Glenn Beck: Restoring Jack Squat

I am continuously astounded that many on the far right – which has a large contingent of fundamentalist Christians – have been more than willing to overlook Glenn Beck’s Mormonism because they like his brand of low-brow, popcorn-density “journalism.”  I think that his particular blend of civil religion – one that confuses any reference to “God” to an endorsement of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and cannot distinguish enlightenment Deism from orthodox Christianity – is so vague than many of these Christians on the right honestly can’t tell he’s coming from a different place from them theologically.

A friend of mine pointed me to an article by Dan Webster over at Episcopal Cafe’ that makes some interesting connections between Beck’s Mormon faith and his political program:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormon Church, believes Christianity fell into apostasy when the original apostles died. Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon Church, believes he was called by God to restore the gospel that Jesus taught but had been radically changed by second generation Christians and those who came after.

So when Beck says America has been “wandering in darkness” and that he is here to help lead the country back to God he is emulating the founder of his religion. He wants to restore America’s greatness just like his church believes it is called to establish the “restored gospel.”

I don’t agree with Webster on all points, but he makes some interesting arguments that I have not seen elsewhere.  Webster also points out that, while Beck is vague on his own theological proclivities, he isn’t shy about attacking the details of others’ faith.

He’s expressed discomfort with Obama’s brand of Christianity (hey, props for calling Obama Christian!) due to its affinities with liberation theology, which he calls “socialist.”  And to an extent, he’s right.  Where he is wrong is finding any expressions of a strong faith in Obama’s policies.  It may be there, to the President, at least.  But Obama’s not really talking about it; whether because it’s not there, or he’s trying to distance himself from Bush, his outspoken evangelical predecessor, is not really possible to know.  Beck has made too much hay out of something he knows little about.

In his piece, Webster argues that Beck is channeling Joseph Smith moreso than Martin Luther King, Jr.  And so far as that comparison goes, he’s spot on.  But Smith wasn’t really a restorationist; he wasn’t restoring an existing church, he was making a new one.  The LDS church is a creation of his own mind, which I think makes him equal parts huckster and genius.

Like Smith, Beck isn’t really trying to restore anything so much as create something that never existed and in the process garner a great deal of attention, wives, money, and power: a pristine, just, and prosperous America that is simultaneously the sole superpower and completely God-fearing (though,significantly, the question ‘whose God?’ is never asked).

I think that makes Glenn Beck more like the Pied Piper of legend.  A man playing a flute, making pleasant noises, leading us away like children…on a journey to nowhere.

5 thoughts on “Glenn Beck: Restoring Jack Squat”

  1. This question that you ask–what is Beck creating?–is a very pertinent one for me. I thought that Saturday’s festivities would help answer the question, but they did not.

    Thanks for the thoughts on his religious message–whatever it may be!

  2. I wish I had watched it, because when I hear a summary I find it hard to disagree. America=great, Christianity=great, but Glenn Beck=populist moron. I am just thrilled that he didn’t do anything to upset the notoriously fragile psyche of the Independent voter, because unfortunately the Right needs them. I had never really thought of Beck’s Mormonism, but it is interesting, as you pointed out Drew. I mean, ostensibly these white racist tea-partiers are the same people who won’t vote for Mitt Romney (who I believe would be a great candidate if it weren’t for his Mormonism), yet the follow Beck like he is the pied piper (love that illustration by the way). I think his ignorance or his blatant disregard of the deism of the Founders causes him to miss one reason we have so much freedom in this Country. I mean, if the founders had been such great men of God in the narrow Beck sense, wouldn’t they have instituted some form of Puritan Sharia law? I mean, as far as I can tell the Founders were all about glorifying God, but also about the basic human right to worship (or not worship) as the individual sees fit. Personally, I am certainly glad that I am not forced to go to Church x, because I attribute the strength of my faith today to the fact that I have tried Church x,y and z.

    On a semi-unrelated note, and certainly not trying to be an elitist, are these the people that the Conservative movement has to hitch the wagon to? I am all for the Tea Party at its core, but I almost don’t want to be associated if this is the best they can do. I know, I kinda sound like the main-stream media, but …

  3. At least here, we can find common ground. I can’t stand Glenn Beck, but probably for different reasons than many.

    1. He is smart (smarter than he looks at least) and is able to dig to the bottom of things to find out where people and agendas have their roots, and how that plays out in the policies and programs we find ourselves bound under.

    2. He’s a mormon. So how can he be so (point number 1), yet not see the glaring, gaping holes in Mormonism and how utterly ridiculous it is, is beyond me.

    3. He’s all about setting himself up as the modern day Paul Revere. Somehow this plays into his mormon eschatology I suspect, but fame has an intoxicating affect on almost everyone it touches. Himself included. He’s got that ‘spotlight fever’, and whether its good news or bad news, he doesn’t care as long as he’s got an audience to vent too.

  4. I’m not sure he’s smart. He’s charismatic, but I don’t know that he’s intelligent. Hitler gave good speeches and lots of people liked to watch him talk, but I don’t think he was actually smart.

    It may be that the difficult Romney is currently having is evidence that the Christian right is not overlooking Mormonism as much as I thought when I wrote this last year.

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