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. Sean

    Right wing wackos using religion to inspire hatred and intolerance, they're all the same. They can be Christians, Muslims or Jews, in Afghanistan, Iran, or the USA. They're always the first to start a fight over something they just don't understand. Glenn Beck meet Osama Bin Laden and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:13 pm |
  2. Justin

    Al Sharpton critizes, Al is a HATEFUL EVIL MAN

    Go Bleck

    August 29, 2010 at 1:12 pm |
    • Fox

      This is an over-emotional and irrational statement which is entirely opinion; and a dumb one at that.
      Beck works to divide the people just as the politicians he denounces. He is a hypocrite and a liar.

      August 29, 2010 at 1:27 pm |
    • PaulC

      Did Rev. Beck or the voices in your head share this information with you? When a person has nothing intelligent to say they fall back on insults and name calling. A very well thought out comment.

      August 29, 2010 at 2:35 pm |
  3. James Fisher

    Beck is a demagogue, pure and simple. It's easy to spout God/country cliches (what demaogue and/or politician hasn't done that?), but the question is WHAT and WHO are supporting him, both financially and by their presence. And when one looks closely at that, the cliches melt away to reveal something profoundly scary. The Tea Party has been exposed for what it is - essentially a conglomeration of various mixtures of the misguided, ignorant, and bigoted. A black president has set off a deep-seated fear in such people and whatever President Obama's strengths or weakness, the insane lies and distortions spouted by Beck, Palin, and those who support them are, plain and simple, a national embarrassment. A disgrace, really, and it's time to say so loud and clear. That Tea Party candidates may be elected is chilling, although I suspect a lot of more moderate Republicans are hiding in Tea Party personas to get themselves elected/reelected. More disgraceful is Beck's claim to Martin Luther King's legacy which would be laughable and ludicrous if it wasn't just plain disgusting and deeply offensive to those who truly believe in Dr. King's legacy. Beck has sent a strong signal - by scheduling his event on the anniversary of Dr. King's speech, he is sending out a "take back our country" message to his Tea Party friends - and they are hearing it. The rest of us need to repudiate it - and although I would fight to the death to defend his right to be there and spout his deeply destructive nonsense, that doesn't prevent me or anyone else from speaking out against him and, more importantly, what he represents and who he "fronts" for. Call Beck, Palin, Limbaugh, and their ilk what they are - anti-American racists, homophobes, and hypocrites who are distorting American values to line their pockets - and the larger pockets of their funders.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:12 pm |
  4. skeptic

    Anyone who uses religion or religious connotations to inspire hate or distrust in another group of people or ideas is not of God and is only serving the so called side he/she is on. Ideas are fine as long as they don't launch themselves from the backs of those who disagree. America needs to wake up and stop acting like the very thing we despise. The remnants of fundamentalist, right wing, fear mongers is still very much alive and kicking and will do whatever it takes to sway public opinion. The choice is yours. We're all afraid of the future and most of us base this on past experiences and what the media tells us to believe. The powers that be, know this and manipulate us by constantly eroding our grasp of what has really transpired. If you say something enough to a large enough group of individuals and squash any and all opposition it will in time become the truth. Wake up America! hateful scared and basically unconscious people are trying to warp your own memory of reality so it reflects there's and in doing so encourages you to hate. Stop being so passive and apathetic and realize the side of chaos is actively trying to destroy us while we sit quietly in front of our PC's and TV's soaking in the very lies they propose. Everything is permitted nothing is real!

    August 29, 2010 at 1:09 pm |
  5. marylc

    well.. Beck is not that dumb. the guy can talk without a teleprompter, unlike obama.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:07 pm |
    • PaulC

      You don't need a teleprompter to spout nonsense. Most Mullah/Reverends/Popes can talk off the cuff for hours.

      August 29, 2010 at 2:30 pm |
    • verify

      Beck has the "gift of gab" and is an experienced entertainer. Yes, he can pull off the charismatic shtick.

      I'm not a huge Obama fan, but I would hugely prefer his, "Ummms" and "Ahhhs" as evidence of actually thinking and weighing thoughts and words while he is speaking and not just blathering platitudes.

      August 29, 2010 at 2:43 pm |
    • verify

      Beck has the "gift of gab" and is an experienced entertainer. Yes, he can pull off the charismatic shtick very well.

      I'm not a huge Obama fan, but I would greatly prefer his, "Ummms" and "Ahhhs" as evidence of actually thinking and weighing thoughts and words while he is speaking, and not just blathering plat-itudes.

      August 29, 2010 at 2:50 pm |
  6. paul

    I truely hope Beck and his followers are beginning a new day and turning to God.
    So now there shouldn't be anymore demonizing of the left of of the President. He will on
    have kind things to say as he looks at what is good about a person. He will be humble and
    "turn the other cheek". We'll see....

    August 29, 2010 at 1:04 pm |
  7. Brandon


    August 29, 2010 at 1:03 pm |
    • Bill P.

      And where were you when they attacked Sarah Palin's daughter and her defenseless newborn? You are either ridiculous or restricted to seeing out of one eye. Typical hypocrite!

      August 29, 2010 at 2:07 pm |
  8. LEfromAlaska

    Thank you Rev. Jones for the Kool Aid reference.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:01 pm |
  9. torotx56

    Judaeo-Christianity has influenced this nation from its inception. when have christians persecuted those of other religious beliefs or try to deny freedoms? Yet the godless ACLU and rabid leftists try to expunge Judaeo-Christian influences in the publis sphere frequently as with illogical fear. Instead they should fear BIGGER Govt. control which takes away more freedoms. This was the very struggle our founders fought against tyrranical Britain. Would you rather have freedom loving Christianity or Islamic Sharia law tyranny guiding the US citizens.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:00 pm |
  10. JubaDancer

    He wants to turn civil rights back! Not take it back. Hitler had a dream too, and see where it got him and the world!

    August 29, 2010 at 1:00 pm |
  11. Ralph in Orange Park, FL

    Same dirt, different bag.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
  12. GeorgeBos95

    "America today begins to turn back to God..." oh puhleeze. The religious right is hardly a force to be reckoned with these days, so Beck's attempt to co-opt them is pathetic.

    As for "God", give me a break. Beck's about as religious as a turnip.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
  13. TheVeteran

    Turning back to God: He is right. But it is the Conservatives that need to turn back to God the most! They are horrible examples of what Christianity is about. And this bad example turns many people away. They are Christians in name only.

    Christ was not about "laws above people," judgment, and condemnation. He was about redemption, peace, mercy, love, and most of all Faith (which is much more than just believing).

    Conservatism is a religion all unto itself. It is NOT Christianity. If you put a mirror up to a Conservative, you won't see Christ's reflection. You will see the reflection of a Pharisee.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
    • skeptic

      Well said

      August 29, 2010 at 1:10 pm |
  14. Stephen

    Most Mormons are Christian, as indicated by their conduct. But if you measure a tree by the fruit it bears, Beck isn't. Neither are Limbaugh et al.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
  15. WhyNotFollowThor?

    These religious nuts really scare me. Religion has always been intolerate, this "revolution" will just divide the country more.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:50 pm |
  16. Ian

    This scary buffoon Beck has delusions of grandeur.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:48 pm |
  17. Ian

    Beck has delusions of grandeur

    August 29, 2010 at 12:47 pm |
  18. Fat Boy

    I wish this charlatan would go back to hosting obscure fm radio shows. He is a joke. The fact that anyone takes him seriously is an indicator of what terrible shape we're in. Speaking of terrible shape, Mr. Beck outta hit the gym.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:46 pm |
  19. Bill P.

    This is my first time on a CNN blog site. I can see already it is liberal dominated and I will find my self in a sea of sharks. With that said, I will carry on as I feel I can handle being persecuted being a conservative. Most honest people love a spirited and balanced debate but this blog seems to be dominated by liberal spill and hate. Up front, I am a black man and support the right for Glenn Beck's rally.
    A lot of you on this site are upset because you didn't hear hate speech which would get your sinful saliva flowing. It's like a sting of death to most of you when people express their sincere desire for God. To you history so-called buffs, you spout out phrases and site the founding fathers position on religion, you need to gird up your loins, read he New Testament and move from death to life due to your idolatry of men. It seems 90 percent of the people on this site due to spiritual illness would be chanting from an angry mob to crucify Jesus Christ again.
    You hate people even when they do right. If people like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin and the church leaders were able to unite people of all races in the United States, conservatives would become greater and greater and the left (Democrats and Liberals) would become less and less. Your platform for division and hate would disappear.
    Oh my, my ears are burning, hope I can continue. Notice how the AP started out the story by identifying who attended the rally? They are race baiting demonic journalist who needs their asses kicked. These are the people that control you due to your lack of principals. Overall, the day belonged to Glenn Beck for a killer performance. Close your mouths as they may become flytraps.

    American Woman, what you stated is so true about these liberals. They think they are so self righteous that they can't see the hate, intolerance, and bigotry coming out of their demonic mouths. They speak Satan in every way. Satan has blinded these liberals to the worldly way of thinking and they are held captive to his will. I just had to re-post what you wrote in case they missed it!

    YOUR BLOG AGAIN – American Woman – Your thoughts I love!

    It’s interesting how some Liberals while feeling proud about their acceptance of ALL people and ALL beliefs, do not hesitate to slam Christianity and Conservatives. You are so quick to say that Beck is speaking Lies. Have you really ever listened to him? Checked out what he is saying?

    I watched the entire event online yesterday. It was a Rally of Peace, Unity and Honoring the many Fallen Soldiers who have sacrificed for OUR Freedom. One of the main speakers was the Niece of Martin Luther King Jr. I might be wrong but I think MLK would have been pretty happy to see such a diverse crowd gathered together on that day, in that place, for those reasons.

    Did you notice how many Americans sacrificed their time and money to travel to our Nations Capital for a PEACE Rally. There were no signs, no anger . . . yet . . apparently that doesn’t matter. I sense almost a disappointment from some.
    Perhaps it's time to do a self check because . . .
    FEAR and HATE MONGERING . . . there is significant “mongering” RIGHT HERE coming out of yourselves onto this page.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:45 pm |
    • skeptic

      We don't feel the need to hate you or your beliefs but we do need to balance out your rhetoric. The so called left we all must be according to you doesn't go around espousing love and acceptance while pointing a finger at everyone else claiming they are sinners or worse and if they cannot adopt your way of seeing the world then pretty much you feel we should die or go somewhere else. I personally have no issue if you wish to live in fear or believe what you wish but when your beliefs infringe on my or other peoples right to live and believe what they want, then I must draw the line and say please stop. Acceptance and cooperation is what I wish for in this world not someone else trying to control my thoughts and feelings. If you want the Apocalypse so bad go have it in your own space and stop trying to drag the rest of us in to it.

      August 29, 2010 at 1:24 pm |
    • Fox

      All that Satan rhetoric is grade-A comedy. For someone who is denouncing hate-mongering and/or segregation you certainly seem to be promoting those ideas. I find it comical as well that everyone cites the founding fathers, such as Beck, to fit he or she's own agenda while the person never actually cites what the founding father's position was. I do know that this country was founded on the idea of total freedom, which means religious freedom too. That is the most laughable idea in Christianity... that it is the one truth and the only way. What better way to ensure that something is spread like a rash? I thought that America was founded on the idea that people can choose to believe whatever they like, without fear of persecution. Yet, it seems to me that the evangelical christians of the nation are the ones persecuting everyone else. We need to learn to live in harmony and stop listening to talking heads or we are all doomed. There is no apocalypse except the one that human beings will inevitably bring upon themselves, or the world. Martin Luther King Jr. said that he had a dream that people would be judged on the content of one's character, not the religion they practice. I, for one, do not appreciate Glenn Beck's character one bit.

      August 29, 2010 at 2:01 pm |
  20. marylc

    blame clinton, bush, obama.
    clinton – too busy with cigars
    bush – he didn't have a chance. doom if he went to war, doom if he didn't went to war.
    obama – taken too many vacations. all i hear is vacation, and michelle's arm. is that really a brain?

    August 29, 2010 at 12:45 pm |
    • Fox

      Can someone decipher these fragments? Haaaaaaa! Bush took more vacations than any other president I have seen.
      By the way, for all the conservatives who visit this page that want to talk about invasion of government and out-of-control spending... are you all forgetting Bush? Not only did he spend more than any other president, but he also presided over the greatest expansion of government in a presidency. I wish in these types of discussions we could all look at every side of every story. 🙁 Fox News is as fair and balanced as the Salem witch trials.

      August 29, 2010 at 9:47 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.