Glenn Beck hosted his non-political rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial yesterday. The event came off more like a religious revival meeting. He even had Gospel singers. Meanwhile, the rhetoric was full of references to God and biblical tales and allusions. At one point he likened the plight of Americans to the Jewish slaves in ancient Egypt, and there were repeated uses of the number 40.
Beck made frequent tie ins between God and politics. So while this wasn’t a political rally per se, he certainly made every effort to encourage people to take back the country for God. To keep it on God’s path. To vote for people who will govern with God in their hearts and on their minds. There were no specifics given of how all that was supposed to work. It seemed mostly based on the Transitive Law. God is Good. America is good. Therefore, God = America.
From a sufficient altitude, it’s hard to disagree with the basic sentiment. If Jesus were President, we’d be in way better shape. Although I expect His philosophies about healing the sick, clothing the poor, paying your taxes, and turning the other cheek would leave the current crop of Conservative Christians in a bit of an ideological bind. But Jesus isn’t here, and historical attempts to have mortal stand-ins haven’t worked out so well.
The Protestant Reformation was a people’s uprising against the Papal theocracy of Rome. The 18th century French theocracy ended with the French Revolution. Perhaps somewhat ironically, the American revolution was a people’s revolt to get out from under the thumb of the British theocracy of that period. And do we really even need to discuss the shortcomings of current Islamic theocracies?
Perhaps a more curious element of Beck’s speech was the several minutes he devoted to explaining the importance of tithing 10% of your income to the church. The churches no doubt appreciated the shout out, but it’s difficult to see how that helps the situation Beck lives in fear of. The right is repeatedly warning how higher taxes right now will cripple the struggling economy. Businesses won’t invest and people won’t be able to afford to live. It’s pretty clear the vast majority of Americans are giving well below the 10% guideline. Therefore, relative to the money available to spend on groceries and new employees, won’t the charitable donations hurt even more than say allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire? And what would churches do with this money? Will they build roads, bridges, and schools? Will they start businesses to hire people and reduce unemployment and boost GDP? Will they provide health care or senior care? Will they start inspecting egg farms for salmonella? In other words, how does that money help the current government deficit, reduce the need for government, or increase freedom and liberty? That seems a rather important point Beck left out of his talk.
No doubt, many found Beck’s rally inspiring. Yet as a call to action, it was woefully short on any specifics. If you’ve just won a beauty pageant, it’s pretty reasonable to dedicate your reign to creating world peace, ending hunger, and building a world where we all just get along. But if you’re trying to incite an actual movement to make a difference in people’s lives, you need to bring a little more of a plan to the party. God may be good and all, but it seems Beck finds the Devil is in the details.