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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. HJC

    I'm not into religion; in this utterly logical creation known as The Universe, God's supposed interaction with humans is illogical on too many levels. That said, if you do believe in God, I think you have to be deeply suspicious of anyone who wears their religion on their sleeve. The only good reason for doing that is to prove something to your fellow man, because the God you believe in surely can hear the prayers you utter in the privacy of your head.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:39 am |
  2. WHAT??

    I know some of these comments are just to annoy but really, the sheer ignorance is overwhelming. If you watched his rally and didn't get what it was about ( weather you agree or not ) you are by far one of the dumbest humans on Earth. Also, if you watched you'd know the differences between Christians and Mormons is not even an issue.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:38 am |
  3. What a joke...

    Seperation between Church and State. Hahaha...Religion will be the down fall of all mankind. While all these ignorant people believe in these "prehistoric" beliefs written in a bias book that has been edited a thousand times over I will be living in reality.

    I ask the question......

    Besides using the excuse of faith (played out) why you do believe in something that has no proof of being real? Oh yeah...because deep down you're scared of death.

    To each his own, but when us Americans are voting people into office because of their beliefs nothing will ever get solved. Please read some history of humans and you will know why religion was developed by man and maybe, just maybe, you'll see the truth.

    Peace!

    August 29, 2010 at 1:37 am |
  4. bryan

    CONTROLLED OPPOSITION

    August 29, 2010 at 1:36 am |
  5. Khalid

    Glenn Beck in a painful proof that you need at least some college education in your life... "Are those who know equal to those who do not know?" Only they will remember [who are] people of understanding".(the Holy Qur'aan).....Glenn beck get educated, Glenn Beck GET A LIFE !

    August 29, 2010 at 1:36 am |
  6. Vicente

    Beck watched Elmer Gantry and decided a taste of "Tent Revival" would fire up his loyal followers. This man is no MLK. No matter how much "victim" talk he plays they are not "taking back" anything they didn't already have. His followers have been the most massively entitled, ungrateful, whiny generation ever.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:35 am |
  7. toad

    Never trust a middle aged man with a double chin

    August 29, 2010 at 1:35 am |
  8. REASON

    Hi Glenn...the alphabet called...they want zzzzzz back.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:35 am |
  9. SnazziFrazz

    So Beck is a Morman.... hmmmm

    August 29, 2010 at 1:34 am |
  10. Bill C.

    "bring us all back to the place we were on September 12, 2001,"
    A combination of grief, bloodlust and crass nationalism? That's not something I want to see again.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:34 am |
    • Matt in Des Moines

      Don't mischaracterize the statement, or the intent Bill. "What we were the day after 9-11". Beck means united, not bickering between the "left" and the "right", not worried about race, gender, sexual identity. We (mostly New York City) banded together as people do in times of crisis, in order to accomplish what needs to be done. Minimizing and ridiculing the statement by trying to alter the intent is indeed the problem you are professing to want to avoid.

      August 29, 2010 at 2:35 am |
    • freewoman

      Beck was drunk and high on that day.. he had no clue what was really going on...

      August 29, 2010 at 10:34 pm |
  11. Paul

    I am a folllower of Christ and a Beck skeptic. Only time will tell the nature of Beck's motives. I fear that he is doing this for a political gain. Christ was not a political figure. On God knows the heart of a man. There have been false prophets who have come in the name of Christianity over the years.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:34 am |
  12. Amber

    Oh my oh my oh my where do I begin...@ KAT, all you people do is complain, make up your silly mind!!! Is Obama giving too much to other countries? Is he giving too much money to the people in America? Doing too little? Too late? Too soon? Hes a socialist? A Muslim? A foreigner? A bongo player? W T F?!?!?! The MAN CAN"T WIN!!!! On to the lovely and charming Maria Chevers...wowsers... I do love how you start out your sentence calling liberals "ignorent" and that if America gets in a "horrable situation" you'll have us to "blaim" ...give me a moment while I pee my pants laughing you total and complete idiot...HAHAHAHHAHOHOHHOHAHAH..ok composing myself... Now, lets turn back the pages of history here and remember the good ol' days of George Bush and Cheney and what happened to the world because of them, not just America but the entire world. Its obvious to me and anyone else that reads your post Maria that your brain isn't capable of undertanding or grasping the true depth of the damage the Bush Administration inflicted on our nation and others and that it will take more than one year and most likely more than one presidential term to fix that damage, if indeed it EVER CAN be fixed. So NO we Liberals are not to "blaim" as you so eloquently put it my dear, and maybe you as a Republican aren't either. We are all just trying to do the best we can with what we have and some of us follow blindly behind idiots such as George Bush or Glenn Beck and wonder why in the end they lost it all. Politics is about more than religion and religion is about more than hate. Many of you need to learn that.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:32 am |
    • PaulC

      If you think the Bush Jr. reign was a horror just wait until the Palin/McConnell/Boehner team takes over.
      I am applying for the job as Director of Racial Purity.

      August 29, 2010 at 2:27 pm |
  13. Ann Olsen

    Glenn Beck is a convert to the Mormon church. I thought it was all weird til I sat down and read the Book of Mormon–on a whim. Half way through I was stunned to realize-Holy sh___ this is TRUE for no one could make it up. Guess what–I'm now a member and I am stunned by the criticisms of the LDS church.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:32 am |
    • Navy wife

      your kidding right?

      August 29, 2010 at 3:27 am |
    • freewoman

      holy hot pantys... its contagious..

      August 29, 2010 at 10:32 pm |
  14. Uh Oh

    We don't have to take our clothes off...oh no, to have a good time uh ha...we can dance and party, and drink some cherry wine...Jermaine Stewart.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:32 am |
  15. Hillary

    Glenn Beck has asked for no money. He simply wants to supply the venue and voice for the mainstream, middle class American. Liberals seem to have a hard time believing that not every one sees the world through the same foggy glasses that they do. Liberals and Obama also appear to be suprised that America IS still a Christian nation. I noticed that Beck must be right, because the lib comments here are insulting and highly critical without substance to back up the claims and allegations they make against Beck. Typical of libs when they disagree without any real basis. Also typically hypocritical. Where is the liberal outcry about the Muslim Mosque at Ground Zero? Where was the liberal outcry when several hundred muslims shut down traffic by hosting a mass prayer-in on a NYC street? where is the liberal outcry as our state department PAYS for an Imam to travel to the middle east to secure money to build the insulting mosque at ground zero? Beck has not ASKED FOR A DIME! Isn't this the same muslim "holy man" who was smiling as he told of a widow woman who was found to be pregnant, so he had her accused, tried and, of course, found guilty of adultery. She was given 200 lashes then shot 3 times in the head, while her community watched and did NOTHING to stop her murder? Where is the liberal outcry at the pushing for Shariah law in the US? Where was the liberal outcry when Daniel Perlman was kidnapped and beheaded? Why is it OK for muslims to assert themselves in violent, oppressive, destructive ways, but when a group of mostly Christians rally peaceably and call for peace and a closer walk with their God, it is bad, laughable or somehow borderline criminal? You people make me sick.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:31 am |
    • mmemery

      Wow. So many untruths, so little time. To begin with, it's NOT a mosque and it's NOT at Ground Zero. It's a community center at a former Burlington Coat Factory building that simply has a prayer room within it, much like many hospitals have a chapel. This building is 2.5 blocks from the former site of the WTC, and if you know anything about the size of the blocks in NYC, you know they're huge. Second, no one is pushing for Shariah law in the U.S.; where did you hear that? Third, EVERYONE was outraged when Daniel Perlman was kidnapped and executed. Did you miss it? Fourth, this is not about liberals or anyone else ridiculing the concept of "peace and a closer walk with their God." This is about a sizeable chunk of the country simply questioning the sincerity (and perhaps the sanity) of one man, Glenn Beck, which they have the right to do, much as you have questioned the sincerity of President Obama.

      August 29, 2010 at 2:10 am |
  16. SB

    It's great to hear talk of religion in Washington. Too often it's shunned.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:31 am |
  17. mark

    another meglo-manical con artist who is starting to believe in his grandiose delusions. a dangerous huckster playing on people's fears and appealing to the lowest common denominator in our society

    August 29, 2010 at 1:31 am |
  18. John G

    It's clear that many on this board are jealous that Beck held the spirit of MLK much more than Sharpton did. The hate among the democrats is growing, Ironic isn't it.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:31 am |
  19. Oliver

    Glenn Beck isn't a journalist, but he plays one on tv.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:30 am |
  20. I GIVE MY REAL NAME: JOSHUA

    It would be a safe bet than almost nobody actually watched this on tv.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:30 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.