Beck’s Road to Jerusalem

Glenn Beck plans to top his Restoring Honor rally with a Restoring Courage rally in Jerusalem on August 20, 2011. Fresh off of a trip to Jerusalem, Beck announced the “Restoring Courage” rally on his radio show: “God is involved in man’s affairs, but so is the force of darkness,” adding, “I believe I’ve been asked to stand in Jerusalem. Many in the history of man have had the opportunity to stand with the Jewish people … and they have failed.”

Beck’s obsessions with Jews, from his attacks on George Soros, to his statement that Reform Judaism was like radical Islam, have brought the religious huckster condemnation and scorn. Beck wants to prove himself a true “friend” of Israel with this rally, but his relentless fear- mongering—along with his disappearing audience—suggest a more selfish motive.

Although a Mormon, Beck’s beliefs appear here to be more aligned with conservative Christian beliefs regarding the end-times, and a particular reading of the Book of Revelation that lends itself to raptures, dispensations, and popular culture depictions like Left Behind and a Thief in the Night. Unlike Harold Camping, who just wants his calculations to be correct for once, Beck wants to write himself into the latter days history, by staging a Jerusalem rally in which he invokes not Lincoln and King, like he did on the National Mall, but Moses.

Beck’s latest venture is sure to draw a variety of Christian Zionists, his own supporters, and assorted end-timers, who all may get more of a show than they bargained for. Beck’s statement, “I’ve been asked to stand in Jerusalem” suggests that he may be conflating his role with that of the two witnesses of Revelation 11:3: “And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1, 260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” If Sarah Palin joins him in Jerusalem, you know what’s coming. You heard it here first.

Beck’s penchant for fascist theater and breathless lecturing all point to the signs of his unbalanced thinking and dangerous religious demagoguery. His trip to Israel proves that he’s not just a talk show host with conservative ideas; he wants to be a religious leader with political significance. Here’s hoping that Israeli officials do not give a permit for any rally in Jerusalem. Beck would probably just move the rally over to Meggido.  

Anthea Butler [@AntheaButler] is a Contributing Editor to Religion Dispatches. Her forthcoming book, in’The Gospel According To Sarah: How Sarah Palinin’’s Tea Party Angels are Galvanizing the Religious Right will be out in 2013.