As a conservative, both theologically and politically, I admit that I don’t care much for Glenn Beck. It’s not that I dislike him. I just don’t connect with him. Is it because he is Mormon? To be honest, that is a huge part of my problem with Beck. However, just like with Sarah Palin, there is something that I just can’t quite put my finger on that is off-putting (at least for me) when it comes to Beck (and Palin). Maybe it’s a personality thing. Maybe it’s something deeper.
I can say that I have never watched an entire episode of the Glenn Beck Show on Fox News. I do watch O’Reilly, Hannity, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, and Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld (perhaps the funniest and most informative “news” shows on any of the major 24-hour news channels). However, for me, very small doses of Glenn Beck seem to be just fine. Anything longer than five minutes is pushing the limit.
Last Saturday, Beck hosted a “Restoring Honor” rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. As an alumnus of The George Washington University, I have fond memories of time spent at the Memorial and of playing intramural football in the fields off Constitution Avenue, within sight of that grand monument to freedom and liberty for all Americans. With hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans exercising their First Amendment rights at last week’s rally, there is certainly much to cheer about. But, with Glenn Beck as the head cheer-leader, I personally can’t get all that excited.
Beck, a convert to Mormonism, was the master of ceremonies for what Jonah Goldberg, of National Review Online, described as “Glenn Beck’s Ecumenical Moment.” Goldberg, observing the religious flavor of the rally, wrote:
One striking feature of Saturday’s rally was how deeply religious and ecumenical it was. It seems like just yesterday that everyone was talking about how Christian evangelicals were too bigoted to vote for upright and uptight Mormon Mitt Romney. Yet Christian activists saw no problem cheering for — and praying with — the equally Mormon but far less uptight Beck, who asked citizens to go to “your churches, synagogues, and mosques!”
I think Christian activists, particularly of the Southern Baptist variety, should exercise more discernment when “partnering” with Beck, especially when it comes to his conflation of religion and politics. That Richard Land, the President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention since 1988, could say this about Beck is astounding:
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. (read full article here)
First, to say that Beck’s programs are like the less “orthodox” Trinity Broadcasting Network shouldn’t be seen as a compliment. Secondly, regardless of the context, for Richard Land to compare Glenn Beck with the Rev. Billy Graham, in any sense, illustrates the mainstreaming of Mormonism into Evangelical Christianity, but also shows how far Christian leaders are willing to go to enter into political/religious alliances with those of different faiths.
In the title to a recent article in the Salt Lake Tribune, reporter Adelle M. Banks asks, “Glenn Beck leads, but will evangelicals follow?” Apparently yes, according to Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr., son of Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell, who said:
Glenn Beck’s Mormon faith is irrelevant,” Falwell said. “People of all faiths, all races and all creeds spoke and attended the event. Nobody was there to endorse anyone else’s faith, but we were all there to honor our armed forces and to call the people of America to restore honor.
I beg to differ. For an evangelical Christian (and Baptist) like Falwell, Jr. to say that Beck’s unorthodox faith is “irrelevant” is to so blur the line between the Gospel and politics that the two become interchangeable. And, Falwell, Jr.’s throwaway defense — that no one was there to endorse anyone’s specific faith, but just showed up on the National Mall to “honor our armed forces,” — is disingenuous at best. How else to explain Fallwell, Jr.’s and Land’s enlistment in Beck’s “Black Robe Regiment?”
As Evangelical Christians and Southern Baptists, how do we apply Paul’s warning in 2 Corinthians 6:14-16
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?
Does this only apply to marriage? Or just to business partnerships? Is there a special “political allies” exception to this portion of God-breathed Scripture? Perhaps Drs. Land and Falwell and other evangelicals should take off the black robe of Beck’s regiment and replace it with the Gospel armor of Jesus Christ. The two are not one and the same. Glenn Beck is a masterful communicator. He has attracted a large following by appealing to both the hopes and fears of grass-roots citizens. Only in America. Will evangelicals follow the revival that Beck is leading? Some will. But for this conservative Southern Baptist, I most certainly will not!