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. #OneLove

    I think you guys are all funny. writing these long opinions for what.... NOTHING. so much #negativeenergy. Everyone is wasting their time and emotion. Go for a walk or a run or go dance. #losers! hahaha

    August 29, 2010 at 11:09 am |
  2. I. Am Appalled

    Beck and his followers should be embarrassed that they are showing how desperate they are that they have to use Dr. MLK and the civil rights movement as a platform. Coupled with the fact they are the basis for the "conservatives for dummys" book which means they are being used by the rich (the Kochs and Murdoch, Beck, Palin, etc) in the name of Christianity. OMG

    August 29, 2010 at 11:08 am |
  3. Diane

    The Anti-Christ has spoken!

    August 29, 2010 at 11:05 am |
  4. Big Red Fan

    Mormon's are NOT Christians.

    August 29, 2010 at 11:05 am |
  5. Bob

    At least Beck will stay off vacatation long enough to talk to the people. your closet mooslim prezz hides unitl he watches cnn and see how americans feel about a subject. Becks wife will so to Saudi, turkey and other muslim nations Michelle won't. Barry Barack is such a liar to the black, white and red people.

    August 29, 2010 at 11:05 am |
  6. John

    Between George Bush and Glenn Beck, I guess sobriety is overrated.

    August 29, 2010 at 11:03 am |
  7. american

    47 years from now people will still be talking about Martin Luther King. This clowns speech will be forgotten by next week.

    August 29, 2010 at 11:03 am |
  8. Mario Munoz

    This the new Kukulcan that the mayans we we're waiting for to finish the job in 2012 alleluyah

    August 29, 2010 at 11:02 am |
  9. John

    Between George Bush and Glenn Back, I guess sobriety is overrated.

    August 29, 2010 at 11:01 am |
  10. embarassed

    When i read these blogs belittling this rally, the only thing that comes to mind is that this is the only country on earth where a rally like this can be scheduled in the capitol no less. and yet, the liberal tools find this offensive. History records that this country was founded on Judea/christian principles, to have the state enumerate what is a moral virtue means that the state can take away moral values and substitute anything the state deems a value. This is the road to enslavement.
    America needs to retool snd get the government out of the taxpayers lives.

    August 29, 2010 at 11:00 am |
  11. Devin

    Wow, I guess I will never be a patriot like Beck since I do not follow a Judeo-Christian religion, so much for the tolerance preached by God and JC. I guess it only applies to those in the club with the secret handshake.

    August 29, 2010 at 11:00 am |
  12. Simon the Likable

    Look at the pictures of the rally. His deciples are the same hipocricial "got mine" geriatric teabaggers that collect social security and medicare yet have the audacity to claim that government healthcare is "socialism" and want government out of their lives. BUT DON'T YOU DARE TOUCH THEIR MEDICARE.

    August 29, 2010 at 10:58 am |
    • Rose

      Restoring Honor should start with this blog. Good grief, the vetriol postings about one mans beliefs are nothing more than smoke covering the true message of the 8/28. Were moving forward with or without you. God is not of the past, he is the present and our furture. For some of you this may make you hurl, but I leave that up to the Lord.

      August 29, 2010 at 11:30 am |
    • Jacub


      You're saying God will make us puke?? Srsly?

      August 29, 2010 at 11:42 am |
  13. Felix

    BECK IS A MORMON! Their first article of faith is – 1 – God was once a man who lived on another planet
    This is the most important teaching of Mormonism. We believe that God was once a mortal man on another planet who progressed by living in obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel he had on his world, then he died and was resurrected. -- That is enough for me

    August 29, 2010 at 10:57 am |
  14. cassie

    Dear CNN,

    I would appreciate your emailing me at the above address and telling me why you are "moderating" my comment which to me appears already as "moderate" as any of these other comments.
    Thank you

    August 29, 2010 at 10:56 am |
  15. Kathleen

    God is love and mercy - not Glenn Beck's distorted version of spirituality. How distasteful it is when people use God and spirituality as a political platform to gain attention and votes.

    "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves (Matt. 7:15)

    August 29, 2010 at 10:56 am |
  16. matt

    Since when is the Morman faith about family values? They are the polygamists correct? Now before anyone goes off the deep end and says "Not all Mormans believe in that" please compare it to how very few Muslims are terrorists yet the Christian right, Fox news, and Glen Beck all bring the fear that all muslims are, even is it is only a small number.
    Beck is poisoning sensible peoples minds, it is not Christian to hate even though it sure seems like it. Beck et. al preach hate of gays, hate of muslims, hate of Woodrow WIlson, damn they even preach hate of Mexicans (who are Christians), I am certain Jesus would not approve.
    I know many republicans and tea baggers detest Obama but that doesn't mean you have to latch on to the ideas of anyone who speaks against him, Beck is the anti-christ and is causing far more harm than good. Stop being lemmings of this self proclaimed false profit, "divine destiny" my foot, BUY GOLD!!

    August 29, 2010 at 10:55 am |
  17. Gre

    I'm so tired of "the U.S. was founded by Christians, and therefore it is a Christian nation" argument. That's like saying "E.T. was directed by a Jewish man, and therefore is a Jewish movie." The Founding Fathers, while no doubt acting within a moral sphere which may or may not have been dictated by their religion, were careful not to include any specific religious tenets in their documents. That they were able to keep themselves restrained to the non-specific (for that time) term "their creator" speaks volumes about their belief in not having religion inform the way the country was run.

    August 29, 2010 at 10:54 am |
  18. charlie

    New Americans rather join a mooslim mosque than listen to beck about Christianity. Hitler was correct we do need a better super race and do away with the idiots we have now.

    August 29, 2010 at 10:54 am |
    • freewoman

      i bet that race would be yours too!!

      August 30, 2010 at 12:20 am |
    • freewoman

      i bet in 2000 yrs the only way to determine a persons race will be through DNA testing.

      August 30, 2010 at 12:23 am |
  19. cassie

    It's interesting watching Beck over time. At first he just seemed to be an amusing, if eccentric, investigative reporter. And I appreciated his bringing to light certain things which the mainstream media were neglectingl A lot of this was done with a puckish Beckian sense of humor. I knew he always supported the founding fathers interpretation of the Constitution as he also said he was reading the Federalist papers. While I think reminding us that we are, or were, a God-fearing Nation is appropriate, I am disturbed by this turn of events which makes him into a religious/political leader. Too much shouting for my taste. Is he beginning to entertain delusions of grandeur? I hope he is not the choice of the Republican party next time around because then again I'll have no one to vote for. He and Obama appear to be at opposite ends of the political spectrum. Where is the voice of reason? This is NOT a duplicate comment. please publish or let me know why not.

    August 29, 2010 at 10:53 am |
  20. Billk

    What a bafoon, leading other bafoons. Yes, this country was founded as a Christian nation, over 200 years ago.
    Things change, I'm not a Christian, but my family has been here forever. I don't need this clown shoving his religion down my throat.

    August 29, 2010 at 10:45 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.