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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. Anubisrex

    In order to restore honor – isn't it necessary for the person restoring the honor to possess the trait themselves? Why couldn't Beck call it what it really was – Defaming MLK's Honor?

    August 29, 2010 at 4:12 am |
  2. Kenney

    GLENN BECK IS A PUPPET SENT DOWN BY ROB_PUBLICANS TO TERRORIZE, BRAINWASH, AND HI-JACK THE FEARFUL UNEDUCATED, RELIGIOUS BLINDED AMERICANS IN ORDER TO GET VOTES IN NOVEMBER. PLAIN AND SIMPLE.

    August 29, 2010 at 4:11 am |
  3. Doug

    He is Jim "Freaking" Jones with a much larger following!!

    August 29, 2010 at 4:10 am |
  4. Carl Homish

    I cannot believe that so many people can be fooled. Its all about Glenn Beck. Period........

    August 29, 2010 at 4:08 am |
  5. Joseph

    H. L. Mencken defined a demagogue as "One who will preach doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots."

    Although I'm not a Mencken fan, he got one thing right. Quote of the day for my sobbing Glenn 'Tinfoil hat' Beck friends.

    August 29, 2010 at 3:50 am |
  6. WSPenwell

    Belief in an imaginary person, no wonder our planet is in so much trouble.

    August 29, 2010 at 3:49 am |
    • freewoman

      the imaginary and invisible look very much alike.

      August 29, 2010 at 11:20 pm |
    • freewoman

      thats why most atheists believe in IPU.. Invisible Pink Unicorn.. her gracious and most invisible pinkness.

      August 29, 2010 at 11:23 pm |
  7. roystout

    Glen Beck has a Wh#r@$ mouth.

    August 29, 2010 at 3:48 am |
  8. Stacie

    I, for one, like Glenn and his message. I also like the President. No, I am not a confused person. There are some policies the President has that I do not like, but I have felt that way about every single President we have had. I feel that the present First Lady is very classy and I just love her. I am a conservative, but I am not a radical. I listen to all sides. Then, and only then, do I make an informed decision. I guess that is what is missing from this country right now...people who listen to both sides and then make an informed and educated decision. I do not let one person decide what I should or should not believe in. Heck, some of my best friends are liberal Democrats, but I do not look at them differently...I look at what is inside of them, as I do with everyone. I do not see a person for their political affiliations, but for what is inside of their heart and mind.

    August 29, 2010 at 3:48 am |
  9. Ron

    I've read so many of these posts and all I see is stupdity and ignorance. I wonder how so many people became so screwed up and bitter. It's sad to see what our Country has become and where we are headed. I pray that God will not turn from us as a Nation.

    August 29, 2010 at 3:47 am |
  10. old

    There is no way a god dmaned mormon is leading any christians to anything.

    August 29, 2010 at 3:41 am |
  11. Knoxville18

    CNN...This article is exactly why you are getting LOWER and LOWER RATINGS. It is funny that you take to bashing Glenn Beck like you bash Paris Hilton. Its a pathetic fashion trend to you! So Beck believes in God. What's the big deal. You go find some southern baptist minister who could get a thousandth of a congregation that Glenn Beck gets and you think that's credibility? If any of your reporters had any intelligence at all, they would realize that any Christian can speak for his beliefs. Without having to be a "Southern Baptist Leader." Or whatever you called that guy. And, to add insult to injury, way to slam the Mormon religion in the process. Very Political of you. Do America a favor, take all of your editors and commentators to a nail salon where you can talk about TMZ and Lindsay Lohan, so that some real reporters can report truth! In case you guys can't put 2 and 2 together...God is the only Truth!

    August 29, 2010 at 3:39 am |
  12. JohnnyYuma61

    A lot of people are trying to figure him out, but a LOT less than 20% think he's a Muslim.

    August 29, 2010 at 3:30 am |
  13. Leah Blair

    All the religion/Christianity invoked at Sharpton's speech?? Totally fine. BTW, American won't be able to handle another year of people throwing out 'Raaaaciiiist!' for everything that doesn't have to do with big government and wasteful spending. This is the most divided I've seen us. And Sharpton's 'Reclaiming the Dream' rally? Reclaiming the Dream from who?? MLK's speech was for EVERYONE of ALL colors...
    ...it just makes me sick to my stomach. People can't just honestly disagree with anyone anymore. They have to vilify and tear people down. The enormous volume of death threats on Twitter today was absolutely heartbreaking.

    August 29, 2010 at 3:26 am |
  14. Aezel

    This isn't a "new" Glenn Beck. It is the same old outrageously insane nutcase Glenn Beck that will do and say anything no matter how idiotic to try and garner attention and appease his personal out of control ego. The only thing this country "needs" from Glenn Beck is his measurements so we can make him a strait-jacket.

    August 29, 2010 at 3:24 am |
  15. Randy

    Somebody PLEASE shut this guy up for good!

    August 29, 2010 at 3:23 am |
  16. John E.

    Someone should tell the guy that religious rhetoric is on the outs. He's doomed if he thinks he's the next white messiah.

    August 29, 2010 at 3:19 am |
  17. Dave

    I'm glad Mr. Beck showed his true colors. He is trying to be a religious leader based on his Mormon faith. What makes The United States of America great is that he has every right to do so. Every person in America also has every right to disregard his fanatical nonsense. That's what makes America great!!!

    August 29, 2010 at 3:12 am |
  18. cas

    Dr. Alveda King, niece of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, chose to participant in Glenn Beck's rally. If you watch his show you would know he is Libertarian not Republican. For several months his show has been about educating the audience of the history of our nation. Dr. King was Republican, Democrats did nothing for the plight of the black man. The message, "to not judged by the color of skin, but by content of character," seems to be lost here, evident by all the hateful posts. You have the right to disagree, but with intelligence and respect the message might be better received.

    August 29, 2010 at 3:10 am |
    • Dave

      Glenn Beck's show "has been about educating the audience of the history of our nation?" Give me a break!!! Isn't Glenn Beck the person who just said he planned the event without realizing it was on the anniversary of the, "I Have A Dream" speech by Dr. King?

      August 29, 2010 at 3:33 am |
  19. David

    1. Glenn Beck's rally raised $5,500,000 to fund the college education of children of Special Ops military personel that have died in combat. What have you done for these children? Should these children suffer for decisions made by politicians to put their parents in harms way for what most folks think is an unjust war?

    2. We are not a "Democracy". A "Democrarcy" is a majority rule political system with no rights for the minority. We are a "Representative Republic". While our voting is democratic (he with the most votes wins) our governance is through the balance of powers of the Executive, Judical and Legislative branches of gov't and was so designed to keep the majority from riding roughshod over the minority.

    Read the Constitution. While doing that, take time to read the Federalist Papers and the letters written by Jefferson, Washington and the other Founding Fathers and learn that our Constitution is based on Judeo-Christian principals. Do not read someone's opinion in a history book. Read the actual documents. The fact that they believed, "We are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights" is not an athiestic thought.

    3. As proof of Beck's insanity, quotes from a horror author, Stephen King (who has never been recognized as a political expert), a comedian, Jon Stewart (who has said his show is pure entertainment and not news and he thinks it is funny that people treat it as such) and...(who or what is Buffalo Beast?)...really?

    4. Beck is proclaiming a refocusing on Honor, Integrity, Faith, Hope and Charity. Please explain, factually, how it will hurt the country for these characteristics to become a priority in our daily lives. No name calling and wild political rants, just facts.

    Remember that 80% of Americans identify themselves as Christian (including President Obama and family) and when you include other faiths (Judiism, Islam, Hindu, Buddist and others) you are at 97% of Americans. Also, the majority of illegal aliens also identify themselves as Christian.

    Just be glad we don't live in a true Democracy. Atheists would not have a voice at all.

    5. A Palin/Beck ticket will never happen. It would be political suicide for many reasons. Beck has said on his show that he is not qualified to be president and would never run for elected office. Unlike President Clinton who survived promising the people of Arkansas that he would not run for president if re-elected as govenor then announcing his intention to run weeks after winning re-election, Beck would implode as a person pushing "Content of Character" who said he wasn't qualified then suddenly changed his mind.

    6. Based on the historical measure used in DC to estimate crowds when the inner and outer strips of lawn on either side of the reflecting pool between the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument are filled, that represents 500,000 attendees. The fact that the crowds also spilled into the side streets indicate more than 500,000. But, thanks to the threatened lawsuits by the organizers of the 'Million Man March' when the DC police and Federal park reps said attendance was only 400,000 there are no longer official gov't crowd counts. Though, pictures from the air show more attendees at Beck's gathering than the "Million Man March", so, to believe the MMM organizers who claim they had one million attendees then Beck had more than one million. The 500,000 plus sounds more reasonable.

    August 29, 2010 at 3:10 am |
  20. AnnSD

    This is another way for Beck to make some-correction-a lot of, money off of easily manipulated conservative groups.

    Don't forget: According to Beck; anyone who takes what Glenn Beck says for gospel is an idiot.

    August 29, 2010 at 3:10 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.