Glenn Beck Goes Messianic at America's Divine Destiny Event Before 2,500 Screaming Fans
About 2,500 screaming, adoring Glenn Beck fans packed the concert hall of Washington's Kennedy Center on Friday night to shower affection on their hero. Beck used the event, dubbed “America’s Divine Destiny,” to portray himself as an instrument of God prepared to lead America out of its spiritual darkness.
Beck, who seems to view himself in increasingly messianic terms, says he is helping to launch another religious “Great Awakening” that will shape American history and promised attendees that on Saturday they would be “fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”
Beck has plenty of company among those who saw Barack Obama’s election as a sign that politics is failing America, and that a religious revival is the only real hope for its future. In fact, it’s become practically routine at Religious Right events for leaders to announce that history would view their event as the spark of a new awakening. But none of them have had an audience near the size that Beck does.
Divine Destiny was a three-hour mix of gospel music and patriotic songs from an “all-star” choir of local singers and dancers, inspirational exhortations for people and churches to do good work in their communities, and speeches by Religious Right figures about America’s need to repent for the nation’s sins and turn back to God.
Here’s a quick look at the cast:
Rep. Randy Forbes, head of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, gave the opening prayer. Forbes, who represents Virginia’s 4th congressional district, has repeatedly introduced resolutions filled with assertions about the religious nature of America’s founding. Forbes reeled off a list of supposed attacks on faith in America that he and his colleagues had withstood. Without irony, Forbes declared America “the greatest nation the world has ever known” and in the next breath asked God to forgive any pride or conceit “if we have any.”
Following Forbes was former Texas Supreme Court Justice Raul Gonzales, who brought a bit of bipartisan diversity to the stage and led the pledge of allegiance.
Alveda King, scheduled to speak at the big event on Saturday, did not actually address the Ken Cen crowd, but came onstage to give a wave after Beck told us how weary she was from the “pummeling” she’s been taking. (King has been taking some well-deserved heat for her efforts to claim her uncle Martin Luther King’s support for her anti-gay and anti-choice activism.) Alveda has dismissed her late aunt Coretta Scott King’s position that MLK would have supported marriage equality by saying, “I’ve got his DNA. She doesn’t.”
Rabbi Daniel Lapin, the Christian Right’s favorite rabbi, puts the “Judeo” in Judeo-Christian for countless Religious Right political events. Lapin’s remarks could not be heard by those watching via video streaming because, we were told, his voice could not be amplified on the Sabbath. One of the show’s hosts later gave us a recap, saying Lapin had described America as a precious flower that could not be separated from its religious roots. Lapin’s three-part challenge to attendees: study the Bible, make more money and say extra prayers for America.
David Barton was Beck’s co-host. Barton is the Religious Right’s favorite pseudo historian and Beck’s new favorite person. After decades of plying his “Christian nation” history through books and evangelical churches, Barton has a huge new national audience thanks to Beck’s patronage.
Barton did what he does, which is to show off his collection of old speeches and sermons that in his telling prove America was based on Christian principles and was never meant to be a secular nation. Barton’s message was partly to the pastors in attendance, telling them that early American preachers were better at preaching on the news of the day. Beck told the pastors in attendance that the event was meant to stiffen their spines, because the church had “gone soft.”
The Catholic speaker for the evening was Dr. Patrick Lee of Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, who argued that the folks who share Beck’s worldview are engaged in a struggle against elites who “believe each of us has a right to fashion for himself what is meaningful and what is worthwhile.” (He says that like it’s a bad thing.) Lee argued that the Declaration of Independence is grounded in a world in which God provides the objective meaning and value, and that we as a country owe it to God not only to give him public thanks but also to stick by his “objective” definition of marriage.
Miles McPherson is a former professional football player and current pastor of the Rock Church, a San Diego megachurch that was active in the campaign to pass Prop. 8 and strip gay couples in California of the right to marry. McPherson gave his personal testimony about getting saved, giving up drugs, getting married, and starting his church. He described the congregation’s building as a state-of-the-art facility literally the same size as Noah’s Ark, but said the church found meaning by getting out of the building to work with people in need. He urged people to “stop playing church and go do something.”
Action film star Chuck Norris read long passages from writings by George Washington, Ben Franklin and Samuel Adams, intended to show their piety and their belief that America’s future depended on Americans acknowledging the country’s dependence on God. Norris was an energetic supporter of Mike Huckabee’s presidential bid and later endorsed “Ten Commandments” Judge Roy Moore’s gubernatorial bid in Alabama. “What does it take to get Gina and I off our ranch in Texas?” Norris asked. “An act of Congress? No way. What it takes is God or Glenn Beck.”
Gloria Copeland, who with her husband Kenneth runs a huge ministry, explained how faith works. She urged people to pray knowing that God would answer their prayers and raise a shield of faith over America. Copeland’s remarks that people should “take” what they want to receive from God, reflected the “name it and claim it” theology at the heart of the prosperity gospel, which was examined in Sarah Posner’s book, God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters.
Dave Roever, who was wounded in the Vietnam War, is a motivational speaker with an evangelical ministry. He recounted his injury and struggle to recover, and described Beck as a voice crying out in the wilderness.
John Hagee is the pastor whose endorsement proved too controversial for John McCain’s presidential campaign when his remarks about Catholics, among other things, came under fire. Hagee also promised great things from Saturday’s event. “We’re not here to curse the darkness, we’re here to turn on the light and that happens tomorrow.” His prayer decried pluralism, moral compromise and political correctness, and urged God to lead the nation back to its righteous roots by putting godly leaders into office and exposing the ungodly ones: “Let every secret sin be shouted from the housetops.”
Glenn Beck himself, who said it is “divine providence” that his rally falls on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, described how God had led him to make the event less political, and how God had turned up $600,000 just when it was needed. Beck, never shy about self-promotion, talked a few times about how much money he was spending on the event, and how that money came through at a point when he just couldn’t give any more. (Beck reportedly made $32 million in 2009.)
Whew. Three hours, and all that was just a warmup! Saturday’s “Restoring Honor” rally at the Lincoln Memorial, Beck told the crowd, would be “fundamentally transforming the United States of America."