Popular conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck is not among the 20 or so percent of Americans who believes that President Obama is a Muslim.
“I'm taking his word that he is a Christian,” said Beck this past week on his self-titled cable-news show. “But here's where it falls apart for many Americans: It's a Christianity that most Americans just don't recognize.”
The television and radio personality went on to examine past statements made by the president and prominent individuals who have been close to him over the course of his life, such as his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright; his close personal friend, Richard Pfleger; and his spiritual adviser, Jim Wallis.
“You have to learn his (Obama’s) theology. Learn his influences. Learn who he has surrounded himself with his whole life. More knowledge, not less. More access to information, not less,” Beck explained.
And after going over a few clips, the broadcaster concluded that Obama’s theology is not Muslim. But neither is it Christian.
“It's a perversion of the gospel of Jesus Christ as most Christians know it,” Beck asserted. “But as usual, the media won't look at any of those facts because most people in the media don't have any idea what Christianity really is.”
Ironically, Beck’s theology has also been a point of debate – especially as the broadcaster’s popularity among conservatives continues to rise.
When Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., tapped Beck to address its graduating class a few months back, officials at the evangelical school were strongly criticized for the move as Beck had “settled on Mormonism” – formally the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – in 1999 after marrying his second wife.
While Mormon conservatives, socially, are comparable to their evangelical counterparts, theologically, they are worlds apart.
Aside from rejecting the Trinity and their belief in many gods, Mormons believe their prophet, Joseph Smith, was “the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam,” according to the Mormons’ History of the Church.
Mormons also reject the validity and veracity of the Bible, believing that the proper translation of what God wants believers to know is found in another source – the Book of Mormon.
“Mormonism and Mammonism are contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ,” remarked Dr. Russell Moore, dean of the School of Theology and senior vice-president for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
Still, while the Mormon church is widely regarded by Bible-centered Christians as either a heretical Christian sect, a cult, or – at best – a newly developed Abrahamic religion, some evangelicals have set Beck slightly apart from his Mormon brethren.
Jim Garlow, lead pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in La Mesa, Calif., said this past week that he interviewed people who have talked specifically with Beck about his personal salvation – persons “extremely well known in Christianity”
“[A]nd they have affirmed (using language evangelicals understand), ‘Glenn is saved,’” Garlow reported in a five-page memo. “He understands receiving Christ as savior.”
But many conservative evangelicals, such as SBTS’s Moore, could argue otherwise.
“They (Mormonism and Mammonism) offer another Lord Jesus than the One offered in the Scriptures and Christian tradition, and another way to approach him,” said Moore on Sunday, a day after Beck held his “Restore Honor” rally in Washington.
For this and other reasons, the Baptist preacher expressed his concern for American Christian conservatives who have no problem with Beck being pronounced by news media as the new leader of America’s Christian conservative movement.
Moore called the development “a scandal” and chided Christians for having come to tolerate “heresy and buffoonery in our leadership as long as with it there is sufficient political ‘conservatism.’”
“Beck isn’t the problem. He’s an entrepreneur, he’s brilliant, and, hats off to him, he knows his market,” the Baptist theologian stated. “What concerns me is about what this says about the Christian churches in the United States.”
According to Moore, some Christians – on the Left and the Right – have far too often and far too long searched for a gospel useful enough to accommodate a political agenda. Coincidentally, Beck on Tuesday had described Obama as one such Christian.
"The president apparently has a deeply held belief that his salvation cannot come without a collective salvation. He has said this on several occasions," Beck said in one of his points.
"This is why America is confused. What Americans can't get their arms around is that for the first time, we have a president that believes in collective salvation. That believes in the U.S. is the oppressor. And Islam in this case is the victim - but just one of many victims from the big bad to oppressor, the United States of America. That's what's happening," he added.
But as Moore pointed out, there a lot more Americans that ascribe - knowingly and unknowingly - to the liberation theology preached by figures such as the ones pointed out by Beck - Wright, Pfleger, and Wallis.
"The liberation theology of the Left often wants a Barabbas, to fight off the oppressors as though our ultimate problem were the reign of Rome and not the reign of death. The liberation theology of the Right wants a golden calf, to represent religion and to remind us of all the economic security we had in Egypt," Moore remarked, alluding to stories in the Bible.
“Both want a Caesar or a Pharaoh, not a Messiah,” he continued. “It’s sad to see so many Christians confusing Mormon politics or American nationalism with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Despite what he’s seen in the field of politics, Moore said he remains optimistic.
“[T]here will be a new generation, in America and elsewhere, who will be ready for a gospel that is more than just Fox News at prayer,” he concluded.
According to reports, Beck's radio program is currently the third most listened to in all of America. His cable-news show on Fox News Channel, meanwhile, has been the highest rated 5 p.m. cable news show since March 2009, consistently beating his competition's combined total viewership.
Time magazine has described Beck as "the new populist superstar of Fox News."