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Monday, August 30, 2010

Glenn Beck: Selling the LDS

I have to give credit to former "wacky morning zoo" DJ Glenn Beck:  he ran a respectful, more or less, event this past weekend.  While it wasn't about bashing the Obama Administration, I think it was about:

  • Promoting the brand known as Beck and his many endeavors (books, shows, University, etc.)
  • Countering the argument that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints ("the Mormons", referred here as "LDS") are not a mainstream Christian denomination
To the first point, this is how Beck makes his living.  He produces no product.  His existence consists of selling Glenn Beck Incorporated to the masses that want to believe that he is a bright guy who made some mistakes who now shares the values they aspire to emulate.

Values...that brings us to the second point.

I think the rally was as much about selling the Mormon Church as it was anything else.  Beck converted to the LDS Church years ago, and he is in fact becoming one of the Church's most ardent apologists.  I've heard the guy counter the many arguments that the LDS are not true Christians, and to those without a lot of knowledge on the subject he does sound convincing.  

Are Mormons Christian?
Typical dissertations by evangelical Christians on the subject can be found HERE and HERE.  Granted there are religious scholars out there who believe that Mormons are Christians, but having studied the faith for a few years (and having worked with Mormons when I was in high school), it's difficult for me to accept them as being "classically Christian".  Why?  First and foremost, most Christians, by very definition, consider the Bible to be the complete Word of God, without need for a "Volume 2".  The Book of Mormon is, for all intensive purposes, a second Bible.  There are other nuances of faith that are at play here, but suffice to say I personally don't think that Mormons fit in the traditional Christian category.

Note:  I'm not making a value judgment about the LDS Church, as I'm just about the last person to comment on the merits of any faith.  Hell, you can make a good argument that I don't fit the classical definition of being a Christian.  My commentary is more academic than anything else, and in point of fact the Mormons I've known have been some of the nicest, most pious individuals I've ever encountered.  That doesn't mean though that they fit the classical definition of being Christians.

Anyway, I could discuss Mormon theology for hours on end, but that's not the point here; the point is Glenn Beck.  It's my hypothesis that part of his crusade is to create a mainstream view of the LDS Church for the Christian right, as embodied by the likes of Sarah Palin.  Saying "Jesus", talking about the "Heavenly Father" (Mormons love to say "Heavenly Father" by the way) and extolling the virtues of prayer are the kinds of things that many on the religious Right want to hear.  The problem is that, as I've noted above, the Mormon Church doesn't exactly match 1:1 with the tenants of what most of the religious Right actually believe.

So what do we have?  Basically it's a Glenn Beck who is selling himself as a brand, and tagging along his Church for the ride.  Far be it for me to knock a brother is who just trying to make a living, so more power to Glenn Beck.  He's no better nor worse than many of his peers.  Beck does need to hope though that his evangelical friends overlook some of those little theological differences (the planet Kolob, Spirit Babies, Baptizing the Dead, "Sealed" Marriages, Plural Marriages, "like a God", special underwear, etc.) that might impact the brand known as Beck.  The more the uneducated on the religious Right look, the less they will like.


J Curtis said...

They are a seperate religion as in Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish Mormon. In that sense.

Stephen Albert said...

I agree with you JD. The belief system is pretty fascinating actually, and the fact that they are a "home grown" American religion makes it all the more interesting.