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. jhughes129

    @MK2 No, you are the one who needs to go study some history. The National Socialist Party was socialist in name only. Which explains why the industrialists supported Hitler. Some of the earliest acts after the NAZI takeover of power was to errode the rights and protections of workers. Some of the first people sent away to those early concentration camps were suspected communists and trade union leaders. Why do you think Hitler hated the Soviet Union? Because HItler was anti-communist. People need to stop this left/right divide stuff and realize that any extreme is not good. Bad can and has come from the extremes of both sides of the political spectrum. If you are interested in history read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer. Shirer was a journalist who spent most of WWII in Europe covering the war. His work is considered the most comprehensive history of NAZI era Germany. It's a long read though, over 1,000 pages.

    August 29, 2010 at 5:10 am |
  2. The G

    Serious...what a joke! The top dog racist has duped his followers again. If he is the new & improved why did he pick MLK's day to rally? Come on people are you that weak to follow this guy? Can you just once think on your own for this one? After spewing the Fox garbage all week and then rally people in the name of God...people...people...people! Follow no one but Jesus you're gonna need him!

    August 29, 2010 at 4:59 am |
  3. ib42

    @Mike in Oregon
    America was a shining success under bush/cheney, right?

    August 29, 2010 at 4:56 am |
  4. Steve

    Ok, maybe this idiot extended his 15 minutes for a bit. Can't wait til he's done.

    August 29, 2010 at 4:56 am |
  5. Nathan Younkin

    Figures you lefties are gonna cry about this! You all wanted him to fail so you could claim another victory to your Socialist cause. People are starting to wake up and see what the Obama Administration and th rest of you Dems are upt and here's is a hint: THEY DON'T LIKE IT Sad thing is you people bash the Tea Party People and isn't all Conservatves there are droves of Dems separating themselves from the rest of your party. In a nutshell we are on to what you guys are planning and WE WILL STOP YOU.

    August 29, 2010 at 4:54 am |
  6. ib42

    Beck is just another low class, bad entertainer who found the gimmick, and knows how to milk it. Just like limbaugh, palin, jimmy swaggart, o'reilly, all the imbeciles whose only talent is getting filthy rich of their very stupid followers
    The scary ones are those who actually believe in these swindling charlatans. To have so may people in America who a pay money to make fake, ugly wrestlers into mega stars, watch hideous pickup trucks destroy each other and show up at 'gatherings' by the thousands to see and listen to utter garbage like beck is very, very disturbing. And dangerous, given their right, but ignorance, at the voting booth

    August 29, 2010 at 4:53 am |
  7. Derka Derr

    Could always hot potato the country off to the next black guy. Just throwing it out there.

    August 29, 2010 at 4:50 am |
  8. CBreeze

    char·la·tan   [shahr-luh-tn] Show IPA
    a person who pretends or claims to have more knowledge or skill than he or she possesses; quack.
    Use charlatan in a Sentence
    1595–1605; < MF < It ciarlatano, equiv. to ciarla ( tore ) chatterer (deriv. of ciarlare to chatter; from imit. root) + ( cerre ) tano hawker, quack, lit., native of Cerreto, a village in Umbria, known for its quacks

    —Related forms
    char·la·tan·ic  [shahr-luh-tan-ik] Show IPA, char·la·tan·i·cal, char·la·tan·ish, char·la·tan·is·tic, adjective
    char·la·tan·i·cal·ly, adverb

    impostor, mountebank, fraud, fake, phony.

    August 29, 2010 at 4:47 am |
  9. 2+2=5

    The masses are so dumb. I actually thought this was some sort of joke. I can't get enough of how the uneducated think they are going to take America back from the mistakes THEY made in the first place. Anyone else find this absolutely childish? anyway, without jobs, everyone is up in arms anyway, its not rocket science. This country wasn't made on any specific religion by the way, if you think so, you need to get reading on your own history. So tired of these people trying to change America so it fits their ideology. Contradicting all that we are in the first place. Sorry, but you aren't the ones fixing this country right now, not when the majority took almost a year at LEAST to realize the economy was going bad. Give me a break, hard to take anyone seriously these days let alone the right.

    August 29, 2010 at 4:45 am |
  10. pakaeboi

    Lordy Lordy ..... good thing Glen Beck ain't gay ..... cause yuall here on this comments page would be up for federal prosecution for all yah hate speech ..... praise the Lord!!!!!!

    August 29, 2010 at 4:44 am |
  11. X

    I don't have any issue with Glenn Beck's obviously successful rally. But for him to say that the timing and location of the rally is purely "coincidental" is a lie. He knows it and his supporters know it. Yeah right, he had no idea of the significance of the date and location. I guess some people don't have a problem traveling thousands of miles to listen to a liar.

    August 29, 2010 at 4:41 am |
  12. Judy

    "Beware of those in sheep's clothing."

    August 29, 2010 at 4:41 am |
  13. Scott

    I think Glenn peaked today. There is nothing new or motivating in this speech. Those who would follow what he said were already part of the movement, and new potential "followers" would find nothing in this speech for them. Anyone looking for a new, patriotic quasi-libertarianism was disappointed. And look at those videos of the crowds. hundreds of thousands, but find me three people who weren't white. You can't. This is an old story, and this event will be forgotten in a few weeks.

    August 29, 2010 at 4:40 am |
    • Matt in Des Moines

      The lack of diversity in the crowd at Beck's Restoring Honor Rally is a failure of the democratic left and the multicultural community to let go of the idea that conservative Christians are trying to keep minorities in their place. The left continues to play the race card in order to continue to get the votes of minorities by promising "free" monies. The easy allure of this "free" money keeps minorities from becoming more successful through their own work and ambition. Thus it is the left and their entitlement programs that actually keep minorities dependent on the system and from making the most of the opportunity that exists in a free society.

      August 29, 2010 at 6:57 am |
  14. yanushscott

    I looked closely at the counter-rally but Tawana Brawley or Karin Stanford were nowhere to be found,

    August 29, 2010 at 4:39 am |
  15. David

    Those who are tossing out that Glenn beck is the Anti-Christ have obviously not-studied the Bible. In particular the books of Daniel or Revelation.

    Secular Humanism which incorporates all atheists was ruled to be a religion by the Supreme Court of the United States because it requires the faithful belief that there is no God. Look it up.

    as for science...how many times have the Laws of Physics been rewritten over the last 20 years because of new discovers that were believed impossible. Same with the study of the oceans, life has been found where is was believed the conditions made it impossible for life to exist. My favorite is how the Theory of Evolution is taught as scientific fact aka a Scientific Law (you know, like the Law of Gravity), yet has never been proven. It is a leap of faith to believe it really happened.

    As for the fairytale theory...is it better to believe the fairy tale and upon death nothing comes of it, or, to believe it is a fairy tale and upon death, find out your were wrong and in a universe of hurt. Again, you are betting on your belief (a pesky little word) that there is no God that you have to give an accounting of your life to. You have no proof there is no God, you just are hoping there isn't. By the way, saying that there is no way I can prove there is a god does not mean he does not exist.

    August 29, 2010 at 4:29 am |
  16. D. Bag

    He is not a Christian. Mormons aren't Christian, the def. says follower of Christ but some idiot (Joeseph Smith) made up some crazy stories and tried to relate them to Jesus. So no they do not follow the Bible but the BOM which is fabricated lies. Funny how almost all of the people who allegedly saw the golden tablets left the church including Smiths wife and son. If it were real and that was the word of God why would these "chosen" people have left? Easy, Smith is a convicted con artist. He use to con people before he was a self appointed prophet. He would use a wooden rod and charge people to find hidden gold....idiot.

    August 29, 2010 at 4:21 am |
    • PCArhart

      Yes, but remember God works in mysterious ways. I lived in Ut for 20 + yrs. Mormonism is not Christian. But Christians can be Mormons until God calls them out.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
    • freewoman

      and if you are a young buck male you will then be tossed out of the clan by the old men so they can protect their harems.

      August 29, 2010 at 11:27 pm |
  17. Dan

    He is religious (like the founding fathers), and can deliver conservative-moderate-inclusive message (without a teleprompter). I guess the old Beck is the new one, just that he tells it as he sees it (and some people cannot accept no p.c. guy).

    August 29, 2010 at 4:20 am |
  18. goldline.com


    August 29, 2010 at 4:19 am |
  19. eric

    all this stuff about christian nation and christian principles of our constitution gets me so irked. If the idiots did an OBJECTIVE reading of any religious scripture they'd find the same principles: Christian, Islam, Hindu, Buddha, Judaism, and on...
    Many of our founders were nondenominational Unitarians, far from "Christian" and more like "universal" principles.
    Another day, another crock of fundamentalists clamoring for top billing under the mantra of "mine's better."
    Now Glenn Beck wants to cash in on taking them to the promised land. I guess Glenn's gold scam has run it's course so now he's gonna ,profit from "Ja-EE-sus" and when that gets thin he'll aim his wallet toward reviving John Birch and drag along the birthers as the newest members.

    August 29, 2010 at 4:15 am |
  20. Allen

    CNN and the rest of the media is to blame for this self-ordained sub-moronic idiot and the Palin "Frankenstein" monster that American has embraced and have promoted to this level of abomination.
    One of the lowest points of American history has been documented.

    August 29, 2010 at 4:15 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.