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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. BS

    Beck was never a Libertarian and a true Libertarian wouldn't listen to a bulk of the nonsense spewed yesterday. Barry Goldwater continues to turn in his grave as the Bible thumpers high jack the Republican party.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:04 pm |
  2. Religion is the problem - worldwide.

    Extremist like Beck use their TV shows to disseminate misinformation and foment hatred, others take up guns and train in the desert. Like it or not, they're both marching down a path absolutism. And whether you think the founding fathers were Christians or not, the fact is America was created for all Americans and not as a Christian (or any other religious) nation state.

    OK, fire up your torches and make with the name calling (liberal, union schooled, fancy book learnin', elitist, etc). It's expected of you.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:04 pm |
  3. Cindy Thompson

    Say what you will about our founding fathers and their faith, but, we of faith today still believe that freedom is the mantle under which all men should be allowed to live. We are concerned for the future of all me who live today in America. We see that if we do not fight for your freedoms today, you will be the future loosers. Those who would use you for your vote today and tomorrow take your life are those we stand against. If they can today take the rights of some whom you today oppose, what's to keep them from taking your rights tomorrow? You would do well to let freedom ring!

    August 29, 2010 at 2:01 pm |
  4. hippie

    Doesn't the Bible say that the " anti-christ " fools the people into believing he is a man of God? No thanks Glen, I'll pass on the Kool-Aid you are offering.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:00 pm |
  5. Bill P.

    SKEPTIC,

    I am so sorry that it frightens you that much to think someone would want you to go live with God! But I am not surprised. To witness all the miracles Jesus performed, including raising the dead, the High Priest and Jewish leaders acknowledged it but still refused to believe. Not so hard to understand your position! Some of us will die in denial......

    August 29, 2010 at 1:59 pm |
  6. eric

    I really do not understand why people should listen to Beck and Palin. I always turned his show off because he teaches hatred and nonsense and need to be fired by the fox I applaud CNN for kicking him out because we do not want to watch such a pysco beck trying to pollute peoples mind with no evidence.Jesus would be laughing for JOHN BECK teaching America about FAITH. Can some one tell him to explain what faith is?Does he even read the Bible and understand it or just talk like Sara Palin who talks just for talking.America do not be deceived

    August 29, 2010 at 1:59 pm |
  7. David

    Yeah, a new, right-wing, Christian zealot looking to bring fascism to America by pretending to praise Christ while filling the treasure chests of his gold-hoarding overseers.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:57 pm |
  8. tko

    As one of the more divisive figures in American society right now, I wonder if he will strike a more civil tone in his rhetoric? He, like Rush Limbaugh, have made tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars by being aggressive and polarizing. But I doubt that would be the approach Jesus would have advocated. If the inflammatory language continues, I'll assume this as just a stunt. I hope not, but I'm skeptical.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:56 pm |
  9. Responsible Citizen

    Personal opinion > I see a lot of condemnation for Beck on this page. It's the easiest way to denounce the message which is a founding and biblicallly guided message of character, personal responsibility and the liberty and opportunity that is possible for EVERYONE when that message is followed and when that character exists throughout the population. Unfortunately, too much of our population prefers the "He or She has more than me, even though they may have earned it and I'm entitled to more at their expense" type of character, which is no character at all and IS the road to communistic oppression. It is government sponsored theft. The founders, the Bible and Beck have the better way. Obama and Jim Wallace and Revs Wright and Shapton endorse "collective" salvation and Social justice, which are NOT biblical, but ARE socialism, communism and progressivism and anyone who knows anything about any of that understands that they create oppression which is the opposite of liberty and our constitution. Our Constitution and Bill of rights oppresses GOVERNMENT to free the PEOPLE! Wake up and preserve that. All oppressed people cry out for freedom. We have it and need to value, honor and restore it.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:55 pm |
  10. Jesus Christ

    Leader of Christian Values?

    That will happen when Glen Beck decides to take on David Vitter and Doug Ensign for their chiseling off the words "Thou shall not commit adultery" from the tablet bearing the 10 or make that 9 commandments God sent down from Mr. Sinai.

    That will happen when he chastises Ruppert Murdoch for not showing more compassion for the poor and their needs by hiring more than a token few or when he directs Fox News to teach love for Muslims rather than hate. That will happen when he sells his gold and gives the money to the poor, since rich men have no chance of entering heaven, at least if you believe what Jesus Christ had to say about it.

    The truth be told that none of that will happen. Rather we will witness just more self promotion and hollow rhetoric aimed to channel the masses into providing more tax breaks for the rich like Mr. Beck. The truth be told that Glen Beck will instead continue his descent into the lowest level of hell for his betrayal of all that Jesus stood for as he continues his relentless quest for money and power.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:54 pm |
  11. same_concept

    Beck wants America to be ruled by God just like Iran which is a religious State. Iranian and Beck both believe in the same God except they read from different books. Iranian reads Koran while Beck reads Book or Mormon.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:52 pm |
  12. scoobyadd

    a couple of comments... first-imagine the management at cnn for letting beck out of there grasp i ment employment... second-a lot of his vision i believe is really what he has in his being ... does that sound realistic or does it sound like management over at fox... i probably do watch to much news on the national level from fox news, this article was entertaining,

    August 29, 2010 at 1:50 pm |
  13. jim

    When someone speaks from his heart and hopes that it can help make things better, I am all for it. Most of us dont recognize the truth when anyone is talking. Why? Because we listen to so many lies we start thinking with a lie. Most of these comments you are doing here sound like the evil one has a lock on your attitudes. Try reading some good literature, like the Holy Bible. Then, when you realize you have both feet in hell, find out why.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:50 pm |
  14. Ron

    I think the bit about Beck being a Mormon was a misprint. Somewhere along the line somebody made a mistake and added an extra "m" to the word when writing about him. For whatever reason he decided to run with it. Glenn Beck is not a Mormon he is a Moron with a capital "M". Get it?

    August 29, 2010 at 1:49 pm |
  15. ChuckTexas

    Meet the new Beck...same as the old Beck....

    August 29, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
  16. truth2power

    Opportunists like Beck have always been with us from the beginning of time.
    So have the hapless chumps who are played for suckers by these con men.
    The real problem is that today these hucksters have the ability to enter every willing home in America thru our modern electronic media. The power he and others like him have over a percentage of our population should not be underestimated as these are mostly frightened, misinformed and unenlightened people who are easily seduced by a loud and angry voice. They are not now, nor will ever be a majority in our country, most Americans prefer to dwell in the rational middle and reject the looney-left AND the irrational-right.
    However, as self serving blowhards like Beck continue to make millions spreading their angry mis-information and bizarre ideology our country will suffer as they are creating an us vs. them mentality in their followers, many of whom are a thin line from committing an act of violence against any they perceive as the 'other".

    August 29, 2010 at 1:44 pm |
  17. Bob F

    Thank you Mr. Beck. I Am not affiliated with any religion but Id Rather live in a country full of christians than any other religion that's consumed by hate. ( you know you who you are).

    August 29, 2010 at 1:41 pm |
    • PaulC

      Religion is too often an instrument of terror. A cursory look at history show that the Christian church was responsible for 1500 years of barbarism and murder. Every hear of the Inquisition, Salem. Jewish Pogrom and the Crusades just to name a few. Only after the church lost it's power of life or death over the people has it become less a institution of fear.

      August 29, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
  18. mccgeno

    Of coarse He's turning more towards religion, that's where the big money is, for con men. Now he'll probably start his own church, so you morons can donate directly into his pocket. The religious right are the biggest suckers in the world! This country is doomed!

    August 29, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
  19. Bob Asheville

    Here is an example that proves how crazy the right is.

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eS2rJP-udUs&w=640&h=360]

    August 29, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
  20. saddened by it all

    I feel sorry for all the poor dupes that believe all this garbage about restoring america by hiding a devious political agenda behind the bible. . p.t. barnum was right, there's a sucker born every minute. in this case about 85,000 of them.

    August 29, 2010 at 1:32 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.