glenn beck: the new mormon voice of evangelical christianity

August 31, 2010

There was a little get together this weekend on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  Attendance reports vary from 87,000 (CBS news) to over half a million (Sky News) largely conservative (including many evangelical Christians) gathered for… um… a non-political, pro-conservative, limited government, support-the-troops, uh… revival meeting.

I’ll put my cards on the table.  More and more, Glenn Beck is giving me the weebers.  And, as a conservative (socially, economically, politically), I actually agree with him on many issues.  But still… weebers.

On the uncomfortability scale, I think “the weebers” fall three steps past the jibbilies, two degrees beyond the heebie-jeebies, a full stride beyond the willies, but not quite all the way to “freaked out.”   This tension is growing in me the more I listen to Mr. Beck.  A rising score on the creep-out scale that has nothing to do with his political views – but much to do with his rising influence as a leader of evangelical Christians.

That’s right.  A mormon calling evangelicals to revival.  What?

“Something beyond imagination is happening. Something that is beyond man is happening,” Beck said to the crowd on Saturday from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.  “America today begins to turn back to God.”  And later, “For too long, this country has wandered in the darkness…”  What does he mean by darkness… the Biblical variety?  With the earnesty of a gospel revival tent preacher Beck urged the crowd to “Realize that He is our king. He is the one who guides and directs our life and protects us.”

He.  Him.  “He” is our king.  Even the term “God” can remain a little nebulous, right?  I mean, how many of us stand shoulder to shoulder with complete strangers and sing “God Bless America” during the 7th inning stretch at our local ball park?  Surely at least of few of the assembled 53,000 some other people at the last Twins game I attended were Mormons, or Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Muslim, or agnostic.  There’s no way no how we were all sold-out Christ followers.  America has made a deal with each other… the “God” in “God Bless America” can remain user-friendly and non-threatening to people of many faiths because we recognize our Judeo-Christian roots while affirming religious freedom.  “In God we trust.”  Yes we do.  But that means something very different to ME than it does to Mr. Beck.

His Mormon faith believes in a different Jesus.  Not the one and only Son of God, Savior of the world.  Not the Jesus of authentic Christian faith.  And yet, Glenn Beck’s rhetoric is increasingly becoming more and more a blend of spiritual guidance and political ideology.  He frequently uses the name of Jesus Christ, as if he is just one of the evangelicals who rally with him.  He talks about “The Lord,” a name reserved only for the One true King of Kings, as someone that he knows personally and follows with devotion.  And I hear a growing boldness in his faith-talk.  More and more he challenges believers to return to God, listen to the Lord, do His will… which Glenn has figured out and is sharing with a growing audience on the radio, television, and various live venues across the country.

My hypothesis:  Glenn Beck continues to increase in boldness as a “spiritual advisor” to the masses because evangelicals have not pressed back, not urged their fellow Christians to be cautious.  Many evangelicals seem to be comfortable with Beck’s increasing spiritual language, because he is influential, and his conservative principles are on an uptick on the political clout meter.  Many Christians seem happy to ride the band wagon, driven by a Mormon spiritual advisor, because they like the music the band is playing.

My word to fellow brothers and sisters in Christ:  DANGER.  DANGER.  DANGER.

When people accuse Christianity of being exclusive – of claiming to be the ONLY path to God – my response is always the same: exactly.  To be more specific, JESUS is the only Way.  The only Savior.  The only Lord.  The only King of Kings.  Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  This is core evangelical Christian doctrine.  While churches may disagree on whether to use wine or grape juice during Communion, or when is the appropriate time to baptize someone, evangelicals agree on this: we believe in the exclusivity of Jesus, the ONE and ONLY.

I’m not trying to pig pile Glenn Beck in the avalache of negative press and hate that seems to be pouring down on him right now.  I think he’s brilliant, and a smart marketer of conservative ideas.  And I don’t have any hatered for Mormons, either.  As far as I can tell, most Mormons are family-loving, well-meaning, kind-hearted good citizens.  I have had good friends in the Mormon faith.  We simply believe different things about who Jesus is, and in a spiritual sense, that makes all the difference in the world.

As an evangelical Christian, I want to be led by the Holy Spirit, and encouraged in the Truth by the Word of God and by others who know the Word and hear the Lord’s voice.  Glenn Beck claims to know and hear the Lord’s voice.  He has a HUGE platform, and for some reason, scads of evangelicals lean in to hear his intepretation of what the Lord’s will is for us.  He may be hearing some inner voice, some guiding spirit, something “bigger than man” may be going on here.  But without Jesus, he can have no indwelling Holy Spirit.  So if it is not God’s voice Glenn Beck is hearing, who is he listening to… and why are evangelicals so quick to follow?

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glenn beck: the new mormon voice of evangelical christianity by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

 [NOTE:  For another excellent post about Glenn Beck’s influence on evangelicals, click here for a great piece from RELEVANT.]

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Psalm 24:7 & Luke 10:42 >> Like David, and Mary, I'm in pursuit of my one thing. I'm the Pastor at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Montgomery, IL. Pastor, teacher, writer, communicator, designer, and drummer. I definitely got the better deal in my marriage to Amy. And I couldn't be any more proud of my five amazing boys. Deeply grateful.

20 responses to glenn beck: the new mormon voice of evangelical christianity

  1. As I recall, Focus on the Family pulled an interview with him based on pushback from their base regarding his faith – but of course, that’s the exception, not the rule. They didn’t feel he was qualified to speak about evangelical Christian matters as a result

    • I hadn’t heard that Russ. But you’re right… that’s the exception. Glenn Beck is right about a lot of things, but his “spiritual leader” role is not something Christians should muck around with.

  2. but, of course, this is all part of that danger that is to be expected when the Faith wraps itself in nationalism and Party devotion and claims to not actually serve two masters, yet preach a Republican Jesus that bears no resemblance to the one who’s voice I’ve heard in the Gospels

  3. I’m with ya Josh!

    Didn’t the Israelites try mingling their God with the other gods of their land a time or two? As I recall, it didn’t work out too well for them.

    • Hey brother Scott. Thanks for checking in. You’re right – ended in disaster. While I believe my faith has A LOT to do with my political proclivities, I want to keep the lines clear… Just because I may agree with someone’s point of view (as is often the case with Mr. Beck), that doesn’t mean their voice has any kind of spiritual authority. I’m not surprised that conservatives (and many evangelicals) are flocking to his shows, and carryting the banner for conservative ideology – he’s a great marketer, and he’s filling a leadership gap, I believe. But the God-talk concerns me. Praying that the evangelical community listens intently for the voice of the one true God, lest we become lemmings…

  4. Right on the money, Josh.

  5. Thanks, Josh. Prayed for you yesterday. Here’s what’s up w GB: Evangelicals aren’t. But the overtures of the left give evangelicals the heebie jeebies. So, given pause, evs either follow their non-Christocentric thelogy and become Jim Wallis fans, or they flock to the guy addressing their heebie jeebies. Enter GB, stage right (pun intended). The problem is that the bulk of evangelicals do not ground their beliefs on God’s Word, but their heebie jeebies. Thus, same sex sin offends, but heterosexual sin is a “pastor better not step on any toes” subject in many congregations. What I have just described is the difference between conviction and bigotry. And since the latter is a more available commodity than the former, what you rightly observe is the inconsistency of bigotry: “That just ain’t right! Though I can’t for the life of me tell you why.” GB is right, but for many of the wrong reasons. (I’m guessing there are some LDS theologians cringing at him, too.) As an AFLC church historian who calls you Sonny once told me: “Consistency, Thou art a rare jewel.” Thanks for the post.

  6. Thank you for your warnings. A lot of evangelicals don’t seem to make much of an effort to be Bereans these days (Acts 17:11).

    • “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (Acts 17:11)

      Thanks David. It’s true – we all ought to constantly return to the Word, to examine whether the message we are taking in aligns with God’s message. When Glenn Beck claims to be doing “The Lord’s will” or “The Lord’s work,” or when he exhorts us on to spiritual revival, we ought to examine very closely whether or not his message lines up with Scripture. And since the Mormon Jesus story doesn’t square with God’s Word, we must discount Mr. Beck as any kind of spiritual leader. He may well be a powerful political leader, or a social change agent – and God can even use Glenn to advance His kingdom, if God so chooses. But the exampole in Act 17:11 is a good plumb line. Thanks so much for your input brother!

  7. Josh, I’m not sure what to say here. I listen to Beck on occasion and find that I usually agree with him. I personally think it is dangerous to follow any man too closely including most evangelical ministers. You follow them only as far as their words agree with The Word. I am wondering if there may not be something more going on here. Sometimes I believe people come to the Lord in spite of their churches and the Sunday sermons. The Church of the Laodiceans as described in Revelation chapter three was a miserable excuse for a church that had everything wrong with it including blindness to its own pathetic apathy and apostasy. Yet, even here we find God knocking on the church’s door seeking those inside to let him in individually. If Mr. Beck does not accept the deity of Jesus and rely upon his sacrifice for his sins he is a lost man. Truly, the Holy Spirit does not indwell such an individual. Yet, Abraham was called out of idolatry. The Apostle Paul was called out of the ritualistic works based sect of the Pharisees. Perhaps Mr. Beck is a chosen vessel of God, he is in the process of being called, and he is a work in progress. As we have privately spoken, also sometimes the label we carry does not always accurately describe our personal faith due to the range of beliefs within a group. Also,who knows what teaching he may have heard from a mother or grandmother who may have been a true believer when he was a child? I think to fairly judge this matter one would need to sit down with Mr. Beck one on one and ask his personal thoughts on doctrinal issues. I think the one thing we can all agree on is that both Mr. Beck and our nation could probably use some extra prayers.

    • Hi Paul. Thanks, as always, for your insight on this.

      I understand what you are saying here… IS it possible that God could be using Glenn Beck to point people back to Himself? Of course, that is possible.

      AND, I agree that without a face-to-face discussion it is impossible to really know what is in the heart of Glenn Beck.

      However, he is a public figure with a public faith. He openly identifieds himself with the Mormon faith. That doesn’t make him evil, or even a bad guy, per se, but you cannot identify yourself publically with a false religion and also have a living faith in Jesus Christ as the one and only Lord and Savior – the ONLY solution to the problem of sin seperating us from God – unless you have a VERY loose understanding of your own religious ideology. Basic Mormon doctrine runs COUNTER to basic Christian doctrine. The two cannot intermix. Glenn can’t be a little bit Mormon and in his heart be a closet Christian. We are to love the Lord with all our HEART and SOUL and MIND… so in order for him to be truly a Christian, he would have to be practicing a faith life outside of the Mormon religion, and that would make him a liar. Which I don’t think he is.

      So, I’m pretty skeptical. But ultimately it is God’s role to judge his soul. I can only take his words at face value, watch how he lives, and make a determination. All of the above lead me to urge CAUTION.

      Thanks Paul. God bless always. 🙂

  8. I too have been shocked that evangelicals have embraced Glen Beck the way they have. I sorta thought maybe they didn’t know or were just ignoring the fact that he was Mormon. It should make Mitt Romney feel a lot better about his chances of being elected president, though.

    • Hey friend. Yeah, the blind side of evangelicals has been a little disconcerting with Mr. Beck. I’m not sure if this will translate well to Mitt. There seems to be an inexplicable double standard. Hmmm…

      • Yeah, I remember when I was in high school we had a lesson over several weeks in youth group where we watched this multi-part video series called (I think) “The Mormon Puzzle” that described the beliefs of the Mormon church, characterized them as distinctly non-Christian, and gave advice about the best way to witness to them. Not to mention, we borrowed this video series from the Baptist church in town so clearly their youth group had already watched it too. Since then, I’ve often wondered (assuming the types of things I learned in youth are the typical belief that evangelicals hold about Mormons) how any Mormon political candidate (who would almost certainly be Republican) would get anywhere with other conservative Christian voters. Which typically accomplishes good things for Democratic candidates, like splitting conservative votes between multiple Republican candidates. And then Glen Beck goes and blows my whole theory.

  9. hey Josh-
    First, let me say I love your blog. It’s always an interesting read when I need a break from work during the day and I appreciate your well thought out writings.

    I have to admit, however, I’m a little confused by this one. From what I’ve seen on your posts one of your most important beliefs is promoting tolerance and that Christians of all denominations should treat everyone with the love and compassion expressed in the bible. Yet the message in this post seems to be that we (as Christians) shouldn’t listen to Glenn Beck because he is a Mormon. I certainly don’t believe in everything the Mormon church stands for, and I’m by no means an expert in the Mormon religion but I though they do believe that Jesus Christ is the only Son of God. We may disagree with some of their other basic tenants, just as protestants disagree with Catholics on a number of issues, but we all still believe in the underlying principle of Jesus Christ being the only Son of God. So how does that then lead you to say that Mormonism is a “false faith”? Does that mean Catholics or any other Christians who might not classify themselves as Evangelicals believe in a false faith as well?

    I do agree with some of your other posts that too often in today’s society religion has become a matter of convenience for people who look to God only when they feel it’s necessary. How many times have we heard people say that they believe in Jesus, but they just don’t like organized religion? I think this is a big problem in our society and it’s why I would be happy to have these people “find” a church or school of thought that allows them to become more religious and follow Jesus’ teachings more closely.

    Sorry for the length of this response, I didn’t start out for it to be that way, it just sort of took on a life of it’s own!!

    • Jake! Thanks for reading and for the encouragement. I appreciate it much.

      I understand your confusion. Let me clarify a few things…

      First, I’m not saying no one should listen to Glenn Beck simply because he is a Mormon. I love to listen to Dennis Prager, for example, and he’s Jewish. There is wisdom to be found in all kinds of people, and truth is truth… meaning, if I say the sky looks blue and The Pope says the sky looks blue, and Christopher Hitchens says the sky looks blue… we are all saying something true. Our philosophy or religious affiliation doesn’t make it any LESS true when Chris the atheist says it. Right? So, Glenn Beck’s Mormonism, per se, doesn’t necessarily disqualify him from my listening list.

      What I am uncomfortable with – and that’s putting it mildly – is Glenn Beck’s increasingly bold “spiritual leader” talk. He throws around phrases that indicate he believes he is doing the “will of the Lord,” and that he speaks for God and is encouraging people to do His will. He SAYS the name Jesus, but his belief is very different than mine. My caution is to listen critically, and be very careful not to confuse his Mormon “word from the Lord” with the authority of the ACTUAL Word of God, given to us in the Bible.

      Now, to briefly clarify the difference between my calls to the church for unity around the core doctrines of the Christian faith, and my stiff-arming of Mormonism, it is important for you to understand that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a cult. It is NOT in any way a branch of the Christian church, like Baptists or Lutherans or Methodists. Nope. Mormons are often wonderful people, productive citizens, kind to their neighbors, and raising good kids in strong families. I’m not saying they are “bad” people – any more than you and I are sinful people – in the way that EVERY soul on the planet is born corrupted by sin. But they tend to be “good people” all the same. Even so, Mormonism is a false religion that diverges from Christianity in several KEY ways.

      Christian core doctrine has remained grounded in the Word of God and been basically unchanging for 2000+ years. Cults change their core doctrine often – when it becomes necessary to do so. There have been about 4,000 changes to the Book of Mormon since it was first published in 1830, and some BIG ones to boot. They have changed their stance on Polygamy, for one. And they now support the religious equality of African Americans, which required a huge change in their doctrinal positions.

      Mormonism is poly-theistic (many gods) and Christianity is monotheistic (ONE God). They believe God the Father was once a man who *progressed* to God-hood. We believe God is the unchanging “I AM.” They believe the Trinity is actually three separate gods… we believe in the three-in-ONE. They also believe that we, as humans, can progress to God-hood status. This is the FIRST LIE from the Garden of Eden, when the serpent told Eve, “You can be like God…” All of the sin of the world followed that lie and it’s line of reasoning. It is the CORE poison of the human soul.

      Mormons believe Jesus is the child of God the Father and a heavenly Mother, and that he was born incomplete and had to *progress* to God-hood status in the spiritual realm. They deny the incarnation of Jesus in the womb of the virgin Mary by the Holy. Jesus’ unchanging nature as God and His condescension and virgin birth are foundation truths Christianity is built upon. While Mormons DO believe that Jesus is God’s only Son, their understanding of what that means and the very nature of God and Jesus as our Savior is a mess – and dangerous, theologically.

      Mormon’s see Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden as a noble act, enabling man to become mortal – a key step forward in the process of attaining deity status. They believe that Jesus atonement basically grants everyone salvation and immortality, whether we believe in Him or not. There are many, many other important differences, as well.

      Sorry for the novel here, but this stuff is important. Mormons market themselves as another Christian option. But it is not at all Christian. We have no reason, of course, to treat Mormons with disrespect, OR to disregard everything they say simply because of the religion. However, I WILL disregard anything they say with “the authority of the Lord” behind it. Glenn Beck’s Jesus is NOT my Jesus. Therefore, when He speaks about the “will of God,” I know he’s not listening to the same voice of God that I am. Therefore… I turn him off.

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