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. CaringFool

    he should have asked Fred Phelps and his band of protesters to join in. definitely a military oriented group.

    August 29, 2010 at 6:54 am |
  2. M

    Don't believe a word of what this idiot says. He is just being being 'good boy' until he gets back to his comfort zone with faux news -unfair & unbalanced lie machine

    August 29, 2010 at 6:53 am |
  3. Chuck

    Actually I find all the comments amusing, everyone is rooting for their team (no different from football or baseball). The best part is most people who know their team stinks still root for them fervently or are so blinded by their loyalty what ever their team says they believe. The thing is America has allot of issues and allot of solutions to those issues, but we are not all going to agree to the same solutions. Instead of breeding hatred for the other teams fans wouldn't it be nice if we all rooted for the American team. Most of the posters here are repeating rhetoric they heard from their team manager(s) without actually following up and making sure it is the truth. What ever side of this argument you are on wake up and look with your own eyes and do not let someone make those decisions for you.

    August 29, 2010 at 6:50 am |
  4. Mykel

    People come on this commentary with such hate and ignorance. What bothers me is that these people are products of the past 3 to 4 decades. They learned to be so sceptical and cynical from a society built from Television, the media and worse yet our educational system.
    The key word lacking in these people is "Compassion". We are humans who need to be united by people who are positive, caring and compassionate. But so many have been hardened by this liberal multi-culture, selfish driven society that they not only cannot identify human nature's cry for the truth, they criticize and degrade it instead and then call it free speech.
    I'm saddened by the number of people who comment here who fit this description. Glen Beck is not perfect, he is only trying to help this country but callous people can't even recognize it.
    Before you try to remove the splinter from someone's eye, remove the boulder that blocks yours first.

    August 29, 2010 at 6:49 am |
    • Jill-IN

      Before you espouse that his message is so clear and good, you should do your homework and check the facts of what he preaches on his Fox show and radio. It is not a "Good" message, nor is it historically accurate. He cannot be called a historian because he is not educated; but I guess you could say he is a history buff of sorts but the problem is his translation of facts is wrong. Don't blindly follow someone.

      August 29, 2010 at 9:27 am |
    • The Deep Toucher

      If "multi-culture" is one of the culprits of our social disintegration, I shudder to consider whatever kind of antidote you would propose. Unity among Beck's followers constitutes a euphemism for one religion, one politic, one race. Look at the crowd! White white white. White people need to get over themselves. This country is trending brown; white is no longer a majority, but a simple plurality. This fact alone stirs the racial paranoia of these people. Besides, for a long time now white people have really sucked at governing the world's affairs.

      August 29, 2010 at 10:16 am |
    • The Deep Toucher

      If "multi-culture" is one of the culprits of our social disintegration, I shudder to consider whatever kind of antidote you would propose. Unity among Beck's followers constitutes a euphemism for one religion, one politic, one race. Look at the crowd! White white white. White people need to get over themselves. This country is trending brown; white is no longer a majority, but a simple plurality. This fact alone stirs the racial paranoia of these people. Besides, for a long time now white people have really sucked at governing the world's affairs.

      August 29, 2010 at 10:25 am |
  5. Bridget

    This, the same man who stated on his radio show "if your priest or minister uses the phrase 'social justice' in their sermons, you should turn and run"

    Anyone else tired of this wolf in sheep's clothing?

    August 29, 2010 at 6:45 am |
    • Jill-IN

      Yes, I'm tired of this person; he is frightening, spews divisive hatred from his mouth all the time on Fox. He is relatively uneducated but an okay communicator except that his message is wrong headed. He reminds me of Adolph Hitler. The milder temperament right now is calculated or perhaps due to medication. He behaves bipolar on his TV show

      August 29, 2010 at 9:24 am |
  6. Frances

    I really think this man is mentally ill.

    August 29, 2010 at 6:29 am |
  7. Frances

    Don't drink the kool-aid.

    August 29, 2010 at 6:27 am |
  8. SickOf Change

    “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”.” (G.B. Shaw)

    August 29, 2010 at 6:22 am |
    • The Deep Toucher

      Ha! Do you mean to attack Progressives with this? Do you know who George Bernard Shaw was and what he wrote?

      August 29, 2010 at 10:07 am |
  9. Jaded

    We all know who and what is behind this – at least the more intelligent among us can see these things. It's pretty damme obvious and it's all "in-your-face". All of it.
    The ones running these shows need to be charged with TREAS0N and sent to a Federal prison A5AP.

    I've already kissed my country good-bye, thanks. I'd like to give it a welcome someday, but I am too jaded and cynical to think that these "problems" are going to actually get "fixed". The hope and change I was really looking for is along these lines.

    August 29, 2010 at 6:20 am |
  10. GrumpyBearDC

    Oh look, it's Religious Barbie.

    August 29, 2010 at 6:14 am |
  11. Jaded

    I am so sick of the oozing sleaze that comes crawling from the pathetic right-wing zombie set...ugh.
    I would not shed a tear if they were wiped from the face of the Earth. Not a single tucking tear. Not one.
    Tears of joy, maybe, but not the other kind. Nope. Not me.
    If we aren't going to address their mental health issues, then we'd be better off getting rid of them all. Period.

    August 29, 2010 at 6:06 am |
  12. truth2power

    No person in their right mind takes this clown seriously.
    He is about as real as professional wrestling.
    Repeated exposure to Beck makes a person stupid and mean!

    August 29, 2010 at 5:55 am |
  13. Monopolydog

    Glenn found God through the despair of being an addict. It's a powerful encounter, and if he did god-speak to help others out of any kind of misery we would not criticize him. It does scare me a little when men, speaking as a rep for God attempt to influence politics. It becomes no different than any kind of lobby and as americans no matter what your political or religious views are, lobbies are scary. THAT being said, being a spiritual country would do us a whole lot of good because tolerance and the common good are still scarce.

    August 29, 2010 at 5:48 am |
  14. Carl

    Beck and Palin are both both dangerous demagogues that appeal to people who really don't or won't think for themselves. It is easier to follow instructions than to think for themselves. Neither of these characters has an original thought and they change their rhetoric to suit the needs of the situation they are in at a specific time. Now it is time to milk the religion cow again! It will be interesting with all of their professions of religious fervor to see how quickly they are back attacking the Muslim world community (so much for freedom of religion). I suppose a large enough payout could bring these two idiots to say or do anything. I said it before and I will continue to say it, Sarah Palin needs to disappear back into the Alaskan wilds and take Glen Beck with her (please).

    August 29, 2010 at 5:40 am |
  15. Craig

    It's funny how the Christian Right rally behind the Fascists Glenn Beck ad infinitum but the basis of Christianity is what started the heart of socialism. Who said that it is easier for the rich man to fit through the eye of a needle than it is for them to enter the kingdom of heaven?

    Look at the gospel of Mathew to see what it takes to give to a society as a whole for the better good. Or keep thinking to yourself what you think makes yourself feel good and whats convenient. I'll be helping immigrants find shelter, happiness and family illegal or not while you go to wal-mart and buy goods illegally manufactured, illegally shipped into the United States to save pennies on quarterly profits and cost fellow Americans their jobs – the Republican, Conservative way.

    August 29, 2010 at 5:23 am |
    • David

      If you understood the scripture you would know that the 'Eye of the Needle' was a securtiy gate into Jerusalem that was open at night and required camel riders to dismount and walk the camels throw (camels had to crawl on their knees) to prevent an assault. As for the 'rich man' Jesus was speaking of people who cling to their wealth, position and own wisdom so hard that they have no room for faith.

      And, seeing as how many comments on this blog are calling Glenn beck a fool (and other choice adjectives) why do yoou not note the scripture where God says, "he (God) chooses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise (those who think they have it all figured out without him)"

      August 30, 2010 at 8:06 am |
  16. Defacto

    I guess we know who the anti-christ is.

    August 29, 2010 at 5:18 am |
  17. Bart Ohama

    cnn propaganda for the Democatic Party is not working. Demonizing Glenn Beck only works on the unintelligent liberals because facts confuse them. Never let All Confused (Anderson Cooper) discuss any topic with Glenn. He gets eaten alive by lesser pundits and would be massacred by Glenn.
    Glenn is preaching values that the unintelligent liberals forgot or did not know.
    The problem with liberals is that they think they are smart and tend to lie. They also get very fustrated when they are not believed.

    August 29, 2010 at 5:18 am |
  18. Defacto

    I guess we know who the next anti-christ really is.

    August 29, 2010 at 5:16 am |
  19. mtdHouston

    any body know?
    open question: The USA has created more religions and cults (staying power >5yrs) than any country or civilization in history.

    August 29, 2010 at 5:14 am |
  20. mtdHouston

    Jesus had to be born and suffer. Now Beck is born for us to suffer. Long live the new leader.

    August 29, 2010 at 5:11 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.