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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. RON

    GAY,GAYGAY JUST WONT ADMIT IT TILL HES BLIND

    August 29, 2010 at 1:47 am |
  2. MJ

    "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits".Matthew 7:15

    August 29, 2010 at 1:46 am |
    • Travis

      Amen brother!

      August 29, 2010 at 1:54 am |
    • yep

      where's the like button?

      August 29, 2010 at 5:07 am |
    • freewoman

      that was a interpreter error.. its NUTS not fruits

      August 29, 2010 at 10:47 pm |
  3. whynowcnn

    Why are white people so afraid of in America where white priveledge, and the good ol boy system is still how everything is run anyway??? 1 black man couldn't possibly invoke all of this hatred so maybe it is just a diversion from the reality that about 300 very wealthy people control America, and steal from the citizens its wealth. We are all pawns in a wicked game of chess where the villians get to set the agenda!!!!

    August 29, 2010 at 1:46 am |
  4. Brian

    To those of you who make fun of Beck (and Bill O'Reilly as well) it must really be frustrating to see how out of touch you have become with America. Why do you think the ratings are so high for Beck and O'Reilly's TV shows and Fox News in general when the ratings for MSNBC, NBC, CBS are in the tank? It's because the far left has lost touch with America. Why do you think Beck got 500,000 people to come to Washington without signs and without violence/hassles. Those weren't the uneducated redneck tea party people you like to bash. They are regular people who feel people are entitled to what they earn, not entitled tto live off the government. I'm greatly looking forward to November 3 to hear the spin of why the Democrats lost the House and Senate!

    August 29, 2010 at 1:46 am |
  5. Unknown

    Its Moses!!!

    August 29, 2010 at 1:46 am |
  6. Dennis ChRiSt

    The tea party is just a way for KKK members to take off the sheets and wander around in public

    August 29, 2010 at 1:45 am |
  7. John Herrera

    Sounds like Beck is declaring Holy War against everyone who doesn't agree with him and the rest of his kool-aid drinking fans.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:45 am |
    • Hillary

      How so? Please qualify your statement. What war, against whom?
      The man organized a PEACE rally and called for the restoration of honor to America. How did you come to your conclusion based on that?

      August 29, 2010 at 2:09 am |
  8. Olly7777

    When will all you Americans figure out that religion should not mix with politics.
    God will not help solve all of the problems .

    August 29, 2010 at 1:45 am |
    • John G

      Neither will government.

      August 29, 2010 at 1:46 am |
    • freewoman

      we all walk around with a pocket full of lies.. in god we trust.

      We will leave the age of stupidity behind when we can have " in our government we trust"

      you will never hear a politician or preacher demand that to be printed on our money!

      August 29, 2010 at 10:45 pm |
  9. RON

    GAY AS A 3 DOLLAR BILL

    August 29, 2010 at 1:45 am |
  10. John G

    Keep up the good work democrats, Your hate and hypocrisy is showing as bright as it can.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:44 am |
    • What a joke...

      Keep up the good work republicans....Starting a war with the wrong country, putting our country into debt, mixing church & state, giving the richest people in the country tax breaks....

      Need I go on?

      August 29, 2010 at 1:51 am |
    • John G

      What a joke...- Obama bailed out wall street yet democrats ignore that fact. Obama's spent much more than Bush did as this time in his presidency. You have a tendency to screw up a lot of facts. Uber liberal I'll bet you are or maybe just a socialist?

      August 29, 2010 at 1:55 am |
    • freewoman

      Joke.. and that only the stuff we know about. what about all the nasty stuff.. we don't know....shudder.

      August 29, 2010 at 10:41 pm |
  11. RealAmerican

    f- glenn beck. what a maroon. dunno if I'm more disgusted more with him or the idiots who are too stupid to see through his malarkey and not realize that all he wants from them is their money and their worship. why doesn't he just start his own evangelical church franchise already/!? danged narcissistic nutbags. thanks for keeping your crapp up long enough to get through even my calm, even-tempered, forgiving, understanding nature.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:44 am |
  12. Matt

    If I don't believe in god, does this make me un-American? I'm a proud Pagan, an American taxpayer, and a political moderate... where would I fit into Glen Beck's kingdom of America?

    August 29, 2010 at 1:44 am |
    • Matt in Des Moines

      Matt, Sounds like you would fit in just fine. Hopefully you have some understanding of the founding of the country, what the constituion stands for, etc. If not, you've got time to learn. Take some time, look into it, educate yourself and it's easy to understand things pretty clearly.

      August 29, 2010 at 2:31 am |
    • Mike in Oregon

      Matt, it depends on if you have a moral compass and take responsibility for your actions and decisions. Basically, that is what Beck's rally was about...reclaiming the PRINCIPLES of the Founding Fathers. Everyone seems to be hung up on the religious aspect, but religion is not required to have morals...although it helps for a lot of us.

      August 29, 2010 at 2:51 am |
  13. Dave R.

    Post those things that you say are not true or inaccurate.

    Yah.... thought so.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:43 am |
  14. Dennis ChRiSt

    You are completely right christians and mormons both belong to cults

    August 29, 2010 at 1:42 am |
  15. John G

    Amazing how people attack Beck's faith while talking tolerance about a Muslim mosque.

    Ironic yet again.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:41 am |
    • freewoman

      not me mr G... those Muslims have an agenda too.... and its NOT about freedom...

      August 29, 2010 at 10:38 pm |
  16. bryan

    BECK = CONTROLLED OPPOSITION

    August 29, 2010 at 1:40 am |
  17. John Brown

    When Mr. Beck said he wanted to reclaim the civil right movement? When Mr. Beck said he wanted to restore the honor? When Mr. Beck said they (white) were the first people landed here? When Mr. Beck called others he did not like Racist? When Mr. Beck called the other party he does not like any name (communist, socialist even evil)? I am Christian but I am not a retard. This guy is misleading American in daily basis. You give him political power? And he will be the next Mao. That's what Communist do! They call other people Communist! That's what a racist do! They call other people racist! That's what socialist do! They call other people socialist! Mr. Beck is all above. He and all the tea party and right extreme Republican are in the same page. I always think Mr. Beck is very delusional with all of his conspiracy theory. Just watch the movie "beautiful mind" and that's what you see. Mr. Beck with all of his theory. Mr. Beck aka Mr. Nash twin. Wake up America! He is not a uniter! He is a diveder.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:40 am |
  18. Dennis ChRiSt

    glen beck asks for money every time he push's his gold. The only good thing about glen beck is the fact that he is rotting from the inside and he will probably soon die.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:40 am |
  19. Dave R.

    > Brett wrote:

    > It's Jonestown all over again! Get the Kool-aid ready!!!

    Yes, and there should be plenty of Kool-aid left over from 2008 when you lemmings elected Obama. How's that hopey changy thing workiin out for ya? LOL

    August 29, 2010 at 1:40 am |
  20. Leo

    The United States Constitution is a completely secular political document. It begins “We the people,” and contains no mention of “God,” “Jesus,” or “Christianity.” Its only references to religion are exclusionary, such as the “no religious test” clause (Article VI), and “Congress shall make no laws respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” (First Amendment)

    The presidential oath of office, the only oath detailed in the Constitution, does not contain the phrase “so help me God” or any requirement to swear on a Bible (Article II, Section 1). The words “under God” did not appear in the Pledge of Allegiance until 1954, when Congress, under McCarthyism, inserted them. Similarly, “In God we Trust” was absent from paper currency before 1956, though it did appear on some coins. The original U.S. motto, written by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson, is “E Pluribus Unum” (“Of Many, One”) celebrating plurality and diversity.

    In 1797, America made a treaty with Tripoli, declaring that “the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” This reassurance to Islam was written under Washington’s presidency and approved by the Senate under John Adams.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:40 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.