Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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August 31, 2010

AN UNEASY, UNSUSTAINABLE PARTNERSHIP.... Glenn Beck said the other day, as part of his attacks on President Obama, "People aren't recognizing his version of Christianity."

The irony is, Beck's ostensible allies aren't recognizing his version of Christianity, either.

We've been talking a bit lately about the Beck, who apparently now wants to lead some sort of religious revival, and the discomfort with that within the religious right. The movement is, after all, compromised almost entirely of evangelical Christians, who aren't generally comfortable with Beck's Mormonism.

"I'm a little nervous about that kind of talk," said Janet Mefferd, a nationally syndicated Christian talk show host who said most callers Monday wanted to talk about Beck. "I know he means well and loves this country, but he doesn't know enough about theology to know what kind of effect he's having. Christians are hearing something different than what he thinks he's saying."

If this were simply a matter of politics, it'd be much easier -- Beck, his minions, and the religious right tend to hate America's current leadership in largely the same way, for largely the same reasons. The problem, though, is that their differences are theological -- American theocrats appreciate Beck's madness, but not his LDS membership.

Russell Moore, dean of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's School of Theology, has publicly expressed his strong disapproval of Christians cooperating with Beck's little crusade, and Moore's comments are already causing quite a stir in evangelical circles. He wrote:

A Mormon television star stands in front of the Lincoln Memorial and calls American Christians to revival. He assembles some evangelical celebrities to give testimonies, and then preaches a God and country revivalism that leaves the evangelicals cheering that they've heard the gospel, right there in the nation's capital.

The news media pronounces him the new leader of America's Christian conservative movement, and a flock of America's Christian conservatives have no problem with that.

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. But it's not. It's from this week's headlines. And it is a scandal....To Jesus, Satan offered power and glory. To us, all he needs offer is celebrity and attention. Mormonism and Mammonism are contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ....

Moore added that it's "sad to see so many Christians confusing Mormon politics or American nationalism with the gospel of Jesus Christ." He looked forward to a "new generation" of Christians "who will be ready for a gospel that is more than just Fox News at prayer."

Ouch.

Meanwhile, Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and an active player in D.C. politics, has met in private with Beck, but continues to insist that Mormonism is "not a Christian faith."

The more Beck tries to position himself as a religious right leader for the future, the more these divisions will rise to the surface -- and grow more intense.

Steve Benen 2:25 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (36)

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Comments

no matter what one thinks of Mormonism, Saturday's display was very cult-like to my eye...

Posted by: andyvillager on August 31, 2010 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

Anybody want to bet how long until Beck becomes born-again?

Posted by: DR on August 31, 2010 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Linking Mormonism and Mammon was also a supremely contemptuous stroke. In the believing Christian crowd, that will leave a mark.

Posted by: Rathskeller on August 31, 2010 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

The major blogs are worse with this guy than ESPN is with Brett Favre. At least 50 million people watched the NFC championship.

To be clear, I can't help that 25-33% of Americans are complete, permanent, impervious morons who are easily swayed by the bleatings of Fox News con artists. Do I really have to have the bleatings fisked on a daily basis?

Posted by: norbizness on August 31, 2010 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

Until Beck starts quoting chapter and verse from the Book of Mormon, evangelicals will like him just fine.

Posted by: Jinchi on August 31, 2010 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

Born again? And give up his future planet?

I don't know much about Mormon theology and their beliefs about the afterlife, nor do I particularly care, I am not a believer of any stripe. But I do know that it is flatly inconsistent with all other brands of Christianity and even more so with that particular brand that is Southern Baptists. In particular the relationship of a Mormon with Jesus is totally orthogonal to that of the S. Baptists.

This is particularly true given Beck's own tendency of megalomania, after combining that with his existing Mormonism, well if I were a Fundie my Anti-Christ alarm would be blaring right now. Beck seems to be edging closer to the Rev.Moon pattern all the time.

Posted by: Bruce Webb on August 31, 2010 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

"The more Beck tries to position himself as a religious right leader for the future, the more these divisions will rise to the surface -- and grow more intense."

That all depends. If Beck continues to attract millions of Republican followers, the Christians who object to his version of Christianity will miraculously find themselves falling in line. Remember all those Christians who were going to sit out 2008 because McCain once hurt their fee-fees? They fell in line.

Posted by: bobbo on August 31, 2010 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

Stan, "You don't know anything about Christianity"
Cartman, "I know enough to exploit it."

Fox is trying to guarantee a built in demographic, but they f*cked up by giving a Mormon the prime time slot. Oops.

Posted by: Heraclitus on August 31, 2010 at 3:13 PM | PERMALINK

Is it true that Linda McMahon's next fund raiser will be a steel cage death match, pitting Russell Moore against Glen Beck?

And where can I buy tickets. . .

Posted by: DAY on August 31, 2010 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

I've been wondering if the big picture shows Beck acting as a stalking horse for Romney - helping drive down the negatives against Mormons among the right wingers

Posted by: andy on August 31, 2010 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

"Fox News at prayer" - nice echo of the C of E as the Tory Party at prayer. Is this self-awareness?

Posted by: Dave L on August 31, 2010 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

The more Beck tries to position himself as a religious right leader for the future, the more these divisions will rise to the surface -- and grow more intense.

Save me a ringside seat, and pass the popcorn!

Posted by: Gummo on August 31, 2010 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

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

Preach it brother, though I'd assume it was from the "Onion".

Posted by: ckelly on August 31, 2010 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

Running for President or Sainthood?

Posted by: golack on August 31, 2010 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

I recognize Obama's version of Christianity quite well.

He's one of those private Christians that mostly keeps his faith to himself and is never a dick about it.

In other words, he's my kind of Christian.

Posted by: chrenson on August 31, 2010 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

Moore added that it's "sad to see so many Christians confusing Mormon politics or American nationalism with the gospel of Jesus Christ." He looked forward to a "new generation" of Christians "who will be ready for a gospel that is more than just Fox News at prayer."

I look forward to the ex-Dean of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary giving me my french fries at McDonald's when he's eventually dismissed for this blasphemy against social conservatism and Fox News.

Posted by: trex on August 31, 2010 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

That "new generation of Christians" Moore is looking forward to are actually the "Gospel of Affluence" Christians pouring into the megachurches all around the US. They're learning some of the same attitudes toward wealth that many Mormons now share. And FOX isn't going to do anything to change that.

I don't think Moore's gonna like 'em.

Posted by: chrenson on August 31, 2010 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

It looks more and more like Glen Beck is in a personal crisis, not unlike that of Mel Gibson: basically, leading a life that is in direct opposition to waking up. Of course there is always a crusade going on somewhere, mounted by someone who is really being driven to overcome his own poisonous ego. But having first become prominent or well-known is one of the deadliest conditions of all. This person is continually pulled back in, due to public pressure, by the very thing he or she has to jettison: the image of the self. Consequently, spiritual emergencies of this public sort usually don't end well. Renouncing material wealth and retiring into secluded meditation is almost the only path.

Posted by: Lee A. Arnold on August 31, 2010 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

Lee: insightful and very well put.

Posted by: trex on August 31, 2010 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Humm, Beck said on the NewsHour that Obama Embraces "liberation theology" which he mischaracterized as believing that the individual can only be saved if the collective is saved. Aside from mischaracterizing Obama's beliefs he also mischaracterized liberation theology, which as I remember was more about empowering poor people to deal with oppressive states but was otherwise rather Roman Catholic.

Like socialism, which has been revived by the Republicans constant message of opposition to Obama, perhaps Liberation Theology is due for a revival.

and quite frankly, Americans could do worse, except for the Catholic part.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on August 31, 2010 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

Good! Intra-theocratic cat fight! And Steve I love that line, "American theocrats appreciate Beck's madness, but not his LDS membership." You've been understandably criticized for oft' indulging a head-scratching pose, but you often come up with great zingers. Keep up the mostly good work (and better IMHO than several months ago, but have more positive and not just nutty Republicans of the week ... yes there are so many and so nutty but we also need positive stuff to believe in!

Posted by: inscrutabull on August 31, 2010 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

The news media pronounces him the new leader of America's Christian conservative movement

That's the key quote from Moore. The RR leadership sees Beck as a threat not to their theology, but to their power base. And religion is nothing more than a way to wield power.

Posted by: Tim H on August 31, 2010 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

Well, here's what I like and it bears watching and some "work together" brainstorming:
"Mormonism and Mammonism are contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ...." I have no big issue with Mormonism since I don't accept revelation anyway. But if Russell Moore is also against "Mammon" - worship of gold (literally for Beck!) - then here is something we can work with. If this man exposes the Mammon then he will be doing us all a service, aside from anything we couild disagree with.

Posted by: neil b on August 31, 2010 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

My take on Beck's new religiosity is more cynical.
Very possibly, the hustler in him has recognized that the American way to riches and political power lies through christianism. His role models would include Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, among other 'evangelicals'.
oldswede

Posted by: oldswede on August 31, 2010 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

Bruce is correct. Mormon beliefs in the afterlife don't resemble those of any other Christians, and would make a fundy's hair stand on end. The Mormon god of Earth lives on the planet Kolob - they sing songs about that; see below. He (definitely he) is one among many gods in the universe. You too, if you're male, could become a god like God if you're worthy enough and get your own planet. Two planets actually, one to live on and one to populate. Being worthy enough is tricky though. If nothing else, you have to tithe every last penny owed every year of your life. And Jesus? He's the son of this god all right, but also the brother of the archangel Michael. He also used to be the brother of Adam, but they changed that bit of theology. It's one of the advantages of having "living prophets" - they get to change stuff that gets, well, dated.

I keep wondering when the fundy and the middle of the roader Christians are going to revolt at the specter of Beck leading this "revival."

If You Could Hie to KOLOB

If you could hie to Kolob in the twinkling of an eye,
And then continue onward with the speed of light to fly**,
D'ye think that you could ever, through all eternity,
Find out the generation where Gods began to be?

Or see the grand beginning, where space did not extend?
Or view the last creation where Gods and matter end?
Methinks the Spirit whispers, "No man has found 'pure space',"
Nor seen the outside curtains, where nothing has a place.

The works of God continue, and worlds and lives abound;
Improvement and progression have one eternal round.
There is no end to matter; there is no end to space;
There is no end to spirit; there is no end to race.
** Revision 6-8-2002

Posted by: Fess on August 31, 2010 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

Andy said : I've been wondering if the big picture shows Beck acting as a stalking horse for Romney - helping drive down the negatives against Mormons among the right wingers.

I think the opposite will happen. I think Beck is a loose cannon who will end up focusing attention on Mormon beliefs and creating a backlash on the religious right, which will end up hurting Romney. I think the last thing Romney wants is to be forced to debate whether he is, in fact, a christian.

Posted by: sceptic on August 31, 2010 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

Glenn Beck saw at least 50 gazillionmegatrillion dollar signs at his infomercial.

Posted by: John on August 31, 2010 at 5:44 PM | PERMALINK

I look forward to Beckster's chalkboard diagram proving how he's actually more Christian than Christ.

Also, James Martin has a nice piece today at the HuffPo on what Liberation Theology is really about.

Posted by: short fuse on August 31, 2010 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

Fess, thank you. I now know where Robert Heinlein got his "theology" from for "Stanger in A Strange Land." As for the Gold Bug: perhaps he's auditioning for the part of Nehemiah Scudder?

Posted by: Doug on August 31, 2010 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK

The really "funny" thing about Beck's religion is that, as I understand (from something that briefly flashed up on Think Progress) he's a Mormon by choice (ie by conversion), not by inertia (ie by upbringing). OTOH, his previous religion -- Catholicism -- wouldn't be all that much more palatable to the Southern Baptist crowd, either. As they say in Poland: this is bad and that's no good :)

Posted by: exlibra on August 31, 2010 at 8:56 PM | PERMALINK

Fess - You're a double threat. A fool and an idiot.

Posted by: VAndal on August 31, 2010 at 10:30 PM | PERMALINK

The planet Kolob? Mormonism must be a test for the truest of true believers. Every aspect of it is worthy of an atrocious "B" movie.

But how exciting it is that some of the most gullible and critically thoughtless people in the country are being charmed by this upstart charismatic weirdo. A weirdo whose professed beliefs are diametrically opposed to the the other ego-maniacal blow hards whose claptrap has held sway for so long but which is now being stealthily challenged for precedence by this heretical poison masquerading as sincere patriotism and a longing for a better day.

Why, that claptrap sounds like the other claptrap. But the new guy isn't one of the chosen few. He's a renegade, a mavericky sort of charmer. And he's got a whole Faux network backing him up. Envy is a sin, don't forget that guys.

Evangelical sorts need to listen very, very carefully to this fellow. He has a message that they need to hear and he is absolutely the best person to give them that message. The chosen few need to realize, and certainly they must, that a g*dly message is a g*dly message, even if it comes from this really unexpected place, and really, the best thing to do is work with this new guy because g*d and country is what everybody is concerned about. And whatever way you get to that g*d and country place is a good way. Right guys? At least, that's the way they do it on the Planet Kolob.

Spell check doesn't know Kolob. Thank g*d for that.

Posted by: burro on August 31, 2010 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

I liked this typo: The movement is, after all, compromised almost entirely of evangelical Christians...

The values of the country are too often compromised by movements comprised mostly of evangelical folks.

Posted by: Bose on September 1, 2010 at 12:47 AM | PERMALINK

Well, thank you, Vandal. A fool AND and idiot? I might point out that name calling is pretty juvenile, but I can tell you're upset.

I'm sorry I touched a sore point somewhere, but I didn't make that stuff up about Kolob and the existence of more gods than the one that all other Christians recognize. And I didn't make up the parts about Jesus and his brother Michael and his ex-brother Adam.

The problem is that the Mormon religion was invented by Joseph Smith along about 1830. It is my belief that JS was a huckster plain and simple and today's Mormons are left with stuff that made more sense in 1830 than it does today. JS made a terrible mistake when he left the papyrus behind that he "translated" into the Book of Abraham. At the time he claimed it was a sacred text from the biblical Abraham, it's meaning revealed to him by god, but more recently it, and many others, have been deciphered, and guess what? It's an Egyptian funerary document. Oops. DNA technology has also a bummer as it shows the claims of Native Americans being descendants of the lost tribe of Israel just plain wrong. The internet has also been tough for Mormon beliefs.

I must add that the many Mormons who live in my area tend to be some of the nicest people around. Unfortunately, they are burdened by some very intense religious beliefs that if abandoned, leave them shunned by their families and barred from sharing eternal life with those they love. It's not like being brought up Methodist and deciding to be Baptist instead. They begin singing about that eternal family as little children:

Brightly

1. I have a family here on earth.
They are so good to me.
I want to share my life with them through all eternity.
2. While I am in my early years,
I'll prepare most carefully,
So I can marry in God's temple for eternity.
Chorus
Families can be together forever
Through Heav'nly Father's plan.
I always want to be with my own family,
And the Lord has shown me how I can.
The Lord has shown me how I can.


Posted by: Fess on September 1, 2010 at 1:03 AM | PERMALINK

The more Beck tries to position himself as a religious right leader for the future, the more these divisions will rise to the surface -- and grow more intense.

And I, for one, am absolutely salivating at the prospect of the American Taliban having a shootout with the Great Pretender to the Throne of the Prince of Peace. Were I not an agnostic, I would be, how do they say it, praying for them all.

Big time.

Posted by: Timpanist on September 1, 2010 at 7:51 AM | PERMALINK

I thought Xenu lived on Kolob.

Shows what I know.

Posted by: thalarctos on September 1, 2010 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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