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Glenn Beck: Right message, wrong messenger

Even the Rev. Billy Graham might have been a tad emerald with envy — if it wasn't a sin.

Still, who couldn't help but marvel at the multitudes who turned out last Saturday for the Sermon on the Monument?

Less a political rally than an old-fashioned big-tent revival, the controversial "Restoring Honor" event provided conservative radio and TV talker, the Rev. Glenn Beck, a bully pulpit to exhort — almost to the point of his now familiar tears — a flock that had gathered at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial.

Cast ye eyes not toward Capitol Hill for answers to America's problems. Cast ye eyes toward heaven.

"This day is a day that we can start the heart of America again, and it has nothing to do with politics, it has everything to do with God," he said.

Preach brother, preach.

Without question, the United States is running a few quarts low on faith — particularly among the youngest adults. More than one in four 18- to 29-year-olds aren't moored in any particular religion, compared with less than one in 10 Americans who are 70 or older, according to the recent U.S. Religious Landscape Survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religious & Public Life.

If trends persist, the faith — the "evidence of things not seen," as the Bible puts it — that sustained older Americans through wars, Black Monday, gas crises and Sept. 11 may well pass away along with the elders.

Talk about an unimaginable epilogue for a country that once so invested its trust in God that it placed that belief on its currency.

"It is time to start the heart of this nation again and put it where it belongs — our heart with God," Beck said. "The truth will set you free."

Amen.

Beck's right. A recharge and restoration of faith would do America good. Yet, the liberating truth is the man who called the U.S. president a racist on national TV is also the wrong herald to deliver the news.

In one breath, he says:

"We must be better than what we've allowed ourselves to become. … We must get the poison of hatred out of us ... we must look to God and look to love."

In another, he cruelly mocked the 11-year-old daughter of President Barack Obama on his popular radio program for innocently asking her father during the Gulf oil spill, "Did you plug the hole yet, Daddy?"

Beck later apologized. Probably was simply getting the poison of hatred out of himself.

Not that it's anything new. Alexander Zaitchik, author of "Common Nonsense: Glenn Beck and the Triumph of Ignorance," recently noted in a blog post for the Southern Poverty Law Center that Beck's "30-year career in broadcasting … has been partly defined by racist humor, racially charged venom, and advocacy for far-right foes of the civil rights movement."

Then again, judge not …

Of course, Beck is the guy who excoriated Obama about his dubious connections with his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, over his incendiary take on American racism. Birds of feather, he said.

By that standard, what does the spiritual company Beck keeps say about him?

As Zaitchik notes, Beck has urged his loyalists to read books by his fave Mormon author, W. Cleon Skousen, which he has deemed "divinely inspired." Skousen's oeuvre includes the history text "The Making of America: The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution," which calls African-American children "pickaninnies" and pitied the poor American slave owners as the "worst victims" of slavery. And he has treated listeners to taped insight of former Mormon president Ezra Taft Benson, who considered the civil-rights movement a "communist conspiracy" meant to ruin America.

… lest thee be judged.

In the final analysis, Beck diagnosed America's ills as "the backsliding of principles and values and most of all of God.''

Right message. Wrong messenger.

Can I get an amen?

Darryl E. Owens can be reached at dowens@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5095.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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