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. Sirock

    Question does anyone know where Sharpton was a year ago? Did he hold a gathering to Honor Dr. King last year on the I have a dream speech then too?

    August 29, 2010 at 11:33 am |
  2. TheTruth

    And the Bible says, the anti-christ will rise among us cloaked in the language of the Lord and claiming to be the new savior, but he will be of the demon instead. Hello Glenn Beck, anti-christ!!!

    August 29, 2010 at 11:32 am |
  3. Erin

    Beck is the P.T. Barnum of our time. He has a book coming out September 14th – that's all this was about – he is a superb marketing mind (or has some backing him up) just like Sarah Palin. If they are really, truly Christian, they should give away all of their worldly possessions to the poor and serve God. They should work the food banks and the free clinics – but that doesn't make $300 Million in gold hawked on TV commercials. I am all for capitalism, just not in God's name.

    August 29, 2010 at 11:32 am |
  4. Sirock

    Bonita try reading something other then the editorials by the left.

    August 29, 2010 at 11:31 am |
  5. Earnest is not enough

    I am not a fan of Beck. I am not a "fan" of anyone. I am very concerned with his ability to convince people that God is speaking to them though him. Do you want to believe he is your prophet because that is what he is saying in his "Oh so humble, I'm just a servant" kind of way? No way. If you belive in a God, listen to Him in your heart. Beck was just lucky enough to have a TV station to give him a forum for you to watch his personal spiritual journey. He may be well intentioned, but he should not be in a positoin to tell intelligent people what to do.
    I sometimes watch his show to see how truly far he will strech his contorted message.
    Beck actually presented a video where he showed flies when they happened to land on the president and a rat scurrying past a podium before a speach and said something to the effect of "what do they know that we don't? Do you have flies and rats around you?" What kind of a man spews this kind of insane ignorant drival? That confirmed my perception that he is on some manic self absorbed mission and will distort anything and present it to captivate you. Don't just pick and choose what you want to hear with him. Listen to every single word word he utters and then decide. Can you take the whole package with him? Beck is terribly earnest, passionate, saved from the percieved evils in his personal life and on a mission to save you and the country. He may also be a completely misguided fool on a power trip.But he's very passionate and well intentioned about it.

    August 29, 2010 at 11:31 am |
  6. DALE

    LOL look at the "Christan" defending a guy who believes that the criminal Joseph Smith went into the woods of Ohio and met with an Angel who gave him yet another version of the bible. Joseph Smith "The Prophet" who also claimed to have the lost Book of Abraham in an Egyptian scroll. Which later turned out to be a simply burial cloth bought from a traveling carnival.
    Yes this is a great Mormon to follow. Oh yeah I bet God himself was looking down and smiling at the 'restoration' yesterday. Sure hope I don't go to an eternal hell for this post.

    Keep waving your flags and spewing patriotism. If you ever want to enlighten yourself look up the word Jingoism. Naw don't do that. Keep believing this Joseph Mcarthy and Joseph Smith rolled in to one. Idiots.

    August 29, 2010 at 11:31 am |
  7. Sirock

    Bonita, your home value was impacted by legislation that started during Clinton. Everyone was guarnteed home ownership weather they could afford it or not. Banks were sued for not loaning people. Congress refused to limit these powers or greedy lenders. During Bush the Democratic Congress and Senate refused to address this too but it's all Bushes fault like any prez can make them do anything.

    August 29, 2010 at 11:29 am |
  8. Jason B.

    First: is it me or does Beck sound like he's setting himself up to be a cult leader?

    Second: "bring us all back to the place we were on September 12, 2001," Um...would that be the place where we slowly get our civil liberties stripped away under the guise of making us safer? The same place where our private phones get tapped without warrants? The same place where we can get strip searched cause we try carrying 4 ounces of shampoo on a plane? The same place where we're suppose to live in fear forever?

    August 29, 2010 at 11:29 am |
  9. 1streality

    Radio talk rabblerouser Glen Beck..... "Is organizing Evangelical Christians into Black Robed Brigades"?
    Sounds Like Religious WAR.... Crusades Against American Infidels?

    "Beck Wants To Pervert Civil Rights Racial Not Religious History"... into "Faith Rights" and Religious Exclusion?

    So Beck ... is Turning "Tea Party Right-Wing" ... into "Faith Based Civil Rights for over 45 mostly White Social Conservatives"! "Fundamentalist Religious & Political Power for White Folks"?

    August 29, 2010 at 11:29 am |
  10. grumpy smurf

    i think this rally is part of beck's 12 step recovery process

    August 29, 2010 at 11:26 am |
  11. Amin Bdeir

    Is Glenn Beck a powerful, brilliant and influential man? Simply refer to the bombastic attacks from the Left and pro-Obama forces, and the answer is clear. A simple man with a clear and sensible message at a time when the U.S. has never been so leaderless. Obama may have Hollywood, Muslims and the press on his side, but not the people.

    August 29, 2010 at 11:23 am |
    • KY

      "A simple man"... Really? And why do you think that this billionaire is "simple"? This man is ANYTHING but simple. He may be uneducated, he may appeal to the simple man, he may have a simpleton's message – "Follow me. I'm the ONLY one who really understands you..." – but he is NOT – I repeat – NOT a "simple man". Watch Andy Griffith's 1957 movie, "A Face In the Crowd". That character is your Glenn Beck.

      August 29, 2010 at 11:58 am |
  12. Matt

    "Endowed BY THEIR CREATOR..."

    Sure. The founding fathers weren't religious at all. They were a bunch of Darwinists clinging to their religion and their guns.

    August 29, 2010 at 11:23 am |
  13. Doug

    The amount of stupid people in America today is astounding. So many of you are so full of yourselves to think your uneducated selves can even make a proper assessment of what is going on. Surprise, having a degree doesn't make you smart or intelligent. In fact it most likely means your as dumb as a box of rocks. Learn the facts on your own, don't just follow what people tell you. How many people have commented about this rally that didn't watch one single second of it? Instead you were quick to just on the bandwagon of hate that the media creates with their sensational headlines.

    August 29, 2010 at 11:23 am |
  14. faboge

    If this man is the future of the nation, be very afraid! Sick of these wingnuts that every election year scream about the stolen honor and their imaginary shadowy enemies! You have made your 500 million dollars peddling overpriced gold, now move on!

    August 29, 2010 at 11:22 am |
  15. TK

    Fifteen years ago I remember Glenn Beck as a soused New Haven, CT shock jock with little education and little to say. He used to broadcast from time to time from the bagel joint on George Street. People lined up to see him, but he was no one of note and everyone knew it. He was entertainment. (Contrary to his bio, he wasn't "accepted to Yale to study theology". He dropped out of Yale's non-traditional student program after attending class just briefly.) To put him in perspective, he's an entertainer (as he always was) now using a particular form of political rhetoric to appeal to a rather unsophisticated audience. This guy is a fool with political aspirations. As someone aptly posted above: don't drink the kool aid.

    August 29, 2010 at 11:17 am |
    • Kevin Carney

      Good points! It's hard to know if Glen Beck is just playing a role (as Stephen Colbert openly does) or truly believes he IS the role.

      Kevin – http://www.soleragroup.com

      August 29, 2010 at 12:08 pm |
  16. Rose

    You people espouse seperation of Church and State, yet at this very moment your government is funding Mosque and importing Sharia Law.

    August 29, 2010 at 11:17 am |
  17. hammysantana

    You know...you cna hate Glen Beck without hating the religion.

    Personally, I think all religions are fascinating as they all pretty much advocate not harming yourselves or each other. It's not religion that makes people hurt others, it's people. People who twist and manipulate for their own agendas. I personally don't care what religion Glen Beck CLAIMS to be. I just disagree with his political views.

    Really, it shouldn't matter what you are, as long as you have the word "moderate" before it.

    August 29, 2010 at 11:14 am |
  18. Bill

    Honoring fallen soldiers? I don't think so. You don't honor those who've given the ultimate sacrifice for this country by trying to drag the country back to the "good old days" that only existed in some warped re-written history. No. Beck is standing of the backs of those honorable fallen soldiers to elevate himself. THAT is how you disgrace the honor of fallen soldiers not honor their memory. He is a charlatan, pure and simple.

    August 29, 2010 at 11:13 am |
  19. windycitybill

    When normal men have a mid-life crisis, they go out and purchase a new car – when beck does, he holds a press conference. Beck needs God for all the terrible things that he has said and the hate that he has spread.....he is on his way to hell!

    August 29, 2010 at 11:09 am |
  20. Joshua McDowell

    What a worth less man, message and result.. Seriously go back to your hole.. Please.

    August 29, 2010 at 11:09 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.