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. Nelson

    @American Woman humm rally of peace and unity? You mean only if you are American and Christian right?

    August 29, 2010 at 12:09 pm |
  2. Forrest

    I don't believe in your god or your faith, and I don't want them forced upon me. Thankfully in our country we have the freedom and the right to not have you encroach on our personal or political lives. Keep your Christianity in your churches, where it belongs.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:09 pm |
  3. Kimsy

    I hear/saw there were about 300,000 to 500,000 at Becks Rally

    and al sharpen only had 2 thousand, so who was the one who has respect on this important day, I would Say Glenn Beck went the most american way about on this day

    August 29, 2010 at 12:07 pm |
  4. Jim Bob

    What ignoramus would think a weasel like Beck knows anything about God?

    August 29, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
  5. Chemist

    Crazy is crazy does.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:04 pm |
  6. analyst

    Beck is an entertainer who has just discovered that religion is more profitable than politics.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:03 pm |
  7. Kevin Carney

    What I find most interesting is the degree to which Glen Beck and this rally are polarizing our discussion. I scanned a few different news websites this morning. On some the comments are very pro Beck. On others the comments are very anti Beck. I've found very few middle of the road type comments. It seems this man is either loved or hated, with no middle ground. Are extreme points of view all that exists right now or are the more middle of the road people not prone to comment on news websites?

    Kevin – http://www.soleragroup.com

    August 29, 2010 at 12:03 pm |
  8. CheyneyBush

    This week marks an important historical turning point. Congratulations America! We now have American Ultra-Christian Ayatollah!! Lets all rally around him for solutions to all our problems.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:01 pm |
  9. mike

    as long as the tea party use idiots like Beck and Palin to speak for them no one will take them seriously.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:00 pm |
  10. Eshinesu

    That's not soup coming out of that chamberpot.

    August 29, 2010 at 11:59 am |
  11. Linda is feeling ill!

    Oh, My God! We have just seen, up close and personal, the complete dumbing down of America! How could so many seemingly normal people listen to that stuff with a straight face? Haven't they heard Beck's hate-mongering? This was such a fake bunch of dribble, I was nauseated! Please, America, WAKE UP to these idiots! Use your BRAIN for God's Sake (Literally!!!)!!! (I don't mean to be petty here, but am I the only one that was constantly reminded of the kid who shot himself in the eye with his bee-bee gun on that Christmas TV movie?)

    August 29, 2010 at 11:57 am |
  12. p

    Yes we all know Beck is a Mor(m)on, just remember the louder they profess their faith, the more corrupt they tend to be.

    August 29, 2010 at 11:57 am |
  13. Brian D

    He dreams to be American Ahmadinejad!

    August 29, 2010 at 11:53 am |
  14. separate_religion_politics

    Religion and politics were supposed to be separated hundreds of years ago. It should like we are going back in time.

    August 29, 2010 at 11:52 am |
  15. bobq

    no such thing as god

    August 29, 2010 at 11:49 am |
  16. KY

    Pardon my skepticism, but REALLY? REALLY? Glenn Beck, purveyor of putrid politics, huckster of hatred (and gold!), this "entertainer" who day after day appears to hate the leader of our nation with every fiber of his being for no other reason than he disagrees with him – THIS is a man "Christians" turn to for spiritual advice? Beck, who cries over his own illnesses while showing absolutely no mercy for those less fortunate than he, and who warns churchgoers to flee if their own churches if they use "socialist code words" – this is the man Christians turn to "restore honor" to MY country? I don't think so! Beckolytes? WAKE UP! They're at it again – the conservative right wants your vote, and they'll do ANYTHING – ANYTHING to get it, including lying, cheating, and sending out a huckster like Beck to mesmerize you into voting for a party that doesn't care about you, the lowly American citizen. You're in a recession caused by Republican policies – NOT because of the President who took over AFTER the damage was done.

    August 29, 2010 at 11:47 am |
  17. Doubletime

    New leader for the religious right-wing, no surprise there that he wants the job it's not hard to do. Give me a membership to the NRA with every gun imaginable, a bible, blind biblical analogies & talk, fear tactics that everything not right-wing and non-christian will destroy you, images of greed and you being a part of it (or losing it if you don't stop non-right wingers), and the ethnocentric tunnel vision of we're better than everybody else. Prob missed whatever else extreme right-wingers are but those top my view on them. And no, I'm not a lefty cause I hate both sides seeing each one never gets anything done because everyone's creating separatism, but right-wingers really get to me with the blind religion crap. Let's keep stepping backwards in history folks and not focus on humanity's progress, let's start kneeling and praying for things to happen. Religion is the smugness people need that there is an answer to everything, that your god does it all. People like Beck know this and its a way to gain the crowds favor. The guy's a salesman, and I don't follow any lone person, let alone a salesman.

    August 29, 2010 at 11:47 am |
  18. berkita

    this all is just getting out of hand and if we dont get our minds together and fix this together we are going to be lost in the future

    August 29, 2010 at 11:46 am |

    This rally is a waste of time, it's not going to change anyone's position on what's affecting us today. Why include faith and religion, if BECKWACKO wants to AMERICA to listen then it should have been a religion neutral rally. Talk about JOBS, JOBS, JOBS, ECONOMY, EDUCATION for OUR CHILDREN, that's what really matters. No one person can change things in our country, it will take a coherent and honest group to do so.

    August 29, 2010 at 11:40 am |
  20. berkita

    I just want to say that i am tired of all the politics in general. The back stabbing is becoming to much and only the children will suffer the stupid division that is killing to what our country stands for now. I may not agree with everything that Obama does but i don't feel that he ever had a chance from day one. The so called backing he had from the country was a undercover way to say we are not a racially divided nation when in fact the way he has been talked about and treated shows the exact oppisite. Other country look at us in a very bad light. what is right is right and what is wrong is wrong . I have seen the tea parties and it's disrespectful and no other President has ever been treated this way. Glenn Beck/ sarah Palin what a joke, If she become President we will be laughed at by the world.

    August 29, 2010 at 11:36 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.