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. Joe

    Just because someone invokes the name of God and purports to speak in his name does not mean that his message is endorsed by God. Beware of false prophets as they will come in his name yet deceive many, even those that believe in the true God. Glenn beck speaks with a forked tongue, often distorting the truth and at times telling lies outright. He may suddenly be pretending that he speaks for the faithful but he does not speak for me or any self respecting Christian I know. The only ones listening to his crap are those that have lost their moral compass and seek out any message that seems to sound off as true and correct. Read your bible folks and stop listening to people that tell you what's in it. Only lazy fools who do not want to take the time to read it follow false prophets like this man is.

    August 29, 2010 at 7:39 am |
  2. Culture Bearer

    He is the new Mormon prophet. Unlike Jews and Christians, who haven't seen a prophet on earth for thousands of years, the Mormons get a new one every hundred years or two. His career has evolved quickly, to where he has a huge audience. Before long, he will declare himself a prophet (he's already come close) and many will believe him. Right now, he's positioning himself so it will be more than just Mormons who believe, but mainstream Christians as well. Some may call that the anti-christ, but those may be outnumbered by the conservatives who are willing to accept him as prophet. He'll endorse Mitt Romney for president, and set us on a direct path toward a theocracy. Many well meaning but gullible Americans will follow, convinced it's about getting to heaven, or saving the country.

    August 29, 2010 at 7:37 am |
  3. That Guy 371

    This jerk is the biggest phony currently, and may end up being the biggest ever. What twit would take anything he says as something other that sensationalism b.s.? Oh wait... the Nancy Grace crowd. Sorry, forgot about those sheep.

    August 29, 2010 at 7:34 am |
  4. Westerner

    Glenn Beck is just another D-Bag just like Limbaugh, Hasselbeck, Palin and Co trying to take America down to a new age of Chritsian obscurantism. They want America to be the Christian counterpart of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Scary and sad at the same time.

    August 29, 2010 at 7:33 am |
  5. fireybuddha

    not only does beck frighten me, but the fact that so many americans think embracing a theocracy will answer our problems. what theocracy out there works now? anybody? EXACTLY. NOT ONE. keep god in your church and your home and in your heart, but don't push your religion on us all. that's NOT american.

    August 29, 2010 at 7:31 am |
  6. Darnel

    Glenbag is a mormon cnn....and in a cult that believes the only way to God is thru their specific church/LDS........It would be like saying the only way to God is by being a Presbyterian etc.....

    Christians w/ all of their differences have some basics they agree on.....1 denomination doesnt have a corner on the market....Pres, Methodist, Catholic, Charismatic, Assembly of God, Nazarene etc. are Christians not cult members.....even with all of their differences, Christians didn't have to make up some follow up book to the Bible like Glen's cult did: Glen believes Adam and Eve were from Jackson county Missouri for crapts sake, Don't pawn him off on us sane Christ followers CNN!

    August 29, 2010 at 7:30 am |
    • fireybuddha

      "Christians w/ all of their differences have some basics they agree on." Not true. Do a bit more research.

      August 29, 2010 at 7:33 am |
  7. Corbijn

    As a person who was raised a Mormon in Salt Lake City but isn't one anymore; do you idiots know that Mormons believe a Mormon will one day become President and this will ring forth the second coming of Christ. Mormons will deny this but it is taught amongst Mormons in church classes.

    August 29, 2010 at 7:29 am |
    • freewoman

      all religions have their own version of the Saviour god for the chosen. Its what fills the pews and the money plate.
      We are being save the other guys are going to h e l l .

      SOS .... you'd think we'd get the joke by now....

      August 29, 2010 at 11:35 pm |
  8. Tony

    Glenn is trying to empower our local relegious leaders. Most of these leaders are truley good people unlike many of our elected representitives who are selling us out. Its time for us to put these local leaders into political offices instead of churches and temples.

    August 29, 2010 at 7:25 am |
  9. PFerrell

    Anyone who whips up a crowd using religion, and separatism of people by their personal choices, deemed by him good or bad based on a faith that is known not to be Christian, is a dangerous messenger. He is a messenger for himself and a few hundred thousand or so people like him. The Mormons, as a group, are dedicated to what they do, and they have all the money they could ever want, with a huge "temple" in Utah, and others around the world. They will have their time in the sun, now, no doubt about it. But the world and especially the USA is not ready for another McCarthy. A time of persecution of all who do not follow the same beliefs as the persecutors...it would cause a civil war within the USA.

    August 29, 2010 at 7:24 am |
  10. Corbijn

    If I were a Christian I would start to believe that Glen Beck is the coming of the prophesied Anti-Christ.

    August 29, 2010 at 7:21 am |
  11. Zenger

    The vitriol being spewed against Glenn Beck and others participating in the Restoring Honor event are in sharp contrast to the positive message of unity, faith, hope and charity that I observed.

    From their rabid response, it appears the left is intimidated by the large turnout and patriotic message of Mr. Beck's event.

    They should be.

    August 29, 2010 at 7:20 am |
    • The Deep Toucher

      Of course you observed these things! You stood among tens of thousands of people of the same politic, same religion, and the same race rabidly imbibing Beck's religious insanity.

      August 29, 2010 at 10:23 am |
  12. Oodoodanoo

    Beck and Palin prove that some people dearly, desperately need to be suckered. Anyone who says there are easy answers to today's problems is lying to you. Period. And if you don't believe that, then you deserve to have your remaining money taken from you.

    August 29, 2010 at 7:19 am |
  13. phil

    Glenn Beck is doing the same thing Hitler did when he started off. Preach to the masses about what they don't have and make them fearful of the future. Now he considers himself a religious person leading the masses? There won't be any kool aid from Beck instead there will be a mob mentality and a grab for power type movement, resulting in forceful belittling of others mentality toward anyone who doesn't agree with him.
    Watch out people this could get bad with all the propaganda that Beck and Fox is putting out there they could be going for all the power.

    August 29, 2010 at 7:17 am |
    • Matt in Des Moines

      You've been up all night drinking again, haven't you Phil?

      August 29, 2010 at 7:49 am |
  14. tjp

    You liberal wacko's are out of touch with reality. Beck is just a guy with an opinion. If you agree with him, fine. If not, that's fine also. But the hate and fear you jerks spew out is ridicules. I think Sharpton's inciting hate and his racial rants are much more disturbing but none of you seem to have a problem with him. Get your heads out of your butts before you suffocate.

    August 29, 2010 at 7:13 am |
  15. bob

    I hate to play this card but Hitler gave speeches that sounded exactly like that, you can find translations all over the internet.

    August 29, 2010 at 7:12 am |
  16. Gretchen Fodor

    Glenn Beck does not practice Christian faith but deceives those who do. I was sitting in my elderly aunt's home 6 months ago and Glenn Beck came on the TV and was talking about the president of the US. All at once, she starts yelling "kill him, kill him" (referring to President Obama). I was absolutely shocked. It had been about 5 years since I have tuned into FOX for any real news. With faux Christian Sarah Pailn joining FOX, I will never watch anything FOX puts out. Anyone who spreads lies and evokes hatred like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin do are NOT practicing their faith. Honest Christians need to put their nose in THE BOOK and practice charity.

    About a year ago I was surprised to read that a group of ministers in Portsmouth NH acted on their faith and co-wrote a letter to Sen. Judd Gregg urging him to support health care reform (he did not, of course). Now that is charity. Many Christian ministries in our country disgraged themselves with sex and child abuse scandals and wonder why they cannot get people in the door anymore. Catholic churches in New York and New England are closing their doors left and right. This is the price the church pays for clergy who abuse their position. Jesus Christ ministered to the poor and poor in spirit. Glenn and Sarah are ministering to their bank accounts.

    Catholic ministries and

    August 29, 2010 at 7:08 am |
  17. Ken

    @MK2 – The Nazis were clearly fascists. Saying otherwise is like calling North Korea a Republic because that's what they call themselves. This revisionist history that is being propagated by the far right is exactly the sort of thing the nazis did. If Mr. Beck is going to hold true to his proclaimed faith, maybe he'll also follow one of my Saviors strongest teachings – "love one another" or maybe – "Sell everything you own, give it to the poor, and Follow Me"

    August 29, 2010 at 7:07 am |
  18. 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 keeps the battle raging between "left and right". This really was more nonpartisan and unifying than anthing Obama has done, if the Democrats would simply acknowldge it. No power to be had that way though...

    August 29, 2010 at 7:07 am |
  19. NashJeff

    Beln Beck, "I HAVE A SCEME (to make MORE money)!!!!!!!!"

    August 29, 2010 at 7:05 am |
    • Matt in Des Moines

      Yes Jeff, we know Jon Stewart made a funny. Tell me that's not where you get your news. (sigh) Do you have any original thoughts?

      August 29, 2010 at 7:18 am |
  20. Government school teacher

    Jud from Colorado,
    Perhaps you meant to say that Beck "struck a chord." Of course, knowing what kind of person we're talking about, he may have stuck a cord. So maybe you're right.

    August 29, 2010 at 6:57 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.