As a religion reporter, I actually find Glenn Beck pretty boring. His schtick is derivative, and his line-up of faithy speakers is so familiar to me. His history “professor,” David Barton, feeds him his “Christian nation” mythology, and the falling on your knees to pray for America bit is old hat. (Thanks to Peter Montgomery for watching Beck’s “Divine Destiny” event Friday night and reporting on it.)
Beck, though, is not the winner of his partnership with Barton. The religious right, and by extension, the Republican Party is. Back in 2004, the GOP paid Barton to travel to churches to tell pastors that that they could legally give guidance to their congregations on how to vote without crossing the Internal Revenue Service line that prohibits houses of worship from endorsing particular candidates. At the time, the political reporter Walter Shapiro wrote of Barton’s efforts at the Potter’s House Church of God in Columbus, Ohio, “the Republicans are banking on churches such as the Potter’s House and the party’s ’72-Hour Plan’ that helped them gain seats in the 2002 congressional elections. The battle for Ohio, so the cliché goes, depends on turnout.”
By 2010, the religious right’s messaging and get-out-the-vote efforts in evangelical churches has probably reached its saturation point. The Alliance Defense Fund and other religious right organizations have launched efforts like “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” designed to test the IRS rule against electioneering from the pulpit. The religious right has been so successful at politicizing so many of the nation’s churches, in fact, that Barton probably needs a new forum. With his audience exponentially larger than any megachurch, Beck the televangelist is a natural pipeline to those voters.
For a long time, reporters and commentators have rejected or ignored the idea that the tea party movement in its Beckian or other forms had a religious component. Here at RD, we’ve been reporting on those religious influences for a long time, so Beck 2.0 (messiah) is not really a surprise. I wonder if it will be to the Democrats.