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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. dino ortalani

    this message is for all the people, of any color, that have beef with the timing of beck's rally. stay off beck's back about martin luther king. there are 365 days in a year, not billions of days. it is not entirely unlikely it is a coincidence the timing of this event. quit making everything about race.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:40 pm |
    • you can't be serious

      are you saying that 365 days doesn't provide sufficient latitude to cope with an alternate date? maybe he should have waited for a leap year.

      August 28, 2010 at 10:43 pm |
    • Fred Flintstone

      Dino, are you saying that Beck was ignorant of the significance of this date in American history? SHAME if you are right.

      August 28, 2010 at 10:44 pm |
    • dino ortalani

      how could he have known? if he knew, he would have chosen a different date. no way he would have wanted all this damn drama. or DID he...MWAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!

      August 28, 2010 at 10:48 pm |
    • Ben

      Sorry, but someone that considers themselves to be such a historian and expert on American history would know the date of the most important speech of the civil rights movement, and even if you give him the whole 1/365 aspect, you ignore the choice of venues, of which there are thousands that could have been chosen.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:52 pm |
    • Apex Idaho

      We can not have any more rallies or events because all the days will have something else on them!

      September 1, 2010 at 10:42 pm |
  2. Dwayne24

    He is a pretty good guy who brings out the devil in people..Just read these blogs.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:40 pm |
  3. kathlyn Parks

    It's ridiculous that we're even discussing this slimy little man whose stock in trade is lying. Like most successful televangelists, he knows how many gullible people there are to play on. One was interviewed, if you can call a one-sentence question an interview, today at the rally. A reporter asked why she was there. She said because she believes in the constitution and the present administration does not. The so-called reporter should have asked her what she meant. Every time someone has pinned down these people, they have shown themselves unable to answer in any intelligible way. They are just parroting what Beck, Palen & co. have instilled in them:Love the constitution, but interpret it any way you like, and pick and choose what parts you like. Our president, whom they hate, actually knows the constitution. He taught constitutional law.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:40 pm |
  4. Culmo

    So much hatred on here for Glenn Beck...

    Yes, lets hate and insult someone simply because their politics are different....way to go American Left...way to show that you all are the intelligent, open-minded bunch you all claim to be...

    August 28, 2010 at 10:39 pm |
    • Fred Flintstone

      You're calling it hatred. I'm just saying he's like any other snake oil salesman. Lots of smoke and mirrors, and very little hard facts. Stop whining about how bad things are, and get to work making them better.

      August 28, 2010 at 10:41 pm |
    • a6102658

      He bends reality to accommodate his inaccurate view of the world, if anything, he is a Snake Charmer.

      August 28, 2010 at 10:45 pm |
    • oneStarman - Walla Walla, WA

      SO MUCH DISGUST – so little Time. If only we could afford to waste our precious last few moments on this nonsense. We have work to do however, if we are going to save the Planet from destruction at the hands of the Predatory forces that allowed miners to die in coal mines for lack of proper ventilation, that blow the tops off the Smoky Mountains with kilo-tons of explosives to get cheap coal that is destroying our climate – and greed before safety that allowed BP to poison our Gulf.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:52 pm |
  5. Jack

    Let's face it Glenn Beck is a man looking for a profit he will say what ever it takes to make money. He 's is laughing all the way to the bank.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:39 pm |
  6. KAT

    I've just read over 50 comments...ARE ALL OF YOU THAT CLOSED MINED? WHY DO YOU THINK WE ARE IN THE POSITIONS WE ARE?? F****G do some homework before you open your mouth!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 28, 2010 at 10:39 pm |
    • DeadCenter

      wow you r so insightful u really opened my eyes :/

      August 28, 2010 at 10:41 pm |
    • Fred Flintstone

      We're in the position we're in because of EIGHT LONG YEARS of George Bush. 2 wars, and broken economy, and a nation that seems bent on becoming a Christian theocracy.

      August 28, 2010 at 10:43 pm |
    • oneStarman - Walla Walla, WA

      LIKE 33 POOR SOULS in Chile – We have been Mined under a mountain of 1 million Iraqi bodies whose death we are responsible for – and the 95% of Iraq reconstruction Billions that we now admit were stolen to fill Dubai coffers for Cheney's Halliburton . We are Mined under the crushing economic collapse engineered to Enrich Goldman Sachs by 'former' employee – Bush's Treasury Secretary Paulson – after using the artificially inflated 2006 economy to try to win the Elections that were lost.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:43 pm |
    • freewoman

      I do not type with my mouth...so whether my mouth is open is irrelevant.
      I bet you were the teachers pet. bullying the rest to s h u t and worship the teacher.

      You are so last century. If you don't like what you read on a chat... leave.. because no one is going to close their mouths..What ever that means in this format.... that is the whole POINT of CHAT!

      August 29, 2010 at 5:14 pm |
  7. Is this really happening?

    Beck is the reincarnation of Hitler. How long before we have our own version of kristallnacht? who will be the victims next time? Muslims? Atheists? Jews again? Anyone who is not a Christian?

    August 28, 2010 at 10:39 pm |
    • oneStarman - Walla Walla, WA

      The Reichstag fire blamed on 'terrorists' gave the NAZIS an excuse to get a declaration that led to them gaining Totalitarian powers over the people of Germany. Many have compared this to 911 which gave us the Patriot act and the Tyranny of the 'Decider'. Much like Hitlers Brown Shirts – Tea Party, machine gun toting, Racist Placard waving, Hate speech spouting animals are just the puppets of the manipulators who seek totalitarian control of our country – Using the 'scary Muslim' – like Jews, to focus our Hate.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:34 pm |
  8. Jesus

    He's clearly a charlatan with a skill in marketing and self promotion. Recognizing his own lack of intellect, he's wisely chosen to target his messages at like-minded followers - since there are so many.

    Between him and the other self promoters at fox, our country is dangerously headed for fascism. Better public education is the only cure for the brainwashed millions that actually believe the trash presented as news, or that there's actually a man up in the sky watching over their pitiful lives. Think about it, if humans were made in the image of god, then god is some kinda pitiful dude.

    The right's opposition to public education funding is easily explained. They don't want to lose their base! Better to keep them ignorant of the fact that they're being manipulated by exploiting their biggest weakness: a strong belief in god.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:37 pm |
  9. bleh

    Seems like a ploy to get the Christian Right to back Romney. He is really all the GOP has to run in 2012 and his Mormonism doesn't stand well with the Christian Right. They are into Party Purity as well as Religious Purity.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:37 pm |
  10. Pleth

    He is the Anti-Christ

    August 28, 2010 at 10:37 pm |
  11. DJ McFly

    WHERE WAS THE "NEW" BLACK PANTHERS To "Get Whitie"?

    August 28, 2010 at 10:37 pm |
  12. grg999

    The Black Robed Regiment? Is he kidding? I was going to sit on this election but having second thoughts.

    The melding of politics and religion has corrupted both. It's why our Founding Fathers did their best to separate religion from government. But their vision is being undone to the misery of us all.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:36 pm |
    • MadisonMan

      ummmm....which founding father are you referring to? Quite the opposite I'm afraid. Read your history. The "separation of church and state" so many liberals and atheists tend to rely upon was Jefferson referring to the national government. Read his writings on religious teaching in public schools, encouraging the use of public buildings by religious entities, and his belief that the survival of our nation depends upon a religious citizenry. Please don't spout history that you don't understand and haven't read to prop up your ignorance.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:21 am |
  13. Dave

    You people are nuts. Seriously. Talk about the religion all you want, but the bottom line is MILLIONS are listening and are sick of liberals trying to define this country as something it is not and was never intended to be. We are sick of high taxes being used to subsidize half the country. We are sick of the government spending OUR money on BS. We are sick of government trying to take control of things when the private sector does it 10 times better and more efficiently. We are sick of career politicians.

    We want incumbants voted out. We want less taxes, less spending, and less government.

    This country is nothing without our economy. We want TRUE fiscal conservatives in office. Not the Republicans who have been pretending and definately not the democrats who have gone so far to the left that JFK would be a Republican in todays world.

    Wake up and take back control of this country. VOTE THEM ALL OUT

    August 28, 2010 at 10:36 pm |
  14. DeadCenter

    Is this your leader, christian conservatives? you come anywhere near me with this guys trash and i'll smash you. keep it to yourselves.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:36 pm |
  15. countreeboy

    THE GOOD OLE DAYS. REALLY? 😉 BECK IS ONE FUNNY ASS CHARACTER!!!

    August 28, 2010 at 10:36 pm |
  16. Cory

    All of the people attacking Beck personally obviously don't listen to him and are definately showing their ignorance. What a joke y'all are.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:36 pm |
    • Fred Flintstone

      Joke's on you Cory. Beck is laughing all the way to the bank you dumb hick sucker.

      August 28, 2010 at 10:38 pm |
    • Elaine

      No we listen to him. But unlike you, we can see the fraud that he is.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:32 am |
  17. obvious

    Another radical lunatic? what an idiot...really...most people are smarter than this...if you're not, you should be embarrassed. I don't need this idiot to tell me to find God. Live your life doing the right thing and you'll be fine. Remember the golden rule? remember in Kindergarten they taught you to keep your hands and feet to yourself? what else....uh, how about keep an open mind? every person is different? tolerance? The Lord is within yourself...live by his message NOT Becks...YUCK!

    August 28, 2010 at 10:36 pm |
  18. Fred Flintstone

    Beck is a performer and it's all about $$$. Just like all the rest. Don't be fooled.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:35 pm |
  19. Tim

    Beck is a man who follows Jesus Christ. Everything else is insignificant.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:35 pm |
  20. mikeh

    this country is doomed. well it was nice while it lasted.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:34 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.