Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sunstone Magazine Presents Two-Part Profile On LDS Fox News Pundit Glenn Beck; He's A "Rough Stone Roaring"

Sunstone Magazine, sometimes characterized as "Apostasy Lite" by hard-line TBMs (true-blue Mormons), has published a two-part profile on prominent Fox News pundit Glenn Beck, a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Entitled "Glenn Beck: Rough Stone Roaring", it is a takeoff on the title of a popular book about Joseph Smith entitled "Rough Stone Rolling". The article is worth reading despite the fact that it is somewhat biased against Beck, minimizing his virtues while maximizing his perceived vices. The article is written in two parts; click the highlighted links at the start of the subsequent paragraphs to get to each part.

-- "Glenn Beck: Rough Stone Roaring Part I": In this first part, Beck is introduced as a master showman, alternately engaging, mesmerizing, and inflaming his audience, making them laugh one minute and inciting them to "storm the Bastille" the next minute. And his philosophical bent can vary; one day he’s populist, the next day he's libertarian bordering on anarchist, and the next day a button-down wingtipped conservative. This variability appeals to a wide variety of people because it keeps them on edge. And like many other pundits, Beck is a shameless self-promoter, the one facet of his existence that personally turns me off.

Because of the influence of W. Cleon Skousen on his life, Glenn Beck has a particular appeal for those Latter-day Saints who believe in personal revelation, America as a promised land, and the Constitution as divinely inspired. Beck has touted Skousen’s book, "The Five Thousand Year Leap", as a “must read” and speaks of his discovery of Skousen in terms most Mormons would associate with divine inspiration if not intervention. Beck also speaks with great reverence for the Founding Fathers, although some consider his views to be simplistic and idealistic. Criticism of Beck begins to appear in this part as some compare Beck to Joe McCarthy and Father Coughlin.

But it's in Part II that the criticism really gushes forth.

-- "Glenn Beck: Rough Stone Roaring Part II": Some extremist progressive Mormons are so put off by Beck's robust discourse that they suggest his "worthiness" should be officially questioned by the Priesthood chain of command, although by all accounts, he passes the worthiness test to pack a temple recommend. Then again, some progressive Mormons consider climate change and civil rights to be more scriptural than the Book of Mormon itself. A number of public statements by Beck of concern to some Mormons are cited:

• “I’m thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I’m wondering if I could kill him myself or if I would need to hire somebody to do it.”
• “Al Gore’s not going to be rounding up Jews and exterminating them. It is the same tactic, however. The goal is different. The goal is globalization.”
• In attempting to diminish Supreme Court nominee Sonja Sotomayor, Beck asks sarcastically, “What would Sonja do?”
• Beck portrays Obama and Democrats as vampires “going after the blood of our businesses,” and suggests “driv[ing] a stake through the heart of the bloodsuckers.”
• Claiming Obama is “letting our troops literally bleed and die” in Afghanistan, Beck suggests he will “pay for it” in the afterlife.
• On TV, Beck imitates Obama pouring gasoline on “average Americans” and says, “President Obama, why don’t you just set us on fire? . . . We didn’t vote to lose the Republic.”


Beck's LDS detractors also cite an October 16th 2009 statement on the official LDS website entitled "The Mormon Ethic of Civility" as applicable to Glenn Beck. In the statement, it is written “The Church views with concern the politics of fear and rhetorical extremism that render civil discussion impossible...The Church hopes that our democratic system will facilitate kinder and more reasoned exchanges among fellow Americans than we are now seeing.” Detractors claim Beck seems unaware of or is indifferent to the fact that some fellow Saints are liberal/progressives; furthermore, he seems insensitive to the fact that hundreds of thousands of Latter-day Saints live content with the full blessings of Church membership in countries with socialist governments. While this Church statement is not a litmus test of worthiness, it can be considered "counsel".

But does Glenn Beck really need to cater to liberals/progressives? Of course not; when he appears on Fox News or in other public secular venues, he's not officially representing the LDS Church. Unfortunately, critics believe the LDS Church will be judged by Glenn Beck's discourse; Mitt Romney has found it difficult to overcome anti-Mormon bias. But on the other hand, Beck is breaking down walls traditionally separating Mormons from Evangelicals; he was invited to give the commencement address in May 2010 at Liberty University, which is hardly a bastion for LDS activity.

Nevertheless, despite its anti-Beck bias, it would be hyperbolic to consider Sunstone Magazine to be "Apostasy Lite". Published by the Sunstone Education Foundation, Sunstone serves Latter-day Saints and many others for whom life and faith is a wonderful but unique adventure. Sunstone seeks to bring together traditional and non-traditional Latter-day Saints, promoting an atmosphere that values faith, intellectual and experiential integrity, although it generally appeals much more to the non-traditional crowd. Needless to say, Sunstone does not have any official ties to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (as if that wasn't already obvious).

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