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. Izzy

    Rev. Beck is the emperor of Beckistan and an employee of Koch Industries.

    August 29, 2010 at 9:47 am |
  2. Dan in FL

    Who is Glenn Beck? He's another opportunist who preys on people's emotions to manipulate them and enrich himself. He shamelessly uses patriotism and religion to draw people into his message and them showers them with selected facts and half-truths, never intending to create a "fair and balanced" discussion. Those who are already predisposed to his point of view welcome his shtick and just ignore the everything else. Having watched parts of his show numerous times, it's easy to see how poorly educated, weak-minded individuals are drawn into his rhetoric. It's also very sad.

    August 29, 2010 at 9:47 am |
  3. Daryl

    Romans 16:17-18 ESV / 17 helpful votes
    I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.

    August 29, 2010 at 9:47 am |
  4. GoBack

    TRENDING: At rally, Beck positions himself as new Big ASS for Christian conservatives

    August 29, 2010 at 9:44 am |
  5. GoBack

    TRENDING: At rally, Beck positions himself as new Big Ass for Christian conservatives pinhead asses.

    August 29, 2010 at 9:42 am |
  6. agw

    It's sad that this country has turned into a herd of sheep, willing to support an individual who isn't moral, educational or spiritual. He's a fear-mongering, pied-piper, dancing his way to the bank, along with Palin, Limbaugh, O'Reily, etc. These people are flaws in our society. These people are why we're so divided. These people are taking us down and turning us away from greatness. Our country is in ruins due to them, Bush/Cheney, Reagan, Neo-Cons, Anti-A's and the Christian Right!

    When will you bible-thumpin,' so-called Christians realize that true morals, values and spirituality come from within. They're not found or fabricated in organized religion. Your scriptures and beliefs have been concocted and twisted to become a cover-up for one's sins. You're living in a fairy tale world and spew hypocrisy, fear and hate.

    August 29, 2010 at 9:37 am |
  7. John

    No better of worse than the ShamWow guy,just has the gift of the gab with plenty of sheep to tag along.

    August 29, 2010 at 9:36 am |
    • freewoman

      yep.. thats all it takes one perfect su ck up rag and bingo your rich...

      August 30, 2010 at 12:02 am |
  8. sand

    he seriously is a mad man, the concern is there are millions in America who listen to him and take him seriously.

    August 29, 2010 at 9:36 am |
  9. Who Cares

    God dropped a bag full of $s on his head, not sand. Beck is now going to make even more money off the bone heads that listen to him then ever before.

    August 29, 2010 at 9:34 am |
    • freewoman

      well finally you GET IT.. its a joke...

      August 30, 2010 at 12:00 am |
  10. Joe

    What qualifies him to "call for renewed honor and faith", he's and idiot!!!!

    August 29, 2010 at 9:33 am |
    • freewoman

      well it made sense when he said it to himself in the mirror

      August 29, 2010 at 11:56 pm |
    • freewoman

      as he was cleaning the sand out of his ears.

      August 29, 2010 at 11:58 pm |
  11. totoytigas

    i believe him as much as a convict "born again".

    August 29, 2010 at 9:33 am |
    • freewoman

      he would have if he had got caught with his friend the weed.

      August 29, 2010 at 11:54 pm |
  12. Lori

    Nobody mentions the article in which it was reported that Glenn Beck was losing his vision. As I read the article and his talk about "submitting to God's will for his life" I was impressed but could not square those confessional words with the vicious talk that usually has come from him in the past. Maybe the new Glenn Beck is for real (God can do that!); maybe it's a political ploy. We'll have to wait and see. But meanwhile, like many of the rest of you have said...think for yourself..don't let party rallies and personalities push all the buttons in your brain.

    August 29, 2010 at 9:31 am |
  13. BADGUY

    Hey..Who is Glen Beck? In reference to his forming the right wing "Clergy for Revolution" a.k.a "Black Robed Regiment" I've got the answer: TRAITOR!

    August 29, 2010 at 9:31 am |
  14. lucas

    Beck as a Mormon is only trying to deceive the republican base into nominating mitt romney...will not work this guy was a shill for mitt romney in 08' and is still a shill for him...some how he thinks this out reach to the religious right will have them consider voting for romney the mormon wont happen...thanks for trying to pull wool over our eyes loser!!!

    August 29, 2010 at 9:30 am |
  15. sand

    This man is trying to make America likes of a Islamic Nation and he wants to be the Ayatollah Khomeini of America,

    August 29, 2010 at 9:29 am |
  16. Bob B


    Glenn Beck is the man that has had the Obama White House in panic mode since 2009. He's the man that has the journOlist media in full panic mode as well. Did you know the O in journOlist stands for media for Obama? Hey, a media-government complex! And as a bonus, Glenn Beck is the man that has Keith Olbermann as a subscriber.

    I know, I know. You're thinking, who's Keith Olbermann?

    August 29, 2010 at 9:29 am |
  17. Tim

    PEOPLE! Can't we come together & not attack each other? Can't we just come together to attack Beck? He's replaced his addiction to alcohol with an addiction to getting a reaction from the angry, ill-informed masses whose anger he foments with his time-hare salesman pitch.

    August 29, 2010 at 9:27 am |
  18. Ed Haque

    If you want your kids to have any quality of life and standing in the world make sure you find 10 people to vote this hate mongers brain dead people out of public life and take away the microphone.. Jesus save us.

    August 29, 2010 at 9:26 am |
  19. Tracy

    Take the 2nd M out of Mormon...that's who/what Glenn Beck is!

    August 29, 2010 at 9:26 am |
  20. M

    he is the voice of the idiots of this country who 'want their country back' like if someone has stolen it.

    August 29, 2010 at 9:25 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.