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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. Beck Me Good

    Beck is a Christian extremist who needs attention !!! He is a disgrace to America as he represents stupidity. "....America needs to return to it JUDEO-CHRISTIAN values....". WTH??? Jews started coming to this country WAY after Native Americans, White Christians, African Muslims, etc... Not sure what is the reason for this country being founded on Judeo-Christian values. This country of USA was discovered by mistake. No Land for Christian (or Judeo-Christian) was being searched to make it USA. I bet $500, that other Moron LOU DOBBS will join him too.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:34 am |
  2. Beverly Tatum

    There is NO new Glenn Beck. This so-called rally was nothing but a con man doing a self-promoting event. Beck doesn't know the meaning of the words Honor, Integrity, Faith, or Unity. This rally was disgraceful and disgusting. Come Monday Beck will be right back spewing hate, lies, fake news, intolerance of Muslims, disrespect and hatred of President Obama, racist statements, and fear and hysteria to rile up his idiot viewers – you know the ALL WHITE tea baggers who showed up at his NON-DIVERSE event? Beck is NO Christian and today was nothing but a hypocritical shameful incoherent message of lies. When one speaker called Beck "the Son of God", I pulled the plug. No wonder Republicans want to eliminate the Dept of Education. Only totally ignorant idiots would have sat there and listened to that fake BS. Wonder how much money Beck made today on his misinformation books. t-shirts and other garbage? And FOX wonders why Americans think they are a joke. Beck is a FRAUD!

    August 29, 2010 at 2:33 am |
  3. Chris

    Who is Glenn Beck? Sadly, I fear we shall soon find out.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:28 am |
    • John G

      To Sharpton, This day is Everyone's day. This day and MLK belongs to everyone and not just one specific race of people unless you're talking about the HUMAN race. Get a clue Sharpton.

      August 29, 2010 at 2:35 am |
  4. John G

    MLK wanted EVERYONE to not be judged by the color of their skin but the content of their character.

    Do liberals know what this means????? Can you comprehend that???? Sharpton doesn't that much I do know by his speech today.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:27 am |
  5. Sambopete

    Oh what a crying sarcastic liberals reek, to hear common sense and honor speak. The truth they cannot withstand, on their stupid trek to socialism. Like all good socialists expound, there's but one view to hold and all other be damn.

    Get a life you liberal creeps, and stop ruining our country while liberty temporarily sleeps. Live in Venezuela, Cuba, or any other socialist state, until you are sober enough to join a more conservative fate...

    August 29, 2010 at 2:25 am |
  6. John G

    I'm sure liberals are very proud of Sharpton today. Did you like his division talk?

    August 29, 2010 at 2:24 am |
  7. Sirock

    From the responces posted here most of you don't watch Mr. Beck and let others guide your opions. This is the Same man on TV every day at 5 PM. It's time to stop the BS and listen to the message, He's not a republican nore a democrat he's just an American hoping we can be better then we are today. So put your agenda away and open your mind to the message

    August 29, 2010 at 2:23 am |
  8. John

    Can you say... "Klansman?"

    August 29, 2010 at 2:23 am |
    • John G

      Can you say Byrd and 14 hour filibuster? Can you say opposition to Lincoln?

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

    Ridicule and make up lies about the opposition. The liberal propaganda machine lives.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:23 am |
  10. John G

    Keep spreading lies and propaganda liberals. It's done you so well this past year.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:21 am |
  11. John

    Looks like the 21st century version of a KKK Grand Dragon to me!

    August 29, 2010 at 2:21 am |
    • Matt

      In what way, John? Did you watch the event, or are you responding to the picture or these comments?

      August 29, 2010 at 2:26 am |
  12. wanna2know

    Glorious day for church of ladder day saints and their dear Beck. So many more into the flock to spread the word.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:20 am |
  13. Liv

    Glenn Beck is the Antichrist.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:19 am |
  14. John G

    Beck held the true sense and spirit of MLK while Sharpton skewed it and actually shamed it.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:18 am |
  15. Victor

    Be careful lest you follow the false prophets into Hell. Those who profess Christ but deny His examples and teachings of compassion and helping the poor sure deserve a place next to Judas in Hell.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:14 am |
  16. John G

    Sharpton said, "this is our day and we're not going to let them take it away". let who take it away? Talk about someone trying to continue the race issue in America. That's the opposite of what MLK wanted.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:14 am |
    • Matt

      Well said.

      August 29, 2010 at 2:23 am |
  17. Matt

    If an event like this cannot provoke intelligent conversation and debate, what can? Any lack of diversity in this morning's crowd is a failure of the left to embrace the event due to their need to mischaracterize Beck and the Tea Party. Any civil rights advocates who were "offended" need to learn to embrace the concept that a white Morman Glenn Beck would open his arms to you if given the chance. The comments on these forums show that the intolerance is coming mostly from the left. President Obama, if interested in unity, would be wise to praise the Restoring Honor Rally, thus granting permission to the left to engage in honest conversation with conservative Christian constitutionalists. We are, after all, more alike than different...

    August 29, 2010 at 2:12 am |
  18. jacxro

    Glenn Beck is a right wing freak who is absolutely a total nut. He makes millions of bucks mongering hate and fear on TV and radio in the name of God!? Why are people sooooo stupid to believe him. Wake up America!

    August 29, 2010 at 2:10 am |
  19. miguel miguel

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

    August 29, 2010 at 2:09 am |
  20. JDe

    You guys are REALLY worried about Glenn Beck? C'mon... I'd be more worried about Rev. Al Sharpton – a RACIST charlatan who the press CONTINUES to cover this idiot!

    August 29, 2010 at 2:08 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.