An uneasy, unsustainable partnership

AN UNEASY, UNSUSTAINABLE PARTNERSHIP…. Glenn Beck said the other day, as part of his attacks on President Obama, “People aren’t recognizing his version of Christianity.”

The irony is, Beck’s ostensible allies aren’t recognizing his version of Christianity, either.

We’ve been talking a bit lately about the Beck, who apparently now wants to lead some sort of religious revival, and the discomfort with that within the religious right. The movement is, after all, compromised almost entirely of evangelical Christians, who aren’t generally comfortable with Beck’s Mormonism.

“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.”

If this were simply a matter of politics, it’d be much easier — Beck, his minions, and the religious right tend to hate America’s current leadership in largely the same way, for largely the same reasons. The problem, though, is that their differences are theological — American theocrats appreciate Beck’s madness, but not his LDS membership.

Russell Moore, dean of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s School of Theology, has publicly expressed his strong disapproval of Christians cooperating with Beck’s little crusade, and Moore’s comments are already causing quite a stir in evangelical circles. He wrote:

A Mormon television star stands in front of the Lincoln Memorial and calls American Christians to revival. He assembles some evangelical celebrities to give testimonies, and then preaches a God and country revivalism that leaves the evangelicals cheering that they’ve heard the gospel, right there in the nation’s capital.

The news media pronounces him the new leader of America’s Christian conservative movement, and a flock of America’s Christian conservatives have no problem with that.

If you’d told me that ten years ago, I would have assumed it was from the pages of an evangelical apocalyptic novel about the end-times. But it’s not. It’s from this week’s headlines. And it is a scandal….To Jesus, Satan offered power and glory. To us, all he needs offer is celebrity and attention. Mormonism and Mammonism are contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ….

Moore added that it’s “sad to see so many Christians confusing Mormon politics or American nationalism with the gospel of Jesus Christ.” He looked forward to a “new generation” of Christians “who will be ready for a gospel that is more than just Fox News at prayer.”

Ouch.

Meanwhile, Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and an active player in D.C. politics, has met in private with Beck, but continues to insist that Mormonism is “not a Christian faith.”

The more Beck tries to position himself as a religious right leader for the future, the more these divisions will rise to the surface — and grow more intense.