"It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes."
That message in Psalm 118 is vital to remember whenever a charismatic leader comes along. Many who trusted in Barack Obama two years ago have learned that. Anyone who trusts in Glenn Beck will learn that too.
This is not to equate the two individuals. President Obama continues to promote policies that are fiscally irresponsible, ethically atrocious, or both. Beck is advocating antidotes: less government, smaller deficits, and the realization, as he has noted, that "abortion is murder. . . . I think if you had a womb with a window, it would never happen."
Beck is opening a window on what for decades has been obscured-not only unborn children but unknown stories from U.S. history. Civics has largely disappeared from American high schools. Many universities teach that sophistication means snootiness toward the United States. Since Beck's televised programs emphasize the greatness of the American dream, it's a revelation to those who heard only of nightmares.
What Obama and Beck have in common, though, is a tendency toward religious syncretism, uniting beliefs that are logically and theologically separate. Obama is a Marxist-Christian syncretist, blending elements of the incompatible: That can work in an election campaign when a lapdog press doesn't dig deep, but the little sister in the combination usually ends up frustrated, as many evangelicals who backed Obama in 2008 now are.
Beck is syncretizing Mormon and Christian understanding in the service of a civil religion, but that's a radically unequal yoking for reasons WORLD has pointed out before (see "Ye shall be as gods," Feb. 16, 2002). Maybe the essence lies in the difference between two ditties: the traditional Christian one of "In Adam's fall, we sinned all," and the classic Mormon couplet, "As God once was, man is. As God is, man may become."
America's Founders did not believe in men becoming gods. They emphasized checks and balances in governance because they put no trust in princes. Remembrance of the persecution of Mormons in the 19th century has contributed to Utah's strong anti-Washington sentiment, but Mormon theology concerning the perfectibility of man does not give Latter-Day Saints an anchor to keep them from drifting with political currents as latter days arrive.
Furthermore, the sense that we become righteous not by imputation (Christ's obedience in God's sight replacing our failure) but infusion (we become godlike) often leads movements to ascribe godlike virtue to their leaders. Let's watch the Beck movement and pray that it does not become a cult of personality. Let Beck's rise remind us that Christians in past decades did not take advantage of cable TV opportunities in news and public affairs as Ted Turner and Rupert Murdoch did with CNN and FOX: We complained but they built, and now we should do more than complain once again.
Bottom line: Glenn Beck is not the problem. His entertaining lectures are a slap in the face to poisonous political correctness. He's not the antidote, either. Christians should take refuge in the Lord and not in a beckoning embrace. But this country is better off with Glenn Beck than without him.