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. Astounded

    Glenn Beck is nothing more than an out of control egomaniac. He makes his living by routinely lying to the American public and hides behind his religion in order to both soothe his gargantuan ego and to perpetuate fear among whites in order to further the far right agenda. He is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the right, a liar and a hypocrite. It's sad to see CCN publishing this garbage and giving Beck this completely biased article. If you are ignorant and gullible enough to a actually believe a word that comes out of his mouth, then you are nothing more than a sheep. It is people like Beck and his mindless followers that are dragging this country down.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:31 pm |
  2. Jennifer M

    It would be interesting to watch the Mormon church attempt to ally with the evangelical right. Eventually, they would spin away from each other with the violence of an F-5 tornado.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:30 pm |
  3. Matt

    Glenn Beck is awesome. He's just like John Lithgow's character in 'Footloose'.
    Calling these people at the rally idiots would be being too generous.

    Let the South secede. What are they going export? Rapture fiction and fat Nascar fans? Maybe they can get rid of currency and use bible pages and corn dogs instead.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:27 pm |
  4. Rick's Real

    We're seeing a "different" Glenn Beck. Oh goody. How long before the next new Glenn Beck is proclaiming that he is our returning Savior, ready to lead us into the Rapture? I give it six months.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:27 pm |
  5. David B

    My BS detector is pinging like crazy.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:27 pm |
  6. ConcordantMind

    Faking religious awakenings is great PR. What a bunch of utter nonsense. Glenn beck is a complete in utter fraud. At least most conservatives actually believe what they're shoveling, this guy is lying through his teeth and is checking his bank account online every 5 minutes.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:26 pm |
  7. doug

    There are a couple of very funny Beck-related stories at http://newspile.weebly.com/

    August 29, 2010 at 1:25 pm |
  8. klarg

    "Conservatives" may flock behind him but a lot of "Christian-conservatives" will have difficulty reconciling with his "19th Century Scientology (aka Mormonism)."

    August 29, 2010 at 1:25 pm |
  9. KR

    Beck is so full of himself, he couldn't answer simple questions Chris Wallace was asking him on Fox Channel this morning. He says only GOD can solve our problems. When asked what he is trying to restore or reclaim and from whom, he couldn't answer. This guy who calls Obama a racist on TV, is talking about Martin Luther King.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:25 pm |
  10. Rich

    Our Father, who art in heaven,
    hallowed be thy name.
    Thy Kingdom come,
    thy will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven
    Give us this day our daily bread.
    And forgive us our trespasses,
    as we forgive those who trespass against us.
    And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.
    For thine is the kingdom,
    the power and the glory,
    for ever and ever.

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

      lol man, what an amazing comment!

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

      amen brother!
      as a hindu boy in a parochial school in india, i recited this beautiful prayer every morning for 10 years
      i have always felt close to god, and i'm sure most of us feel similarly
      charlatan beck taketh the lord's name in vain, a wolf in sheep's clothing is he
      may the lord have mercy on his soul

      August 30, 2010 at 12:11 pm |
  11. Scott

    If this was a religious event for Christians, why weren't other countries supported or representing the event. God is not just American you buffoons! This was nothing more than a political event disguised as a religious event. You think that Bushy the 2nd was any different? He used all his evangelicals to get to power. This Beck dude is nothing more than a false prophet and he should be ignored, thus destroying of all his so called power. He talks like God is using him and this thing is a miracle. Beware of false prophets sayeth the Lord.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:23 pm |
  12. KJ

    Wow; Glen Beck has got to be the biggest gas bag since the GoodYear blimp. The Kool-aid must be comming in 5000 gal tankers, laced with LSD for anyone to turly think this guy has a handle on anything. He compairs Oboma to Hilter, he would do good to take a long hard look into the looking glass, he may not really like what he see's, I know I don't. Maybe hs has taken that long hard look and fell into wonder land, because he sure doesn't seem to be in this dimension any more. Not that I'm a real Obama fan but he was elected and should be given our support just as Bush was. We can't all have what we want or think is right that is why he get to elect someone new every four years so we all get a say as to how the country is run. Well enough is enough, I could go on for days, hell years, about this crackpot. But what good will it do with all the Kool-aid being pumped into the people.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:22 pm |
  13. Trevor

    Beck is a hate and fear farmer. He uses religion and "the things were" as way to scare people into believing there is something more. There isn't(in my opinion,)this isn't a dress rehersal. It's live, one shot no do overs.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:21 pm |
  14. johncc

    It is a miraculous conversion. All hail Father Beck, the anointed leader of the New Amerika.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:17 pm |
  15. Hal

    I thought they called President Obama the false prophet??? Well since we've established that we've found the real "False Prophet", when is Armageddon and the second coming of Christ? Unbelievable!!! Someone previously mentioned that they don't care he's Mormon as long as he has the right message: Right message for whom??? He doesn't speak for me and millions more!!!

    August 29, 2010 at 1:17 pm |
  16. Matt

    If he didn't have a show on a mainstream news channel then we would be calling him an up and coming cult leader. I mean, just look at the picture of him and tell me that doesn't scream Jim Jones.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
  17. Rob

    There has not been a terrorist attack from a foreign enemy on US soil since 911? How many were there before 911? I can think of only one, it was the same target, and Clinton was in office for even a shorter time than Bush was... If we can somehow blame Clinton for 911, can we not blame Bush Sr. for the first WTC attack? I love the hypocrisy of the last couple of years... The people who spent 8 years labeling everyone anti-American, because they called Bush a Nazi, or whatever, because they defamed their president in a time of war, are the same knuckleheads calling Obama a Muslim, and making insinuations that he's linked to the Islamists and can't be trusted. I'm no fan of Obama, I voted for McCain, in fact I voted for Bush TWICE (hindsight is 20/20), but ya know what, Obama inherited the 2 wars, he inherited the economy, the only thing he is guilty of is having not been able to fix it all in the span of a year and 8 months... Wanna blame Clinton for Bush's economy, so be it, but Bush entered office with a surplus, Clinton entered with a recession and Obama entered with a recession that conservatives refused to call a recession until the liberals got into office. The economy, the war, it's all a political football going back and forth... At the end of the day the politicians do NOTHING, and the only thing they succeed in is getting idiots at these rally's fired up and blaming the other side. I love the Tea Party, no bigger group of hypocrits and morons than them... Let's see, they claim these radical Muslims don't value human life, that may be so, but how much value does a tea bagger put on human life when they refuse to give healthcare to sick little boys and girls? These tea baggers claim that these radical clerics are forcing their religious fundamentism on people, and that's why they should be taken out, yet the tea baggers believe that gay marriage should remain illegal, and most believe 13 year old rape victims should be forced to give birth to rapists child if they are impregnated, because the bible, because GOD says so... It's rather funny, the Muslim fundies in the middle east and the Christian Right in the U.S. pretty much hold the same retarded, oppressive views, but wanna kill one another... YOU CAN NOT MAKE THIS UP!!!

    August 29, 2010 at 1:15 pm |
  18. Tleea

    Welcome to the first step in the building of a US Christian theocracy

    August 29, 2010 at 1:14 pm |
  19. stc1958

    I am amazed at how closed minded the liberal left is. So many of these comments are steeped in the talking points coming out of the far left blogs and websites this morning. If you are unable to generate an original thought, go troll somewhere else. Only an amoral leftist idealouge could could watch the event yesterday and still make some of these comments. Man is imperfect and Glenn is as well, but what he did yesterday was to reach out to America to say we are all responsible for the State of the Nation. Is the Restoration of Honor, Decency and Equality such an evil thing?

    August 29, 2010 at 1:13 pm |
  20. Bob Asheville

    I think it was convenient that Sarah Palin was there. It looks like the FOX News choice for President in 2012 was a big drawl. For so many people to follow her and think that she would even be elected President is incredible. I hear so many tea baggers say, “She is just like me.” Oh my God, that statement in itself shows how dumb some people can be. If you ask some of them what she stands for, the answer or response is to ‘keep our freedom and stop the government from being in our lives,” except if you are a women and you want to make a personal decision on you own body’s reproductive rights. I wonder how many of these people would like to give up their social security benefits. Any volunteers?

    For proof, look at Sister Sarah's past interviews and the incredible off the wall rambling statements she make every day. Also, go to a Tea Party rally and check out the signs and talk to some of these people. It’s scary.

    My wish is for Sister Sarah to be nominated as the Republicans choice for President. That would be a real laugher, especially in the presidential debates, in which she would do her best in trying to avoid. It would be a deer in the headlights.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:13 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.