Why is it that people on the left are so fond of setting up straw men to knock down? Is it just that they truly don’t understand, or is there an underlying agenda at work?
I speak this time of an article, recently published in USA Today’s “Faith and Reason” section entitled “Few believe Glenn Beck can be a religious leader, survey finds.” Under a picture of Glenn Beck, standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on 28 August 2010, the caption reads “Glenn Beck, you’re no Pat Robertson.”
Wow. American journalism at its finest. My question to USA Today’s Faith and Reason editor; “when did he ever say he was?”
The article revolves around a survey taken by the Public Religion Research Institute, in partnership with Religion News Service.
The Public Religion Research Institute bills itself as a "non-profit, nonpartisan research and consulting firm specializing in work at the intersection of religion, values, and public life". It’s CEO and Founder, Dr. Robert P. Jones is noted as “being a leading scholar in both the academy (sic) and public policy circles.” According to his bio on the website, “he is the author two academic books (sic), “Progressive & Religious: How Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist Leaders are Moving Beyond the Culture Wars and Transforming American Public Life”, and “Liberalism’s Troubled Search for Equality.” He is the author of “numerous peer-review (sic) articles on religion and public policy”.
Religion News Service (RNS) bills itself as “The only secular news and photo service devoted to unbiased coverage of religion and ethics—exclusively.” And it is easy to see, from looking at their website, that they are “unbiased.” Halfway down the page I found, under Friday’s Roundup (Friday, October 08, 2010) the following blurb: “Embattled fundamentalist Mormons (bolded in original article) asked a federal judge for a restraining order to keep the feds from selling off parts of their land.”
The article linked is in the Salt Lake Tribune, and refers to the FLDS church; the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This church is not affiliated in any way with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, colloquially known as “The Mormon Church.” They are an apostate church, and are not “Mormons.” If a church were to label themselves as the “Fundamentalist Roman Catholic Church”, would one then refer to them as “Fundamentalist Catholics?” I think not. And it’s not as if the LDS Church has not made that distinction. The Churchs' official style guide, published on Church websites and sent to news organizations world-wide, clearly states this. I guess the Religion News Service didn’t get the memo. Surely there was no intended “bias” in their choice of wording…
But I digress.
The article in “Faith and Reason” revolves around an RNS article dated 16 September, by Nicole Neroulais entitled “Poll: Glenn Beck the wrong leader to head religious movement.” This article is based on a survey done by a PRRI/RNS Religion News Poll that found that “fewer than one in five Americans (17 percent) believe Beck is the right person to helm a religious movement…half of respondents say he’s the wrong person; the rest don’t know or declined to answer.”
The rest of the article seems devoted ensuring that people who might be interested in following Beck’s “religious movement” are aware that Beck is a Mormon. It notes that among the population at large, Mormons are not generally regarded favorably, and that “as a rule…it’s likely that if more people found out Glenn Beck’s religious background, that would inhibit them following him.”
As an attempt to defuse the no-doubt threatening spectacle of 300,000+ people turning out to a rally headed by a talk show host, in an election year, with the aim of turning back the “gains” and future agenda of the current progressive administration, this series of articles and the poll it was based on represent a two-pronged attack on Glenn Beck and followers. First, accuse him of attempting to start a religious movement, and second, link him firmly with the “Mormon Church” in the public mind, making sure to note that “Mormons have beliefs different from their own.”
I should note here that nowhere in the article is the term “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” used; only the term “Mormon” which seems to be uttered as frequently as humanly possible. Of course, as I have noted above, Religion News doesn’t seem to have received the memo on that.
This two-prong offensive has twin objectives. First, mobilize those who fear conservative religious movements in the U.S., those on the left particularly, who fear that such movements are an attempt to strip them of their “rights”. That would include those who are pro-choice, feminists, members of the GLBT movement, and others. Second, characterize this as an attempt by Beck to found a religious movement in an attempt to strip away from Glenn’s influence those who are unaware that Beck is Mormon and for whom that makes a difference.
It might work for some. I am sure that there will be those on the left who will rally to stop “the religious right” from “stripping away the gains they have made.” For these folks, the fact that Glenn is Mormon will not matter a hill of beans. They don’t care about Glenn’s “screwy beliefs”, because they think all conservative Christians are equally “screwy.”
There will undoubtedly be those on the right who will be swayed as well. One only has to look at Mitt Romney’s run for the presidency in 2008 to see where many in this country stand on Mormons. I firmly believe that had Romney been Southern Baptist or even Episcopalian (as most of our presidents have been), that he would have been the Republican candidate in 2008. It is very hard to overcome polling data that states 35% of Americans would be unwilling to vote for a Mormon for president under any circumstances. I also believe he still would have lost – it would have taken divine intervention for a Republican to have won that race.
Of course, one only has to listen to Glenn Beck on the radio and/or watch him on TV to understand that Glenn is not attempting to hang out his shingle as America’s latest TV evangelist. Glenn is not attempting to found a religious movement; what he is trying to do is more basic than that.
Glenn is attempting to found a restoration movement; a restoration of basic understanding of what America is and why it was founded as it was; a basic understanding of American history and American exceptionalism. And an understanding of how many of the founding principles have been warped, distorted, and forgotten in the 234 years since the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Basic truths, once taught in our nation’s schools, which we no longer learn. The actual words of the founders, not words that Progressive scholars claim the founders said.
The key to this is religion; a simple belief in God, based on the Holy Bible and Christianity because that was the predominate faith of those who founded this country, but not restricted to any particular denomination. Glenn doesn’t espouse any particular brand of Christianity. He doesn’t even limit his call to return to God to Christians. There were Jews, Muslims, and Native American Shamans there with him on that stage on 28 August.
Glenn’s plea is simply for America to turn its face back to God. Once we do that we can recover the basic morality, decency, and common sense that still resides within most of us, and that used to guide this nation. Once we do that, we can work out the rest.
He is not trying to become a religious leader. He is not trying to be the new Pat Robertson. He can’t do that and be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is free to do so if he likes; Mormons believe in free will. However, were he to do that, he would be excommunicated from the Church. One of the oddities of our faith is that we have no paid ministry; we are a lay church. Members within the congregation are called to various positions where they serve without pay. Our bishop, for example, has his own air conditioning repair company; he doesn’t receive a dime from the Church for the hours of service he performs every week. In keeping with the early days of Christianity, we do not believe that one should receive pay for such services. Were Beck to do so, he would be guilty of what we term “priest craft.” As you might imagine, such a belief does not endear us to ministers of other branches of Christianity.
I know that there is some confusion there within the Evangelical community concerning Glenn and how “rooted” he is in his faith. I wrote about this a bit in my article “Common Cause”. Some in the evangelical community have tried to salve their conscience, and their standing with other evangelicals who are incensed that they would embrace a Mormon, by rationalizing that while Glenn Beck claims to be a Mormon, he really isn’t.
Well, for what it’s worth, it is my opinion from watching him that he is, at least at this time, quite rooted. Watching Glenn on TV is at times to me just like being in Sunday School in church. And oddly enough, the things Evangelicals key in on with such amazement are the same things I hear every Sunday. It’s funny; they say that what’s important to God is what is in men’s hearts, but what really seems to be important to them is how closely others hew to their particular religious doctrines; doctrines put in place not by the Holy Scriptures, but by men, hundreds of years after the death of Christ.
But I digress again.
That is not to say that Glenn may not fall; he would not be the first to succumb to the temptations of wealth, power, and the accolades of the masses. But for now, I would say that what you see before you is sincere. It is real. It is not an act. And it is not an attempt by Glenn Beck to become a “religious leader.”
He is also not trying to convert the country to Mormonism. Although I would suppose that if some are converted as a result of his example, he would feel good about that; it is not his goal. I have heard him refer, rather obliquely, to “his church,” but not to the Church specifically. He is not pushing LDS theology. His references to Christianity are non-sectarian, and he has taken great pains to ensure this; he has counseled with members of the Evangelical community, for example, members who have spoken out against him and the Church, to ensure that what he says on topics of religion is acceptable to all. In fact, none other than Richard Land is asserted to have stated that, referring to a particular episode of the Glenn Beck show that “he had never expected to hear the Gospel so clear on secular television.”
Perhaps the Evangelicals are just embarrassed that it seems to have taken a Mormon to call the nation back unto God?
John Adams is quoted as saying, “Our constitution is only fit for a moral and religious people. It is wholly unsuited to the governance of any other kind.” Events today are proving that true. The Progressives certainly believe that. It’s why they refer to the constitution as a “living breathing document” that means whatever they want it to say. It’s also why they ignore it at every opportunity when they are unable to twist it to their will.
A moral and just society requires a much smaller set of laws to govern than one based on hedonism and self-indulgence. Ultimately, the latter is ungovernable, except at the barrel of a gun. The former type of society is a society where free will can prevail, since the people in such a society are much more self-regulating. The latter type of society typically devolves into despotism and tyranny.
We were based on the former; a small government, liberal democracy, designed for maximum freedom for the people; something new in the world. A nation based on “a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.”
This is the purpose of Glenn’s “movement”; for we Americans to remember where we came from, why we are here, and why we don’t want to go where the current administration is taking us.