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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. Greg

    Beck + Palin + 80,000 followers = 1/2 Brain (I'm rounding up)

    August 30, 2010 at 12:04 pm |
  2. mm

    fact: we're a 78% christian nation...praise the lord, and also the torah, allah, vishnu, buddha, confucius and all saints.
    fact: the christian right has alienated 1.5 billion muslims...who, by the way, are customers of our economy who dislike us
    fact: china is majority confucian/buddhist & india is 80% majority hindu
    question: does going back to jesus mean 2.5 billion chinese & indians are godless & expendable?
    question: does christian supremacy assume muslim, confucian, hindu inferiority? i.e. 4 billion customers we don't want?
    question: is beck mentally stable?

    August 30, 2010 at 11:59 am |
  3. Zoe

    This headline is truly amazing.

    Beck positions himself as a "Christian" leader, when he is not a Christian?

    Beck's bio indicates he converted from a Christian church – the Roman Catholic church, to a non-Christian church, the Mormon church in 1999; he "joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in October 1999".

    Regardless of what Beck and the LDS may say, NO other real Christian church recognizes the Mormons as Christians. So for a person (Beck), who WAS RAISED Christian, then REJECTED Christianity, to claim to be Christian, is truly stunning, hypocritical and wrong.

    What does the Bible say about "false prophets" like Beck, and their followers?

    August 30, 2010 at 9:15 am |
  4. Monty

    This is why i hate polotics and it truely amazes me that all the comments from people bashing him and bashing different politicians and people for him and all that is at least twice as long as the article itself.

    August 30, 2010 at 5:51 am |
  5. chilliepepper

    This isn't about Glenn Beck. Thats not why over 200 thousand showed up. It's was about the message. People showed up because the message is what represented their views. It's the message not Glenn Beck. Why is no Liberal on here talking about the content of the message ? Just about Glenn Beck? Beck is just delivering the message that that millions want to be heard. Anyone that had the verbal skills in that crowd would of said the same thing! Hard leftLiberals "who are running the show" are just people that never grew up from being a teenager. Just name calling and adolescent points. The 20 somethings have been brainwashed to thinking believeing in God is a bad thing. So you can be controlled by Government. Only people with a good head on his/hers shoulders will not get fooled.

    August 30, 2010 at 12:06 am |
  6. P WAYNE

    GLEN BECK has his pockets full of money and his sights set on replacing jerry fawell as the savior of the white race.This guy is as phony as they come and you will suffer the embarrasment of the P T L followers if you go along for the ride His display of distrust against any one outside of THE FOX FRIENDLY FAMILY is a sure give away as to his intentions. I WOULD BET A WEEKS PAY THAT THE SPONSORS THAT PAID FOR HAVING HIS TEA BAGGERS DELIVERED TO HIS GATHERING ARE FEELING THE CHANGE HIT THEM IN THE BACK be aware of false profets.

    August 30, 2010 at 12:01 am |
  7. Mark from Middle River

    Someone said how Beck looked like Hitler in his early days but I do remember when Obama had them make over a stadium with marble-like roman columns for when he accepted the democratic nomination. I remember kids forced to sing songs about Obama.

    Its easy to paint you adversary as Hitler, Mao or Stalin. Those who agree with you will see what you see and those that disagree will forever think you are a idiot.

    August 29, 2010 at 10:51 pm |
  8. Karena

    Mormons have to proselytize. If this is Beck's goal, he stands to lose much.

    August 29, 2010 at 9:58 pm |
  9. Donna

    This event was patterned after Romans 8:28 where it says that "all things work together for good to those who love God and are the called according to His purpose. That was the intent of this inspiring event. It was inspiring. Mr. Beck was an alcoholic who went down into the dregs, repented and found God. I do not understand why some people treat those who love God like dirt! I watched the whole thing. I was so disgusted to hear some call the event "racist". It was not that way one iota. I would love to see more events like this everywhere.

    August 29, 2010 at 8:18 pm |
  10. Mark from Middle River

    @Ryan – Hey Dude,

    "But hey, most people who sling those words around don't even know what they mean, but we all know what "bigot" and "racist" are, now don't we. I'd even be willing to bet that you've been called one, or both, more than once."

    Sorry kid, but maybe most of the people that you know do not what those descriptions mean but most of mine do. And closing being called a "racist" and a "bigot" .... not really. I am a Black Republican so I normally hear "Uncle Tom" more often .... Oreo Cookie... trader to my race .... blah blah etc etc... Your post just proves my point, many folks are willing to throw out terms to attack ones that they can not defeat in civil conversation and in the end they just make the terms useless. You just thought I was some white Republican huh ... ROFL.

    August 29, 2010 at 8:09 pm |
  11. Powell

    Let me start by saying I am a liberal and an atheist. I have a good job, own a house, pay my taxes and have strong personal moral values. I don’t hate people who have a strong personal faith – I see from many of my friends that their faith is a great comfort to them, and brings them joy.

    I get my news from many different sources, research what I have heard, and make up my own mind how I feel, based on what I read. If you can show me I am wrong, I’ll put up my hands and agree with you.

    I realize that I am very lucky to live in a country where my right to think and say what I feel is protected by the constitution. In my opinion the right to freedom of speech is not just my right to say what I feel, but your right to say what you feel – especially if we hold different opinions.

    You are entitled to believe whatever you want to believe and live your life however you want to, as long as you don’t expect me to do the same. Go ahead and believe that the earth is flat if you want to – but as soon as you want to legislate against me going on a cruise, because you believe we will fall off the edge, then we have a problem.

    We live in the Land of the Free – and the separation of church and state is actually vital to protect the beliefs of all citizens. What I find alarming about Mr. Beck’s rhetoric is that it would appear to seek to put the beliefs of one set of people above all others. He seems to suggest that one can only possess honor and be a true American if you also subscribe to his belief system, and that the laws and government of this country should be based upon this belief system.

    That, Ladies and Gentlemen, sounds an awful lot like a theocracy, where those in power only present information in the light of the state sanctioned religion and don’t allow the populace to decide for themselves what they will believe, much like countries such as Iran, Afganistan etc where so many people believe the one sided view of the world that they are presented.

    I implore you – get your news from more than one source, investigate what you are told, form your own informed opinion, don’t just believe what Fox or CNN or whoever tell you. It’s still your right as a citizen of the Land of the Free.

    August 29, 2010 at 7:05 pm |
  12. bmc

    G Beck does not represent the God that I know and love.

    August 29, 2010 at 5:59 pm |
  13. Obama Clinton 2012

    http://www.bluevirginia.us/diary/1545/250000-vs-87000

    More people attended the original Martin Luther King Speech than the Beck rally – in fact, more people attended the Million Man March, Woodstock and the Inaguration of President Barack Obama than attended the Beck rally. By next week it will be forgotten – since most of the news coverage this weekend has been dedicated to the failures of the Bush administration during Katrina and how those New Orleans residents, even five years later, are still struggling to survive!

    August 29, 2010 at 5:52 pm |
  14. LibertyHaters

    Is this all you guys got? Glen Beck used his OWN money to fund this FREE event. What a slimeball, eh?

    August 29, 2010 at 4:51 pm |
  15. Jim

    Beck is nothing more other than a savvy businessman, an opportunist. Everything he does is aimed at increasing his radio audience and TV viewership. Sounds like his pal, Sarah Palin. However, in American, as like everything else, we move onto the next hippest thing, be it politician or the next "i" or 'q" products. We just move on. If Beck's name still come up in 10 years, then he is a dangerous man.

    August 29, 2010 at 3:56 pm |
  16. Tom

    This guy is, in my opinion, the next famous televangelist on FOX NEWS that preaches something that he or people thats behind him do not exercise . Yes being a Christian is something more than just words put together to support your political view. Stretching the idea that Obama is a Muslim or Socialist ,or Hitler ,or the Antichrist ,or Racist , just to name a few, are not things that Jesus Himself would endorse . Demonizing somebody for political gain is one thing ,but involving the whole Christianity to support your crazy ideas is beyond hypocritical and opportunistic .Christianity is NOT owned by one party, or one race, or one nation, thanks God !
    Christianity stands for :
    Forgiveness, not for repelling of the 14th amendment
    Redemption, not for deportation of families
    Love even the Muslims, not for hate and fear
    Equality, not for favoritism
    If Glen sounded like Billy Graham ,he certainly should act likewise .
    And if Glen felt like "GOD dropped a sandbag on his head " about the rally, he should feel the same way when he talks trash about other people, because everyone is created by GOD !

    August 29, 2010 at 3:48 pm |
  17. Tom

    As an historian, I wonder how many people in this debate know that Thomas Jefferson was a follower of French philosophes,
    and like most of them, was an atheist.

    August 29, 2010 at 3:10 pm |
  18. Tom

    As an historian, I wonder how many people in this debate know that a "Founding Father", Thomas Jefferson, was an atheist.

    August 29, 2010 at 3:04 pm |
  19. nena

    I'm a white women and I KNOW GLEN BECK IS A MORON!!!HE IS SO FULL OF HATRED AND EVIL AND NOW HE CLAIMS TO BE RELIGIOUS & RIGHTEOUS, GIVE ME A BREAK!! HOW QUICKLY ALL THE DUMB FOLLOWERS OF GLEN, PALIN AND ALL THEIR BUDDIES TEND TO FORGET THAT OUR COUNTRY IS IN ITS CURRENT HORRENDOUS SITUATION BECAUSE OF WHAT WAS DONE DURING THE LAST ADMINISTRATION. GET – IT – THROUGH -YOUR – DUMB – HARD – HEAD, THAT'S IF YOU HAVE ANY BRAINS. WHAT THIS ADMINISTRATION HAS BEEN DESPERATELY TRYING TO DO IS TO GET US OUT OF THE MESS THE BUSHES AND THEIR RICH FRIENDS PUT US IN. WHAT GLEN AND ALL HIS LOONEY FRIENDS SHOULD DO IS GET TO WORK AND COME UP WITH SENSIBLE SOLUTIONS FOR OUR COUNTRY.

    August 29, 2010 at 3:02 pm |
  20. 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 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 2:49 pm |
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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.