Everybody has something to say about Glenn Beck’s big Restoring Honor rally last week at the Lincoln Memorial. Some thought it was a new beginning for America. Some Evangelicals are worried that it was a Mormon who organized it. At least one conservative writer wondered if Glenn Beck is killing the Tea Party. And The Washington Post took up the issue from many vantage points in their On Faith blog.
Here’s a sampling:
Restore Honor Rally as extremely significant in a quote from The New York Times blog:
“You are an awakened sleeping giant,” said one of the speakers, Ernest Istook, a former Republican congressman from Oklahoma. Standing before a “Tea Party Patriots” sign on the podium, Mr. Istook vowed that the energy of the weekend would last, and that “this resolve is not just one time.”
Istook is a Latter-day Saint who now works at the Heritage Foundation.
Evangelicals and Glenn Beck
Some of Evangelicals, like Russell Moore, have written that to hear the media refer to Glenn Beck as a new leader of the American Christian conservatives is a “scandal.” He said “If you’d told me that ten years ago, I would have assumed it was from the pages of an evangelical apocalyptic novel about the end-times.”
He continued, “It’s sad to see so many Christians confusing Mormon politics or American nationalism with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Evangelical leader Jim Garlow takes a more benign view in a recent article for One News Now.
He said he’d come to appreciate the Latter-day Saints by working with them on the Prop 8 marriage definition amendment in California. He even canned a phrase for the news media who asked him this inevitable question about how Evangelicals and Mormons could possibly work together on an issue.:
“As evangelicals and Mormons, we are not theological brothers and sisters. But we are friends and neighbors. And on that basis we work together to defend marriage.”
What Garlow wonders is if God would use a Latter-day Saint like Glenn Beck to accomplish his purposes, which leads him directly to wonder about the state of his soul.
I have listened and watched very carefully regarding clues to Glenn’s spiritual condition. I have interviewed several people who have been with him and have talked very specifically with him regarding his own personal salvation. Glenn has said unequivocally that that he relies on the atonement of Jesus on the cross for forgiveness for his sins, and those are almost the exact words. Few people use the term atonement. Glenn did.
On one of his TV shows about a month ago, he laid out the gospel, using his well known blackboard, in the clearest explanation of the crucifixion and the resurrection that I have ever heard on national TV. I called James Robison, and asked, “Did you hear that?” James said, “Richard Land [Southern Baptist] just called me and said he never expected to hear the Gospel so clear on secular television.” It was quite remarkable. A few days ago, Glenn laid out America’s problems and then concluded, “We need God!”
I have interviewed persons who have talked specifically with Glenn about his personal salvation – persons extremely well known in Christianity – and they have affirmed (using language evangelicals understand), “Glenn is saved.” He understands receiving Christ as savior.
Then Garlow makes a fascinating statement:
“If this nation collapses in the 2010-2012 time frame, historians will have to report, if they are honest, that American fell because of silent pastors and inactive pews. If, on the other hand, this nation is saved from self-destruction in the 2010-2012 timeframe, those same historians will have to report that one of the major reasons for the turnaround was Glenn Beck.”
“Ís Glenn Beck Killing the Tea Party” asks writer Jack Hunter in The American Conservative
Much like Obama’s promises of “hope” and “change,” the platitudes offered at Beck’s event were empty, making the event like a right-wing Woodstock. The New York Times Ross Douthat aptly described why those who attended found it so groovy: “Americans love leaders who seem to validate their way of life…
Beck’s rally was essentially a self-affirming Tea Party love-in. Contrived and confused, even the title of the event raised the question — what, exactly, does “Restoring Honor” mean anyway? What truly needs restoring is some direction.
The idea of so many middle-class whites, many Christian — the traditional Republican base — coming together en masse to question their party and reexamine first principles is a liberating concept, not to mention long overdue.
After decades of politicians’ empty promises and cyclical talk-radio bitching, the Tea Party seemed like a grassroots Right finally ticked off enough to demand results, roll some heads, and “take their country back,” with a hard focus on impending economic doom.
It would be one thing if it were simply another trivial distraction — but the overt religiosity on display could spell doom for a movement with the potential to unite more Americans against government spending than even the Tea Party’s harshest critics are willing to admit. Independents and disaffected Democrats, atheists and agnostics, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Eskimos, virtually every political, religious, or cultural category imaginable could feasibly unite under a fiscal-restraint-minded Tea Party banner. But some new Moral Majority? That there is a religious or even Christian subtext to “who” the Tea Party is is a necessary, unavoidable, and perhaps even attractive aspect of the movement. But the moment religion becomes an explicit part of the program — and Beck’s rally was certainly heading in that direction — it negates and severely limits the movement’s primary goal of eliminating government and debt.
Glenn Beck says of the Restoring Honor event:
Look, I’m not challenging anybody’s faith — not challenging anybody’s faith. I’m trying to understand where policies come from.
It’s not that difficult, really. You see, I generally don’t hide my language and what’s going on. I don’t — I don’t — I tell you straight up, faith: that’s Sam Adams. That’s because he was a guy — read Sam Adams, read his words. You have can’t have a country really stay on the track without faith. You can’t have a country without truth. That’s hope. You can’t have a country in a small government without charity. That’s Ben Franklin.
It doesn’t get more complex than that.
The Washington Post’s On Faith Blog
The Washington Post’s On Faith Blog has taken up Glenn Beck as one of their current topics. Several writers have responded. Among the important ideas considered is that all Latter-day Saints don’t share the same opinion of Glenn Beck’s philosophy and that the Church has devoted members with very differing political ideas who happily share the same pews on Sunday.
In one article, “Beck’s Christian Credentials Scrutinized” Elizabeth Tenety comments that Beck calls Obama’s religion liberation theology and then quotes him :
“You see, it’s all about victims and victimhood; oppressors and the oppressed; reparations, not repentance; collectivism, not individual salvation. I don’t know what that is, other than it’s not Muslim, it’s not Christian. It’s a perversion of the gospel of Jesus Christ as most Christians know it,” Beck said.
Tenety then note:
Beck, who converted to Mormonism in the last decade, may believe that Obama’s religion is a “perversion,” but given the criticisms of his own chosen faith, he should perhaps tread more lightly when critiquing another man’s Christianity: Mormons frequently have to contend with allegations that they are not ‘real’ Christians.: 45% of white Evangelicals say that they do not believe that Mormons are Christians, according to a Pew poll.
So Beck finds himself being asked the same question he is asking of Obama: Is he a “true” Christian?