Everybody’s weighed in already on Glenn Beck: Who he is, what he’s attempting to do, why he’s good or bad for our political discourse, etc. So my observations are late, and I, no doubt, will be repeating something someone has already said. But I still feel compelled to give my thoughts on a guy that, love him or hate him, cannot be ignored.
To begin with, Beck is an anti-statist populist, and I view this as a very good thing. The country needs more voices from that perspective. The irony is that Beck’s anti-statist populism is quite tame compared to the anti-statist populism in the late 1960’s exhibited by some of the very folks who hate Beck today. Are Beck’s minions plotting to blow up buildings and bring about revolution by any means other than the voting booth? I don’t think so.
Beck has been, at times, seemingly the only one bringing certain matters to light in the media. Perhaps you think the activities of ACORN or having Van Jones as the “Green Jobs” Czar were good things. Those of us who don’t owe a debt of gratitude to Beck, because we are relatively confident that nobody else in the media would have ever pursued these matters.
He can appear to be a bit of a narcissistic flake, and sometimes when he’s being sarcastic or attempting humor he can occasionally lose the point he’s trying to make. His apocalyptic descriptions of the future can be merely depressing or sometimes downright scary, but either way, I frequently agree with his conclusions.
Somewhere along the line Beck began to understand that the nature of our problems here in the U.S. weren’t purely political, and in any case could not be solved singularly with political solutions. He has apparently studied history a great deal over the last several years, and has read a great deal about the Founding Fathers and the history surrounding the American Revolution. Not surprisingly, he was struck by the then common notion of the role faith, or religion, played in the whole of life.
This eventually led to Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally that took place in Washington, D.C. on August 28th, where he urged the nation to turn to God, and return to the values that made the nation great. As with most everything Beck says and does, I find myself rather conflicted, defending him on the one hand and criticizing him on the other.
The ridiculous charges of the Left are typical, but they still make my blood boil. For example, Stanley Crouch of the New York Daily News opened a piece entitled “Glenn Beck’s March of Bigotry” with the following sentence: “Now that irresponsible opportunists have brought many of the misled to Washington, we can begin to contemplate what makes bigotry so appealing.” So if you attended the rally (and hundreds of thousands did) it was because you were misled, and you found bigotry appealing. What offensive, utter nonsense…
The rally seems to me to have been a lot of mom, the flag, and apple pie, with a heavy dose of religion thrown in. I don’t begrudge Beck for most of that. He has correctly, in my view, determined that many of the problems we have in our nation are spiritual in nature. It’s the solution he prescribes to the spiritual problems that concerns me. Unlike many Evangelicals, I don’t view his Mormonism per se as the difficulty. Beck is no different than many other public figures, George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush in particular, who have promoted religious pluralism as virtuous and good. That is where the difficulty lies. Pluralism is not the answer to our problems. To the contrary, it contributes to the erosion of our culture (among other things), but that is what Beck is promoting at least in part. As Jonah Goldberg observed about Beck’s rally: “…Christian activists saw no problem cheering for — and praying with — the equally Mormon but far less uptight Beck, who asked citizens to go to “your churches, synagogues, and mosques!”
The Establishment Clause in the First Amendment caused no real grief to the existence of the Christian faith in public life for well over a century and a half. This was due to a largely homogenous culture with a Christian consensus. That has been essentially lost over the last 50 years or so, and now the Establishment Clause has, in effect, established pluralism as our national religion. All religion or no religion are the only acceptable views in public life. I grant that this is not what the Founders had in mind, but I view this as the inevitable, however unintended, consequence of the First Amendment.
Discussion of religion is everywhere these days, from whether Mr. Obama is a Christian to whether a mosque should be allowed to be built near Ground Zero. But these questions are pointless, in my view, so long as pluralism continues to be extolled as a great thing, that which is needed to regain the virtues of our past. That has become part of Beck’s message, and it is the part I strenuously object to.