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. Stans Friend

    Hey guys, will you visit SaveStan.ORG a friend of mine with 4 young babies is fighting for his life.

    August 29, 2010 at 10:15 am |
  2. Sandy

    He should stfu because he's breaking number 3 all over the place. Using the name of G-d to grease his pockets and establish some political cult following is going to earn him a prime location in the it-don't tickle section of hell. Some of us see straight through you, Beck. Your crocodile tears and pep rallies are faker than my boobs, and not nearly as entertaining.

    August 29, 2010 at 10:15 am |
  3. Bonita

    I am stunned by the thousands of ignorant Americans that actually made the trip to Washington yesterday to listen to Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin CRY about NOTHING! Wasn't there a NASCAR event on Saturday? That is normally where you see these kinds of NOBODYS! America deserves a PALIN-BECK presidential ticket in 2012! I personally want to witness the "SWIFT DESTRUCTION of AMERICA" at the hands of this so-called RIGHT party! If this is our future, please distribute the KOOL-AID promptly!

    August 29, 2010 at 10:12 am |
  4. chrisxxx

    Glenn Beck reminds me of so many people who lived immoral lives (ex-convicts, alcoholics, drug abusers, etc.) who suddenly "find God." They become religious fanatics. They go from one extreme to the other. Extremism is unreasonable from any perspective. I'll never understand why so many people have to led around by the nose instead of thinking for themselves.

    August 29, 2010 at 10:12 am |
  5. davidpekofske

    Beck said our american leaders didn't have anything that we don't. That statement couldn't be farther from the truth. Our country use to have strong leadership who never sold out it's citizens to big business and special interest. We use to have honest media who reported the truth instead of sewing seeds of hate and deception. We used to have church leaders who believed in the glory of god instead of the glory of the dollar. Glenn you are way off base. You should be using your influence to do something good instead of rallying desperate americans that will cling to anything that sounds hope. From the outside looking in this political stunt probably is a way to promote the exact thing we need to rid ourselves of.

    August 29, 2010 at 10:12 am |
  6. Frank Provasek

    Mormons like Beck believe that man can become God, and that God was once a man. Mormons deny the Trinity and the existence of a literal burning Hell, yet they promote polytheism (many gods), baptism for the dead, and the notion that Jesus and Satan were originally spirit brothers!

    Brigham Young on blacks: "You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, uncomely, disagreeable, sad, low in their habits, wild, and seemingly without the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind.

    "Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so."

    August 29, 2010 at 10:08 am |
  7. wjackson

    I'm disappointed the the focus of this event turned to one individual. I will not seek to defend Beck on his personal comments, however, what I saw as I watched this event on CSPAN was quite different than the many negative comments found here. Ignore the messenger and evaluate the message. MLK's daughter found the message important enough to be there and contribute. In short, the message is understand that the rights you have transcend the government's authority, government is not the foundation that we should rely on for bailing us out, lastly, we are all Americans, stop differentiating on color, race, religion, etc, and understand we have an obligation to make tomorrow better than today because its the right thing to do.

    We've left the core values expressed in simple things like the golden rule. We've been more concerned about being hyphenated Americans (Irish-American, African-American, etc.) and forgot that in order to realize the Dream set forth by MLK, we MUST ignore color and focus on the content of character. When will we fully understand this?

    August 29, 2010 at 10:06 am |
  8. Trolleyfish

    What better way to suck people in, distort their minds, and keep them tuning in and watching advertisements than to go religious? Beck has his audience fooled.

    August 29, 2010 at 10:02 am |
  9. ISeeThruU

    So Beck's finally learned how to mix a little sugar in with his poison. Big deal.
    The Lord uses the Good Ones, the Bad Ones use the Lord.

    August 29, 2010 at 10:01 am |
  10. Cedar rapids

    'Black Robed Regiment' AKA Death eaters.

    August 29, 2010 at 10:00 am |
  11. rdg1

    _ Ecclesiastes 10:2 (NIV)
    _ "The heart of the wise inclines to the right,
    _ but the heart of the fool to the left.”

    August 29, 2010 at 9:59 am |
    • Trolleyfish

      rdg1, that's one of the most idiotic things I've read here. Why would you think that verse is relevant? You need to learn how to read, interpret, and think critically.

      August 29, 2010 at 1:21 pm |
  12. mommaearth

    lead us to the promised land,,,,,Glenn

    August 29, 2010 at 9:57 am |
  13. Joyce

    I said most preachers which left out Billy Grahan.

    August 29, 2010 at 9:57 am |
  14. DL13

    He probably feels that prayer is the only answer to the mess our stupid, ideology bound, greedy politicians have gotten us into.

    August 29, 2010 at 9:57 am |
  15. andrew

    Who's Glenn Beck? He strikes me as lazy frat boy who miraculously gave up beer and found Jesus. That anyone can follow this pudgy-headed bloviator is amazing.

    August 29, 2010 at 9:53 am |
  16. Arthur

    It is a scarey proposition to require a religious viewpoint to decide what is right or wrong for a government to decide what is right.

    August 29, 2010 at 9:53 am |
  17. Gary

    Glenn Beck and his ILK are extremists plain and simple.

    August 29, 2010 at 9:52 am |
  18. Couldn't care less

    To any of the African Americans that think just because someone is white and criticizes Obama that they are either racist or scared i say you are the racist. I don't believe in his politics not because he's black but because they are wrong. I doesn't have to always be white people against black I thought that's what we fought so long and hard for! Why don't you go listen to Dr. King's I have a dream speech again!

    August 29, 2010 at 9:50 am |
  19. Gary

    Glenn Beck is a Mormon convert who talks to make believe people in the sky and cries on TV. That's about right aligned with the 8% of kooks who sheep herd behind him.

    August 29, 2010 at 9:50 am |
  20. Lucus Stone

    As one that leans, more liberal…I was surprised how positive the rally was…no politics but rather how we can better get along as a Union…I was somewhat impressed w/ Beck!

    August 29, 2010 at 9:48 am |
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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.