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. Fernando F.

    Glenn Beck should live in Iran. There the religious leaders try to control the politics of the country. They will give him his own Medraza.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:49 pm |
  2. Mark from Middle River

    3rd generation US Marine – your question was a serious one and even though my reply was off the cuff it is whatngolks these days are and always looked for. Some one to restore honor or to be honest, someone to bring the country kicking and screaming to state that is more in line with each of our views. Beck and Obama are not the first to vocally say what many of us feel and they surely will not be the last.

    Honor is yours alone but you are part of a greater society and because of that many feel that your individual acomplishments matter for squat because they judge the whole not the person.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:48 pm |
  3. Randy

    Democracy good...Theocracy bad.

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

      Randy I hate to break this to you, but we live in a republic not democracy.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:49 pm |
  4. Susan

    all i have to say, is I feel sorry for everyone that is making comments about Beck who hasn't even heard his whole speech. If you oppose God that is your problem, but don't put down Beck because he asks us to be better Americans and better spouses and fathers and mothers and to love your family and friends and he challeges us to become better people, no matter what faith we embrace. He isn't a bigot, but what I'm reading here is horrible. I think the far left and CNN are the true bigots and you are showing your true colors and showing your hatered, towards America and towards your fellow man and towards most importantly, towards GOD

    August 28, 2010 at 10:48 pm |
    • Fred Flintstone

      We don't all believe in your god.

      August 28, 2010 at 10:52 pm |
    • CSh

      I have a problem with people talking about how great Beck is when they have never listened to his radio shows. The person you saw today is NOT that same person who was talking two MONTHS ago. That's scary!

      August 28, 2010 at 10:53 pm |
    • LouAz

      You might enjoy the 1926 book Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis. If you don't read anything but your bible, then get the 1960 Burt Lancaster starring movie by the same name. Lancaster got an Academy Award for Best Actor in that movie. Either (or both) will help you "appreciate" Glen Beck even more.

      August 28, 2010 at 10:57 pm |
    • a6102658

      I will put it very simple for you, Because he is twisting the truth for his own profit, he has NO CREDIBILITY, and he is a hate monger, that is why.
      Today he wants to bring people together, last week he was hating on the Muslims, and he is clearly a racist.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:02 pm |
    • a6102658

      CSh: you really got it, he will be at any given time what he needs to be, he is what people call a Shape Shifter.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:08 pm |
    • Rick in WV

      Beck is inconsistent, irrational, and illogical. He is definitively bigoted when talking of socialism, liberalism, communism, etc. by trying to distort his listeners'/viewers' views with a straw-man target he manufactures out of cherry picked excerpts and major loss of context. I've listened and watched him then go on incoherent attacks on said targets only to fall back half the time on either the destruction of the nation or the rise of Nazism, expecting his audience trust his analysis without thinking for themselves. Then you call CNN bigoted because they reported on it, I can't even make this rant on FOX News website (and I've tried many times). I don't think he should be the one challenging us to anything. This nation was built on Deism not Christianity.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:33 pm |
    • freewoman

      which god is that?

      Super Daddy?

      August 29, 2010 at 5:22 pm |
  5. Just a regular Joe

    I'm not sure what to think about all this just yet... perhaps like many (maybe even "most"??) Americans who are are still "on the sidelines" – watching to see how this whole movement evolves. However – the notion of returning a greater sense of HONOR to our (and our political representatives's) lives and daily actions seems like a timely and politically shrewd (and maybe even a well-intentioned) platform. All religious "stuff" and silly bantering aside, history shows America was founded as a fundamentally Christian nation. Sorry about that, its just a simple fact; and we can't change history. Anyone challenging that fact has obviously not done even the most basic homework/research. Go back to elementary school. Bringing us up to date... Nationally, we are still predominantly a Christian population; which is another simple fact/statistic. So... who cares if someone is Mormon, or Baptist, or Catholic, or whatever... what's Obama, by the way? Isn't the MORAL and POLITICAL message what really counts here? It sounds like the guy might have a "fundamentalist moral" platform (ie: honor/integrity) to stand on; and heck knows – we could sure use more of that! Needless to say... don't underestimate the power/political influence of the silent majority. If Beck is smart (and I believe he is) he will appeal to the basic beliefs of the silent majority... which I believe he is doing. Rant and banter all you want, but the fact remains that Mr. Beck seems to be addressing notions and ideas that appeal to most Americans... getting back to the basics.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:48 pm |
    • Fred Flintstone

      Joe, your basic construct is flawed. The nation was NOT founded as "Christian" nation. It specifically separated church and state. Start over.

      August 28, 2010 at 10:51 pm |
    • a6102658

      Flawed argument, separation of Church and State is clearly spelled. why is so hard to understand that?

      August 28, 2010 at 10:59 pm |
    • LouAz

      Ah, yes . . . the Basics – Slavery, selling and buying other humans, breaking up families as one or more was bought or sold . . . only property owners could vote . . . women could not vote . . . something about their land as long as the sky was blue and the buffalo roamed, you know Indians and treaties and blankets and smallpox . . . poll tax . . . child labor . . . public schools . . . Irish need not apply . . . Italians need not apply . . . Manzanar . . . the KKK . . . remember Whites Only water fountains ? There are lots more in our history. Do you miss all these Basics ? Onward christian soldiers ! You betcha !

      August 28, 2010 at 11:24 pm |
    • Richard

      Seperation of church and state huh do you mean "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" did you know that only was ment to pertain to the US Congress and that one state, MA, actually had a state religion after the constitution was retified. no where in the constitution is there a "seperation of church and state"

      August 29, 2010 at 12:28 pm |
  6. Michael Deitsch

    I have listened to Glenn for several years now. As he is being transformed we are right there with him. He is the real deal. A man who loves his country, is not afraid to stand strong in the face of many enemies, a very successful Fox commentator, successful author, God Fearing Christian who I believe is call for this time and place in our nation's history to lead our country back to the principles of the founders. God Bless you Glenn. Not many if any could do what you are doing and I know you or led by the spirit and not operating in your own strength. I pray for you daily to be safe and continue to speak out on the things that really matter.

    I might add that it is sad to see the Black Community turn this into a racial issue to gain publicity. This is about America, black and white. I hope those that try to keep racism alive for their own glory and profit will realize that they are hurting rather than helping their own cause. We are one nation under God, and Glenn could not be more clear about his position on that. When 85% of black blindly follow Obama, it is clear to me that for many the only thing that matters is color. So who is really promoting racism in the USA. Most white folks got over this a long time ago. It's the black leaders that what to keep this division going for their own gain. It's sad because we expected more from a black President.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:47 pm |
  7. countreeboy

    Reading through the post no 1 has hardly mention (The Palin) lol, Does this mean that her 15 min of fame is finally up?

    August 28, 2010 at 10:46 pm |
  8. Steve

    Mormonism began as a sex cult. Its history is actually kind of creepy. Its theology is cockamamie. It's anything but orthodox and pretending to be mainstream Christianity is ludicrous. In a variety of ways it's flat-out heretical.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:46 pm |
  9. CSh

    Radical personality changes are psychologically NOT a good thing. I have a very BAD feeling about this. I'm wondering about Beck's handle on reality. If he's really starting to lose it, we could witness a very spectacular and very public mental breakdown.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:44 pm |
    • GG

      That would be great!

      August 29, 2010 at 1:08 am |
  10. carole

    I hate to say this but I think Beck needs to start drinking again.....he is way out there now and lost all credibility with most people.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:44 pm |
  11. Jack

    Well, he's not much of a leader.
    Any person who says the President of the United States hates white people does not have the
    proper character to lead true followers of Jesus.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:44 pm |
    • Tom

      How about a guy who spends 20 years listening to a preacher that says, "God damn America"? Doesn't sound like anyone who follows someone who hates America should be a leader either.

      August 28, 2010 at 10:51 pm |
    • a6102658

      Glenn Beck is leading you by the nose, you are weak minded sheep.

      August 28, 2010 at 10:56 pm |
  12. sally

    It's horrifying to see that even some of these comments support a person like Beck. To realize that there are people out
    there who support him, Sarah Palin, and other idiots such as those two, is depressing as hell, because it proves that the
    people of this country are becoming more and more ignorant by the year. Of course, that shows in the horrible spelling and
    grammar in so many of these comments, also. Things are looking bad for the good old USA.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:43 pm |
    • a6102658

      Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin just want a piece of the pie, they don't fool me.

      August 28, 2010 at 10:54 pm |
  13. phyllis

    Why do people call Beck and Palin, and other conservatives. stupid liars, cons, etc., and not give factual data to prove that what they have said is wrong? It destroys the credibility of their attack. Emotionally charged name-calling just sounds stupid and uneducated. If you say someone is a liar... prove it with facts!

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

      Let's start with the obvious lie that Beck was unaware that August 28 was the date of the MLK famous speech. Or how about Palin's comment about seeing Russia from her front porch? And on, and on....

      August 28, 2010 at 10:47 pm |
    • Observer

      OK. Palin was so ignorant that she trashed President Obama for using teleprompters, but she has used them when they had to phonetically spell words for her. She also had to write notes on her hand to remember to discuss TAXES when talking to the Tea Party. Next question?

      August 28, 2010 at 10:47 pm |
    • Tim

      I agree.

      August 28, 2010 at 10:51 pm |
    • Davep

      That's it, that's all you have. We could go hours with all the idiotic things that have come out of any politicians mouth. I would love a show that actually took all the BS put out by all these conservative/liberal talk shows and fact checked it on a neutral playing field. I would pay for that, but does a neutral playing field really exist? Everyone is bias and it's easy to find someone to support your view. Now actually give me some real examples and some real research!

      August 28, 2010 at 11:05 pm |
    • Observer

      There are plenty of examples. MOST people already know about them. Palin claimed she was opposed to earmarks, but when she was the mayor, she hired a lobbyist for her tiny town and he helped get millions.
      Palin said she told them "thanks, but no thanks" for the funds for the Bridge to Nowhere, yet she kept ALL the money that had been allocated to that point..
      Here ignorance in claiming that Afghanistan is a neighbor, or that Africa is a country, etc. are famous.
      The list just keeps going on.

      August 28, 2010 at 11:26 pm |
  14. a6102658

    Glenn Beck is utterly inarticulate and utterly inaccurate, with a messianic complex, he is in it for the money and he preys on the weak minded sheep, Glenn Beck is also a shape shifter, he will be what he needs to be and any given time, he hated Muslims last week, today he wants to bring people of all kinds together. very transparent.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:42 pm |
    • DJ McFly


      August 28, 2010 at 10:45 pm |
    • a6102658

      I am talking about you, weak minded sheep.

      August 28, 2010 at 10:46 pm |
  15. Randy

    Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful. – Seneca the Younger

    August 28, 2010 at 10:42 pm |
  16. 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 doesnt belong.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:41 pm |
  17. DJ McFly

    WASHINGTON D. C. In The Top 10 MOST DANGEROUS CITIES IN AMERICA...................Of The Top 25 Most Dangerous, ALL Are Run By Democrats.

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

      When rethuglicans ran it, it was even more dangerous.

      August 29, 2010 at 12:36 am |
  18. simpee

    Religions are the worst things invented by mankind. They say nothing and do nothing, other than destroying one another. God will not return until we know the true meaning of love.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:41 pm |
  19. countreeboy

    If Beck did not make an total ass of himself there would not be anything to attack! Mother allways said... if you dont have anything good to say dont say anything at all! Clearly when (Good ole Glenn's ) mother told him that he was not listening!!!

    August 28, 2010 at 10:41 pm |
  20. chemack56

    Beck & Palin on the Teapublican ticket in 2012, please! That will guarantee Obama gets some more time to finish cleaning up the royal mass that idiot Bush and his GOP goons made of the world.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:40 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.