When Glenn Beck took the podium at his Restoring Honor rally, he began by listing off the names of American heroes and identifying their motivation to fight for their country: “You cannot coexist with evil.” If evil has reared its ugly head, an honorable man, like Washington and Lincoln, must stand and fight.
It’s a phrase that glimmers with righteous indignation. You think of that masked molester with a gun shimmying through your daughter’s bedroom window, and you want to go blow his brains out. Who tolerates evil?
“We have a choice to make today,” added Beck.
Over the course of his 6,000-word altar call, he clarified what he meant. As Americans, we must choose to exercise “faith, hope, and love.” We must “pick up our stick” as Moses did, and stand for freedom. We must not fall asleep like the disciples of Jesus at Gethsemane. We must tithe at a church, synagogue, or mosque. We must “pledge our lives and fortunes” to eliminating our national debt. We must study the “sacred scriptures of our country”—the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address, “I Have a Dream.” “This isn’t about one church or one faith over another; it is about the eternal principles of God.”
That last is an interesting contrast. In another time, “denominational differences,” as Charlie Brown told Linus, tended to separate. And there were even bigger heretics to fry when it came to the differences between “faiths” such as Christianity and Islam. Or Christianity and Mormonism.
But Glenn Beck is a Mormon, and these “eternal principles of God” he espouses reflect that fact. And for conservatives standing at the anxious bench on the Washington Mall, Beck was the one mediator between Mormon ideologue Cleon Skousen and man.
Like Beck’s, Skousen’s Mormonism is not the sort that publicly preaches that Jesus and Lucifer are brethren or that Elohim was once a mere mortal. In The 5,000 Year Leap: Twenty-Eight Great Ideas That Are Changing the World (Glenn Beck’s favorite book) Skousen elaborates on a list of principles that, he claims, were cemented into the foundation of the United States. They include “The United States of America shall be a republic” (no. 12) and “The unalienable rights of the people are most likely to be preserved if the principles of government are set forth in a written constitution” (no. 18).
The trouble is, Skousen claims that these ideas were derived by the Founding Fathers from the Bible, and modus ponens, the United States is God’s country. “The United States has a manifest destiny to be an example and a blessing to the entire human race” (no. 28).
What’s so Mormon about all of this? The above could have been said by any number of Christians who paint the Founding Fathers not as the wise, classically trained deists they were but as devout Bibliophiles.
And yet everything about this America-is-God’s-country ideology is Mormon to the core. It serves as the false foundation of a religion that finds the center of human history not in the Incarnation, Cross, and Resurrection of Christ but in “another revelation of Jesus Christ” in the terrestrial “promised land” on which we stand. It is Manichaean, declaring our external enemies evil and ourselves good, locating wickedness not in the hearts of sinful men but in the foes of a human government that will wither as the grass. It is the religion of America—not the real, historical America, but the America of myth and fantasy.
“If we do these things,” Beck preached, “we will heal our nation.” The phrase is reminiscent of 2 Chronicles 7:14, so often cited at rallies on the National Day of Prayer. If my people, which are called by my name, shall . . . return to limited government (no. 19)? Operate according to the will of the majority (no. 20)? Be debt-free (no. 27)? The assumption here is that Americans, like the Israelites of old, are uniquely “my [God’s] people.” And that it is not “I the Lord” but “We the gods” who can “heal their land.”
Observers of American Christianity have noticed that, by and large, evangelicals no longer place much emphasis on America’s divine mission to protect and defend Israel. Attendance at Christians-for-Israel conferences is down. John Hagee and the Left Behind movies now evoke embarrassment. The Bush Years are over. America has “outgrown” dispensationalism.
All true, but there has also been a transference. America’s divine mission is no longer the protection of Israel but the preservation of “freedom” here and abroad. Muslims are no longer the enemy of Jews but the enemy of “our way of life.” And conservative American Christians—Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox—are joining evangelicals in this new dispensationalism, as they did at the Restoring Honor rally (alongside “240 men and women from all faiths represent[ing] thousands of clergy”). There they applauded a man who denies that Jesus is the eternal Son of God, as he invited them to “find out who God truly is.”
[Read Part I of “Mormon Apocalypse” here.]