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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. Mark

    Very low class AG. Don't mock what others believe is sacred, even if you don't agree. You don't have to believe what someone else believes, but at least respect that it's sacred to someone else.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:12 pm |
    • Hajib Abdulsteinskiçek

      Sacred? These people are not sacred. They want your attention and will soon expect your money for their selfish diatribe.

      August 29, 2010 at 2:48 am |
      • rmcclain

        And I suppose you said the same about Billy Grahm?

        August 29, 2010 at 8:49 am |
    • Emmitt Langley

      I think anyone who NEEDS to mock what others believe (as opposed to an honest level-headed critique)...this type of person doesn't have a lot of confidence in his own beliefs. And that insecurity is leading to the bitterness you often see on this board.

      August 29, 2010 at 8:46 am |
  2. Tom in TX

    "America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between."

    Oscar Wilde

    August 28, 2010 at 10:11 pm |
  3. Kyle

    as soon as you stop sniffin em

    August 28, 2010 at 10:11 pm |
  4. lince

    I'm an educated man, the reason why Beck – someone who barely graduated from highschool – does not appeal to me; is due to the latter fact: he is someone who could barely graduate from highschool. I've watched two of his shows, to try and give him his due, and I could barely believe that Fox news – as republican and conservative as they are already – has not fired this tool.... The fact that he makes one million dollars a week – incredible, I guess he had the last laugh from when he was the laughing stock back in that highschool.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:10 pm |
    • benson

      and still he makes more than you, while you rant away on a CNN message board. who's the real loser?

      August 28, 2010 at 10:32 pm |
    • Davep

      "I'm a well educated man – that's why I don't like Glenn Beck." What kind of comment is that. I think you are just jealous that in American a person without your education, whatever that might be, is not making the kind of money Glenn Beck is. Oh, and another thing, why does everyone call Glenn Beck a racist. Talk about racist, he was just up the street holding his own rally. Al Sharpton makes me ill. But, I guess if you're white and conservative your not allowed to talk about race. If you do we'll call you a racist white conservative. It's easier to name call then address the issue.

      August 28, 2010 at 10:44 pm |
  5. Dale

    The deepest hypocrisy of all of the many Republican hypocrisies is this whole "Christian" thing. They claim to be Christian, and care nothing for their fellow man. They fought every way they could to stop health care reform. Personally, I think Christ would support taking care of all Americans, not just rich Americans. Before Obama's presidency, thousands of Americans died every year of treatable illness. These so-called Christians were ok with that, but I am not.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:10 pm |
  6. USMCsoldier

    Mark from Middle River, So why is Beck trying to restore honor? As a US solider I don't need Obama or Beck to restore or to instill my honor. Honor comes from within. Not from a megalomaniac who espouses his own opinions about the President or whatever hie gets off on that particular night. Your comment was political in referencing Obama. My questions were serious and direct and NON political. No one has yet answered them. I don't need Beck to restore honor in me and my family. I don't need Obama to do that. Obama has nothing to do with this. I wish Beck would put his chalk down, leave his greaseboard, get out from behind is desk, put on a Kevlar vest and got shot at by al-quaeda so he'll know what honor truly is. This man is full of himself and is a self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing, delusional, transparent, money hungry, attention grabbing television wh@r3. Plain and simple.

    3rd generation US Marine
    SSgt.OIF, ODS and AFSB
    Company 24/5 Bravo
    Semper Fi

    August 28, 2010 at 10:09 pm |
    • wanna2know

      Yeah, it's too bad the Marines were not present to put this crowd into the proper position.

      August 28, 2010 at 10:14 pm |
    • Amy

      A very well-written statement; I wholeheartedly agree with you. Furthermore, I like the division between church/synagogue/mosque and state and I would like it to be kept that way.

      August 28, 2010 at 10:25 pm |
    • Hooagy

      That was totally Kick Ass. THX USMCsoldier

      August 28, 2010 at 10:38 pm |
    • Julio

      Dude, seriously. What the hell. USMC Soldier? You don't see anything wrong with calling yourself a "soldier?"

      August 28, 2010 at 10:40 pm |
    • Wayne

      Well said! USAF vet.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:00 pm |
    • halhiker

      Don't you know you should NEVER call a Marine a soldier. A Marine is a Marine. Period.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:02 pm |
    • freewoman

      No Marine would refer to him/her self as a soldier. That would be considered an insult.

      USAF Female Viet Nam Vet.

      August 29, 2010 at 4:29 pm |
  7. aroth

    I live how everyone like to talk about how the Muslims are trying to "take over America" with their ground-zero mosque, when really it's the Christians who have been openly trying to take over America for decades now.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:09 pm |
    • Tom in TX

      I absolutely agree. Unfortunately, the agnostics and followers of civilized religions (buddhists, jews, .... (who else ... ?)) don't raise their voices because the christians are scarily militant. This country has moved from cowboys to hi tech, and is now moving back to the dark ages, to the time of the Holy Inquisition.

      It's sickening. Stupidity is dangerous. Stupidity in large masses is the source of fascism.

      August 28, 2010 at 10:16 pm |
    • zigbert

      Beck believed he found god when he checked himself in the mirror that morning. He should get together with his buddy Rush, and they should both go under a rock somewhere and sip some tea.

      August 28, 2010 at 10:20 pm |
    • Hunterdb1

      This country was built on Christianity. What are you talking about. If you dont like it move.

      August 28, 2010 at 10:35 pm |
    • MadisonMan

      These agnostics and atheists who try to compare this to fascism do not know their history. Nazi Germany was not a religious place. Stalin was not religious. Bad people kill people, religious and non-religious, no religions. People who want to bring up the Inquisition as the pinnacle of bad human behavior need to study the holocaust and Stalin's purges – the largest atrocities in the history of the world were committed by atheists.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:59 pm |
    • Ryan

      Really Madison, you're just gonna sit there and spout some ridiculous statement about Nazi Germany and the Holocaust and, for some inexplicable reason, slyly (or not some much) substitute Stalin's name (yep an Atheist) for that of Adolf Hitler (oops, a Christian), so as to do what....willfully edit history so that it fits nicely into your warped narrative. Oh no no no, I don't think so buddy. The actions of the desperate and ignorant never fail to amuse me....I stopped being surprised by these antics long ago.

      August 29, 2010 at 1:50 am |
    • freewoman

      We are pretty much use to the crazy christian MO to take over American politics.But those M u s lims use that explosive fashions statement to get what they want.

      They have proved they want to use massive random killings to promote their religious agenda.
      that is not what free speech is all about.

      The bombings have not stopped in their home land and we do not want that here.
      I would allow them to build at ground zero if all the walls were glass and we can hear everything they say IN ENGLISH. No secrete places for them build bombs.
      They must allow all their women the same rights as all American women. No hiding and equality to men.

      assimilate to American culture or LEAVE!

      August 29, 2010 at 4:22 pm |
  8. Not fooled

    Yesterday he was a Morman. Today he is a Christian leader. Tomorrow he will be back to bashing President Obama.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:09 pm |
  9. Kitty

    I've watched Beck off and on (as much as I can stomach) since he was on Headline News. He is a opportunist. He takes positions that stir controversy to raise his ratings. He spews lies and hated, then denies he said it even when his lies are played back to his face. He likes to call people who disagree with him names like a bully in a schoolyard. If you disagree with him, you are a racist, a bigot, a commie, a socialist and anti-American, because only people who agree with him can be patriotic. He has even gone so far as to attack servicemen and women who disagree with him as unpatriotic! He uses Visine to shed fake tears on camera (and has admitted to doing this).
    Now he calls himself a man of God. No Godly person would be so hateful, spiteful and arrogant.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:08 pm |
  10. Eric Nicolas

    Beck has just marginalized himself. If he starts spouting his christian rhetoric on tv that will be the end of him. Can't wait.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:08 pm |
  11. linusg

    If Mr. Beck really means what he said, he should start by honoring the president. One gets the impression he doesn't like Mr. Obama because he is half white half black. No president before has been subjected to the disrespect tea-party members have subjected Mr. Obama to. That is morally wrong and not conducing to restoring "traditional values" like respect and honor in the country. If you really follow Christian values, Romans 13 commands us to pray for our leaders because if you really believe that God is control, He put that leader above us. And, we are likewise commanded to take care of the poor, the hungry and the sick – and the alien. It also apears that Mr. Beck opposes that, labeling it "socialism". You can't have it both ways: If you really love God you'll love your neighbor, even if he/she is the less priviledged or color.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:07 pm |
    • Kitty

      Well said!

      August 28, 2010 at 10:10 pm |
    • benson

      bush was subjected to much more disrespect (and still is) than obama ever has.

      August 28, 2010 at 10:30 pm |
  12. Dale

    Glen Beck is a professional hate-monger of the same sort as Limbaugh and Sara Palin.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:07 pm |
  13. Noseeum

    Wasn't he in the DaVinci Code?

    August 28, 2010 at 10:06 pm |
  14. Brian

    I'm totally ok with Glenn Beck calling for a return to a more religious life. So long as he remembers that religion has no place in politics and law. Keep it personal... don't flaunt it and don't expect everyone to believe what you believe.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:05 pm |
    • 21k

      just the fact that "he's calling for a return to gawd" blows away your second sentence. he's telling the rest of us to follow his beliefs in a deity. why can't these folks just keep in inside their churches? i don't go around telling other people NOT to believe in a supreme being, i just do my own thing. but then, i'm not trying to be a multi-millionaire by taking money from suckers.

      August 28, 2010 at 10:18 pm |
    • MadisonMan

      "Religion has no place in politics and law"? What country do you live in? Our country was founded on religion being an integral part of politics and law. Read some history books. Ever hear of god-given or unalienable rights? Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Given to us by God? Every founder believed that religious belief was essential to the survival of our republic, and that it should be encouraged by the government and taught in public schools. Read Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Adams, Washington, Hamilton, "Democracy in America." You do not understand the history of our country if you believe that religion, politics and law are not completely interwined in our country.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:55 pm |
    • Ryan

      Mason, you are as bad as Beck, on here spewwing your half truths and complete lies. You my friend, obviously know nothing about our founding fathers, if you think that they would endorse a suedo-religious (if not entirely theocratic) take over of our government. Try actually reading about Jefferson and Madison before you go around passing off "something your heard from somebody" as the truth. It only makes you look stupid. And to make it a little easier, try this, don't stop reading when you think you've found something that proves your point, read it all and recognize everything in it, within the context of the whole.

      August 29, 2010 at 1:37 am |
    • Ryan

      Whoops...my bad...Madison, not Mason. Oh well.

      August 29, 2010 at 1:38 am |
    • aNobodyinFlorida

      Well said Brian ...government and religion should always be separate...and I know it has been a while(History Class)for me but I thought this is what the founding fathers of this great nation wanted.....Everyone should respect every religion but religion should NOT be brought into government or the workplace...In my humble opinion I think Beck and Palin are frauds in life and in politics.Neither practice what they preach and any candidate running for office should decline Sara Palin's endorsement if they want to win. If McCain had any other vice president running mate besides Palin do you think Obama gets elected? Mccain would have been a great President but I worried about his health and if tragedy struck then Palin would have been President.Oh wait, Palin would have resigned just like she did in Alaska.Palin and Beck are NOT the answers to America's problems!

      August 29, 2010 at 1:22 pm |
    • freewoman

      it was my fear of Palin as to why Id voted for The O.

      Looks like that may be the case again.
      The republicans need to be more picky on their ticket pick'n .

      Dumb and Dumber ticket just proves they are not serious about who they choose.

      August 29, 2010 at 4:04 pm |
  15. Kyle

    stick your head back in the sand....your showing your lack of unawareness

    August 28, 2010 at 10:04 pm |
  16. sagepainter

    The religious NUTSOs in this country is about to make me sick, they are just as bad as the terrorists in my opinion. Stop trying to take this great country into the crusades and attempting to unleash christianity/mormonism/evangelical etc, onto the world. I don't want your religion and I hope MLK is spitting down on you from the heavens, you crazy man....Leave it BE!!!

    Take your religion and keep it to yourself, don't push this onto the world and into politics, what makes you think this country would be better if we had religion in the federal govt? Just the same, corruption is everywhere and your precious "God told me to do this" attitude and shove it up your....well you know what i mean.

    Sorry for the hostility folks, but this just makes me so angry....and all I can do is vent and VOTE in November (even though that won't do much, since most, if not ALL politicians are greedy, power hungry individuals).

    August 28, 2010 at 10:04 pm |
  17. Hooagy

    beck is jim jones incarnate, its only a matter of time before he starts passing around the Kool aid.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:03 pm |
    • cloud

      it would also be advisable to be wearing a new set of Nike's...

      August 28, 2010 at 10:06 pm |
  18. Murphy

    Where is the logic in bashing somebody because he wants people to go back to what the founders of America, which is where I'm pretty sure that we live in, wanted to happen. I am simply wondering why you, the CNN, hate this man so much. If you can respond with a factual, reasonable, logical, non-fanboy-like argument, then i will happily respond.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:03 pm |
    • Brian, West Palm Beach FL

      Because they are liberals and liberals hate anything successful, religious, responsible, and ethical. Best way to get a rid of an annoying liberal is to offer them a job. That hate that four letter word... "work".

      August 28, 2010 at 10:20 pm |
    • Ohio-gal

      Murphy, Maybe some feel the symbol of our forefathers, the flag, and other icons of American history belong to ALL of us, ALL Americans, not just a certain few or those who are fans of Glenn Beck or the Tea Party! The implication that only right wing Americans are REAL Americans is something some resent! This was supposed to be a "TWO party system", and a country built on religious FREEDOM, not Christian domination...Americans from all walks of life, all religions and all political views can be "patriots"...these symbols don't just belong to a select group!

      August 28, 2010 at 11:59 pm |
    • Ryan

      Well, I will bet you dollars to donuts that you will be unable to find one (regardless of how "out of the box" there interpretation is of our founding father beliefs), that's right, just one reputable Historian with extensive knowledge of the subject of early American history, who would say that the founding fathers would want this country to be run by (an over whelming majority of) Christian ideologues. It won't happen, because that is not what the FF's wanted, and they constructed the Constitution so that just such a thing is much less likely to happen. This is not a Christian Nation, never was, never will be, but it is, as it was intended to be, a religiously tolerant nation (much to my chagrin).

      August 29, 2010 at 1:29 am |
  19. voice of reason

    This guy is nothing but a modern day charlatan who would like the nation to retrograde to what it was decades ago... you often hear the to extreme right say "we want our country back" and it looks like this guy thinks he is the Messiah that will take us there. I'm a devout atheist buy guys like this make me wish that was really a God I could pray to.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:03 pm |
  20. halhiker

    Beck is a charlatan whose only concern is the betterment of his own bank account. He's moving the religious direction because, like all Conservatives, he likes what the government provides but doesn't want to pay for it. If he starts his own religious organization he gets tax exempt status. What could be better?

    All we like sheep have gone astray, the Scriptures tell us. Beck is only happy to shepherd those lost souls who believe their salvation comes from the false gods of a strong military, low taxes and freedom to practice the religion they choose so long as it's "Christian".

    August 28, 2010 at 10:03 pm |
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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.