The Washington Post put Glenn Beck on the front page again Tuesday with the headline "Beck's marriage of politics and religion raising questions: Commentator may be unlikely leader for conservative Christians." Post religion correspondent Michelle Boorstein underlined why: Beck's Mormonism. He sounded like an evangelist at his rally, and "Yet the Mormon convert seems an unlikely leader for conservative Christians, many of whom don't regard Mormonism as part of their faith."
It's clear that the Post editors are furious that Beck questioned Barack Obama's claim to "committed" Christianity, so they are turning the tables. That theme runs through the whole Boorstein story, which raised the question if Beck had "seized the mantle of the religious right." Salem Radio hosts and executives clearly aren't a stable of Beck fans:
"Politically, everyone is with it, but theologically, when he says the country should turn back to God, the question is: Which God?" said Tom Tradup, vice president for news and talk at Salem Radio Network, which serves more than 2,000 mostly Christian stations. "How much of this is turning to God? How much is religious revival and how much is a snake oil medicine show?"
Boorstein also quoted Salem host Janet Mefferd, who was just picked up nationally by Salem in March. (Beck's radio show is syndicated by Premiere Radio Networks.) Boorstein left the Salem affiliation out of the Mefferd quote. She didn't like his talk of divine destiny:
"I'm a little nervous about that kind of talk," said Janet Mefferd, a nationally syndicated Christian talk show host who said most callers Monday wanted to talk about Beck. "I know he means well and loves this country, but he doesn't know enough about theology to know what kind of effect he's having. Christians are hearing something different than what he thinks he's saying."
Mefferd's website also links to an article insisting if Beck truly embraces Mormonism, he is not a Christian.
The Post's On Faith blog was explicit in a headline:
Is Obama a Christian? Is Beck? Glenn Beck, a Mormon, says Obama is not a Christian.
It's not uncommon for Christians to question Mormon theology. What's uncommon is a liberal newspaper like The Washington Post suggesting someone's not Christian enough for the Christian right. It's like letting abortion advocates pick who leads the pro-life movement.
The first Christian leader featured in the story was Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, who found Beck's attempt to get the blessings of religious-right leaders "extraordinary...I've never heard a cultural figure of that popularity taking that overtly about his faith. He sounded like Billy Graham." Boorstein later added:
Although he doesn't consider Mormons to be Christians, Land said he agrees with Beck's basic premise that American society must be "rebuilt from the bottom up." Land accepted an invitation to be part of a group of more than 200 clergy members whom Beck calls his "Black Robed Regiment," a reference to pastors from the Revolutionary War who stirred up opposition to colonial rule.
Asked who would be considered conservative Christian leaders today - with Graham in his 90s and the recent death of Jerry Falwell - Land said that "leaders are leaders because people follow them. Obviously, Glenn Beck is a leader. He's in a category by himself. He's not a minister, he's not a politician."
The most ridiculous sentence in Boorstein's story is yet another lame definition of "liberation" theology:
To those who embrace it, liberation theology is a means to empower the poor, the weak and politically oppressed. The term became politicized during the 2008 presidential campaign because it is used by Obama's controversial former pastor, Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.
As Stanley Kurtz noted, "Theologically," Wright's theological hero James Cone affirms, "Malcolm X was not far wrong when he called the white man 'the devil.'" Cone also wrote: "If God is not for us and against White people, then he is a murderer, and we had better kill him. The task of Black theology is to kill Gods who do not belong to the Black community ... Black theology will accept only the love of God which participates in the destruction of the white enemy."
But The Washington Post thinks all the religious controversy belongs with Beck, not Barack Obama's longtime pastor.