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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. Peter

    I have always believed in taking care of yourself.........I don't believe the government should take care of responsible folks.

    The government did take my Social Security money, so yes they owe it back, and that is all.

    Religion is a personal issue, and should not be part of politics period.......anyone who thinks it should be part of politics is a Hypocrite, and doesn't understand what personal belief is all about.

    The Easter Bunny is about as real as Religion is...all man made.

    Should people help others..... of course, the golden rule say it all. If all folks lived by the golden rule religion would not be necessary.

    Belief in the after life is a choice, and pushing that on others, is no different than pushing any other belief on another.

    August 29, 2010 at 10:45 am |
    • David

      The Golden Rule comes from the Bible. So people can't live the Golden Rule w/o religion. But, yes the world would be a much better place if everyone lived this way. Which, by the way, if you had been paying attention to Beck and the other speakers, is what they are calling for. Personal responsibility, honesty, integrity and charity are integral to living the Golden Rule.

      August 30, 2010 at 7:03 am |
  2. RJ

    When are we going to strictly adhere to the constitution which separates church and state? The religious right wants to blame the current conditions on the current administrations relative lack of religious connectivity relatively to the former administration. Greed is what brought our country down. This greed and corruption all happened during the Bush administration. Greed and corruption is not something perfected by American policies but pervades the entire globe. Mexico is now fighting a war on drugs on five different fronts due to elections which ousted leaders who were in concert with the drug cartels. Mexico is finding out that it was easier to take bribes and look the other way with regard to the drug cartels instead of fighting them. This sort of corruption is also present in many other parts of the globe including the middle east. Until every country reins in greed and corruption, no matter what policies we institute in America we will be stuck in the same mire.

    August 29, 2010 at 10:44 am |
  3. Tampagirl

    I went to the rally – it was great. My take away is to be an honorable – something that is lacking these days. I am not Christian – but it even inspired me to read MLK's Dream speech and be a better person.

    August 29, 2010 at 10:40 am |
  4. Pete

    Perfect, another right wing christian!!! I can't see why not, the republicans have been such a boon for america!!!

    August 29, 2010 at 10:39 am |
  5. Reality

    Hmmm, Clinton was the one who allowed the banks to run wild with our money. With respect to war crimes, Clinton missed the opportunity to take out OBL. Obviouly, he allowed his sex-ual desires to interfere with being commander and chief.

    August 29, 2010 at 10:39 am |
  6. Alpha 1

    Was the American Indian a Christian? Of course not!! I would hardly call ourselves a Christian nation! We are a nation of imports who take what we want, when we want, by whom we want. I'm an American born and raised, appreciate very much the freedoms I've inherited, I care a great deal about my country and what it's future will look like but we are very young compared to the rest of the world and we certainly act like it. People of all religions came here. Thats one of the sole reasons they did. Like it or not, we all belong here. (but only cause we took it from someone else)

    August 29, 2010 at 10:37 am |
    • freewoman

      the native people of the Americas had to be removed to make room for the chosen people.

      The native people were treated no different than the buffalo. They were savages. And not approved by god.

      I am amazed that any native American can call them selves a Christian. It makes my stomach churn.

      Just like the blacks who claim to be christians.. talk about sleeping with the enemy.

      I guess they have never read the bible or their own history...

      The native nations of the Americas were slaughtered .... a true shame of us all...

      August 30, 2010 at 12:18 am |
  7. doug

    Extremely funny story about Glenn Beck at http://newspile.weebly.com/

    August 29, 2010 at 10:37 am |
  8. KyleIsStuckOnStupid

    Kyle typed/blathered: "your showing your lack of unawareness"

    YOU'RE showing your lack of intellectual capacity.

    August 29, 2010 at 10:35 am |
  9. James Junior

    Blasphemy is a serious sin. To claim that God is with this movement or that movement when he is not may constitute blasphemy. Both Jesus the Christ and the Apostle Paul taught much liberality in their Christian teachings. The "Sermon on the Mount" was all about caring, sharing, and giving as one upholds the name, laws, and principles, of the Almighty. How can a man of a stingy ideology even claim to be a Godly leader. When someone starts preaching the Biblically liberal message of the Christ I may then believe that he is turning to God.

    August 29, 2010 at 10:33 am |
  10. Found

    I didn't know we had lost our country. Fill me in on that statement: Let's take back our country. Palin uses this statement often. I also didn't know we have lost our God. Perhaps Beck, Palin and others have lost their country and their Gods, but the majority of folks in this great country have not lost their country nor their God. Let us pray for these losers.

    August 29, 2010 at 10:32 am |
  11. Carl

    Nothing but a fraud for mindless conservatives to latch onto.

    August 29, 2010 at 10:32 am |
  12. Jim Fawcett

    Glenn Beck is now the undisputed leader of the Republican party.

    August 29, 2010 at 10:30 am |
  13. illustrator5

    Beck is a full tilt boggie wack job that believes he is a prophet! Yep he's in it for profit all right and people are just as stupid as those that followed James Jones, Waco and waiting for the aliens to take them off the planet! Won't be long and he will be selling electric Kool-aid!

    August 29, 2010 at 10:27 am |
  14. Paul

    I wont comment on whether Glenn Beck is sincere or not but I love the folks on this forum hurling stones at this guy..calling him a drug addict, alcoholic, and so on. Espousing their own hatred and contempt when 99.999% of you have all done things in your past you know were wrong. Whats different is the guy has admitted to his mistakes publicly and referenced them as part of his life experience. For all of the so called tolerance you claim to have you sure seem to have a hard time summoning that tolerance when it matters. Yesterday a large group of people came to the mall to honor our special operations soldiers and raise money to help the children of those soldiers go to college. It was also a place to come to try and rise above the difficult and uncertain times we face and look towards a better future. What I see on this blog are a bunch of pseudo intellectuals who are so lost in their own misery they have to project it onto others. You have all lost the plot. Its time for a little introspection folks because whether you like it or not divided we will fall as a nation. If thats what you prefer than you are truly the sad individual. Now you can reply to this if you wish. I will read all the comments. Before you start typing think of something practical to say instead of the usual vitriol you normally write.

    August 29, 2010 at 10:26 am |
  15. al

    even satan can quote scriptures. Glenn beck is a poser following the same steps and tactics as hitler

    August 29, 2010 at 10:22 am |
  16. Mary B

    It is sad that there are so many people who can not see the advantage in putting their trust in God instead of their self and the government....the political egos are the ones everyone should run far away from.....go back to common sense and believe in someone other than the ones cramming their ideas as yours...it never hurts to pray

    August 29, 2010 at 10:21 am |
    • freewoman

      yeah.. we know what god wants.. everything. government and the politicians are more sneaky about it.

      they swear to protect you then change their mind after the votes are counted.

      Read your money honey there is no reality there.

      As long as they can keep you believing in the super daddy they know you will not demand to trust them.

      August 30, 2010 at 12:08 am |
  17. Bonita

    If Palin-Beck in the White House is America's future..........WHY would anyone get a formal education? Does FREEDOM really mean you can tote a gun to Washington, you hate anyone who is "different" than you, and you can demand that Women's Rights be taken away??? Palin bragged in her speech about "raising an American Vet" but failed to explain that her first born son was conceived out of wedlock and faced criminal prosecution if he didn't sign up for a "tour in Iraq." Beck has been diagnosed with a disease which will eventually cause his eye sight to go and he will be blinded. Of course he finally found God, he's begging forgiveness for all of the morons that he "DUPED" to hate our President and buy over-priced gold and medicines that cause you to loose your sense of smell and taste........ALL FOR YOUR MONEY and that he was PAID BY FOXNEWS to lie to America.

    August 29, 2010 at 10:18 am |
  18. "THE DEVIDED STATES OF AMERICA"

    I can see once again, that most CNN devotees have closed their minds to the possibility of an enlightened message of hope, and honour pertaining to the United States Constitution, particularly the First Amendment !!! I am an Independent, and for the most part , an INDEPENDENT CAPITALIST AMERICAN. Who needs no SOCIALIST LIBERAL GOVERNMENT to rule over me, Who longs to see with open eyes, the wonder and beauty of a dream of hope and inspiration for the AMERICAN PEOPLE, God bless Mr Glen Beck and anyone who prays to a loving GOD for inspiration and guidance."A house Devided shall fall, The truth will be revealed come November ?

    August 29, 2010 at 10:17 am |
  19. doug

    Funny story about Glenn Beck at http://newspile.weebly.com/

    August 29, 2010 at 10:16 am |
  20. Joel

    Someone wanted to see a list of half-truths, lies, ignorance, and flipflopping from Beck. Even better, here's a bunch of clips:

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/videos/tag/Glenn+Beck

    Don't dismiss the source. Don't think of it as "Libtard Jon Stewart bashing someone he doesn't agree with." Just watch some of the clips. I'm not sure how anyone who views these clips can listen to Beck. He's clearly manipulating people and it's scary he can get hundred of thousands to show up to DC for a rally.

    And did anyone else see interviews of the people attending the rally? It seemed quite a few were jobless and from out of town. I wonder how they afforded the trip.

    August 29, 2010 at 10:15 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.