Thursday, September 02, 2010

What Does Glenn Beck Believe?

I don't think you'll get a valid sense of his beliefs by listening to him talk. He's quick to criticize the religious beliefs of others, for example, but how much time does he spend discussing his own? His lists of "principles and values" appear to be a reworking of AA's Principles and Virtues - substitute a dash of nationalism for the references to alcoholism, stir, and look what comes out. During his recovery from alcoholism Beck would have seen how the 12-step program can be a powerful tool for self-improvement. Skepticism of AA being duly noted, I'll give Beck the benefit of the doubt on this one.

But I am not going to cut Beck any additional slack. The book that gives me the best sense of where Beck is coming from is Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven. No, not the parts about the largely forgotten history of the Mormon Church, and not the front-and-center story of a cruel and bizarre homicide, but the material that describes how various schemers, scammers and grifters take advantage of their fellow Mormons.1 And although I could assume that some of these people are sincere, I find it hard to offer benefit of the doubt to a guy who proclaims that he has had a vision from God to build a gold mine, and that the gold will be found when Jesus returns to usher in the Millennium. "So give me your money, don't ask for any proof that there's gold at the site because I've already told you when the gold will be found and to challenge that is to question God." What if the mark is skeptical? "Pray on it."2 Krakauer describes a law enforcement official's effort to remind the people of Utah that God is not an investment counselor. How does this relate to Beck? See the following video, most notably the content starting at 3:08:

Among the eccentric offshoots of Mormonism, Krakauer details how self-described prophets or cult-like leaders often deify the Founding Fathers and the foundational documents of the nation, even as they misunderstand, misrepresent, or take out of context the beliefs, statements, and principles of those people and documents.

A charitable interpretation of Beck would be that he learned the tricks of the trade of the scammers and decided to employ them for a cause he believes will do good. In the alternative, f course, he's a scammer. "We report, you decide."

1. I don't mean to suggest that all of the scammers are sincere Mormon, but according to law enforcement officials quoted in the book it's common for the type of scammer under discussion to use their claims of shared faith as a foundation for building trust with their victims.

2. The concept of praying on important issues and decisions is very familiar to Christians, but within Mormonism there's also belief in Moroni's promise, that if you pray with true faith and a sincere heart, God's truth will be revealed to you.


  1. South Park did an awesome episode on Mormons. From what I read, it was fairly accurate.

    I have to say that I have read the Exorcist, the Shining and many other "horror" books w/o batting an eye...but I couldn't finish Under the Banner of Heaven. It freaked me out in ways I still can't articulate.

  2. I can understand that. The treatment of women in many FLDS groups is not much removed from the Taliban, and the history of Mormonism is a lot bloodier than one might otherwise imagine.