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. Bill Arterburn

    American history is littered with the shameful trash of pretenders to the inside track like Beck and Palin, wrapped in flags and steeped in hypocrisy. If America wants to right itself it needs to turn off the TV sets, quit listening to quick fix artists and pseudo intellectuals like Glenn Beck and self annointed self righteous "Teabags" like Sarah Palin and get to work reclaiming industrious inventiveness, self reliance and ingenuity. We can work ourselves out of any recession if we quit listening to quick draw self promoters and phony religious nut cases, corporate shills and fear mongers, and start taking back the front lines of hard work, cooperation,diversity and risk taking, embracing a culture of new ideas for a new age.There is no amount of "ol time religion" that will solve our national problems of laziness, indulgence and self aggrandizement. Time to put on the work shoes, take up the yoke, and pull ourselves out of this mess. Beck and Palin can be counted on to lead the cheers, but I wouldn't want to count on either of them in a pinch.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:32 pm |
    • Fred Flintstone


      August 28, 2010 at 10:37 pm |
    • freewoman

      Palin.. said she raised a combat vet.. and that know one could take that away from her.

      I bet there is a talaban vet who would love to prove her wrong.

      August 29, 2010 at 5:07 pm |
  2. countreeboy

    Speaking has an African American, can anybody tell me what ( the good ole days) are? Please tell me! This rehtoric is coming from the same man who three weeks ago mocked the POTUS's daughter on his show. I find it appauling, and disgusting in every fashion! I was taught growing up not to play with God, and this guy is walking a fine line!!! If I may also add to do it on the day the M.L.K. JR gave his speach on is an absolute slap in the face for every true American that belives in truth, justice, and equality. SMH... Looks like the G.O.P. is heading toward a Palin/Beck ticket for 2012. ROTFL... I hope not for poor pete's sake.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:30 pm |
    • Tom in TX

      These idiots, Beck, Palin, Limbaugh, ... understand that their moment has come. The masses are uneducated, and they are angry because the economy is down. It is their business to radicalize such people. But now, they succeed to do it in masses.

      This is extremely dangerous. They are losing all bounds of decency, shame, and taste. They didn't shy away from desecrating the memory of MLK. They will become more and more outrageous, to further mobilize and radicalize the far right.

      It is time to stop them. I hope African Americans will speak out in large numbers how inappropriate it is to put up this perverting and ridiculing the message of Dr Martin Luther King. Beck is trying to jump on the train that MLK readied in his messages of peace, but he wants to redirect it into the place where slavery originated. The far right, "good old days" crowd.
      This is truly sickening.

      August 28, 2010 at 10:43 pm |
  3. simpee

    Sarah Palin, I am holding a rally for the worlds dumbest people. Wanna join.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:30 pm |
    • TLS67

      You will need a very large space!

      August 28, 2010 at 10:35 pm |
  4. Tom in TX

    Religions have promised heaven under the threat of hell. And religions have brought hell to earth time and time again. Religions have brought death, torture, oppression, humiliation to millions of people throughout human history.

    Religion is a poison and drug that seduces the uneducated mind. Figures like Stalin, Mao, Hitler understood that the mindless masses wait for nothing more than to be unleashed to bring hell to earth in the name of a greater cause.

    Ridiculous clowns like Beck and Palin tap into these same waters without really comprehending what they are unleashing. They are radicalizing the angry, uneducated masses ! This is an extremely dangerous road, it is the birthplace of fascism.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:30 pm |
    • MadisonMan

      I hate to break it to you, but Stalin, Mao and Hitler were not religious and they were the ones who committed the worst atrocities in the history of the world, not religious believers.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:15 am |
    • Ryan

      Wow Madison, you are like a magical broken clock that is never right, not even twice a day. I would love to visit your padded room sometime and watch a little Glenn Beck with ya. I bet the meds your getting must be pretty strong....and oh yeah, the copy and paste function on your computer is not your friend. It makes you look like a drooling idiot who can only repeat the same thing over and over again while beating his football helmet laden head against the wall. Cheerio.

      August 29, 2010 at 2:15 am |
    • Tom in TX

      Madison Man, the common denominator in organized religion and in what Stalin, Mao, Hitler stand for is the technique 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. It has to be something that has the power of overriding the common public's critical mind.

      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 you can add the popes of those times to the list of dictators listed above.

      August 29, 2010 at 2:28 pm |
  5. Kissmineck

    A clue...watch the movie " Network"...its all about ratings.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:29 pm |
  6. TLS67

    Beck is a twit! He has positioned himself as the new leader for twits!!!

    August 28, 2010 at 10:29 pm |
  7. NorthStar

    If right wing evangelical leaders like Reed and Land are so easily able to "put aside theological issues" in order to cooperate with Beck on "moral" supply-side economic issues, then maybe they can just "put aside" a few of those pesky bible verses like Luke 18:18 to 25 ("Sell everything you have and give to the poor...") and everybody will get along just fine. After all, everyone knows that God loves U.S. citizens better than those Mexicans, and if you are wealthy, then come sit at my right hand!!!

    August 28, 2010 at 10:29 pm |
  8. hmmmmho

    this brand of christianity is laughable and jesus would be throwing up.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:28 pm |
  9. Gonzo

    A prophet for the antichrist.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:28 pm |
  10. Zan

    Glenn Beck is a egotistical maniac, a narcissistic personality, who believes his own words. Another Jim Jones, we remember Jim Jones don't we, another religious egotistical narcissistic who lead people to the slaughter in the Jungle...They get high on Power over the people, getting people (sheep) to follow their fantastic fantasy's and the next thing you know, they claim to be GOD. I expect he will crash and burn in a short amount of time. No one can carry on with that amount ego without bursting from within...lets just hope he doesn't take thousands down with him...

    August 28, 2010 at 10:27 pm |
    • idisagree

      I disagree; let's hope he takes millions down with him.

      August 28, 2010 at 10:32 pm |
  11. Nathan Resick

    Giving shameless tools everywhere a worse name.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:27 pm |
  12. Nugsters

    white folks reminisce of the good old days when they had slaves and they were the masters. its very hard to take the demotion.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:27 pm |
  13. Travis Y

    Keith on MSNBC speaks facts that can be checked. Beck spews crap and opinions and hatred that is carefully worded. Palin has to only answer pre-screened questions ONLY. These are the brains you follow. Check up on the "facts" that come out of Beck's mouth and you will see for yourself. Like the screaming of Cheetos and Mountain Dew rant. Funny as all anything. What a clown and sad American example. America's future is to go back to the 50's with a Mormon and a bimbo with writing on her hand ??? You want the country back that you never lost white folks. I want my country FORWARD like the rest of the world is moving.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:26 pm |
    • Dwayne24

      of all the liberal commentators, he is the worst for distortions and embellishing the truth when it suits him, and talks down to everyone...I can't believe he was on ESPN so long.. Well not too much of a stretch, if you think about it. Drop the E and add an I after the P....SPIN

      August 28, 2010 at 10:31 pm |
  14. FanEnough

    Glenn Beck is a demagogue.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:26 pm |
  15. Erika J.

    You mean to tell me there were two seperate events with a message of civil rights behind it, which were both "cultually diverse", using the historic and emotionally spurring words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and neither groups could come together to as one in 2010? Maybe someone needs to really take a look at protecting the words that was spoken because its quite obvious we have taken the words too lightly and we have failed to put the words into action.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:26 pm |
  16. Book Samurai

    The passion on both sides that this man is able to inspire! Why is it that when someone does not agree with another, they feel they have the right to tear them down and shout at them. That is very immature and helps this wonderful nation of ours move forward not one iota. All of these comment writers should take a look at history. Never has any society made marked improvements by following a demagogue. In this instance, in the form of President Obama or Mr. Beck. Both have the same right to speak their minds; it is up to us as the citizenry to decide if that is whom we wish to follow or not. But they need not be exclusive of each other. We can find positive things from both camps and COMPROMISE so that we can all work together. Tearing the individual down and building nothing but hatred and anger up in his/her place is bad for ourselves and even worse for our children.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:26 pm |
  17. Dwayne24

    The guy who said Glen Beck years ago was a drunken loser....Let's see..Senator Byrd was a kkker...Ted Kennedy killed someone.....Clinton did what??? GB was drunk a lot..JFK did what???? FDR did what???...Jesse Jackson did what?.King David had Bathseba's husband killed so he could do what??? SO if you are without sin cast the first stone...I believe in redemption...How about you????

    August 28, 2010 at 10:26 pm |
    • Nathan Resick

      Clinton did what? Seriously?;

      how about 8 years (the longest period of economic prosperity) in over a hundred years

      a prosperity we would still be enjoying if not for the "fiscal conservatives" who gave us back our national debt

      August 28, 2010 at 10:29 pm |
  18. Pat

    LLC – I don't want your god or your religious beliefs. Feel free to do whatever the hell you want for yourself – I'll never try to stop you, but you have no right to force them on me. Attempting to do so makes you no different than a fundamentalist Muslim forcing Islam.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:25 pm |
    • Dwayne24

      Hint: A lot of our laws are based on the 10 Commandments...So in truth the government is already making you follow Chrisian principles....Sorry to ruin your day...

      August 28, 2010 at 10:28 pm |
    • Pat

      D24: asserting and taking the usual diatribe ahead a few steps.. So only good people are Christian – moral people? Hate to see the murdering, raping thief you would become if you ever lost your faith.

      Erik: because he brought his diety into his arguments.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:34 pm |
  19. jazz92

    I heard today on one of the show that he maybe going to run for President.. You got to be kidding me....He is not President material. They said Beck/Palin. What do you think about that????

    August 28, 2010 at 10:25 pm |
    • Linda is feeling ill!

      Beck/Palin is TOTALLY ludicrous.....but electing George Bush TWICE was also ludicrous, but it happened.....SO the concept is very SCARY! Americans are losing their mental capabilities to think for themselves. Very sad!

      August 29, 2010 at 12:00 pm |
      • Wazzup

        So was electing Obama...USA with a socialist president. I have to admit it, never thought it possible. So I agree about the menatl state of (some) Americans.

        August 29, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
        • Linda is feeling ill!

          You obviously have different views, but one thing you CANNOT argue. Obama has a BRAIN. BUSH, PALIN, and BECK do NOT. That's a HUGE difference.

          August 29, 2010 at 12:28 pm |
        • Wazzup

          He has one. And is a socialist one. Same like yours. It happens that I grew up in a place surrounded by communist/socialists brains and it just wasn't my idea of life. Sorry.

          August 29, 2010 at 12:34 pm |
        • Wazzup

          And here is another funny comparison with the place I grew up. There, like here, when you argue to a socialist, they start with personal attacks. They usual have no arguments to sustain, so they start calling names, question the intelligence of the person with opposite point of view and usual get very aggressive in their language. Same like you (and quite a few liberals here) do.

          August 29, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
        • secular nation

          i dont think Obama has ever done that, though you call him socialist. Reps like to throw names around more than anyone. though they take a more passive aggressive approach

          August 29, 2010 at 2:00 pm |
        • Beckler

          In my opinion, it's the same with Republicans too. You need to take a step back, and realize that America has been split in 2. There are people on both sides trying keep us hating each other, so they can gain political grounds/power/money on our ignorance. And by the way, they are doing a great job. Don't blindly support whatever party you root for man. Both sides are equally corrupt.

          August 29, 2010 at 2:57 pm |
  20. carr

    i really did not no what he was talking about ?

    August 28, 2010 at 10:24 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.