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. jts

    Glenn Beck said Americans need to turn back to God-Tell that to the Republicans. BTW Mormans are nice people but aren't really Christians since they refer to their second Bible. They are more like a cult. Good thing Mitt Romney didn't get elected President-Bet Glenn Beck voted for him.

    August 29, 2010 at 8:20 am |
  2. PlayNice

    Well that's it then, isn't it? I mean, if he's now a tool of God and not just a tool, all his hatred and whining must be right – right? And once the Black Robe a-holes get going, we'll be completely retrofitted with a new Inquisition. Get back to 9-12? Yeah, 9-12-1596.

    August 29, 2010 at 8:20 am |
  3. Melisanthrope

    I attended the rally. Beck wasn't trying to invoke a theocracy. He challenged each INDIVIDUAL present espouse faith, hope, and charity in their own lives while looking to God for guidance. There was also focus on the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. That's pretty controversial, eh? I rather have someone promote these values than preach how the government is going to take care of everything for the sheeple. How's that hopey-changey thing working out for you?

    August 29, 2010 at 8:20 am |
    • freewoman

      notice.. they never say think for yourself... just believe. I can't do the second, before I complete the first.,

      August 29, 2010 at 11:42 pm |
  4. McLuhan

    Beck is like a disabled kid giving a speech and screwing it up, you feel embarrassed for him. Something is wrong with this guy, like every other person in history like him, and he is either a self-loathing homosexual, a deviant or mentally disabled. Like McCarthy, the truth will find its ugly way out! Its sad for his followers who will have to get over being duped again! Einstein wasn't starved for attention and turned down power! Makes you wonder!

    August 29, 2010 at 8:19 am |
  5. Dan

    As someone who takes a pretty even view on all this I think most who post here and the media are missing the point. This is not about Glenn Beck at all but speaks more to the attitude in America. People are unemployed and disappointed in the direction the US is going. Housing starts are at a 47 year low...people are not dumb...There is an uneasy sense that to handle the situation we have an inexperienced leader that lacks an emotional connection. For the first time we may have a President that is not pro-American and I say that with astonishment and sadness. It puts a gloom over the entire Country. Back to the Beck rally I say good for him free speech at work...I was mostly curious how the news media would cover it and as I listened to the CNN report it never once mentioned the size of the rally or even showed wide shots of the event so the viewer could get a sense of the scope. Sadly it clearly demonstrated the true colors of our media establishment and to be honest it is very concerning. We the general public are not getting unbiased news reporting which makes me question everything. The CNN report turned to the racial connection...just a simple hot button topic to create a negative view of the event. Is it necessary to find fault in a positive message? I just ask for straight reporting from both sides...the one thing I can say for certain is the people that showed up at that rally are the people that vote. I believe we are about to see an historic elections in 2010 and in 2012.

    August 29, 2010 at 8:15 am |
  6. Westerner

    2 minutes of the Rally and 2 lines of his speech are enough to feel nauseated. Enough said

    August 29, 2010 at 8:13 am |
  7. mm

    america's a christian nation...check.
    china's a confucian nation...
    india's a hindu nation...
    the christian right has pissed off 1.5 billion muslims...nice going, since they're also customers of our economy.
    so beck's new christian revival will now go piss off 2.5 billion confucians & hindus?
    so let me get this straight, we can do without 4 billion of the earth's 6 billion customers?
    and that's going to revive our country, how exactly?

    August 29, 2010 at 8:13 am |
  8. Sara

    Is he doing all this for free, because he really does belive. Or is he he it for the money?

    August 29, 2010 at 8:12 am |
  9. bigshotprof

    I expect this kind of wide-eyed, golly gee, I'll believe anything gullibility from the general public. But from the religion blog of CNN it's really sad. The man has already gone on record as saying he's just an entertainer–he's not political. He says what he needs to say to fatten his wallet, and he is really good at it. It's the ultimate con to be able to say to millions of people "I don't mean it but believe me anyway." and have them say "uh, sure."

    August 29, 2010 at 8:10 am |
  10. ok2

    mormons are not christians they are cultists.... you want to take a different interpretation of the bible? ok I can go with that being christian. You want to add new texts and prophets?.... sorry thats a cult.

    August 29, 2010 at 8:10 am |
  11. wayland

    is this a joke on the anniversary of king speech ! beck you are a very bad man, i than you thin bush wad rihgt

    August 29, 2010 at 8:06 am |
  12. Jackson Windom

    Beck is a wolf in sheep's clothing. The abstract commentary in which he cloaked himself on Sunday was greatly at odds with his daily diet of more nuanced, radical, uninformed, hateful rhetoric. He is a dangerous fomenter of violence praying on the ignorance of the masses, and thanks to the failure of our schools, there are are too many.

    August 29, 2010 at 8:03 am |
    • Joe


      August 29, 2010 at 8:15 am |
  13. Darren

    L Ron Hubbard was a second rate sci-fi novelist then one day decided to say that he had the universe's answers and started a religion that is laughable in almost every detail and yet believed by millions. Glen Beck was a TV commentator who hijacked the flag and religion to boost his own money and fame ... what comes next Mr Beck?

    PT Barnum was right.

    August 29, 2010 at 8:02 am |
    • freewoman

      Hubbard realized that there is a $ load of money that can be made with sequel myths.
      The books did not sell but the myth did.

      The more crazy it is the more profitable it is. go figure.

      August 29, 2010 at 11:39 pm |
  14. Wazzup

    How come all you liberals had no problem with Glenn when he worked for CNN?

    August 29, 2010 at 7:59 am |
  15. DAC

    I am interested to know if ANY of you posting general negativity actually watched the rally, Beck's speech, or read the transcript. THEN I would like to hear what SPECIFICALLY you find objectionable. If you didn't watch it, then I would respectfully recommend that you FIRST find out what YOU'RE talking about.

    August 29, 2010 at 7:51 am |
  16. Tired

    Glen Beck is a person who wants to see change in America, he want us to see what has been going on and make changes. People talk about "its all about the money" well it kind of is. All the money that the current government administration is speaking for the American tax payors. He just wants people to get back to basics, life is to short. By the time this administration is done, the country will be 20 times worse that what we were before they were voted in. If you asking if Glen Beck is snow balling the American people, I think you need to look at the current administration. They Ram Rodded that "health care package" right down our thoats, now they are spending as fast as the tax payors can make it. There's an aggenda out there to tear the US apart. If we dont start doing something about it, it will happen on its own. I applaude Glen Beck for standing up for what he and alot of Americans believe it.

    August 29, 2010 at 7:49 am |
  17. Longwalker

    Hitler in a crew cut and a TV show is who he is.

    August 29, 2010 at 7:45 am |
  18. Deinert

    Instead of looking for ways to critizing him look at his message. We need to return to the beliefs of the people that founded this country.

    August 29, 2010 at 7:43 am |
    • Joe

      Yes, going back to what the Founders of this Great country believed! Separation of Church and State and enshrined in the Great Document called the Constitution of the United States of America. Or did you miss that part? It was done for the very reason most posters on here are concerned about this message of turning this nation back to God. Whose God exactly and what is his name? If I recall the History of why that part of separating the church and state was enshrined into our Constitution it had something to do with religious zealots persecuting people because they refused to accept doctrine per characters like Glenn Beck!

      August 29, 2010 at 7:53 am |
  19. gale

    ..ummmm...didn't I learn something about the seperation of church and state back when I was in school?

    August 29, 2010 at 7:41 am |
    • Connect the dots

      Therein lies the problem. Progressive-think, liberal-college trained teachers are way off base when they teach this stuff.

      There is no official "separation of church and state." Thomas Jefferson used the term the "wall of separation" in a letter to some baptists.

      The only thing in the Constitution is that the government shall not establish an official religion. That doesn't mean a total absence of religion. The current-day concept can be attributed to liberal activist judges in the 1940's deciding to "interpret" the constitution in favor of some moron atheist.

      August 29, 2010 at 8:39 am |
  20. iymtbotrkh

    Even the tough and intelligent leaders, like Obama, face and lose to the American corporate machine and its hum to profit for its own benefit. Beck and his world in the face of that corporate and soulless machine would be chewing gum.

    August 29, 2010 at 7:40 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59
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.