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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. John G

    Maybe someday you liberals can actually argue a point instead of attacking the person. I doubt it but one can always "hope for change".

    August 29, 2010 at 2:08 am |
  2. Kyle S.

    Actually Dave its working out quit well. President Obama, unlike that retard in the house before has been working towards every single thing he promised in his campaign. In fact he has achieved most of it. Healthcare? Check. Stimulus? Check. Pulling us (I'm a Marine) out of Iraq? Check. He is working on repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell. He is working on Guantanamo. (Please don't pull any crap saying otherwise either because as I said I am a Marine and I can tell you from first hand experience that he is working on both of these.)
    It took George W. Bush 8 years to completely annihilate the surplus we had, absolutely destroy the economy of every nation that means anything to us, get us into two wars, only one of which was justified, kill thousands of Americans in a foreign land with absolutely no meaning to their death, and jack up the entire government. If you think its easier to repair than to destroy go get brain surgery. If it took that idiot Bush 8 years to destroy everything than why in the hell do you expect one man to repair the entire planet in 2 years? Seriously? Comon now... Its going to take both of President Obama's terms and the next Democratic President's terms for us to get back to where President Clinton left us. Thats if the American people are smart enough to not let Republican's back in.
    Thats another thing. Republicans displayed a complete ignorance in how to run a government. Republican politicians are completely to blame for not only the U.S's current economic condition, but that of the entire planets because if the U.S economy goes down so does everyone else. If Republicans screwed up so damn bad in the first place there is no way in hell we should go back to them if the Democrats aren't working either. If Democrats can't fix this than obviously its time for something new. Whatever it is that's new it better not be anything close to conservatism.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:07 am |
  3. miguel miguel

    Nah, this is the same old sneaky Beck. What a pig. Now he's jumping on the smelly Jesus bandwagon for fame and profit and gullible Americans are eating it up. They too are pigs.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:07 am |
  4. Vinson

    well i heard an interesting thought that Glenn Beck is becoming the new hitler, so to speak. if you think about the similarites is that both hate the current government and both are trying to take advantage of people's fears in economic hardship. also both of them are/were extremely conservative and also use the fear of communism to elevate their cause. which then goes to the possibility that the tea party is like the next nazi party...just a thought

    August 29, 2010 at 2:05 am |
  5. Bristol

    I saw a sign at the rally today stating: Palin/Beck. This would be a dream come true for Democrats with these two idiots on the same ballot. I wonder why Palin requests pre-determined questions at her speaking engagements, you know the ones where she commands a $75,00 fee. It's because she is not very intelligent and is very divisive. How will she be able to debate other Presidential nominees without having the questions beforehand to study - umm. Palin is a scam artist and is laughing all the way to the bank spewing her radical views and claiming to be a christian.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:04 am |
    • Matt

      Bristol honey, you do realize that this is not a Sarah Palin thing, but that all major personalities, celebrities, politicians, etc. know up front what the questions are going to be, right?

      August 29, 2010 at 2:16 am |
  6. Rant N. Rave

    Hey Terry, tis is who glen beck is. Check out this video, he talks about religion and compares himself to MLK but he is like so many other people have said in this post an opportunist, sociopath living in his won world of psychosis!!

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TioXKcCowA0&w=640&h=360]

    August 29, 2010 at 2:03 am |
  7. debi6

    Beck is a nut case who likes the sound of his own voice.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:03 am |
  8. Dennis ChRiSt

    IT's stated very cearly in Laviticus chapter #17 and I quote- " It is an abomination for a man to lay with another mans "mans man""! I think that's pretty clear!!

    August 29, 2010 at 2:02 am |
  9. fnkytwn

    He's just trying to pave the way for Romney since Republicans are going to have to really swallow their pride to vote for a non-Christian. Haha, it would be fitting for the Republicans to put the first non-Christian into office. Voting a Catholic and eventually a Black man into office were huge things for America, but Tom Cruise would probably win the Presidency before Romney.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:02 am |
  10. John G

    Keep going democrats, it's worked so well this past year as I'm sure you've noticed.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:01 am |
  11. Abudu

    There is not a chance that Beck will ever succeed. When the fact that he is a Mormon attempting to hijack the Christian right plays out he'll be cast aside as an outcast. There is no way the Southern Baptist will accept him as one of them and certainly not in a leadership position. Mitt Romney stayed as far from religion as he could because it hurt him. Beck has turned away from what was working for him in an attempt to play and advance on Christianity. To do so is giving the Mormon church too much play on a game board where Christian Americans rule. It good for us Muslims though that maybe he'll take some of these bigot's minds off of us.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:01 am |
  12. kwitcherbellyakin

    Last week I had an epiphany.

    I have been operating under the mistaken belief that those who continually forward emails full of vicious lies and distortions smearing President Obama, his family, and others with whom they politically disagree were simply mistaken. I was sure that if I could send them conclusive proof that they were forwarding deliberately manufactured lies - not honest mistakes - then they would be grateful and thank me.

    But they never did. In fact, they almost always got angry and berated me for being a liberal - which I guess is a term they use to describe people who care about the truth. They never said "Thank you so much! I can't believe I just sent a horrible lie about our president to a whole bunch of my friends. I will have to get back in touch with all of them right away and make sure they know it's not true!"

    Then my friend Doug, a highly respected attorney, helped me see the light. I had just responded to a number of people who had sent me an email claiming that President Obama had sent $17 million dollars in stimulus money to officials at Oregon State University to help save the job of Michelle's brother, Craig Robinson, who was supposedly about to be fired as the school's basketball coach.

    Now to any reasonable person (particularly a sports fan familiar with the Pac 10), this piece was obviously phony. In the first place, Robinson is the best coach Oregon State has had in over a decade and has turned their basketball program around. OSU fans were scared that he would leave for a bigger school and were thrilled when he signed a contract extension through 2016 last March. As Snopes, Urban Legends, and other truth sites have pointed out, every sentence in the bogus email is false. And, as with all these creations, it is a professionally manufactured lie–not the result of an average person making an honest mistake.

    So I wrote the friends who had forwarded me this piece (under a headline encouraging me to be outraged) along with proof that it wasn't true. But this time I asked Doug "now that you know it's a lie, what are you going to do?" His response made it clear to me just how misguided I have been - and a whole lot more.

    "I'm going to keep sending it out," he said. "After all, Obama lies all the time, so we have the right to lie too."

    Then it hit me. We are not dealing with rational discourse about politics, economics, and what is best for America any more. We are dealing with a religious cult of tens of millions of people who are addicted to anger, outrage, and hatred and the media outlets that feed that addition. Issues that most of us consider to be questions of truth and reason have now become questions of religious faith.

    These are Americans who now believe with perfect faith the our black president, dark-skinned Muslim terrorists and Mexican immigrants, and liberal Democrats are the cause of every problem we face in America today. These self-described patriots don't just disagree with their adversaries –they actually believe that the bad guys are pure evil and out to destroy everything is great about America.

    They are true believers in the same way that Orthodox Jews believe that the entire Hebrew Bible was given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai - in the same way that devout Christians believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God. It is not a matter that lends itself to intellectual discussion. It is not about reason or facts - it is a matter of faith.

    Rational discourse and fact checks that prove that what is being said is untrue have become irrelevant to people for whom this was never about truth and accuracy. Glenn Beck has become the high priest of Fox News and of the new religion and his language and demeanor have become increasingly evangelical as this trend has continued.

    The business network CNBC has jumped on board as well. The late-morning business program The Call now includes a regular segment entitled "Viewer Outrage." Think about that. They are now committed to a televised segment of outrage on a daily basis in the way The 700 Club might commit itself to airing a daily prayer or bible passage.

    But all this anger and outrage and thinly veiled racism and bigotry and lies are only the symptoms. The disease is the widespread and growing sense of fear that is gripping millions of Americans who just a few years ago felt confident about their circumstances and future but who today are more frightened and confused than they have ever been in their lives.

    For an entire generation, most people got used to secure employment, a growing economy, rising home, stock, and real estate prices. There were ups and downs along the way but we were all told that if we worked hard, owned quality investments, and hung in for the long term that things would work out fine. And for 25 years they did.

    If a person put away a nest egg, they could count on at least 5 percent a year from risk-free investments and an average of 10-15 percent a year in riskier investments. Most of my clients who retired during that period (I'm a financial adviser when I'm not busy saving the world) would go on to buy the nicest house they ever owned, live better than they did when they were working, and see their net worth go up year after year due to the rising value of their investments. This was the case despite the stock market crash in 1987, the savings and loan crisis of the early '90s, the popping of the tech bubble, and even 9/11. We always came back stronger than we were before.

    But all that has changed for the worse during the last five years. Million of Americans have lost 100 percent (or more) of the equity in their homes. Most growth-oriented investments such as stocks and real estate have been losers instead of winners. More importantly, most investors have lost confidence in the future pulling more than $33 billion out of stock mutual funds already this year and moving that money into bonds and CDs that are yielding virtually nothing.

    Just ten years ago, there was full employment and companies such as mine were offering a $1,000 bonus to any employee who helped find a new worker because the labor market was that tight. Today, we have tens of millions of Americans out of work and most companies are looking to make even more cuts even as business has improved dramatically.

    In its effort to stimulate the economy by dropping interest rates to zero, the Federal Reserve has actually hurt most investors by making it impossible to get any income at all from bank deposits and money market funds. A person with a million dollars in the bank used to be able to get $50,000 or more a year in income. Now they are lucky to get $1,000.

    People who thought they had a grip on their lives are now scared and confused and looking for someone to blame. They used to look forward to leaving something to their children and grandchildren. Today our kids are inheriting a reverse annuity - a mountain of debt they can never outlive. The patriots blame estate taxes and Obama's anti-wealth policies, but deep down they know the truth. We just didn't have the guts to act like grown-ups. We paid our bills with credit cards and when we were maxed out, we put them on our kids' tab.

    We now face two basic choices. We can look in the mirror and realize that the challenges we now face are due in large part to choices we made as voters and citizens. We elected and supported government leaders who spent too much and taxed us too little. We wanted to keep Medicare and drug benefits and Social Security and to expand homeland security and fight two wars but we didn't want to pay for it. We re-elected a president and Congress who told us we could have it all and make no sacrifices. Those same officials allowed our financial institutions and oil drillers and miners and others to take huge risks in search of profits and personal gain without regard to the consequences to all of us when those gambles crapped out.

    And it's not all about money. There are a whole lot of older people who confused brains with a bull market. They made millions of dollars between 1980 and 2000 mainly because they were alive and in business or the stock market or real estate at the right time. They worked hard and some were quite intelligent but because they lived during a time when the stock market went from 1,000 to 14,000 and real estate went through the roof they got rich beyond their wildest dreams.

    Human nature being what it is, most of them came away feeling really smart instead of really lucky. Now that things aren't working out so well, instead of feeling really stupid (which is no fun at all) they are just getting angry and blaming all of their challenges and things they just don't understand on the villains cited above. The truth, of course, is that they were never that smart in the first place and now they are not that stupid but rather than unpack all that, they are forwarding slanderous emails and listening to the media high priests of fear and hatred who are preaching the exact sermon they want to hear.

    Instead of looking at how they need to change their own behavior and expectations, these cult patriots have chosen to blame others and get very angry. They have chosen to blame a president who wasn't even around when everything was coming unglued. They have chosen to blame every member of Congress, even though we were the ones who elected them. They have chosen to blame a variety of dark-skinned people, starting with our black president but not ending there. We also blame dark-skinned immigrants who, like most of our parents and grandparents came to America seeking a better life and who make a huge contribution to our economy and society.

    And now, nine years after 9/11, Fox News and opportunistic politicians are choosing to revive a new wave of bigotry and resentment against the millions of law-abiding, tax-paying Muslim Americans (thousands of whom serve in our military and dozens of whom were killed in the 9/11 attacks) under the guise of showing respect for the Real American victims at the World Trade Center.

    The anger and hatred and lies being spread about Muslims and the leaders of the cultural center are yet another embarrassment to our country. The notion that an abandoned Burlington Coat Factory three blocks from Ground Zero is "hallowed ground" while there are already two strips clubs operating even closer to the site without any concern is yet another indication of how our sense of fear and confusion has eliminated any pretense of honesty or fairness in how we think or what we today call journalism.

    My friend, teacher and Rabbi Brad Hirschfield of CLAL has taught that anger and fear can be very useful as an alarm system–the flashing red lights and clanging bells that alert us that we are facing a serious challenge. But he goes on to point out that people should not make important decisions while they are angry or afraid, wisely pointing out that those actions never seem to work out well and are often disastrous.

    Before a disease can be cured, it has to be accurately diagnosed. As long as a growing group of people continues to believe that our national sickness is all about dark-skinned people who are not like us and evil politicians, our problems will only get worse. This first step toward a cure has to be a return of honesty and rational, fact-based conversation regarding where we are and how to proceed.

    And the first step toward that first step must be a rejection of news media and politicians who are the false prophets and leaders of this new, fast-growing cult. And finding the "delete" button on our computers when we receive an email that blares in its headline that we should be angry and outraged and claims to have identified the villains who got us into this mess.

    It's going to be long and hard but, as Will Rogers once said, when you find yourself in a hole and need to get out, the first thing to do is stop digging. Because they are angry and afraid, too many self-described Patriotic Americans have used anger, outrage, and demonization as a shovel and as a result they are sinking deeper and deeper into the pit.
    from the Huffington Post by Lary Gellman

    August 29, 2010 at 1:58 am |
  13. John G

    If democrats are so transparent then why don't they run the midterm elections on what they've passed this past 18+ months instead of "blame Bush" and screaming racist all the time?

    August 29, 2010 at 1:58 am |
  14. Daniel

    If science were to disappear we would live in caves but if theology were to disappear we wouldn't even notice.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:54 am |
  15. VERY SAD

    Not a good day...some of the 13,000 didn't get burgers, and many others couldn't see.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:54 am |
  16. Dylan

    @blanche Are day in the sun may have ended due to a sunset but there are also sunrises so I'm pretty confident the american people can pick back up....eventually haha but seriously the depression in the 1920's didn't last forever. You guys act like the USA has never walked on a tight rope before....

    August 29, 2010 at 1:52 am |
  17. Kevin Olson

    Glenn Beck tries to provide a good message and his name and religion gets drug through the mud. So Glenn Beck has an opinion. Nothing more American than that. He did not pimp his book or shows in this rally. Too bad most of you can't put your dislike of Glenn aside and actually listen to what was said and put it to good use. Instead you have rented out your brain space for free with nothing to show for it.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:52 am |
  18. Scratch

    It amazes me how many people in our fantastic country get so angry every time someone talks about this being a Christian nation. And yet, when terrorists bombed us, so many of our leaders stood on the steps and sang God Bless America, and they weren't scorned. One would at least think that people would be able to have the freedom to speak in this nation without being so harshly criticized. I"m so tired of hearing, "I have the right to criticize," yes, but only if you have a solution and know our history. Most of what I have read in these comments is simply hate. Are you all Muslims? Too scared or PC to criticize them aren't you. You have to hand it to Muslims, criticize their God and their leaders and you'll pay a price. Criticize Christians and it's a freeby. So sad.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:51 am |
  19. Dennis ChRiSt

    Glen beck is dead. "LOBOTOMY'S FOR TEA BAGGERS IT'S THE LAW!!!!!!!"

    August 29, 2010 at 1:50 am |
    • John G

      That would be a typical Weather Underground stance. Take out all opposition in anyway possible.

      August 29, 2010 at 1:51 am |
  20. Travis

    It is time we stop dividing ourselves and start working together and solving our problems instead of pointing fingers and placing blame. We should be electing leaders that pledge to work with each other as opposed to towing the party line, division will get us nowhere except gridlock. We need leaders that are more worried about protecting the People instead of lining their pockets and fattening their bank accounts. This is the main reason I do not trust Glenn Beck, whose day job is more concerned with ratings. And Mrs. Palin, who quit her job as Governor of Alaska to pursue the money trail. Do you think they would be doing all this if there were no money involved?

    The way I see it we have several major problems in this country a) We have outsourced too many manufacturing jobs to other countries. We need to start making things in this country again. b) We were pursuing an unsustainable growth rate in this country causing too many people to spend beyond their means. c) Our government is spending too much, driving up the national debt.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:48 am |
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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.