August 2010

Glenn Beck's Religious Activism Comes Full Circle

Yesterday I wrote a post about how some Religious Right activists have been growing alarmed by Glenn Beck's subtle transformation from Tea Party leader to religious leader because Beck is a Mormon, citing a recent radio program by Brannon Howse, president and founder of Worldview Weekend, which focused on how Beck has started merging Mormon doctrine with his lessons on American history.

As Julie Ingersoll explained, Howse brought Ed Decker, a former Mormon, on to his program last week to explain the significance behind the theories Beck was promoting on his August 18 show about the history of Native Americans:

[O]n his show on Wednesday, Beck discussed an obscure archeological find, the Bat Creek Stone, that Beck believes has been hidden from the public by the Smithsonian Institution and others because it is evidence of ties between ancient Israel and Native Americans -- which, although Beck did not say this explicitly, would also be evidence for claims (albeit recently disputed within the LDS Church) made in the Book of Mormon. Howse, on his radio show, said he was “stunned” to hear Beck “laying down Mormon teaching” and “when [Beck] started talking about the Bat Creek Stone. . . . I didn’t stay with it, it was just too weird.” (While Howse presented no evidence that Mormons have used the Bat Creek Stone to promote such a view, Beck's use of it was characteristically wacky, as the theory he promoted has long been discredited by archeologists) ... Howse’s guest was Ed Decker, a former Mormon whose apologetics ministry, Saints Alive, focuses on demonstrating the ways in which Mormonism departs from orthodox Christianity. And together they spent nearly an hour denouncing Beck and skewering Mormonism. They even read and ridiculed comments from people on Beck’s website, who indicated that they were Mormon. Decker said Beck has been “using terminology that Mormons manipulate. . . terms that have double meanings . . . and that now he’s getting into things right out of the Book of Mormonism itself.”

Normally, when Beck goes off trying to expose these sorts of conspiracies, most of us are inclined to simply tune him out.  But in this case, that would be a mistake because if you know anything about the importance of Native Americans in Mormon theology, it is blatantly obvious that Beck is now subtly incorporating his religious beliefs into his grand theory of America history:

As Richard and Joan Ostling explain in their book "Mormon America: The Power and the Promise," this unique belief about Native America history is central to the Mormon faith:

The Book of Mormon tells of two ancient seaborne migrations from the Holy Land to the Americas, by Hebrew peoples who are assumed to be ancestors of Native Americans. The older migration, by the Jaredites, occurred after the Tower of Babel incident around 2200 BC, and the later one around 600 BC, just before the Babylonian captivity of the Israelites. In the second, more detailed narrative, Lehi, a descendant of the biblical patriarch Joseph, builds a ship. Guided by a compass, he sails by way of the Indian and Pacific Oceans to the Americans, landing possibly in Central America. Two of Lehi's sons become wicked and rebellious, so God curses them with dark skin. Many American Indians, traditionally called "Lamanites, are supposed to have descended from them. Nephites are the descendants of Lehi's faithful sons.

Ostling made the same point in the PBS documentary "The Mormons":

RICHARD OSTLING: Mormonism teaches that ancient Israelites came to the New World and created scriptures, which we have today as the Book of Mormon, thus Israelites are ancestors of Native Americans. There's a whole story, a very elaborate story of great cities being built. But non-Mormons - and I guess we'd say Mormon skeptics - who have studied these matters do not see evidence. They don't see the DNA that would support the Israelite theory. They don't see evidence of Hebrew language in the New World. They don't see the archeological sites that would show these grand cities that are described.

MICHAEL COE, Archaeologist: According to a lot of Mormon archeologists, their job is to find that this is a true story, that all these things actually existed in this place that is described in the Book of Mormon, which in this case, would have to be in Guatemala and the neighboring Mexican state of Chiapas. And this is what they've been after for 50 years. They've excavated all kinds of sites, and unfortunately, they've never found anything that would back it up.

Clearly, this theory is the foundational premise upon which the Book of Mormon is based and, as Decker explained to Howse, Beck's discussion of the Bat Creek Stone and the "real" history of Native Americans is designed to bolster the idea that "the Jews came to America before Columbus [because] this is the basis of the Book of Mormon ... he's saying that the Smithsonian and many of the scientific agencies of America have lied to the America people and hidden facts from them that prove that the Jews were here before Columbus":

For years now, Beck has been a hero to the Religious Right, but you have to wonder how much longer that will last now that Beck no longer views himself simply as a conservative leader, but as a religous leader and is even using his program to promote Mormon doctrine as American history. 

Update: In the interest of fairness, I want to call attention to this Joanna Brooks piece in which she argues that the role of Native Americans it not, in fact, a "foundational premise" of the Book of Mormon:

If anything, Mormon leaders have been slowly but steadily deemphasizing Native Americans over the last three decades, abandoning the grand discourse once used in the 1970s by Church leaders like Spencer Kimball to describe even contemporary Native peoples as Book of Mormon “Lamanites” with a special history and destiny. That deemphasis has led to mixed feelings and even lasting hurt among some Native peoples, as the recent death of once-prominent Navajo Mormon George P. Lee, who had served as a high-ranking Church leader but was later excommunicated, reminds us.

Ask a 21st-century Mormon what the foundational premise of the Book of Mormon is, and he or she will tell you that they believe the book is scripture because they read it and prayed about it and find reason for hope and deeper faith in its pages. As it is for most contemporary people of faith, personal spiritual experience is the foundational premise of contemporary Mormonism.

My point wasn't that the history of the Native Americas is "foundational" to the beliefs of 21st-century Mormons, but that it was "foundational" to Joseph Smith's own understanding of the Book of Mormon; as Richard Lyman Bushman wrote in "Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling": 

The efforts to situate the Book of Mormon in history, whether ancient or modern, run up against baffling complexities. The Book of Mormon resists conventional analysis, whether sympathetic or critical. Early Mormons themselves had trouble grasping the book's nature. When required to offer a brief summary, they often called it a history of the Indians. Samuel Smith, Joseph's brother, on a tour to win followers in 1830, tried to sell the book as a "history of the origins of the Indians." Joseph himself wrote a newspaper editor in 1833 that "the Book of Mormon is a record of the forefathers of our western Tribes of Indians."

What Rush Limbaugh and Peter LaBarbera Have In Common

Last week we posted a photo of Ken Hutcherson officiating Rush Limbaugh's fourth marriage along with a quote from a recent Hutcherson column in WorldNetDaily in which he warned that God was going to unleash his judgment upon this nation unless we banned the promotion of homosexuality.

That sort of language is music to the ears of people like Peter LaBarbera, which is probably why he has tapped Hutcherson to be the keynote speaker at the next Americans for Truth banquet

Folks, we are proud and excited to announce that Pastor Ken Hutcherson will be our keynote speaker for the Americans For Truth fundraising banquet on Saturday, November 13th at the Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Hutcherson is a former NFL football player, but most importantly he is a man of God who has proven himself a faithful ambassador for his Savior, Jesus Christ. Hutcherson founded and pastors Antioch Bible Church in Redmond, Washington (home of Microsoft), and he is one pastor who does not shy away from the cultural battle for truth.

Right Wing Round-Up

Right Wing Leftovers

  • GOProud has again signed on to be a sponsor of the next CPAC, so I can't wait to see how the anti-gay Right reacts to this.
  • If there is a case to be made for discriminating against a gay person, you can rest assure that Mat Staver will be there to make it.
  • Joseph Farah and Ann Coulter continue to fight.
  • The New Yorker profiles David and Charles Koch, the ideological billionaires behind so much of today's right-wing movement.
  • Replace "homosexuality" with "Christianity" in this Brad Dacus quote and imagine how the Right would respond.
  • Harry Jackson continues to rail against gay marriage: "We declare that there is coming an unprecedented political backlash against same-sex marriage being forced down our collective throats."
  • Mike Huckabee denies trying to sell his endorsement for $250,000 and also went campaigning with Bill McCollum in church this weekend.
  • Janet Porter's Faith 2 Action organization has been almost non-existent lately ... with the exception of posting things on how "Amazing Animals" like the woodpecker prove that God exists.
  • Finally, is Hunt Downer the Antichrist or something?

Gary Bauer Officially Declares "Mosque Exclusion Zone" to Be 1.7 Miles

Those who have been busy pointing out the hypocrisy of those right-wing activists who hail the fundamental importance of defending the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom while simultaneously leading a crusade against the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" have been fond of asking just how large the "mosque exclusion zone" is supposed to be.

Well, Gary Bauer has an answer - 3000 yards

Liberal talking heads often suggest that opposition to the mosque at Ground Zero is just thinly veiled bigotry. They contend that the opponents of the mosque would oppose the construction of a mosque anywhere, and ask rhetorically, “How large should the mosque-free buffer zone around Ground Zero be?”

I’ve thought about that question, and here’s my suggested compromise: Back up the mosque one yard for every life that was lost at Ground Zero on 9/11. Three thousand lives lost equals three thousand yards away. If the organizers of the Ground Zero mosque would accept that compromise, the controversy would be over.

Let's see, 3,000 yards is 9,000 feet, which is 1.7 miles ...  so there you go: the Mosque Exclusion Zone is officially set at at just under two miles. 

Does that mean that all the mosques that already exist within this radius now have to be shut down and moved?

Ted Olson's Been Brainwashed By His "New Young Democrat Wife"!

Conservatives have been very confused and upset for quite some time now that their former hero Ted Olson not only supported marriage equality but actually became a leading advocate, playing a key role in getting Proposition 8 struck down.

What on earth happened to Olson, George W. Bush's Solicitor General and Federalist Society stalwart, they wondered?    

Well, now we know:  his new Jezebel of a wife has brainwashed him ... or so says the National Organization for Marriage:

How did Mr. Federalist Society decide it’s okay to use the U.S. Constitution to require gay marriage? The New York Times is reporting that his new young Democrat wife may be a key reason.

This NOM post in turn links to this post by Ed Whelan who says that he will wisely "refrain from further comment" on how Olson's wife has completely destroyed his integrity: 

Ted Olson and his anti-Prop 8 media machine have been aggressively leveraging his past associations with conservative legal causes in support of his newfound support for the invention of a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. In so doing, they’ve tried to obscure the fact that the position that the Constitution can and should be interpreted to invalidate traditionalmarriage laws can’t possibly be reconciled with the conservative legal principles that Olson used to purport to stand for. (I’m not addressing here the very different question whether a conservative can soundly support legislative revision of marriage laws to include same-sex couples.)

For anyone who has wondered what really accounts for Olson’s new position, I pass along these excerpts from a New York Times article last week on the influence of Lady Booth Olson, Olson’s wife since 2006:

Lady Olson was more than just a minor behind-the-scenes player in this potentially pivotal case.

“Lady could not have been more supportive of this,” Mr. Olson said in an interview shortly before Vaughn R. Walker, chief judge of the United States District Court hearing the case, ruled on Aug. 4 that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional. “And she’s certainly influenced my views — her ideas, her approach, her feelings.” …

Mr. Olson’s previous wife, Barbara, was a conservative commentator who was killed on Sept. 11, 2001, when she was on the hijacked plane that crashed into the Pentagon. Some friends hypothesize that Lady Olson just might have softened some of her husband’s views.

“In my innermost thoughts, I like to think he thought that on some level, but Ted’s never said that,” Mrs. Olson said. “He’s very proud. He owns his own decisions.”

I think that I’ll refrain from further comment.

Random Book Blogging: Beck, Mormonism, The Gospels, and The "Christian Tradition"

It really is remarkable to see Glenn Beck, who is currently coming under attack from the Religious Right for his own Mormon faith, attack President Obama and others as false Christians, saying that those who "pervert the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you are evil. And when you know you intentionally are doing it power, and control, and money, and a hidden agenda and you lie, cheat, and steal every step of the way to do it, you are evil":

I am getting really tied of this holier-than-thou line of attack from Beck, even as his beliefs as a Mormon have been subject to similar attack, so I am just going to excerpt some passages from the book "Mormon America: The Power and the Promise" by Richard and Joan Ostling explaining the differences between Mormonism and mainstream Christian denominations and why the latter do not consider the former to be part of the Christian family:

In 2001, the Vatican reached the significant decision that LDS converts to Catholicism must be rebaptized, though the church customarily accepts baptisms performed in most other denominations. L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican daily, explained that the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith decided that Mormon baptism "is not the baptism that Christ instituted," partly due to the LDS belief that "God the Father had a wife, the Celestial Mother, with whom he procreated Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit."

...

America's largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, staunchly opposes LDS theology. The second largest, the United Methodist Church, reject LDS baptism in 2000 on the grounds that Mormonism is self-definition "does not fit within the bounds of the historic apostolic tradition of Christian faith." A Methodist paper noted that the LDS church add scriptures to the Judeo-Christian Bible and has "some radically differing doctrine on such matters of belief as the nature and being of God, the nature, origin and purpose of Jesus Christ ; and the nature and way of salvation. Other cited problems: God the Father is a procreating deity with "a body of flesh and bones" and is "male gendered and married to a heavenly mother of clear female gender." Jesus is not eternal with the Father and is "an entirely separate and distinct being" identified with Jehovah, the Father's oldest child. Mormonism uses the language of the Trinity but with different meanings and is tri-theistic or possibly polytheistic. Also, "God's and human are the same species of being, but at different states of development," and the goal of human salvation is "achievement of godhood."

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was one of the first major bodies to study officially whether Mormons are Christians. The project began with a national Presbyterian convention in Salt Lake City in 1990, with a follow-up study released in 1995. Presbyterian guidelines state that the LDS church "expresses allegiance to Jesus Christ in terms used within the Christian tradition" but nonetheless is not regarded as "within the historic apostolic tradition of the Christian Church."

Presbyterians are advised to treat Mormons as adherent of another religion, putting relations under the "interfaith" rubric. Besides the need for rebaptism, Mormons should not receive Presbyterian Communion; and weddings and funerals involving mixed families are handled as "interfaith" rather than intra-Christian rites.

...

In the Mormon understanding of history, the church literally disappeared shortly after Jesus' apostles died, although apostate human organizations perpetuated the false claim to be Christian. The same process of apostasy was repeated among the believers in the New World who were visited by the Mormon Jesus. There was no church on earth during a hiatus of some 1,400 years until God intervened to restore apostolic governance through the prophet Joseph Smith and his successors.

As Joseph Smith wrote, "we believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly" ... and by "translated correctly, Smith meant the version he wrote that was designed to bring the text more in line with established Mormon doctrine and "restore truths to the Bible text that had become lost or changed since the original words were written."

As we have noted twice in the last week, the Religious Right doesn't consider Beck to be a Christian - and neither would most of the major Christian denominations - and yet he continues to accuse President Obama and progressive Christians of being apostates and heretics. 

You’d think that Glen Beck would be able to look at his own experience and see how callow and nasty these attacks really are. But you’d be wrong.

Beck's Mormon Faith Raising Alarms Among The Religious Right

Recently, Glenn Beck seems to have started undergoing a transformation from a Tea Party leader to a Religious Right leader as he increasingly sells his brand of right-wing conspiracy-theorizing in religious terms.

What started with his partnership with David Barton as rapidly expanded to include all sorts of Religious Right activists and now Beck has started claiming that his upcoming "Restoring Honor" rally is literally being orchestrated by God and that "the Spirit of the Lord is going to be unleashed like you've never felt it before" and miracles will take place at the event.

Beck's move to establish himself as a religious leader among conservatives is being met with alarm from some evangelical activists due to the fact that Beck is Mormon, forcing people like Barton to defend his associations with Beck by claiming that Beck shouldn't be judged by the label he wears but by the fruits that he produces. 

But it doesn't look like activists are buying that excuse, as Brannon Howse, president and founder of Worldview Weekend, dedicated his program on Friday to raising alarms about this new development:

Please remember Brannon started the website keepglennbeck.com to support Glenn when the radicals wanted his advertisers to stop advertising in his program. With that said, Brannon believes Glenn has now moved into an area where we must draw a clear line theologically and doctrinally. While Christians can join Glenn in opposing tyranny, socialism, cultural Marxism, and the like but we cannot join him spiritually. Glenn's website describes the event at the Kennedy Center as "Glenn Beck's Divine Destiny" and states that the event will include "uplifting music, nationally-known religious figures from all faith will unite…" Glenn's website also promotes Glenn's "Daily Spiritual Thought" and "join Glenn Beck live each weekday morning at 7:05a ET for prayer." Why must we respectfully and lovingly tell Glenn we cannot agree with him nor find common ground in the area of Biblical doctrine and theology?

Is Glenn now using his TV program to push his Mormon faith? Glenn has the right to push his Mormon faith on TV but Glenn needs to be upfront about it ... The point of today's program is that Christians need to be wise and not fall into the trap of compromising on the Gospel of Jesus Christ in an effort to be politically correct, tolerant and find religious unity with anti-Biblical beliefs and religions. We appreciate the strong and courageous stands that Glenn has taken but Christians understand that Glenn is now, by his own choice, promoting something that is not compatible with Biblical Christian doctrines. We can be co-belligerents on many moral issues with non-Christians but we cannot find common ground theologically and doctrinally. Christians must understand that the Jesus of the cults is not the Jesus of the Bible.

You may recall that, a few months back, Howse severed ties with Janet Porter due to her associations with the "kind of whacked out folks" who preach Dominionism. 

Similarly, Howse's Worldview Weekend has had a long relationship with David Barton, so it'll be interesting to see how Howse handles Barton's increasing involvement with, and defense of, Beck's Mormon faith.

Pastors Who Vouch for Obama's Christian Faith Are Just Like Churches Who Gave Cover to Nazis

The last time we wrote about Dave Welch of the U.S. Pastor Council, he was calling on pastors to rise up and save America from the "Fourth Reich of the Obama/Pelosi/Reid".

But I guess we know a few pastors whose help Welch doesn't want as he fights off this Nazi-like siege from President Obama ... and that would be any pastor, like Kirbyjon Caldwell or Joel Hunter, who vouches for Obama's Christian faith:

[P]astors like Hunter and Caldwell who serve as spiritual lapdogs to Obama are even more culpable for giving him cover. They are much like the clergy of Hitlerian Germany and the "Positive Christianity" that represented complete acquiescence to and control by the Nazi state.

Welch claims that "neither I, you nor anyone is in complete position to be the judge of whether Obama" is truly a Christian ... and then proceeds to state that Obama is not a devout Christian by any stretch of the imagination.  

Black Conservative Leaders Blast Palin for Defending Schlessinger

Sarah Palin's decision to come rushing to Dr. Laura Schlessinger's defense last week after Schlessinger announced that she would be leaving her radio show because of criticism she received for repeatedly saying the "N-word" on a recent broadcast did not sit well with a lot of people, including us.

And it looks like it didn't sit well with a variety of Black conservative leaders either, though they seemingly tried to downplay their displeasure by issuing their statement blasting Palin for using "this incident as a stepping stone for her political ambitions" late on Friday night:

Dr. Schlessingers' use of the "N" word on her program was in poor judgment and an unfortunate choice for which she has apologized. While we do not condone her behavior, we accept her apology and understand she did not intend to offend. We are disappointed, however, that Sarah Palin used this incident as a stepping stone for her political ambitions, raising her political goals above principle, said leaders in the black prolife movement.

"Many of these politicians are involving themselves in matters that have nothing to do with them," said Day Gardner, President of the National Black Pro-Life Union. "Just as the President should not have involved himself in the Mosque issue in New York, or the Police incident in Massachusetts, Sara Palin should not have involved herself in this matter or -- the Georgia governors race where she supported a candidate that supplied funding to Planned Parenthood. Doing so caused us all to question her assertion that she is pro-life. Palin should forget about political leverage and deal with the righteous principles of human dignity." Gardner said.

"When I heard the caller on the Dr. Laura show, I wondered if she was a plant, someone designated to provoke a reaction from Dr. Laura," said Catherine Davis, a founding member in the black prolife movement. "It is unfortunate Dr. Laura took the bait. But Sarah Palin's insertion into the matter just seems opportunistic and political." she said.

"Every time Sarah Palin chooses politics over principle, something is lost," said Dr. Alveda King, Director of African American Outreach for Priests for Life. "Palin can't win by jumping into the game where the nefarious race card is being played."

"It's time to strike a nail in the coffin of racism in America," King continued. "Governor Palin could better use her time in trying to unite the human race. This battle can't be won with politics. This is a matter of the human condition -- and the human heart," concluded Dr. King.

Interestingly, Alveda King issued a separate statement announcing that she would be joining Glenn Beck's upcoming "Restoring Honor" rally, where Sarah Palin will also be speaking, as did Gardner ...  so maybe they will get a chance to voice their displeasure with Palin in person.

But honestly, I can't think of a better example of the absurdity of Beck trying to claim Martin Luther King's mantle by hosting his rally on the anniversary of MLK's iconic "I Have a Dream" speech than this decision to include the one member of MLK's extended family who least represents his legacy.