Glenn Beck’s Salvation Army
by Peter Montgomery
(Excerpts) Beck has become utterly enamored of religious right pseudo-historian David Barton, who has not only spent a great deal of time on his program, but also joined him on stage at “America’s Divine Destiny,” the event that kicked off the recent Beckapalooza weekend in Washington DC. It was while watching Divine Destiny that I was struck with what seems like a glaring contradiction. On one hand, Beck and Barton are placing huge political and historical importance on a belief in individual salvation, as opposed to the collective salvation envisioned by liberation theology. But when it comes to worshiping God, religious right leaders insist that individual prayer and praise is not enough; Americans have what you might call a collective duty—as a nation—to acknowledge our dependence on God.
At one level, you could view Beck and Barton’s attacks on liberation theology and collective salvation as part of a century-long debate in this country between a personal gospel and a social gospel; it’s part of the history of Christianity in America. But there’s more at work here. In Beck’s and Barton’s hands, the attack on collective salvation becomes a cultural weapon against adherents to the social gospel as well as a political weapon against the constitutional principle of church-state separation, the bedrock of individual religious liberty.
But that commitment to individual liberty, and hostility to the collective, seem to disappear with the insistence that it is not only individuals but America as a nation that must “turn back to God.” Where does that leave Americans who don’t see their faith through a prism of American nationalism? Not to mention the growing number of Americans without any religious commitment?Beck tells us, “you must fall to your knees and you must reconnect with God. He is not asking you. He is commanding us as a people to get behind Him. He will right the wrongs. We will have to pay a price because we lived outside of His laws. We will have to pay a price, but every day we don’t get behind Him, the price gets bigger. It gets harder. Get behind Him. He will be our shield because these people are not enemies of ours. They are enemies of Him. They are enemies of man’s freedom.”
“Commanding us as a people.”
Doesn’t that sound dangerously collective?Brent Walker, a longtime advocate for religious liberty, agrees that there’s a dichotomy. Walker is careful to draw a line between what he sees as appropriate public evangelism, like Beck’s rally, and getting the government involved. “Where I see the contradiction is advocating for religious liberty and trying to co-opt the government to do your bidding.” Source