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Saturday, August 28, 2010

“I have a gleam.”

“I believe James Madison said “ I am not a bigot i will pray with any man.”Sorry we are a country found on christain values.If you don't like it move to a country that has your values.”

Politics? Glenn Beck just made the Tea Party go all-in on God.

That first quote by the way was from a commentor on a story about the rally. More on the religious implications in a second, but if you missed the Glenn Beck Reinvents America Restoring Honor rally, why? It was nothing short of an SEO keyword orgy, summoning every generation and movement this country has produced: Martin Luther King Jr., 9/11, George Washington minus his Challenger, Lincoln, the Greatest Generation and Jesus.

Along the way, he may have even referenced the first cavemen sitting around a fire.

The event also recognized the troops serving and those who gave their lives for this country with the Special Operations Warrior Project. While I have no doubt that he believed what he said today, it felt like he was also throwing any cause at his Facebook wall to see what would stick with Patriots. Estimates ahead of time put their number of north of 100,000 for those attending in Washington. (A screengrab shows a high of 130,000+ watching on Ustream.) The whole event was worth noting on two fronts.

First, the significance of the date.

For a guy who feigned surprise over not knowing that Martin Luther King spoke in the same location 47 years ago—to the day—he sure got over it quickly. This rally was one large MLK meme, complete with niece Dr. Alveda King justifying her appearance as an expression of honor and her right to free speech. Forget that Beck himself called into question the “radical socialist” leanings of the very person whose spirit he was trying to instill in the hearts and minds.

When you have a dream, nothing gets in the way, including a cherry-picked past serving your current agenda.

To a lesser degree, it’s also worth noting how those ghosts are being used to win the elections of tomorrow. This notion of *taking back* a country the way the colonies stood up to British tyranny overlooks one important dynamic: We didn’t have an established, recognized and ratified government at the time. We do now. The way we *revolt* is to put down the musket and vote.

A bigger accomplishment for Mr. I Have A Gleam involved the Tea Party itself though. It’s a movement which needed this event to go off without a hitch. Doing so meant the mainstream media could no longer say that all Tea Party *events* are little more than racist gun rallies where hordes scream “Down with Obama the evil socialist!” (That the event *requested* certain restrictions be honored by attendees ahead of time no doubt helped achieve this goal.)

Mission accomplished! See, groups of Great American patriots can gather en masse while saying the pledge of allegiance—or singing God Bless America for fours on end—peacefully.

Here’s where the movement may have taken a hit though. The religious fervor, sermonizing, preaching and whatever other term you want to use was the real face of the day. For a movement like the Tea Party that billed themselves as non-partisan, they surely weren’t coming off as tolerant of any religion but Christianity, and Brother Glenn was testifying like it was his job.

Glenn Beck reaching out to God cemented the opinion people have of the movement as a bunch of Bible-thumpers, instead of one that reaches out to Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics... the way MLK would’ve, alas the great irony of the day. A message of reaching out contradicted by one of taking back.

Having said that, and while I may be giving him far more credit for this than he deserves, but was this the coming out event for the discussion of religion in our lives? More importantly, one that can now take place in the next election cycle without having to hide?

It’s been said we don’t fight religious wars, but you can also say we don’t run religious election campaigns either. It’s something the likes of Rush Limbaugh have avoided directly mentioning when screaming into the mic as flyover country listens intently, only because of its derisiveness.

It’s always there however, under the surface.

If a candidate has mentioned the subject? It usually gets cloaked in the subtext of generic messaging that “supports the rights for all to enjoy religious freedom” and so on. Look how Obama and McCain got through 2008 with barely a mention of the right to life movement, or the issue of same-sex marriages that Biden and Palin likewise sidestepped.

Like immigration, these are the bullet point issues on a website that they hoped no one would really pay attention to. But since Glenn brought up religion, I’ll take the theme and run with it.

With his proclamation, the Tea Party seems like this Noah’s Ark, leaving the GOP and Republican party behind, with the last chance for *real* God-fearing conservatives to jump on before it’s too late. In effect, the party is asking people to take a leap of faith with them—or be left behind to face what’s coming, alone in the dark.

Can you see fear from your couch yet?

Problem is, it’s a rudderless ship without a Noah because they haven’t supported any one particular candidate so far, nor has any one particular candidate stood up to take the helm. Was it Palin up until now? Is it Beck after today? Does the GOP party in general plan to support them and bring them into their fold?

That they also seem to contradict themselves at times over what they stand for only adds to the party’s identify crisis. Fiscal responsibility? A return to conservative family values? Those aren’t mutually exclusive of course, but I’ve seen such a range of contradictory comments from its supporters that tell me the movement still needs unification in terms of just what it believes.

But if greed was good, God clarifies. You know where you stand when you proclaim your love for Him the way Beck did Saturday. Can this movement play election spoiler without someone stepping up, or is it a movement that anyone can rent for the day, including a former morning zoo DJ?

One can only gleam.


Ben Kunz said...

"We don’t run religious election campaigns either..."

Maybe we now do. The Tea Party, to win, needs to draw support from the middle. It has drawn a negative image as being too extreme, too hostile (with the now-missing anti-Obama clown posters), etc.

Today I think we saw a repositioning of The Tea Party as the party of peace-loving, God-loving, open to any religion (Beck has Muslims on stage), do-it-yourself, slow down government. That could resonate among lots of folks in the middle of our spectrum who believe in church before state.

All in all, I think it was a brilliant rebranding move. Go for God, and get the middle.

mtlb said...

Yep, agree on the rebrand. They needed this. Wasn’t glamerous but for the first time, the Tea Party wasn’t making outrgeous claims. Oh wait, that’s what Beck was for. They may have gone with G a little too much, though.

Jetpacks said...

Not only does this work for the middle as Ben points out - it carefully reaches out to blacks, historically (and currently) predominantly evangelical Christians, while the debate (unfair or not) continues off to the side about whether or not Obama is a Christian.

The fact that up until a few years ago, evangelicals viewed Mormonism as a cult (Romney, anyone?) seems lost on all these people who think Beck is leading them to the promised land.

And on another note, for someone who made lots of hay over Obama's cult-like stardom and rapid rise to power, Beck seems disturbingly messianic in his recent proclamations about what God told him to do.