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. Greg

    If people just simply got their heads out of their asses, and relied apon the goodness in their own hearts...goodness of themselves not some god that has to supply it to them, maybe the world could turn a corner and become a better place. Then jagoffs like Beck could be seen for who he really is. As pointed out before religion is what makes people hate. It certainly is not the only cause of hate, but if you don't have the inner strength to believe in yourself, to realize that goodness comes form you, then there will always be someone out there wanting to take advantage of you.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:10 am |
  2. Jimi

    Glenn Beck In Christ. eschatology, is the Antichrist who has come to mean a person, image of a person, or other entity that is the embodiment of evil and utterly opposed to truth, while convincingly disguised as wholly good and a bringer of truth.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:09 am |
  3. John

    He's a huge pile of redundant protoplasm.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:09 am |
  4. pinkters

    mormons aren't christian they believe they become gods of some random planet after they die

    August 29, 2010 at 1:09 am |
    • aranhas

      You apparently don't have a clue. You are thinking about Forn Sior, the Norse religion.

      August 29, 2010 at 1:19 am |
  5. sockeyerama

    I really want to be fair and balanced here, so please don't be too critical if I just ask a few questions. Ya know, Fox Network is always asking the tough questions, so certainly, we all must have the right living in a Christian Democracy to simply inquire, don't we? Well, I want to know if the woman that Glenn Beck was accused of raping and murdering in 1990 was actually a prostitute – anybody know? Shouldn't matter, but just curious. Still, he should come forward to deny it as those moronic libtards are making hay with it. I’ll bet it wasn’t a prostitute, but in 1990 maybe Glenn didn’t have enough money to take his girl out on a nice date. And is he still drinking heavily? I know that he had a history of this. Being the good conservative Christian I am, I often pray for his sobriety. Just asking.... That very rude and profane Bill Maher suggested that Glenn Beck was seen crying while masturbating on a park bench. I'm sure that's bogus, but anyone with inside scoop please respond. or I’ll just have to give that Maher lout the benefit of the doubt. Anyway, he seems to have stopped crying so much on the TV and according to my health teacher, self-pleasing is practiced by all cultures as well as all political parties.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:08 am |
  6. Ryan

    It's funny because Glenn is Mormon. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jFZ1jVO3-OE

    August 29, 2010 at 1:06 am |
  7. Sean

    "jazz92 I heard today on one of the show that he maybe going to run for President.. You got to be kidding me....He is not President material. They said Beck/Palin. What do you think about that????"

    He's just a pawn of the conservatives, trying to distract all of us from the real issues so that the conservatives can get their own kind elected. He wants to pull the right wing trigger so that mitt romney and other republicans look "left" and could attract the votes from the left. Wake up America...

    August 29, 2010 at 1:06 am |
  8. Doug


    August 29, 2010 at 1:06 am |
  9. LouAz

    “Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is.”
    Mahatma Gandhi -1869-1948

    August 29, 2010 at 1:06 am |
  10. Doug

    People can raise their hands, look up to the sky and comfort themselves with the God concept all they want, but God wont fix the economy, make health care affordable, renew our infrastructure, or get us out of the Middle East. We need to get our head out of the clouds and get real! Look to each other! This rally was a complete medicine show, only oviding that arrogant fraud Glenn Beck with an ego boost. He is completely drunk with power now. Great job everyone!

    August 29, 2010 at 1:05 am |
  11. Tim

    Wonderful event and message. Again CNN's reporting shows its true colors: fringe, left-wing, witless, worthless, and way out of touch. But I guess as long as you idealogues live in the same world of denial – you can't help but be right – right!

    August 29, 2010 at 1:05 am |
    • mark

      and you are showing the world how ignorant,blind,irrational and moronic you are for not being able to see beck for the drunk with power con artist he is. research father coughlin .joe mccarthy,and william jennings bryant

      August 29, 2010 at 1:45 am |
  12. Whose teaching history?

    To those who keep refering to Obama as a nazis or Hitler, you may recall that: Hitler rose to power by rallying the majority of his country (aryans) into believing all of their problems were caused by the minority (jews. etc.) Obama is about as minority as anyone can get, and the majority of this country is white. The tea party on the other hand is 95% the same race as the majority of this country and they are blaming anyone they can for the problems they are facing, seems like the new 'Hitler' might arise from theire to me.. based on history that is, if you've ever read any of it. By the way if Obama is a socialist than so is FDR and many other presidents who pushed many soical programs, like soical security and medicaid.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:04 am |
    • JDoe



      August 29, 2010 at 1:19 am |
    • freewoman

      and his atheist mom raised him...

      August 29, 2010 at 10:14 pm |
  13. Tim Doogan

    And so it begins: We get to watch a troubled man's downward spiral. I honestly thought he was going to kill himself today on live TV, but now I see that his work isn't finished. His self-hatred (due to a traumatic childhood and self-destructive adulthood) is fueling some sort of quest to be forgiven by God, his friends and/or family. Make no mistake: Even though he is preaching positive behaviors and aspirations, this is a truly selfish act. The feeling of power and leadership he must be experiencing today after so many years of failed jobs and relationships must be better than any other drugs he's ever taken. I agree that our country is terribly divided and we need to start working together, but I assure you, following the path of a man who must see himself as some sort of disciple of God in order to prove to himself that he matters in this world is not the way. You can vote politicians out of office, but what do you do when this type of leader starts preaching things that don't match your own beliefs? He will not stop. This is nothing new, and if he were truly knowledgeable of history, he would know this.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:04 am |
    • Drew

      At what point in his speech did he say "follow me"? Or did you just read the headlines from CNN

      August 29, 2010 at 1:28 am |
  14. nil

    Beck is trying to unite the Tea Party Republicans with the Christian Conservative Republicans. (Ture Opportunist)

    August 29, 2010 at 1:04 am |
    • Liberal Conservative

      Yep. He is executing a big niche marketing campaign. The niche? Uneducated, religious simpletons from Middle America. Basically, the people we try to hide, and hope never talk to anyone.

      August 29, 2010 at 1:13 am |
  15. BADGUY

    He's Dilbert in 3D

    August 29, 2010 at 1:04 am |
  16. MeInFlorida

    He Is the craziest person in the world. !!! No , really ...I think he is a comedian on Fox.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:04 am |
  17. sate

    fabulous question, terry.

    thank you,


    August 29, 2010 at 1:03 am |
  18. equisrider

    Glenn Beck does not adhere to my narrow liberal childish take on life, so he must be the devil satan hitler goebbels monster. Wahhhh

    August 29, 2010 at 1:03 am |
    • Liberal Conservative

      Are you using irony to make a point? How clever! I didn't think a pea brained conservative was capable of higher brain function. This is a breakthrough!

      August 29, 2010 at 1:10 am |
  19. A-religious

    From a man who's professed religion believes that the true gospel of Jesus was read to his Prophet from golden tablets from a magic hat and that Native Americans are the lost tribe of Israel and that Black people are an entire descended from Cain and cursed by God:

    This is what Mormon's believe: Those who were less valiant in pre-existence and who thereby had certain spiritual restrictions impose on them during mortality are known to us as the negroes. Such spirits are sent to earth through the lineage of Cain,

    August 29, 2010 at 1:03 am |
  20. marko65

    Religious leaders will side with Glenn Beck because they are afraid of everything and everyone. We'll never see a day where one of them stands up to a phony like Beck.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:03 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.