Glenn Beck hopes to make history. He is convinced his Restoring Honor rally, planned for August 28th, will cause shockwaves unfelt in the country since the mid 1750s, the time of the Great Awakening. As I pointed out in an earlier post, Beck is fond of preacher George Whitefield, though I think a strong case was made that Whitefield’s theology and Beck’s brand of pluralism are as different as black is from white.
It is probably no coincidence Beck’s rally was scheduled for the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, also given in front of the Abraham Lincoln Memorial on The Mall in Washington, D.C in 1963. Another similarity exists. Beck is calling upon both supporters and opponents of the rally to sign MLK’s Pledge to Non-Violence.
Al Sharpton, and many black civil rights organizations, in contrast, reject the notion of any similarity between Beck and King, and further accuse Beck of distorting King’s legacy and appropriating the circumstances of King’s rally for his own use. For his part, Beck correctly replies that in the past, King’s socialist connections were denied or downplayed; now in a stunning reversal, MLK is gladly identified as a redistributionist or Marxist. See what change the election of Barack Obama hath wrought!
Regardless of where MLK fell in the political spectrum, whites and blacks owe him a great debt for his leadership in courageously fighting the “manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination”. Because the “Dream” speech touched so many lives, it will forever remain one of the greatest speeches in American history; moreover, King’s dream of a color-blind society is largely realized in the U.S., except in the race-baiting wing of the Democratic Party and a smattering of other stubborn racists refusing to give up their hatred.
Rev. King’s famous speech was peppered with allusions to Scripture and mentions of God (he was a Baptist minister, as well as a civil rights activist). In his “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, written the same year, he makes the case that moral law trumps the laws of man. Today, if anti-religionists were to be consistent, they would accuse him of promoting a fundamentalist theocracy, akin to something the Taliban might struggle for. (If you don’t think that is true, consider the reaction Governor Mike Huckabee received when he addressed the murder of unborn children and suggested the Constitution can be changed, but the Scriptures cannot.)
Though King invoked the Bible, he was no fundamentalist. Many Christians are unaware that he denied nearly all of Biblical Christianity, including the Divinity, Eternal Existence, Virgin Birth, and Incarnation of Jesus, as well as Blood Atonement, the Bodily Resurrection and Second Coming of Christ, the reality of Heaven & Hell, and the Trinity. King never repudiated what he wrote in 1950:
“The more orthodox Christians have seen his divinity as an inherent quality metaphysically bestowed. Jesus, they have told us, is the Pre existent Logos. He is the word made flesh. He is the second person of the trinity. He is very God of very God, of one substance with the Father, who for our salvation came down from Heaven and was incarnate be (sic) the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary.
Certainly this view of the divinity of Christ presents many modern minds with insuperable difficulties. Most of us are not willing to see the union of the human and divine in a metaphysical incarnation…. To say that the Christ, whose example of living we are bid to follow, is divine in an ontological sense is actually harmful and detrimental (emphasis added)…. So that the orthodox view of the divinity of Christ is in my mind quite readily denied.
Like Glenn Beck, King was a pluralist who believed “the true seeker will realize that there is no one way to find God”. But unlike Beck, King never asked folks to set aside their understanding of God to bring about spiritual revival. The 1963 demonstration motivated the crowd of 250,000 in DC to strive toward a single goal, universally understood and easily identified when accomplished (an end to discrimination against blacks). I wish I could have been there. On the other hand, Beck is deliberately secretive about his hopes for the 8/28 rally, and moreover, recently stated the mainstream press won’t even understand what happened when it’s over. King called for specific action; Beck is calling for who-knows-what at the altar of who-knows-who. It is hard to see what benefits can come from Beck’s ecumenical call to Washington.
If Glen’s stated goal was to restore the Constitution, I could go. If he was calling for an end to abortion, I would go. But since he wants us to put aside the one True God for an unstated common good, I’ll pass.
Links: Beck & George Whitefield
David is currently an adjunct instructor of Composition and Speech at Marshalltown Community College in Iowa. His wife and he have also owned a business selling antique and collectible postcards on eBay since 1999. David was an activist with Operation Rescue in the early 1990s. He is a member of Trinity Presbyterian Reformed Church in Johnston, Iowa.