A few months ago I described Glenn Beck as a modern day snake oil salesman. This weekend it appeared he is out to become the Mullah for the American Taliban. The theology Beck was preaching was not Christian but Mormon and as a result has received at best a lukewarm reception from the evangelical leadership and shock and hostility from the main stream Christian community. In a totally mindless editorial yesterday Ross Douthat seemed to praise the marriage of Evangelical Christianity and the Mormons. Daniel Larison takes Douthat to task.
In other words, when Mormons and evangelicals are at their worst and are indulging their least admirable tendencies to idolize the country at the expense of their religious teachings, there is a chance for them to find common ground. If you think that a serious religious revival in America might have something to do with a spirit of repentance and humility rather than with an extravaganza of validation and national self-congratulation, that is really a very damning indictment of what Beck is doing. As Joe Carter correctly says, “As Moore notes, the problem isn’t really Beck. The problem is believers trading the true faith for the syncretism of Christian-flavored civic religion.”
On a related point that Moore may or may not have had in mind when he was writing his post, Beck has previously framed his opposition to progressivism in Christianity in terms of ridiculing the idea of social justice. Certainly, some understanding of social justice isn’t the whole of Christian teaching, and social activism certainly isn’t a substitute for faith and participation in the life of God, but one would have a hard time persuading many serious and theologically conservative Catholics and Mennonites, among others, that social justice is not a major Christian priority. His total rejection of social justice doesn’t make any sense within the LDS church’s tradition or within the Christian tradition.
Of course the majority of Beck’s cultists don’t actually oppose “social justice” for themselves just oppose social justice for all the brown, black and gay people – the “other tribes.” That being the case it makes all the sense in the world.
Make no mistake, Beck remains a snake oil salesman – Mullah Beck is just pushing a new brand of snake oil. We can only hope he has gone too far in his attempt to make money.