
  6. Jim

    Is Glenn Beck the new Joseph Smith Jr. ?

    August 29, 2010 at 12:46 am |
  7. Beebo

    Wasn't there some kinda commandment about false idols?

    August 29, 2010 at 12:45 am |
  8. Ted

    Glenn Beck seems to be a lot like Saint Patrick, From the posted comments, all the snakes are slithering from their rocks. Hope he can lead them to the sea and drown them.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:45 am |
    • Emilio

      Are you alluding to the 87 thousand snakes that met up with the snake charmer?

      August 29, 2010 at 12:48 am |
  9. njf

    Just listen to his show on Monday...You'll figure out pretty quick just who – and what – he is. While I agree that folk have the right to disagree with others on politics and the like, his brand of disagreement is venomous. There's nothing "Christian" about the way he carries on.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:45 am |
  10. Buddy Gilmour

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

    August 29, 2010 at 12:44 am |
  11. Liberal Conservative

    I hate to break it to you, but Mormons are Christian. They believe in Christ, but add an American twist to the lexicon by adding Joseph Smith in the mix as an important prophet. I personally don't believe in religion of any kind, but your assertion that they are not Christian is by definition incorrect. Perhaps they are not Christian by your strict personal standards, but still, Christ is a central figure in their belief system, therefore they are Christians whether you approve or not.

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

      Actually, Mormons believe Christ was a man who is now living on the planet Kolob. They believe every male, if they live a righteous life on earth and in their version of the afterlife (7 levels, very patriarchal) will someday be the god of their own universe, too.

      a 'unique' brand of Christianity, I'd say.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:57 am |
  12. John Vickers

    From this perspective across your northern border, America is a loud angry place that is so inward looking it has no sense of a world outside of itself. If it did it could take its place as a nation among nations, maybe it could calm down!

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

      I hate to have to tell you this, JV, but we're just getting started. Everything that you've been hearing since Obama became president has been simmering since before our Civil War and now the presence of a black man in the White House has sent the great-great-grandchildren of the Confederacy into boil-over mode. These are the people that Beck was speaking to today. All of this talk about "returning to traditional values" is really code for "Let's put white people back in power where they belong and teach those blacks and browns their true place." Seriously, you ain't seen nothin' yet, John. Wait until one of these fundamentalist wackos gets elected to the presidency and gets the launch codes to our nuclear arsenal. Can I come stay with you in Canada?

      August 29, 2010 at 1:07 am |
  13. Linda

    God dropped a sandbag on his head? I think Glenn was just plain dropped on his head! LOL

    August 29, 2010 at 12:44 am |
  14. Marnie

    He's one Wacky Wabbit.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:44 am |
  15. artmichaels

    Matthew 19:24 It says it all.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:43 am |
    • A-religious

      Amen Brother!

      It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, (a proverbial expression,) than for a rich man to go through the strait gate: that is, humanly speaking, it is an absolute impossibility. Rich man! tremble! feel this impossibility; else thou art lost for ever

      August 29, 2010 at 1:01 am |
  16. JOSH

    Obama is a one term president and Beck rocks ya haters!

    August 29, 2010 at 12:43 am |
    • Liberal Conservative

      Beck = Evolutionary chaff

      August 29, 2010 at 12:46 am |
    • Liberal Conservative

      It's not to late to go back and finish your GED. Once you do, and actually learn the importance of education, as well as learning hard facts (vs sensationalism), you will be less influenced by the neo-con puppeteers you worship. The importance of Fox News in your life will also fade as you learn more about the natural world and again, facts. A GED is an important step they may allow you to land a menial labor job, where you can cause the least amount of harm, whether from your warped decision making, or your antiquated take on American life. Everyone has their place in society and yours is blissfully at the bottom.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:54 am |
  17. Bledar

    Thank's Glenn

    August 29, 2010 at 12:42 am |
  18. steve

    He's a d0uche. Preaches and condemns those who don't agree with him.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:42 am |
  19. What it really means

    Sure, both sides are divided. The problem remains that there are too many key positions in the NFL that are still up for grabs without a go-to starter. Who's talking about that?!

    August 29, 2010 at 12:41 am |
  20. LIberal4Obama

    MLK was an actual preacher, Glenn Beck is a professional snake oil salesman

    August 29, 2010 at 12:41 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.