Tuesday, August 31, 2010

God, the gospel, and Glenn Beck

This was an excellent article.

By Russell Moore

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.

Fox News commentator Glenn Beck, of course, is that Mormon at the center of all this. Beck isn't the problem. He's an entrepreneur, he's brilliant, and, hats off to him, he knows his market (see video news report). Latter-day Saints have every right to speak, with full religious liberty, in the public square. I'm quite willing to work with Mormons on various issues, as citizens working for the common good. What concerns me here is not what this says about Beck or the "Tea Party" or any other entertainment or political figure. What concerns me is about what this says about the Christian churches in the United States.

It's taken us a long time to get here, in this plummet from Francis Schaeffer to Glenn Beck. In order to be this gullible, American Christians have had to endure years of vacuous talk about undefined "revival" and "turning America back to God" that was less about anything uniquely Christian than about, at best, a generically theistic civil religion and, at worst, some partisan political movement.

Read the rest.


Christopher said...

I didn't even know Beck was Mormon until I heard it on NPR yesterday. Was that common knowledge?

Liberty said...

Relatively so, I guess. I've known it for awhile now, but it didn't really influence my political opinion of him, LOL- mostly because I'm of the opinion religion has no place in politics, but meh. ^.^

Anonymous said...

Let me see if I understand this:

Glen Beck claims to be a Christian. He is not a Christian, because he is a Mormon.

President Obama claims to be a Christian. He is a Christian, because he is not a Mormon.

I like the logic.

veronica elise said...

Lot's of christians are a bunch of lemmings. They don't even think things through.

suntzusays said...

I'm not sure that was the logic being used since nobody has claimed Obama was or wasn't a Mormon in order to prove or deny his supposed and claimed Christianity, and so that train of reasoning doesn't apply.

I think the Glenn Beck chain of thought there might be plausible (though I'm inclined to group Mormons as Christians, perhaps as a "radical" sect thereof, there are plenty of those laying around). But I don't see what it has to do with Obama or how that conclusion follows from the other. Lots of people claim to be Christian, particularly in politics, who may or may not be.

What difference does it actually make if we as observers think they are or not? Seems like it makes more sense to notice if we agree or not on political thoughts and philosophies than to presume that someone saying they are "Christian" is some sort of meaningful shorthand. I've seen lots of different policy choices result of that claim, far too many to take it as a useful schema for evaluating their merits.

Liberty said...

I think the point of the article was that, ordinarily, Christians from the more mainstream sects like Baptist, Lutheran, etc. would absolutely reject a Mormon trying to preach the Gospel to them. But they conveniently forget that part of Beck's theology when it's convenient.

It was also about how Christianity has lost flavor because its become so politicized. It isn't about soulwinning anymore, its about politics and how we have to "bring God back into America", however we'll accomplish that through laws. ^.^

As for the logical train you detailed Tragedy- I don't think Obama was mentioned at all. ^.^

Bard said...

OK...I typed out a big reply, but it was just too long. Here is the short version.

1. Russell Moore seems kinda angry...don't know that I have read anything else of his, so maybe 8/28 just struck a nerve with him.

2. We are not a Christian nation as far as the Constitution is concerned (although we have laws dictating things like marriage and what a church is.)

3. Beck chooses to follow the Mormon faith...as is his protected right...so?

4. Beck and FoxNews care about ratings and profit. This doesn't mean Beck will do anything to obtain them and everything he says is questionable (any more than the rest of us.)

5. Nature abhors a vacuum. Christians in America have largely left one when it comes to the Gospel, and it has been filled with progressive ideas.

Always thought provoking Liberty...thanks.

Teresa said...

The point is that there has been a war on religion in America for many years and Beck as well as others are willing or have been called to step to the plate and are saying that we need to get back to God or return to Godly values in America and I fully agree with that. We need to stop the secularization of America, reverse course, and get back to our Founding Father's values. Whether Obama is a Christian or not is not dependent on Beck being a Mormon or not. We have freedom of religion which in fact does have a place or a role in politics. We are not to merely be Christian on Sundays or to hide our Christian ethics somewhere away from society. That is not spreading the Gospel, like Jesus would have us do. That's like hiding the Truth of Jesus in a closet.

Liberty said...

Bard- thanks for the comment, no matter the length. :D

I know nothing about Russell Moore besides this article, but I found it was pretty good, so I passed it on. As to your third point- I agree. I think the point Mr. Moore was trying to make is this: most evangelical Christians (the main faction of Christianity that Beck seems to appeal to) denounce Mormons, generally at least, as near-infidels...until, of course, some suave political pundit comes along preaching a political gospel that appeals to their emotions. Once that happens, they get whole-heartedly behind him, infidel or not.

Teresa- The article never used the logical fallacy that since Beck is a Mormon, Obama must be a Muslim. I'm not sure where that line of reasoning came from, because I'm quite sure it wasn't in the article.

Did Christ ever command us to use the government to spread our Gospel? If so, would you please point to a chapter and verse on that? I don't recall ever reading that in the Bible.

suntzusays said...

@ Bard

5) Christians, so far as I can tell have not left a vacuum. The issue is more that "Christians" are not a unified political entity within the US. Some are conservative, some are fairly moderate to liberal, and some are progressive. These all seem to me (as an "ignorant" outside observer of theology and its intersection with politics) like they merely emphasize the practice of different aspects of the Christian traditions or faith (ie, that none practices politically what might be derived as the one and only true way to be a Christian politically).

The reason "progressive" policies and ideas have therefore advanced is largely that some Christians adhere to some of them to push them forward and not that they are not sufficiently opposed (by Christians or conservatives or any other group). In other words, Christians are participating as they see fit as individuals in accordance with their faith. You may (or may not) wish to argue that some of them have proceeded falsely in practice of their theological tradition to demand government powers, but this is true of both progressives and conservatives (and most moderates). It's not a simple matter of progressives somehow all being meddlesome atheists or some such.

If you must have somebody to beat them back a little, probably the best track record to spearhead it looks like libertarian economics from the federal deregulation of various industries and major tax reforms of the late 70s and early 80s, as well as pushes, so far only modestly successful, for school choice reforms, social security privatization, etc.

All of that has significantly softened the edges on parts of progressive economics to the point that we get people calling things "socialism" when they're actually what we already have going on here (which sometimes is indeed socialist, but it'd be nice if somebody admitted that when they accuse others of it).

suntzusays said...


I'm not sure how "freedom of religion" means that religion must or should have a place in politics (for determining public policy), but I also don't think that this is a limitation that use of religion must only be confined to, say, Sunday worship services either.

These two positions are not inconsistent. Individual voters and public officials/figures indeed could apply their faith or theological dogma toward what they feel public policy should be. But there are some limitations on that, ie, where it would needlessly infringe upon other people's basic protected rights...

or more in line with my thinking, those applications of religious dogma are likely disagreed upon in fact or importance by various Christian groups. So far as I'm concerned the "war on religion" is an internal war conducted mostly by the religious over how and where religion fits into, or alongside, a secular society of laws and it's been going on for a couple centuries now.

One interpretation of that, one which seems to be baked into the freedom of religion, is that these two spheres of religion and government should be separate to prevent both from becoming corrupted by the other (ie, to prevent the attempts to impose religion through law and to leave religion free to moderate discourse over social changes as a distinct institution).