“Latter-day Taint”: More on Glenn Beck and Mormonism

By October 7, 2009

Adam Reilly of the Boston Phoenix has written an article (“Latter day Taint: How Glenn Beck is driven by Mormonism — and why his fellow faithful (including Mitt Romney) should be worried”) further teasing out the relationship between Glenn Beck’s politics and Mormonism (following up what was originally posted here at the JI and more recently, Alexander Zaitchik’s take on Cleon Skousen and Glenn Beck at Salon).

Reilly’s piece explores not only the influence of Skousen, but also Ezra Taft Benson on Beck and also considers the implications Beck’s Mormonism and controversial but ever-growing popularity might have for Mitt Romney’s presidential aspirations:

During the 2008 campaign, Romney wooed Christian conservatives by arguing that the doctrinal particulars of his faith weren’t important. What mattered instead, Romney claimed, was that he had faith — that he wasn’t a godless secularist. “While differences in theology exist between the churches in America,” Romney said in his December 2007 speech on faith, “we share a common creed of moral convictions. And where the affairs of our nation are concerned, it’s usually a sound rule to focus on the latter.”

But as Beck’s example shows, shared moral conviction can mask radically different ideas about important subjects. If the press starts examining Beck’s Mormon influences in detail, they just might follow suit with Romney.

The article includes interesting (and sometimes competing) takes on the subject by the go-to non-Mormon expert on Mormonism, Jan Shipps, noted historian Mike Quinn, Times and Seasons blogger Rory Swenson, and yours truly (and yes, that’s part of the reason the article is receiving more than just a link on the sidebar).

But Reilly’s bringing up Romney again raises one important question: Is the bloggernacle ready for another slew of posts over the next few years devoted to Romney?

Article filed under Miscellaneous


Comments

  1. Congrats Chris on getting quoted. Interesting article.

    Comment by David G. — October 7, 2009 @ 4:29 pm

  2. Thank you for the link to that article.

    I am happy to have Brother Beck in our church. I don’t think that he is a negative for the church any more than Senator Reid is.

    I happen to think that all of the attention being given to him by the left is sour grapes. He is effective at what he does. He got Van Jones out of the White House post he held, and is shining some much needed light on ACORN and other corruption in government. (And he does not limit his ire to the left only).

    With respect to Govenor Romney, I don’t think Beck’s Mormon belief’s will have much of an impact. Romney’s relationship with Beck is nothing compared to the relationship (and influence) which Rev Wright had on President Obama. If Obama can get a pass for that, then Romney has no problem. Where Romney will stumble will be with primary voters in the Republican party, who view Mormons in a negative light. If it were not for this, Romney would have won the Iowa caucus, and may have been the party nominee. Beck is a much smaller issue I think.

    Comment by Clayton — October 7, 2009 @ 5:13 pm

  3. Nice, Chris!

    Beck has said some things that I can’t disagree with more fervently, but what’s worse is his apparent “agree with me or you’re a complete idiot” approach that I can’t stand. And I strongly lament his re-popularizing of the dreadful Skousen book The Five Thousand Year Heap. He made this book popular among a lot of Wasatch Front members, when there are about 5,000 books I’d recommend in its miserable stead. 🙁

    Comment by BHodges — October 7, 2009 @ 9:01 pm

  4. Parenthetically, that reporter happened to quote the exact same excerpt from the Beck/Hatch interview…

    http://www.lifeongoldplates.com/2008/11/beck-hatch-constitution-hanging-by.html

    Comment by BHodges — October 7, 2009 @ 9:09 pm

  5. For what it’s worth, BHodges, I was working off the transcript at GlennBeck.com. Like you, apparently, I thought ellipses were appropriate after Hatch agreed with Beck’s “by a thread” imagery and then moved on to other stuff that was less relevant (at least re: the WHP).

    Comment by Adam Reilly — October 7, 2009 @ 9:26 pm

  6. Its possible Beck will draw many conservative Christians towards Romney. Time will tell–Beck is a popular figure among the Huckabee crowd.

    Comment by Jared — October 7, 2009 @ 10:43 pm

  7. Blair I like your comment about this hanging by a thread thing:

    Agreed. I think this is also illustrative of an expanding Church that is growing out of being a simply American institution. There is plenty “evil” in both political parties, and to use the “hanging by a thread” quote as a partisan tool to imply that one political party is better than another is, in my estimation, a drastic misuse of the prophecy, if we even have an accurate take of the prophecy at this point.

    Even looking at the original source it is murky. Yet personally I find this whole argument mildly ludicrous as a Canadian Saint who lives under a “socialist” government.

    Comment by JonW — October 8, 2009 @ 12:06 am

  8. As more and more conservatives blast the odious Mr. Beck, one has to wonder why so many Mormons think he’s some kind of asset to the church, to the Republican Party or to the nation. His creepy sexual references alone should disqualify him from support from his fellow co-religionists. When one thinks of great Republicans of the past, I find it pathetic that this man is looked up to by anyone.

    Comment by Jack — October 8, 2009 @ 6:41 am

  9. While I don’t agree with the general point Clayton’s #2, I think his comparison to the Obama/Wright tension may be important. It touches on the tension between religious association and complete religious agreement. I rarely agree with Beck, yet I don’t feel our shared religion stains me with any of Beck’s statement.

    Congrats, btw, Chris.

    Comment by Ben — October 8, 2009 @ 7:06 am

  10. Clayton, thanks for your thoughts.

    With respect to Govenor Romney, I don’t think Beck’s Mormon belief’s will have much of an impact. Romney’s relationship with Beck is nothing compared to the relationship (and influence) which Rev Wright had on President Obama. If Obama can get a pass for that, then Romney has no problem.

    Two things. First, I don’t think it necessarily matters how distant Beck and Romney’s relationship is. The point is that increased attention to Beck’s Mormonism could mean increased attention to Romney’s Mormonism, which could be detrimental to his presidential aspirations, both because, as you note, anti-Mormon sentiment played some role in his failed bid last year, and also because Romney did such a terrible, terrible job of answering questions about his faith and I’ve seen no indication he’s better equipped this time around to improve on his stumbling, evasive, and pandering responses to queries about the particulars of his Mormon beliefs.

    Second, let’s face it. Romney is not Obama. He is not nearly as well-liked as Obama was during the campaign, does not have the support of many media outlets like Obama did and does, and certainly doesn’t answer questions about his faith as well as Obama handled the Wright affair. Plus Mormonism seems a bit more problematic to me than Reverend Wright because Obama was dealing with one controversial pastor, whereas Romney is dealing not only with folks like Beck, but also a history of controversial statements and actions, not to mention seemingly wacky beliefs, by the Mormon church that opponents love to flaunt.

    To be clear, I’m not suggesting I agree with such sometimes unfair and inaccurate scrutiny of Mormonism or Mitt Romney’s beliefs. But it did, does, and will happen.

    Comment by Christopher — October 8, 2009 @ 7:50 am

  11. Blair, I share your sentiments generally. Perhaps tellingly, Beck’s popularity is not limited to the Wasatch front, or to Mormons (something still a bit perplexing to me). The 5,000 Year Leap is displayed front at center at the local B&N here in Virginia, too, and seems to be selling well throughout the country.

    Comment by Christopher — October 8, 2009 @ 7:53 am

  12. Jared, that’s an interesting suggestion and an intriguing possibility. It places Huckabee in an interesting position, though, doesn’t it? Given his thinly-veiled jabs at Mitt’s Mormonism last time, it will be interesting to see if he can harness Beck’s popularity among his southern evangelical constituency.

    Jack, while it’s not secret I’m not a big fan of Beck’s politics, I’d really like to keep this conversation on an analytical level. There are numerous other threads around the bloggernacle to discuss whether Beck is good or bad for the church. Thanks for commenting, though.

    Ben, that’s a good point. But it’s important to keep in mind that Romney has appeared on Beck’s show and Beck did endorse Romney early on last go round (where they discuss their shared love of Skousen, no less). There relationship is more than just co-religionists, I think.

    Comment by Christopher — October 8, 2009 @ 8:01 am

  13. […] fires the opening salvo in the ugly religious  attacks from the left for this time around. (HT: Juvenile Instructor)  The piece is titled “Latter day taint” which ought to give you a hint at what lies […]

    Pingback by Article VI Blog » Friends of Friends, The “Invisible Primary,” Religious Discrimination and more — October 8, 2009 @ 8:43 am

  14. The 5,000 Year Leap is displayed front at center at the local B&N here in Virginia, too, and seems to be selling well throughout the country.

    Geez. I couldn’t get through 20 pages of that thing without hanging my head in despair and ending my venture. 🙁

    Adam: I’m currently working on a theory that you stole the quote from my blog, and that you are engaged in covert operations to overthrow the freedom of the United States. Stay tuned! (All who disagree with me are probably in on it with Adam.)

    Comment by BHodges — October 8, 2009 @ 9:12 am

  15. While I don’t agree with everything he says, or all his tactics, I think Glenn Beck performs a good service to our nation. He has brought up some serious issues that everyone else was ignoring. He is doing what the press should be doing: watch dog of our freedoms and voice against corruption.

    I also think that Beck will not phase Romney. They are from different branches of conservatism.

    Comment by Rameumptom — October 8, 2009 @ 9:45 am

  16. It seems the news business has been on an arc the last 25 years or so with the lines between news, political analysis, and entertainment getting blurrier all the time. Sometimes it works really well, as in the Daily Show or the Colbert Report on cable, and sometimes not so well. Political pundits have become celebrities, ala Anne Coulter who has earned the nickname “The Paris Hilton of Politics”, and now Glenn Beck. My concern is now that we are being presented with these kinds of mixed packages, how discerning are we as a nation to what is really true, and what is conjecture, showmanship, or inadequately researched conclusions?

    I fear we are not very good as a nation, nor as LDS people as well, in sorting these things out. Beck’s stunning popularity is fascinating, while really scary to me personally. He is obviously smart and charismatic, and has found a key to attracting listeners and readers in huge numbers. I’m not saying he isn’t sincere (which to me is also frightening). The longer Beck stays in the spotlight, the more that light will also get reflected on us as a faith. The shallowness of a lot of the reporting I see these days, and the apparent willingness of an audience to be spoonfed soundbites purporting to be thoughtful analysis pretty much assures that if Romney runs again, his Mormon faith will be an even bigger topic this time around.

    Face it, polygamy, communist conspiracy theories, and our other “peculiarities” make much better copy than our clean, wholesome, mainstream ambitions.

    Comment by kevinf — October 8, 2009 @ 12:15 pm

  17. As for Romney being no Obama… well, Romney lost the race before the economy really tanked (I can’t prove that, it’s just how I remember it happening). He didn’t provide a real reason for the country to like him.

    Obama is a decent speaker, but other than that, I never saw anything from him that separated him from the rest of the pack besides his race. People liked that he was black. The “change” people were rallying behind was the chance to prove to the world and ourselves that we aren’t racist. Which certainly isn’t a bad thing.

    The economy can be Romney’s differentiator and will go a long way in distracting from any negative Mormon angles. If he can do a good job playing himself up, and proving that he can be our financial savior, people will love him. When you can’t pay your mortgage or put food on your table, it’s a lot easier to forget that the guy offering a paycheck doesn’t believe in the Trinity (or that he shares a religion with someone you don’t agree with on Fox News)

    Comment by Ryan — October 8, 2009 @ 8:03 pm

  18. “Obama is a decent speaker, but other than that, I never saw anything from him that separated him from the rest of the pack besides his race. People liked that he was black. The “change” people were rallying behind was the chance to prove to the world and ourselves that we aren’t racist”

    As one who supported Obama as far back as Sept. 2007, I am tempted to just say “screw you” to the above statement. However, I will try to do a bit more.

    I supported Obama (with my vote, my financial contribution, and my yard sign in Rexburg, Idaho) because he was the brightest and most liberal of those in the Democratic field. If it was his race that attracted me, I might have equally been attracted to Sen. Clinton because she was a women. However, the Clinton represented a form of moderate democrat that I loath. Her campaign behavior reinforced that sentiment in way that I could not have imagined.

    If anything, Obama is very intelligent. So is Romney, but given his performances at the GOP convention last year and his speech at the 2008 CPAC convention, Romney has shown that he is willing to trade in his credentials as a Harvard-educated pragmatic moderate from Massachusetts to appeal to the most disgusting aspect of conservatism. Now, all GOP candidates most do this to a degree, but it is very sad to see Gov. Romney do it.

    I wonder whether somebody can’t pay their bill would really turn to a venture capitalist CEO who happens to also be the son of CEO.My guess is that the economy will not be in the same peril come late 2011 and 2012 and therefore Romney will just be the cheesy Mormon.

    Comment by Chris H. — October 8, 2009 @ 8:30 pm

  19. Thanks, Chris H. The “Obama is just a good speaker and has no talent or ideas” was overplayed by Clinton in the primary and some conservatives haven’t given up on it.

    Comment by David G. — October 8, 2009 @ 10:43 pm

  20. Chris H.,

    That was my bad, I didn’t mean to indicate that everybody who voted for Obama did so because of his race. But I do believe it was the majority of his voters. One of many demonstrations of this was a Howard Stern bit where they interviewed people on the streets of New York to ask what they thought of Obama’s selection of Sarah Palin for VP. The response was overwhelmingly supportive of Palin.

    The economy will be a disaster for several more years to come, easily through the next campaign period. Economists are finally admitting that they are stumped as to why unemployment rates continue to climb despite the “stabilization of the financial sector” that Washington and the IMF, G8, etc.. have been trumpeting as a major success (when it’s really just the banks slowly strangling the golden goose with fees). There are literally millions of shadow foreclosures that will not hit the market for at least another year or two because the banks can’t manage them. The dollar is imploding and new construction is down 70% (which has a funding, procurement, permitting and building cycle of 5-7 years, meaning we are at least 5 years away from seeing any sort of turnaround in both the residential and commercial construction industry).

    Romney has already established himself in public opinion as someone who knows how approach financial crises. It’s going to be the central factor in the next election cycle. I guarantee it.

    Comment by Ryan — October 8, 2009 @ 10:53 pm

  21. And please don’t paint me as an Obama basher. I didn’t say he wasn’t capable. I just think it is naive to believe that a huge percentage of his votes didn’t come from people who knew little more about him than his skin color and his party affiliation.

    Comment by Ryan — October 8, 2009 @ 10:58 pm

  22. I didn’t vote for Obama because of his race.

    My theory is that the people who say a lot of people voted for Obama because of his race make that accusation because of Obama’s race.

    Comment by BHodges — October 8, 2009 @ 11:05 pm

  23. Ryan, did you just use a Howard Stern “man on the street” sketch as empirical evidence? Nice. I am an expert of political behavior. Thanks for setting me straight.

    Comment by Chris H. — October 9, 2009 @ 12:19 am

  24. I think people voted for Pres Obama because he wasn’t Hillary Clinton or George W. Bush. People were tired of both Clintons and Bushes. Obama offered a fresh face with a fresh paint job.

    And it definitely helped in to run against McCain, who looked old and sloppy when it came to ideas. Tragic for McCain to have said the economy was sound, two days before the crash came. This was especially true after McCain had been previously quoted as not being strong on economics.

    For Pres Obama, “it’s the economy, stupid” would have been a perfect slogan to use against the Republicans.

    Comment by Rameumptom — October 9, 2009 @ 2:08 pm

  25. I was especially interested in this :

    …a case can be made that Beck is to Mormonism what Father Charles Coughlin was to Catholicism in the 1930s, when the “radio priest” peddled nasty, faith-based opposition to another ambitious Democratic president.

    I’ve been re-reading Sinclair Lewis’s novel It Can’t Happen Here (for work) and was struck by the similarities between Beck and the fictional representation of Coughlin. Beck’s Mormonism is less important as an ideological influence and more important as a way of establishing his family-values ethos. It will be interesting to see if Romney can cash in on the general ethos without having to field the weirdness factor this time around. The perception that he was an opportunist didn’t help him do that, really.

    The other problem is that Romney is unlikely to appeal to any populist sentiment very well, being an elitist (i.e. he’s well connected, educated and articulate). It seems to me that Beck discourages that kind of politician, and Huckabee is a better fit for Beck’s demographics.

    Comment by Norbert — October 10, 2009 @ 2:58 am

  26. I just think it is naive to believe that a huge percentage of his votes didn’t come from people who knew little more about him than his skin color and his party affiliation.

    This is true of most candidates in previous elections as well, and so, unremarkable. Large numbers vote in every election without very much information. And that’s just for those who actually vote – imagine the ignorance among that slightly smaller group who can’t even be bothered.

    Comment by Bill — October 10, 2009 @ 4:22 am

  27. Ooh, ooh, I hope Beck backs Huckabee!! Oh my, what I would pay to see that. I bet when Fox News tells him to do it (and he has to since they bought his soul and all) we will really see all heck break loose.

    All of this makes us look like idiots. If you can’t see how awful Beck makes us look to the rest of the world and how ashamed we should be of him, you will see it when all your “liberal” media enemies get ahold of us and twist everything we believe into pure nonsense. He’s making it so easy for Romney enemies and as we can see from the “Taint” article, it’s already started. They are taking things like the White Horse Prophecy that is not a tenant of our religion, not scripture, we are not even sure if it happened, and using it to suit their purpose, which is to say we are all paranoid lunatics.

    This is just the start. You Ryans of the world did it to yourselves by encouraging this kind of fact-unbased, “Howard Stern is a reliable source if it suits my purposes,” aka “Well, Glenn Beck said it so it must be true,” CRAP.

    Comment by Arwen — October 11, 2009 @ 12:53 pm

  28. Arwen,

    My guess would be that Beck will back a Ron Paul-type candidate.I do not think Paul will run again, but there will very likely be at least one person trying to fill the Bircher gap in the race.

    Comment by Chris H. — October 11, 2009 @ 6:01 pm

  29. Ryan,

    I do not think you are following the post anymore, but I apologize for jumping down your throat.

    Comment by Chris H. — October 11, 2009 @ 6:03 pm


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