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. jennifer

    Glen Beck is someone that has gained my afternnon drive time hour.

    August 29, 2010 at 3:10 am |
  2. Adam Cohn

    He makes me embarrassed to be American. No, I'm embarrassed so many Americans listen to him, speak of him. On that note, I'm done speaking of that half wit.

    August 29, 2010 at 3:09 am |
  3. Cassandra Russol

    It is amazing, when we are tested, when this nation is tested with high debt, failed economy, joblessness, we bring out the hate speech and become bigots to get our minds off our own lives. I worry for this nation.

    This country is not the United Christian States of America or the United Jewish States of America… it IS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

    It is amazing how much hate, fear, and distrust there is out there. George Bush had to rely on fear to get re-elected; I did not know Americans would become chronically fearful. I feel sad.

    LAND OF THE BRAVE. Be brave. Muslims have as much right to be in this country as we all do, and to practice their religion. At the end of the day, we are ALL God’s children/creations, and this land and globe belongs to HIM, and ONLY on loan to US.

    To allow fear, bigotry, prejudice, intolerance to determine how this land is governed, its soul, its very fabric, and its greatness to be diminished, IS to give in to those temptations by Satan. Live and Let Live.

    You believe in one God, so do they. Are you 100% confident that you alone hold the rights to worship God freely, and that the God you worship is any different than the God they worship, and that the way you worship God is in fact the right way and the only way ????? You cannot prove it. In the end, Moses, Jesus saw God, we did not. So, don’t be so sure…

    And perhaps, just even if with the slightest most remote possibilities, say our God is the very same God as Allah… and He does exist, how do you think you would feel then ? Can you say for 100% certainty that this is not the case. So, then respect God, his word, and live by his scripture…. and let others do the same, in their way, in their interpretation.

    These Muslims want to build a place to worship, to pray to God on a daily basis, five times a day. Can you say you do that ? Can you say you go to church every Sunday ? Do you say you are pure and sinless ????? Don’t throw stones when you yourself live in a glass house.

    They have the same right to worship, build houses of God as you and I do. Look within yourself, and within the scripture. You will see this is right. Be brave and compassionate… and tolerant.

    August 29, 2010 at 3:09 am |
    • RealNYC

      Well said...VERY well said!!!

      August 29, 2010 at 8:31 am |
    • SAJohnson

      The Beck/Palin movement is anti-democratic and dangerous. They have a right to speak, of course, but people of conscience who believe in democracy and tolerance must speak out as much and as loudly. We must exercise our own right of civil speech in defense of freedom against those who would "take it back" in the name of their God. This is the subject of my own blog this week at http://sannejohnson.wordpress.com.

      August 29, 2010 at 6:20 pm |
    • freewoman

      chanting endless mantras. brain washing rituals and mindless and endless posturing is not natural for human beings or any other species on this planet.

      It is mind control that strips the natural thought processes from the human brain to the point no ability to make decisions on ones own knowledge or experience is possible. Mindless memorization can block the ability to all self thinking. it makes the individual loose cognitive thinking and self awareness and defeats the natural though processes even for survival.

      It is brain slavery.

      It is an induce mental illness. it is Borg mentality. Examples can bee seen in some insect species.

      humans are not insects. The hive concept is not natural for humans. It can only lead to disaster wars, with armies of machine like mental programing. their humanity is stolen from them.

      I do not believe this is a positive life style for humanity.

      We are NOT BORG minded creatures.

      August 29, 2010 at 11:16 pm |
  4. Doug

    One thing I can tell you certain.. He is not a christian.. Mormons are not Christians ! They believe their prophet ( profit ) is the same as Jesus.. That's not christianity !

    August 29, 2010 at 3:07 am |
  5. Jon

    Hey Beck, get back behind your desk before you embarrass yourself any more than you already have.

    August 29, 2010 at 3:07 am |
  6. Lee Oates

    No wonder Atheiim is on the rise.

    August 29, 2010 at 3:00 am |
    • freewoman

      theiim??? perhaps it need to be defined before it can rise..

      August 29, 2010 at 11:01 pm |
  7. Good Grief

    Looks like Beck's plan for America is a tag team match of Mormons and Christians enforcing their own agenda. Beck wants to be God–only in this country can a former drunk and drug addict rise above the population by using his own hot air to propel him into a $32 million a year job while hard working people have to beg for the unemployment benefits they have earned.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:59 am |
  8. lululuck

    i thought he is a Jew but Put himself as a Christian to gain supporters.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:53 am |
  9. Tim

    The more I read these comments the more correct Beck seems.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:53 am |
  10. adrian butash


    You are a jek.....to oost such a stupid query...get your head focussed.it's coming and you're out of it ..don't waste my time by replying to this...just look in the mirror and see the word DUMB


    adrian butash

    August 29, 2010 at 2:52 am |
  11. Lee Oates

    The new and not improved....Elmer Gantry II.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:50 am |
    • Matt in Des Moines

      Come up with that little comparison all on your on did you Lee? Seriously, stop regurgitating cheap one liners and start listening to what is being said around you...

      August 29, 2010 at 3:26 am |
  12. Ricardito

    I really want some of what hes on cuz Glen Beck is one effed up individual!

    August 29, 2010 at 2:46 am |
  13. Hajib Abdulsteinskiçek

    I ate McDonald's and drank cheap beer...I had a number 2...it looked like Glenn Beck milking Sarah Palin

    August 29, 2010 at 2:46 am |
  14. Noah

    KAT SAID:"why are my friends and neighbors suffering so much and with the same breathe asking for help "

    Seems like it is YOU who didn't read the article. You tell your neighbors to do what Glenn Beck just told them to do... lean on faith-based organizations, and not the government. I'm sure that will work out just perfectly... the local church will get around to helping them, right after it finishes the new west wing on its main building, resurfaces the parking lot, and pays for that new LED marquee.

    Glenn Beck.... please shut up, you are making this country worse.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:45 am |
  15. Jonny

    Beck is an egoist. Pure and simple. An opportunistic narcissist. Nothing more.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:43 am |
  16. Reaper

    God is the answer!

    August 29, 2010 at 2:42 am |
  17. SireDee

    Beck is a WINNER period!

    August 29, 2010 at 2:42 am |
    • Hajib Abdulsteinskiçek

      Glenn Beck is not a winner. He is a dirty flap of choad skin.

      August 29, 2010 at 2:49 am |
  18. Dennis

    For all the "who's Glenn Beck" folks – he's the conservative commentator whose show generates double the rating of all other news shows in his time slot, cable and network, combined. His opinions are blunt but honest, and he backs up everything with evidence – video and official records. I watch the liberal commentators too, Madow, Shultz, Oberman, etc.. The big difference I see is that the liberals attack with pure opinion and little evidence; but Beck presents the evidence and urges his listeners/viewers to do their own research. I dare the Beck-bashers to watch one week of his show. Or you can just keep regurgitating what the bought-and-paid for liberal media tells you to say. You don't have to agree with everything he says (I don't). But wouldn't you prefer to know what the heck you're talking about before yammering on?

    August 29, 2010 at 2:40 am |
  19. pat

    There have been lots of estimates about the size of Beck's crowd, but I think 1,000,000 is pushing it a little. It looked to me like there were more people at the Martin Luther Kiing Jr. rally. Anyway, there were enough at Beck's to be scary.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:36 am |
  20. kevin


    August 29, 2010 at 2:36 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.