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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. givehimachance

    Hey you go Glenn.You have always told it like you see it.
    I feel we need God back in society.Almost like it is Taboo.I don't push religion on anyone,but should be able to state my beliefs freely.Somethings got to change and the people running our country now are not for the people.Give Glenn a chance.What can it hurt?????

    August 29, 2010 at 12:55 am |
    • Theophilus

      You have probably eaten too much mash potato and it's affecting your reasoning capacity.

      August 29, 2010 at 1:02 am |
    • givehimachance

      I do love mashed taters as us southerners say.
      I have my opinion just like you.
      I am free to believe what I want.

      Theophilus

      Just scroll and roll if you don't like what I say. No need to blame the taters!!

      August 29, 2010 at 1:24 am |
  2. Frank Rizzo

    Beware of false Prophets, Glen Beck is a white racist lowlife who deserves no respect from America, he now he wants to be a Prophet acceding to his religious teachings. The People who attended this religious gathering are lost in space, and having a loser like Sarah on board made it worst. She seems to have lost her mind, her speech was ill rated, her lack of education seem clear to me today then ever before. These People are Americas Sore Losers, they just cant accept defeat and the mere fact that a Black man is running the White House. The Republican & Tea-Bags are a disgrace to America, and for all it stands for, if you believe in the Prophet Beck and Sister Palin your as bad as the Nazis during the up rising in the earlier 30's. God help this Nation, I feel we are headed to a serious religious clash of civilizations, these People are believe are serious thereat to the fabric of this Nation.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:55 am |
    • Theophilus

      You'd better believe it.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:57 am |
  3. AnnSD

    “I say on the air all time, ‘if you take what I say as gospel, you’re an idiot.’“

    ~ Glenn Beck

    August 29, 2010 at 12:55 am |
  4. Kenny

    Glenn Beck says GOD dropped a sandbag on his head. My prayer tonight GOD is maybe next time consider dropping and anvil.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:54 am |
    • Theophilus

      Monty Pythonesque imagery, I like it.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:59 am |
  5. GoodAtheist

    I loved his album, Guero.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:54 am |
  6. whynowcnn

    This is proof positive that the end of the world is near!!!! The Republicans, and neoconservatives have resurrected a Billy Graham wannabe. He is a Mormon which is not even considered Christian by either of the 2 groups mentioned above, but they attacked Obama about his religion. Howcan you even take him seriously? I think he is on drugs again, and he should be tested immediately by his employer!!!! Big business is really afraid of 1 black man!!!! Wow we should really pool our resources, and buy up land in about 5 southern states. Let bigoted racist folks live to themselves, and let them chose to be a part of American society, and if not letthem leave the country then.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:53 am |
  7. Seattle Slim

    In response to Bud, Beck was working for CNN for most of that time and the liberals were busy organizing superconcerts with Al Gore to save the environment and other big celebrity functions to support John Kerry and Barack Obama elected. I would be lying if I did not say that conservatives were neglectful in not calling Bush out on the things he did wrong. However, politics have become so partisan that liberals and conservatives only speak out when it is beneficial for themselves. This is horrible because we should be united in doing what is absolutely best for America. America is having all of these problems, not only because of Bush, because the past several generations of American politicians and lawmakers have failed to live up to their sacred obligations to protect and defend the constitution. Furthermore, American citizens have fallen under a malaise of in-action and irresponsibility. Both sides have created this mess.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:53 am |
  8. Jose C

    To all you Kool-Aid drinkers who voted for your Progressive socialist Obama. How is the Hope n Change working out for you. I HOPE after all this OBAMA spending you still have CHANGE IN YOUR POCKET. That if you have a job. And please no President Obama inherited crap. He is one year in and ones his decisions buy now. Suck it up and deal with who you picked. Enjoy foreclosure (putting people in homes that can't afford but everybody deserve a home right...another progressive thought) and enjoy being Jobless cause no company wants to hire because of how high they are being taxed to pay for they WONDERFUL( got to have "distributive wealth from the have to have not’s"; Obama saying). Would be reading here more articles of what are wonderful President is doing but I forgot he is taking a break from all the hard work on his 6th vacation of the year....7 if you count the First Ladies....and GOD know he has to work out from all his lobster dinners. I am amazed at the arrogance of people and our President...In hard times family stick together so in times like this when America should rally around our President what does the President do but go on vacation AGAIN . His intentions are clear and after this rally so is a growing majority of America. And for those who dispute me and think this attendees are right wing religious nuts and nothing more let’s have a follow up chat after the November elections and well see how things stand .. Then let’s have another chat after 2012 and we will see. Personally I think Obama did us a great favor....Woke the Country up to this ever creeping Virus called Progressivism and we don’t want it. If you had Capitalism so much move to Venezuela and Cuba or China...They love distributive wealth there....I am sure many of the crowd members would chip in for airfare. Just leave your passports on the way out and Sayonara.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:53 am |
    • Peter

      Jose,

      Anger on either side of this supposed issue just begets more anger. 65 days will tell the story by itself. We need to be grateful we have freedoms to speak our mind, but Glenn's message is one of unity and peace and not division. Let's push toward a better America. I assure you that I am not judging your comments.

      August 29, 2010 at 1:15 am |
    • jane

      jose c

      quite well actually jose, that hopey changy is workin out great, thanks for asking:)

      August 29, 2010 at 7:56 am |
  9. Emilio

    We should all stop wasting our time on this piece of garbage, Glenn Beck. Nite all.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:52 am |
  10. Amen

    We're just glad no one got hurt. Apparently, it took some people 20 minutes to get out of there.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:51 am |
    • JDoe

      SO TRUE....AND I HEARD THERE WERE LIKE ...." HUNDREDS " OF PEOPLE THERE...

      NOT AS MUCH THE 20 MILLION MAN MARCH OR THE 300 MILLION PEOPLE AT OBAMAO'S CORONATION

      August 29, 2010 at 1:01 am |
    • Peter

      Wow, only 20 minutes. We got to the metro before it started running at 6:55am. We arrived at our final destination at 11:00am. The trains were running very frequently. At my return to this station at the end of the day, I asked the metro attendant how many people came through there today. She said well over 150,000 at this one station heading to the event yesterday morning. There are over 80 other stops not to mention.

      What I was most grateful for is that it was not a tea party event nor a political event. No mention of politics were heard from the stage.

      I was also grateful for the Al Sharpton march. The part dedicated to MLK and racial unity was my favorite part. I wish Al Sharpton's group would have joined us during that part.

      August 29, 2010 at 1:08 am |
    • Vera Waitress

      The CBS headline reads:

      "Glenn Beck Rally Attracts Estimated 87,000"

      August 29, 2010 at 4:46 am |
  11. NancyLV

    Those of you who say that we are drinking kool aid because we believe in the common sense and the pattriotism that Glenn brings I am sure drank the kool aid of Pres Obama that is why he is in office.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:51 am |
    • NoFortunateSon

      According to the AP, Glenn Beck stole many lines today from Obama speeches. So we have Obama idol worshipers and Beck idol worshipers all worshiping the same words. Creepy.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:54 am |
  12. Kenny

    Beck needs to get back on his own meds and stop taking Rush Limbaugh's meds.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:51 am |
  13. Wright

    Most of you leave me without words! You come here and say bad things about a man that has not hurt you or anyone!

    You can't even see that he is just trying to help this Country get back to what was good about living here in this Country 30 years ago. All of you that are saying bad things are one of two things you hate the U.S.A. or your BRAINLESS!!!!

    August 29, 2010 at 12:51 am |
    • Amen

      If he genuinely cared enough about the message, he would not have staged this farce with himself and Palin. He would have had a credible voice deliver it. The problem today is that there are absolutely NO CREDIBLE voices to be heard coming from the good ole U.S. of A! Should have hired Michael Buffer to say the same shit.

      August 29, 2010 at 1:05 am |
  14. nodack

    I don't trust Beck one bit. I think he is a cancer preying on gullible people.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:50 am |
  15. miker

    Glenn Beck could be God. It's really to soon to know.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:50 am |
    • freewoman

      lets nail him to a cross and see what happens,,,

      August 29, 2010 at 9:36 pm |
  16. Kenny

    Beck fooled a lot of people today but he has a long way to go if he thinks for a minute he is going to fool GOD and that is who he will have to answer to for all the people he is suckering in on his "I Have A Scheme". I trust this Snake Oil Salesman about as far as I can throw him. Don't forget to send him your donation and don't forget to call the GoldLine either.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:49 am |
    • Peter

      WOW! Bitter much?

      August 29, 2010 at 12:52 am |
  17. DavidINlafayette

    Just where the hell is a psycotic when we need him?

    August 29, 2010 at 12:48 am |
  18. Damien

    It's funny how religious conservatives are saying that "Beck has seen the light" when he starts saying things they believe in. Isn't anyone even the slightest bit curious why Beck made this 180? This whole thing smells like a bad joke. Just because Beck is drinking the religious kool-aid doesn't make him any different–still someone vying for attention.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:48 am |
  19. Least_of

    Glenn Beck is the Goebbels of the rich – the resurrected Nazi Party, those that would either like to bankrupt and starve the Middle Class into slavery (or find new uses for Zyklon B). He's the Svengali of the ignorant who weaves anger into the fabric of hatred. He leaves a trail of tears all the way to many investments, tax shelters, and off shore bank accounts.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:47 am |
  20. StatManDu

    How can a Beck, who is a self-proclaimed Mormon, be the leader of Christian conservatives? A Mormon is not a Christian. They belief in a different Jesus, a different path to salvation, and have a different perspective on the meaning the cross.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:47 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.