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. Dale

    Beck wants to run for president.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:40 pm |
    • freewoman

      and so does his god.. Beck has his bag of holy sand to prove it.

      August 30, 2010 at 12:27 am |
    • freewoman

      Beck.. honey have you seen my bag of sand.

      Wife.. its in the litter box..the same place I put the last one.

      Beck -oh cat c r ap.. god is going to kill me....

      August 30, 2010 at 12:31 am |
  2. jeff

    2 points:
    First: There is no difference between Glenn Beck speaking from the Lincoln Memorial steps on the anniversary of "I Have a Dream" and building a mosque 2 blocks away from ground 0.
    Second: This country doesn't need more superstitious, uneducated, emocons running around ignoring scientific facts like say...the actual age of the earth or global warming. A Glenn Beck led return to telling us why we are all sinners in the eyes of the lord? give me a break! At his next rally, I'm sure he'll present to large stone tablets to his flock.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:38 pm |
    • jeff

      sorry...that's two large tablets.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:50 pm |
  3. LAlight

    beck is the ANTICHRIST!

    August 29, 2010 at 12:38 pm |
  4. marylc

    Go Beck. Obama is no MLK, he's no Lincoln. He's put this country in the greatest debt ever. Change is having your family go on vacations, using tax dollars. what is the next destination for michelle?

    August 29, 2010 at 12:38 pm |
  5. LAlight

    beck is the ANTICHRIST! beware, be scared, he is evil personified!

    August 29, 2010 at 12:36 pm |
  6. Isaac

    Some of us may assume we can obtain facts about what presidents and their administrations have done and are doing. Maybe some of us get it right sometimes. How many of us can't find work right now? How many of us know someone who lost their job, house or both recently?How many of us have a loved one in the military just trying to keep the people of the country that they love safe? How many of us have lost a loved one in a war based on assumptions? How many of us have done their quota of deployments to the middle east and are being asked to do more because of a lack of bodies? How many of us make assumptions in politics regarding what is really going on , who's right and wrong, and who is believing what? How many of us know that our precious sons and daughters who go into harms way to protect fellow americans( not the government) are seeing a decrease in pay and benefits? How many of us can stay focused on what we know ? What do we really know to be true? I believe that one truth is that Americans love America and we all would like to keep it. We are all individual parts of one engine that keeps this country going. None of us are all knowing! I believe a little humility will enable US ( the owners of this country) to successfully deal with the politicians (our employees) to make better decisions regarding the direction of our beautiful nation! I believe the direction we all want our country to go in is the direction of peace and prosperity. Be kind be strong, be American!

    August 29, 2010 at 12:36 pm |
  7. Tom

    No teleprompters, no strategic positioning, just straight from the heart stuff that, like it or not, reflects most taxpayer's beliefs. There is simply no denying it: The people who fight and die for you; the hard working small business owners; and the overwhelming majority of non-unionized independent, tax paying citizens of this country have all got it wrong –right? It's common knowledge that the alliance between the clerics and the royals in the Muslim world have allowed each to retain their respective powers at the expense of their own "subjects." And what's the difference here? Take away your tenure and talk to me about it...

    August 29, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
  8. Lythande

    He's forming the Talibeck to dominate us all. God help us from people like him and his followers. Ack.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
  9. Jay(Leave religion out of politics)

    What is even more sad than an openly racist gathering is the fact that there where no minorities of any race there. If you thing for one minute that you all will win a national election in this country with a Mormon and a redneck ex-Alaskan Gov, then you are crazy. Just because you do not have sheets over your heads anymore does not mean we the people cannot see straight through you.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:34 pm |
  10. DMR

    Memo to Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin: Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best were tv shows, not reality of life in the 1950's.

    Memo to the Christian extremists following Beck: Beck is Morman. You might want to read about what the beliefs of the Mormon faith are; they are hardly Christian. Little things like they teach that The Bible is one of a collection of books they believe. That the "Holy Trinity" is actually three gods, not one. Beck speaks of religion, but his beliefs are very different than the so-called evangelical Christians. I do not care about anyone's personal beliefs, as they are just that personal. Beck is selling "snake oil" as he is saying one thing, and his beliefs go another. Why? The more you embrace him, the richer he becomes!

    I find it curious that many evangelical Christians attack the Muslim faith, yet follow Glenn Beck's lead. Beck as a practicing Mormon has very different beliefs from that of evangelical Christians. Faith is a selling point for him, not a belief system.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
  11. brlygttnby

    Bonita...please go check out a basic political science book....Bush wasn't King of the USA. Congress gave the nod to go to war; the same morons that are sitting up there now. The same morons that filled their pockets with money from union and lobby groups. No wonder the USA is in the shape it is in.....ignorance all around about how the political process works in this country. And it sure doesn't work for the common man anymore.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
  12. Cris G

    Finally, Mr. Beck is fighting for those who truly need help: the sick, the poor, the unprivileged, and for all those who need a spiritual experience with the word of God. Let our Lord guide Mr. Beck, and soon he will realize how important is to defend the people (Illegal or Legal) who are simply trying to earn an honest living as God’s creatures (Human Race). Go on Mr. Beck with your mission of prosperity, unity, tolerance and love. Love the sinner but not the sin.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:27 pm |
  13. Linda

    This man's rhetoric worries me. I don't want to return to the days when women were second class citizens because "the Bible tells me so." I don't want the paternalistic authority to return to America and invade every nook & cranny. it's already pervasive. I don't want to cook for and clean up after any man and I'm not going to sit in a building and be preached at by some holier-than-thou male chauvinist white guy, black guy, Hispanic guy or Asian guy or any other guy from any other ethnic group.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:27 pm |
  14. jim B.

    Although I do not agree with most of the things Glenn Beck has to say for himself I strongly support his right to say them. We do have free speech and that means that sometimes people will say things we don't like. I wish that people in the country could disagree in a more civil fashion and recognize that just because we don't agree doesn't mean we are trying to destroy the country. But I do have concerns when religion enters the mix. In the interests of full disclosure I am not a believer in a deity of any kind/ This is a personal choice and since there is no available evidence that can settle the matter I don't believe in any of the conventional answers (Christianity, Islam etc.). But I do support the right for people to hold whatever beliefs make them happy and I would fight for this right as long as they do not force their beliefs on others. But I view religious revivals with caution. America was in large part founded by Europeans fleeing religious persecution and the founders of the country clearly wanted to prevent religious conflicts here. So a turn back to values is fine but tying it to a specific belief system worries me. If you have not read "If this goes on..." by the science fiction writer Robert Heinlein you should as it talks about an America where this sort of thing has gotten out of hand. It is much worse than any system that progressives could come up with.
    Peace to all, enjoy your day and take the time to think things over.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:25 pm |
  15. Brian from Washington

    Beck's a Mormon and the Evangelicals will never fully trust a Mormon. Ask Mitt.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:24 pm |
  16. Hughey

    These so-called Christians obviously don't recognize a false prophet. Beware the Black Robed Regiment. The inquisition is imminent.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:20 pm |
    • The Inquisition

      I am imminent.
      Hughey says so, but I will get it out of him one way or the other...he will not be able to deny the truth and his confession will be what we need to burn him at the stake. No one expects this. Not even after dinner and a movie. YET HERE I ALMOST AM!

      August 29, 2010 at 12:42 pm |
  17. RobinS

    Am wondering if Beck might try a bid for president...

    August 29, 2010 at 12:15 pm |
  18. Kimsy

    CNN failed to mention that Glen Beck's Rally had 500,000 patriots and all kinds of different supports black and white excetra therei

    AL Sharpen reclaim a dream rally , had only 2000 people their, what happen to reaching out to everyone AL , we all have a dream to get along and love one another and to have our FREEDOM of SPEACH no matter what race u are , AL Sharpen im a shame of you more and more everyday

    August 29, 2010 at 12:15 pm |
  19. Liberal's concept

    What is wrong with the liberals? Why do they have to resort to personal attacks (plenty of postings here) when they are people with different points of view? Do they want that all people in US to have the same political views (or if different views, not to express them)?
    They are countries like that. See North Korea and China. Do the liberals want US to follow these countries? Looks to be the case.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:15 pm |
  20. David S

    Only libertarians and anarchists are truly interested in reclaiming rights. Beck, Palin,"conservatives," and tea partiers are posers who don't even have the philosophical consistency to oppose the undeclared, unconstitutional foreign wars. "Liberals" are as bad as "conservatives;" both use the coercive power of the state to tell us what to do, and both think they can spend our money better than we can!

    August 29, 2010 at 12:14 pm |
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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.