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

    This nut job is the anti-christ!!!!

    August 29, 2010 at 9:25 am |
  2. Debasis

    Glenn Beck is an uneducated mormon with prior problems with drugs, alcoholism, ADHD and broken families. When the right-wing Fox network wanted to cash his fundamentalism to gain viewers for its network, he realised that he has even greater potential to cash in the sentiments of millions of Americans who are either prejudiced or fundamentalist Christians.

    August 29, 2010 at 9:24 am |
  3. Josie

    Glenn Beck is all about the TRUTH and all you clowns are AFRAID of the truth. WAKE-UP!

    August 29, 2010 at 9:23 am |
  4. mary derricotte

    Gota pay for those eye balls a dying.

    August 29, 2010 at 9:23 am |
  5. trumantiger

    Beck raised 5.5 million dollars for a military charity and he is a freak. What is wrong with America. How much did Biden and Obama give to charity 1 or 2% and obama made 5 million in book sales last year. 500, 000 people show up to support our veterans, troops, and to honor God and you people preach religious freedom. Why don't you Obama supports tell the goverment to READ THE BILLS FIRST, before they pass them. Also, when are you going to stop blaming Bush for your problems and worry about unemployement rate. Quit making excuses. This Administration is over its head and lacks experience. ( See Oil spill).

    August 29, 2010 at 9:22 am |
  6. Patti

    Oh good grief, some on here are calling him the anti-Christ. OOOH, scary white man who calls for renewed honor and faith in America. Get a grip people.

    August 29, 2010 at 9:19 am |
  7. Ed Haque

    Glen is a devil in the shape of a human. I pray to Jesus for Obama as our President. Lord have mercy in the United states, we are crumbling under the hate mongers and selfish people like Beck and now the whole Republican party. America decline has started when we have people like Beck , Limbough and Palin speaking for Americans.

    August 29, 2010 at 9:17 am |
  8. paul

    When I read the Glen Beck story on Yahoo a couple of days ago the number of bloggers FOR Glen Beck was approx. 80% or more. But then I come over here to CNN and almost all bloggers seem to be liberal. CNN, quit using your own employees to blog your liberal bullcrap! You're not going to change the way people think. The country's going back to common sense and you can't change that. Accept it and move to Holland where you belong. Bye bye, YOU LOSE!

    August 29, 2010 at 9:13 am |
  9. jean

    Are John McCain & Mike Huckabee the only 2 sane republicans left?

    August 29, 2010 at 9:13 am |
  10. Jon24

    The whole rally was about everyone coming together and being good responsible citizens to eachother, and most of you people criticize him for that? You people are the the problem with this country today. You live in denial!

    August 29, 2010 at 9:10 am |
    • freewoman

      I think Beck just needed a warm and fuzzy moment in time and to see just how it would feel to really be important.

      times up... back to your bag of sand....he needs your love an attention. hug muffin.

      August 29, 2010 at 11:50 pm |
  11. jts

    I used to think that being conservative was a good sign that you are a Christian-Beck has blown that theory out of the water!

    August 29, 2010 at 9:08 am |
  12. smorrell

    Beck claims to be such a christian but a true believer in God would not go around and speak such words to cause harm to others. He speaks of hate not love and he is part of the reason (along with Palin) that is causing people with mental disorders around the world to begin hurting and killing others. They are trying to incite riots amongst the people, this is a time for the world to come together and that is not happening, instead people like him are trying to divide our own country. God help us all!

    August 29, 2010 at 9:08 am |
    • Josie

      Where is the HATE speech............I DARE you to look up any hate speech Glenn Beck has spoken.............I DARE YOU. Then copy and paste the links here to prove it.

      August 29, 2010 at 9:34 am |
  13. Joan WSNC

    Who is Glenn Beck I thought last year in The Villages, Fla. where he is big stuff. So I thought perhaps I should go hear him in town square. There was at least 2 hour of hoopla before his bus drove in. It just sat there. Nothing, Doors didn't open. Then there was at least another 30 min. of anticipation only to hear him walk into the square from the other side while everyone was facing the bus. I thought "is he a rock star".

    His speech was loud and he was there to announce the rally in Washington.

    Having never heard him, I was not impressed enough to turn on his show. I do find it interesting that he said he came from nothing that that he was worth nothing (at one time) and now he's leading the march to make changes. That Washington is afraid of him. That threats have been made against him. There was security everywhere and helicopters flying over for protection.

    He was like a pied piper that everyone is following. I thought it will be interesting to see how many do go to Washington. I didn't hear the words Tea Party til later.

    Now that I hear he is a Mormon I'm concerned. Having toured some of the Mormon temple bldgs in Salt Lake City, I found that religion interesting and all the people working there appeared to be quite different and their way is the best way. I thought if I asked too many questions they would soon be at my house. While I don't understand the Mormon religion and wanted to know more, I get the understanding that they'd like everyone to be their followers. What was most impressive was they those folks are debt free. There was huge money in those bldgs and all paid for before they were built. While I was impressed, it made me feel nervous.

    When I needed to find my way back to my hotel, I asked one of the girl tour guides and she said I'm sorry I'm only familiar with the campus. We don't leave the campus. Oh my gosh, do they want them to be quite brainwashed and if they leave the campus they might not come back. That made me uncomfortable and the first thing that crossed my mind was Jim Jones.

    Since I don't know much about Glenn Beck or the Mormons, I'm speaking just on first impressions. My impression is that Mormons want to reach out and bring more folks into their flock and ....... it might be working. Just interesting I think.

    August 29, 2010 at 9:06 am |
  14. Greg

    There is one major difference between Glen Beck and MLK. MLK had a dream, Glen Beck has an agenda. It’s not hard to see what it is and it’s not good. Open your eyes people. Don’t let people like Glen Beck tell you what to think and believe. Beck’s agenda is self-serving. Just look at his past speeches: you decide.

    August 29, 2010 at 9:05 am |
  15. billydave

    I believe Beck is a Butt Wipe for the Moneyed Class thjat stole over $ Trillion dollars from the economy and caused the current Great Recession! They pay his salart and buy him time to blabber and confuse. The object is to fill congress with people who will legalize Corporate Greed. The Supreme Court ruled it Ok for Corporations to buy Congresspersons. If you don't own your own congressperson you arn't represented. Remember taxation without representation is Tyrenny Why would you listen to BECK. His religious freako turn is to grab as many fanatics as possible to reelect Corporate Butt Wipes to start the greed again.

    August 29, 2010 at 9:05 am |
  16. useyourminds

    The reason Beck is so hated by the liberal / progressive Left is that he & his researchers are so exceptionally good at using lengthly quotes and video clips of them to expose them for who they and there goals really are.....and why we should fear what they are attempting to accomplish. It's their own words and actions that have "awaken the sleeping giant". Beck simply pulls it all together in a clear manner

    August 29, 2010 at 9:05 am |
  17. Liz

    I hate it when Republicans try to hijack Christianity.

    August 29, 2010 at 9:02 am |
  18. Steve

    Gee Glen, you went from CNN to FOX news. That's a few steps down. The values of this country are separation of church and state, not putting a religious spin on everything. Read the constitution much? I agree with somethings you say and disagree with some. I will, however, defend your right to say it.

    August 29, 2010 at 9:02 am |
  19. Ian

    Oh good ... more mixing of Christianity and politics by the fringe right ... woo hooo ... this makes is SO much easier for those of us in the middle to align with the Republican party.

    (in case my dripping sarcasm didn't come through, here's the disclaimer)

    August 29, 2010 at 9:01 am |
  20. Liz

    This guy is terrifying. I certainly hope he doesn't win the presidency. That would be my worst nightmare. If all of the minsters follow behind him, then I'm never going to church again. I hate it when Republicans try to hijack Christianity.

    August 29, 2010 at 9:00 am |
    • Tims

      Beck and the The tea bag party are undercover kkk

      August 29, 2010 at 11:44 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.