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. jason

    Glenn Beck is an actor and entertainer. Not a leader. A leader calls on his experience, knowledge and leads by example. People look to a leader for direction. People cannot help but follow a true leader. No one knows the real Glenn Beck. You only see a entertainer who's focus groups help prepare his agendas to best suit his goals of self promotion. If you were entertained or inspired then great. I would recommend you form your own opinion and look for someone who has been there and still lives it.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:30 am |
  2. realtime

    Only seems right Glenn Beck lead a bunch of people who base their world view on fairy tales. Fitting.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:29 am |
  3. Rick

    Two words, dark ages. Let these morons control politicians and we'll be back to building churches next to government buildings.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:29 am |
  4. Rick

    He's a guy who believes in talking into a hat instead of passing the hat.

    Maybe we'll get a new Mormon episode on South Park now.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:27 am |
  5. globalblog

    Beatle John Lennon toilet has fetched 9,500 pounds ($ 14,740) ....Paris Hilton caught with cocaine......

    August 29, 2010 at 1:27 am |
    • freewoman

      people will buy anything

      August 29, 2010 at 10:28 pm |
  6. Teresa

    It is really annoying when any kind of moral value is preceded by "Judeo-Christian" - I didn't realize that only Jews and Christians valued hard work, individual initiative, hope and family. As an atheist (or deist, depending on the day) I must be a freak of nature since I think all those things are great as well. As for relying on God, well, I have no problem with prayer if it helps anyone get through hard times - who am I to judge - but lets just hope all believers don't just wait for supernatural intervention to solve problems. As for relying solely on civic or faith-based programs if you need help; well, it sure doesn't seem ethical to call on faith-based charity if you don't believe, and as far as relying on private civic programs, that assumes there are enough people voluntarily giving to these organizations. Really. There are plenty of great, charity-minded individuals out there, but they are a relatively small portion of the population. Most of us don't give, or at least don't voluntarily give as much as we could. Anyone work a PTA bake sale recently? How many parents participate, give their time or money? How many of us work in homeless shelters, or volunteer our professional services? Not enough. Government programs are far from perfect, and are not a solution to every problem, but they are a way for us to ALL contribute to help those who need a hand. Thanks for reading my rant. I have never posted on any of these blogs,but this guy is dangerous, and I'm tired of it.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:26 am |
    • Hillary

      Please qualify your assessment of Glenn Beck being "dangerous". Please provide proof or evidence that I can look up and confirm as dangerous. What crime or criminal activity has he participated in? What act of violence has he called for? The man organized a PEACE rally and called for the restoration of honor in America. THIS is dangerous to you?

      And sorry, but you can't get away from that Judeo-Christian thing here in the US. It is infused in the culture. If you are so offended by it, you could try Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan.

      August 29, 2010 at 1:57 am |
  7. iPwn

    Beck is to the world as cancer is to a body.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:26 am |
  8. Paul


    August 29, 2010 at 1:26 am |
  9. TRH

    Religion is silly...Glenn Beck is silly. But we need to be wary of people like him.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:25 am |
  10. Pam

    Beck may be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, but he most certainly does not represent the church. He is not a sustained General Authority, nor has he been called by any church leader to stand and deliver. He is an opportunist who thinks by calling himself a christian, people will listen. He is a member of the party that wants to do away with unemployment insurance, and privatize social security. How convenient for the republicans. Next time they decide to destroy our countries economy (and they will) they want no unemployment insurance for middle class to have access to. If you are retired, your social security would be lost on the stock market, due to some huge corporate bank 'investing' it on your behalf...NO WAY!!! Say what you will Beck, you are crooked and lying through your teeth. I will never ever vote for anyone you support! Go back to the bottle! It's your only friend!

    August 29, 2010 at 1:25 am |
  11. pavan

    Sad news for USA, this guy another enron

    August 29, 2010 at 1:25 am |
  12. Uh Oh

    I just got back from a couple of days at Great Wolf Lodge and flipped on CNN. Apparently some guy named Ben Glick flooded New Orleans, and Al Sharpton has gone on a hunger strike until he's brought to justice.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:24 am |
  13. pmo5010

    most people are afraid of beck and his crackpot followers but the reality of it is that they're trying to be imposing and threatening but they're just not (not to me, at least). in any case, the faster they can be given power, the faster they'll fall so i say, let them win these next elections. they've been hypocritical in almost every step. these are the same people who demand state rights, small government, and free market economy, but want to arbitrarily decide who can build what and where and how far from certain locations (in other words, substituting the law with sensitive feelings and raw emotions). they say they want freedom of religion but take almost every sinister sidestep to not follow it. these are also the people who said during the bush administration that it should be okay for the big government to censor material that might be considered "un-American." no, this religious right is big government, don't let them tell you otherwise and they are only disgruntled that the U.S. has not become a christian theocracy equivalent to islamic dictatorships. perhaps they are also disgruntled with the fact that even though they won the scopes monkey trials and got the alcohol prohibition passed, they couldn't even handle their own victories and they struggle to undo their defeats.

    the saddest part of all are the people who congregate and feed off of this. people really have no idea how badly they're getting screwed. if the u.s. gives up everything, particularly in the science department (of which the u.s. is reliant as part of its status for being a leading superpower), then the u.s. is only trying to destroy itself but it's not going to happen regardless of how orgasmic these people get. politics is essentially atheist and godless, regardless of liberal and conservative standards.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:24 am |
  14. LaGryphon

    Could he be considered to be a horse lipped buffoon?

    August 29, 2010 at 1:23 am |
  15. Wearegettingplayed

    Don't you people see? It isn't about Glenn Beck or religion or christians or the border or sheriff Arpaio or abortion. It is about how much money the government takes out of OUR paychecks. While the government holds all the issues up in front of our face with its right hand, it subtly slips it's left behind our backs and takes our wallet.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:23 am |
    • Liberal Conservative

      Eh, no. Corporate America steals WAY more from all of us than our government ever could. Why do you think there are so many special interest groups? Why do you think our senators and representatives are so frequently called on ethics charges? Because corporate influence is constant. Our government isn't making you poor. Our government policies that protect and promote the ultra-rich at everyone's expense should take most of the blame. I know its a bitter pill for conservatives to swallow, just sayin.

      August 29, 2010 at 1:49 am |
  16. William P

    I think Glenn Beck may very well be insane. He's one thing, he's the next thing, and now he's an Evangelical Christian Mormon? Seems like a big, embarrassing act... and I generally support his causes. More like than an act, he's just being Glenn Beck – unique, weird, entertaining.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:23 am |
  17. PacerLJ35

    Beck is free to do as he pleases. You can either agree with him or disagree. Apparently a lot of people agree with him. That's the great thing about our country is we're not forced to believe in any one ideology.

    Those of you mocking and insulting others that have different viewpoints from you don't get what this country was founded on.

    I don't agree with everything Beck says. But I don't think he's a "lunatic" as some have said. The truth of it is, MLK was a very religious man. Only the segregationists called him crazy, dangerous, or whatever...because they didn't like his message.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:23 am |
    • Liberal Conservative

      I think your statement about "alot of people" who agree with Glenn is selective and misleading. If you could actually be impartial and objective, then you would realize who wasn't at his silly rally: Hundreds of millions of Americans who think he is a joke. Way to warp reality with just a couple of words! They did that in Nazi Germany too!

      August 29, 2010 at 1:39 am |
  18. looosee

    false prophet will start to appear be aware of who they are....Beck and Palin are fitting the description to a T
    I ain't buying into this BS....next

    August 29, 2010 at 1:23 am |
  19. Liberal Conservative

    There is no god, and religion is a sham that people like Beck use to profit from.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:22 am |

    Burn in hell, Jasy.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:22 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.