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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. aologic

    Get out the kool aid a very dangerous man

    August 29, 2010 at 8:56 am |
  2. jts

    I used to watch Glenn Beck on CNN. You could tell he was conservative, but then he still fair. Then FOX news dangled the millions & he turned into a lunatic. I guess too much money can make one crazy. Just ask Palin, Limbaugh, Dr. Laura, & O'Reilly. I'm really scared-all these crazzies love guns!

    August 29, 2010 at 8:56 am |
  3. useyourminds

    Watch Beck for a couple of weeks and its easy to see why he has a following. His researchers find actual qutoes & videos to support his views. It frustrates the $%@# ot of the liberal / progressive / radical left that they've been exposed for what they goals really are. He is able to pull everything together in a way that is clear to understand. His ability to show how far our country has strayed from its foundations is awakening the regular people to take action at the polls.....but then he can't take all the credit. The President and leaders in Congress deserve even more of the credit for that. In the end, a 4-year Obama and overwhelming Democratic Congress may be the best thing that ever happened to the USA.

    August 29, 2010 at 8:54 am |
    • Modern Researcher

      Anyone can find a quote or 10 second piece of video to back up anything! That is not good research. To simply judge someones entire character on one quote is a bit ridiculous. I bet I could find a quote to make Glen Beck seem communist. Research is more than finding sporadic quotes to back up YOUR perceived views, since every researcher knows that sometimes the information you find will not align with your views.

      August 29, 2010 at 10:46 am |
      • lostrelic

        [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hf33g9ep4YU&w=640&h=360]

        August 30, 2010 at 10:33 pm |
        • Jenn

          Hypocrite for sure. Straight from the mouth of you new leader Beck! Seriously, what is wrong with people?? This guy is an ass!

          September 3, 2010 at 6:00 pm |
  4. Robert

    Can you people still be blaming Bush for the countries problem while this monster in the White House runs our country in the ground... Lay off the kool aid, and educate yourself.

    August 29, 2010 at 8:52 am |
  5. OSFANS

    OMG is now Obamaa must go!

    August 29, 2010 at 8:51 am |
  6. Dan

    Glenn Beck calls on us to "return to God" ... oh, really?

    Regarding religion-inspired violence and related current events, I am continually amazed and dismayed that society's leaders and the mainstream media do not acknowledge the elephant in the room: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and every other religion containing supernatural elements were invented by our primitive ancestors to explain mysteries that are now understood by science.

    Human society's refusal to acknowledge this now-known fact perpetuates tragic human suffering, including acts of terrorism, born of senseless religious intolerance and hatred.

    The long-term solution (decades) is science education, leading eventually to public understanding that the world is not flat, no gods exist, and there is no afterlife – there is, as astronomer Carl Sagan famously said, "not a shred of evidence" for even the most basic religious tenets, which can only be believed by suspending reason and replacing it by blind, unthinking faith.

    Most religions that have existed are now extinct, having no modern-day believers; unfortunately, modern ones (those invented within the last 2000 years) are especially virulent, owing to current technologies for doing violence and for mass communication of their messages.

    In the short term (years, optimistically), our best hope for world peace and prosperity is the courage of a critical mass of science-knowledgeable opinion leaders and the media to cease the cowardly political correctness of lending credence to religion and its spokespersons by pretending that their nonsensical pronouncements have any basis in fact. How should a responsible journalist respond to a person in high office who seriously claims Santa Claus is real? Sadly, I hold out little hope that our leaders will rise to this moral challenge.

    August 29, 2010 at 8:50 am |
    • freewoman

      myths are like dinosaurs.. sooner of later they get too big for their environment and die off.

      August 29, 2010 at 11:46 pm |
  7. sparky

    I started watching Beck. I went and looked up facts that he gave on history and the policies of the Obama and Bush administrations. I found that Beck is correct. He may get emotional but is speaking the truth. Wake up America, I did.

    August 29, 2010 at 8:49 am |
  8. OSFANS

    The people told Washington – NO to Tarp, Stimulus, Healthcare, Libtard wacko debt – Now we wIll Remember in November

    August 29, 2010 at 8:49 am |
  9. David Fitzgerald

    Word of warning. DON'T DRINK THE KOOL-AID. GLENN PEED IN IT.

    August 29, 2010 at 8:46 am |
  10. RealNYC

    Yo, "Knoxville18", you're so conditioned by poor new programming that you don't know the difference between real news and ADVERTISING!!!!!!!! Real news is presented as facts without excess of emotion, inflammatory language or BIAS~~~ you are trying to call CNN out for "Beck Bashing" when they're just stating fact. You are so brainwashed by the Fox propaganda machine that you wouldn't know a REAL news story if it came up and whopped you upside your dad'gum hillbilly head!!!!!!!!!

    August 29, 2010 at 8:45 am |
  11. Nancy DeHollander

    To each his own opinion,but,I dont care what religion you are,God should be in your life. He should be in everyone's life. We should worship him rather than the almighty dollar. The only time in my opinion that we show compassion is during a crisis. We
    are quick to judge,just read these e mails. We do not have the right to judge. There is only one who judges you and He doesnt have e mail!!!!!!!!

    August 29, 2010 at 8:45 am |
  12. David Fitzgerald

    I'm sorry but this goes to show how many stupid people there are that will follow some people blindly. I tend to call myself an independent, that lately, is leaning more left after watching all the whacked out right win conservatives loose their minds over the last 2 years since Obama took office. There are crazy people on both sides but damn...just damn...The right wins hands down when it comes to crazy. I was more conservative and voted for Bush Sr and was a Reagan fan but I just don't see how I can support the conservative movement anymore. They lose power and they lose their minds. They don't seem genuinely interested in bettering this country at all.

    August 29, 2010 at 8:44 am |
  13. Emmitt Langley

    "New Beck?"

    This goes to show what I've long suspected. Leftists are so busy yammering and name-calling, they never even hear what we say. I watch a portion of Glenn's show just about every weekday...ALL he ever talks about is religion and God and honor and courage, etc... he's obsessed with those things...which is fine by me. But the point is, this is not a NEW Glenn Beck. The media only heard him in sound bites before I guess....and yesterday they actually listen to him for the first time.

    August 29, 2010 at 8:43 am |
  14. POed

    Well it looks like the anti-christ has given us a look at who he is...

    August 29, 2010 at 8:43 am |
  15. rosmarie

    where are those people the used to love each other,for peace and happiness,but since this horrible radio and television fox there is nothing but hat mongers to pray hate have never anything to say about people there are not on there side.it is a sad situation we are goinig true.just pray that we can see a strong person comes forward and try to make sense to those hateful groups praying that the fox station is going off with people there have more sense.aand we can see a great a loving nation again pray for that time to come back god bless america

    August 29, 2010 at 8:36 am |
  16. Doc

    This article illustrates how out of touch the media is – Glenn Beck has been saying this for over ten years. His message is no different than what he proffered on radio every day. I can still hear him right after 9/11 clear as day. Is he a bit more vocal right now? Yes, but to read this article, you'd think (1) he'd just had a Saul-to-Paul conversion and (2) that he'd never expressed these idea before in public. I can't decide if I think it's hilarious or sad.

    August 29, 2010 at 8:36 am |
  17. Reality

    Facts from the 21st century:

    Mormonism- A business/religious cult based on Joseph Smith's (and G. Beck's) hallucinations which has bought respectability with a $30 billion business empire, the BYU "mission matured" football team and a great choir.

    Then there is this:

    1. There was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no bases.

    2. There was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    3. There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    4. There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completelys fails as a religion.

    5. There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    6. Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    7. Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated Buddhas everwhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    August 29, 2010 at 8:30 am |
    • ok2

      I will see your heresey and raise you one, the universe is indifferent and has no morality. all religious hocus pocus in the past and in the future....fail

      August 29, 2010 at 9:08 am |
  18. McLuhan

    God, Please save America from this idiot!

    August 29, 2010 at 8:27 am |
  19. David Gregory

    To Terry,
    Listen to Beck during the week and/or watch is show and you will see who and what he is. To all of the people whose comments obviously prove you have done neither, you should do the same. Make your own conclusion from an educated viewpoint rather than the he said, she said rhetoric here. I stumbled onto his radio show several years ago and heard a man who speaks from his heart, uses humor to combat challenges in life and has been through the roller coaster that is life like the rest of us.

    August 29, 2010 at 8:22 am |
  20. jim

    Beck is turning to religion because he is to stupid to con people in the political arena, he just looks like an idiot when he tries. With the bible thumpers, all you have to do is proclaim your belief in the jesus fables and pretend to long for a return to "christian family values" and the faithful salivate and shout "amen". You don't have to know anything about anything, just be able to emote on command!

    August 29, 2010 at 8:22 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.