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. Tom in TX

    These clowns, Beck, Palin, Limbaugh, are playing with a very dangerous fire that they don't really comprehend.

    There is a common denominator shared by organized religions, and by things associated to names like Stalin, Mao, Hitler. It is the use of advanced techniques of mass seduction, mass delusion, mass radicalization in the name of a bigger cause. That bigger cause can be a religion, or an ideology such as communism or national socialism. At the beginning, it comes disguised as a peaceful idea. And it has the power of overriding the common public's critical mind.

    But it is easy to radicalize the masses once they follow the ideology, as Stalin, Hitler, Mao have shown.
    Also, the oppression that the catholic church held over Europe in the dark ages (15th/16th century), based on the fear machine of the Grand Inquisition, has been nothing else than a totalitarian regime. So one can add the popes of those times to the list of dictators listed above. For all of these totalitarian systems, there is only one accurate name: Fascism.

    In all of these fascist systems, target minority groups were slaughtered: Intellectuals by the communists, jews by the nazis, non-believers, doubters, and witches by the church.

    These clowns, Beck, Palin, Limbaugh are unleashing something that stood at the beginning of every society that collapsed into fascism. The manipulation of the critical mind of the angry, uneducated masses by seducing them into believing that there is a greater, spiritual cause. After GW Bush succeeded in showing how easy it is to manipulate the american public for political purposes, all bets are off now, there is no more hesitation to tap into this horrendously dangerous source of power.

    Pandora's box is waiting to be opened in the US.

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag, and carrying a cross". – Sinclair Lewis

    August 29, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
  2. chet

    It is funny how superficial people are. You know a tree by the fruit that it bares. There has been alot of wickedness done by people claiming to be Christian. But when it comes to being Christ like I don't see Glen Beck, The Tea Party, or even the Southern Baptist; doing what Jesus taught. One of the main priciples of Jesus teachings is sacrifice. God gave us his son and Jesus accepted his death, but he did this for all of us. But these so called Christians don't want to give a little bit of tax money for universal health care. When Jesus fed the multitude of people, that was one persons 2 fish and three loaves of bread. But to others it is Socialism. I just see a bunch of hypocrites!

    August 29, 2010 at 2:39 pm |
  3. Veritas Splendor

    "Glenn Beck is a fascist." "Beck is scarier than Sarah Palin." "Beck is an opportunist." "Beck is the Antichrist." "Beck is utterly inarticulate..." "Beck is drumming up fear." These are just some of the inane comments posted here. What are you people smoking? Glenn is a patriotic American who sees his country going to pot, thanks to the neo-fascist liberals that the American people naively placed in power – a mistake of historical proportions that we will pay for (literally) until we throw them all out of office. The following poster actually got it right:
    RightWingMark: He is the lefts worst enemy. The left is bong hits; Beck gets high on life. He is honor; the left loves dishonor and playing hide the weeney where it doesn't belong. I will vote for whomever Beck supports. I don't care what his religion is. I like his wisdom, vision and insights into what is happening in our country today. And frankly, all you lefties here should be terrified of him because his message is resonating with millions of Americans across the land. The liberal ideology is a total failure and will never hold power in this country again after the fiasco that is the Obama-Pelosi-Reid Axis. Good riddance too!

    August 29, 2010 at 2:38 pm |
  4. Badua

    We Americans are easy to be fooled . We beleive all theese stupid people. This guy is a jerk. A full blown jerk . He created his own history. Want to change America according to his hatred attitude. To me he is sure not a christian. He just want to make money and a name. You can't stop insulting people and all of a sudden becomes a good christiann. We know most of these white folks are racist. They were there to support him. A black man is in oval office so we need to restore back the honor. You all get it straight we are moving fporward. No more slaves.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:38 pm |
  5. Beckler

    Wow. Now I am a little worried about this guy and his "plans for america". Too many people sippin the kool-aid too. So what's next? Beck running for president with Palin as vice? Now I pray there is a god. He's a smart guy, though. He knew all along that america would turn on Obama if he didn't fix the world's problems in 30 days. And someone had to step in and stir things up for poor Obama. I also think that Beck wants to further polarize america with the rest of the muslim world by his "returning to god" rants. He wants everyone to return to Sept. 12th emotions. Great, I remember that day when my first knee-jerk reaction was to hate all muslims and the middle – east. Cooler heads soon prevailed. Isn't this how Hitler came to power?

    August 29, 2010 at 2:35 pm |
  6. Linda is feeling ill!

    I'm amazed at the use of the word "socialist".....The Republicans are so uncaring about their fellow persons, so hateful and insensitive to those less fortunate that they completely are opposite of the teachings of Christ; yet they espouse religion while being more hypocritical than any other party! Very sad, but very true. The only answer for me is that those persons are just "wired" differently....akin to a birth defect of sorts. Very, very sad.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:34 pm |
  7. Sandra P

    For you younger folks – I wish you had known the America I grew up in – never locking the house, wandering anywhere I wished and feeling safe, respect for my teachers and elders, etc. What a drastic change today! I applaud Glenn Beck and his efforts to get this country to turn back to God.. This country was founded on religious principles, which made it the greatest country in the world. We have lost our direction, as have many of the people whose comments are posted here. May there be many Glenn Becks who will rise up and strive to get others to see where we are headed as citizens of this once great nation. God will not honor those who do not honor Him. How much longer before God loses His patience with us as we ignore the commands He has given us?

    August 29, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
  8. pained

    It is so sad that the media need to have such a dysfunctional and incestuous relationship with hucksters like beck and give them a forum just so that they have something to fill "dead air" and "blank spaces" and sell advertising. The almighty dollar. That has always been this country’s religion.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
  9. Bosian

    The same thing happened here and in Germany in the 30's. The rise of fascism using god or nation to stir a frenzy. Let's focus on the 'other' as in migrants in Arizona. Now he wants to organize his 'black shirt militia. We didn't buy it then but germany sure did.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
  10. Mark K

    Becks only true God is the almighty dollar, what a hoax.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
  11. Naomi9093

    That Glen Beck would portray this march as something noble and commiserate is ridiculous. Martin Luther King based his march on righteousness, equality, justice and love. Glen Becks march is based on lies, deceit, fear, division and hate and he is trying to parlay the emotions generated by this march into a movement to "reclaim" America. The term "take back our country" is code to return to a period of white privilege and white supremacy. The term "take back our country" seems to indicate that the country didn't belong to those who are running it now.

    Beck is cashing in on a racist rage, that is at the bottom of his "march" on Washington and his picking of an anniversary of Martin Luther King's 1963 march on Washington for his march is a pointed profane insult on the civil rights movement. Black people and many white people marched on Washington in order to obtain rights that had been systematically denied to black Americans for centuries. Those whom Beck drew to his march have no such complaint, they haven't been denied the right to vote, or to earn a living or to live where they want to. In fact many, if not most of them would would like to undo many of the achievements of the civil rights movement and return to a time when only they had the right to elect leaders or hold decent jobs.

    While Martin Luther King's march on Washington was based on Love, Truth and Faith, what drew the crowds to Glen Beck's march were lies and exaggerations of "government meddling" "high taxes" and "socialism". All scare terms and code words that the movement that Glen Beck and his ilk have learned to use to tap into a racist rage. While Martin Luther King's March on Washington was all about a dream of people living together in harmony, Glen Becks march is all about a nightmare.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
    • freewoman

      ok.. last post"

      3 days on the Christian Rivera and one extra virgin for those that know the answer to this question.

      What is MLKs real name...

      Could you see calling him that? so funny...

      August 30, 2010 at 12:39 am |
  12. Joel

    Why does God pick idiots to speak for him?

    August 29, 2010 at 2:21 pm |
    • freewoman

      his sand bag aim was off .. he meant to hit Allah

      August 30, 2010 at 12:35 am |
  13. elllisrro

    Imagine that," Glenn" the Drunk" Beck a religious Leader, and Sarah "Betty Boop" Palin advising people on family values, are you serious. These two Jokes are trying to hustle our nation, and to think people actually showed up to listen to they...WOW

    August 29, 2010 at 2:18 pm |
  14. Rob

    I kinda expected more. The sky opening, maybe Obama and others "coming to their senses" and resigning. The church realizing the importance of all of this and proclaiming Glenn the second coming. Maybe I expected too much.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:18 pm |
  15. john q

    Glenn Beck is a very intelligent and smart man. Cnn tries to bash him as well as the other people who say the truth, but glenn is being heard and he is delivering the right message.
    Obama as it is did not come out a good president , the only reason we elected him was because he is HALF black. The U.S. is soon going to fall to the 4th leading country and china being the 1st.
    glenn Beck would make a great president.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:17 pm |
  16. Matt McHugh


    Hmm... let's see... how can I take this conservative media pundit thing to the next level? My ratings and advertiser revenue are growing nicely. My book sales are doing great, and my alliance with Palin is really start to pay off. Still, I need to kick it up a notch. Jingoistic patriotism is good. That always rallies a certain number of people automatically - but, there's a lot of competition over that in the political arena, plus the inevitable backlash against politicians whenever economic downturns hit their constituency. No, I need something that transcends politics, and frankly even nationalism, if I really want to seize the imaginations of all those disgruntled blue-collar red-staters who hate Obama (without really understanding why) and feel betrayed by the Republicans who allowed him to get into office.

    Wait a minute... Religion! Ah, of course! Why didn't I think of that before? Nothing beats God when it comes to claims of truth and righteousness! There's always a fair percentage of people in this country that will flock to anyone on TV who invokes God - remember those televangelists in the 70's and 80's that made a killing? They've gone out of fashion a bit, but that's exactly what makes it a good time for revival (so to speak). And God is ideal, too, for deflecting critics. You can always call claim persecution!

    Yes. Yes, this God thing will work perfectly to grab some headlines, build a following, and push me to a new level of national prominence. It may come out that I was raised a Mormon... eh, but most Americans don't really know what that is, and any criticisms of the more conspicuously racist and, to be blunt, delusional aspects of Mormon theology can easily be dismissed as from elitist agnostic intellectuals, which my base already hates (again, without really understanding why).

    Ooh... this is gonna be good! 8/28... here I come!

    – GB

    P.S. – Dear Mr. Satan... your first installment of my soul has been transferred to you via my Swiss bank account. You will receive the additional installments once I have my own television network - as per our agreement - and Ms. Palin has been publicly disgraced after she's outlived her usefulness to me.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:16 pm |
  17. fyi

    Sarah Palin, is my favorite socialist. One of her favorite programs she initiated in Alaska in her 18 months as Gov. was to take the royalties from the oil companys leases and give every person living in Alaska 1800.00 dollars. Sounds like a socialist to me.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:16 pm |
  18. Wicked

    Glenn Beck is a fanatical baboon and anyone who follows and believes his so called truths get what they deserve when it all lands on their lap. Im not going to be drinking any cherry kool-aid any time soon.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:14 pm |
  19. Tripoli

    In 1797, in an attempt to establish peaceful relations with Muslims off the Northern Coast of Africa (an attempt that failed and led to the Barbary Wars), the Treaty of Tripoli was ratified by the Senate. Article 11 of the treaty states:

    As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

    August 29, 2010 at 2:10 pm |
  20. Diogenes

    How can Mr. Beck claim to be restoring America's honor, when he fails to demand the resignations of David Vitter and John Ensign, who have personally crusaded to make adultery a perfectly acceptable American family value?

    If Mr.Beck is sincere and true to his intention to "restore" honor to America he will first demand that the US senate restore that commandment as one of its core principles. Then again, perhaps Mr. Beck doesn't really mean what he says and really was an "I have a scheme speech".

    August 29, 2010 at 2:08 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.