After months of huffing and puffing on Fox News, Glenn Beck did succeed in
pulling a big crowd out to the Lincoln Memorial on August 28. But, once they
got there, nothing happened.
Beck's so-called "Restoring Honor Rally" will not be remembered 200 years from
now, as he predicted. Nor, as his promos trumpeted, will it go down with the
Wright Brothers flight or the moon landing as one of those events that changed
the course of history.
Take it from me. I was in that crowd, somewhere between the World War
II Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. What took place was a strange
combination of political rally and religious revival. Indeed, I felt like I was in
the middle of an old-fashioned camp meeting, surrounded by a typical camp-
meeting crowd: old, white, and angry. There were more black speakers on the
platform than in the audience.
As instructed, most people left their signs home. But there was no doubting
their politics. They waved "Don't Tread on Me" flags. Many wore t-shirts
identifying them as members of a particular Tea Party chapter: Richmond,
Leesburg, Colorado Springs. They handed out anti-Obama literature and sold
buttons complaining "Obama spoke. Now I'm broke."
No matter how many times Beck denies it, this was first and foremost a political
rally. You can't have Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin as featured speakers and say
it's non-political. You can't bash Barack Obama three hours a day on the radio
and one hour a day on national television, five days a week, month in and
month out, and then suddenly declare yourself non-partisan. Sarah Palin can't
proclaim that this country doesn't need transforming, it needs reforming -- and
not pretend she's talking about President Obama.
What surprised me most was not the politics, but the Christian religious fervor.
Every speaker mentioned God. Alveda King, MLK's niece, declared: "This is the
day that the Lord has made." Two black ministers read from the Bible. One
of them announced: "Black and white, rich and poor, we are all Americans
gathered together today in the name of Christ." And, trying to raise the event to
a higher plane, even Mormon Glenn Beck insisted: "This day has nothing to do
with politics -- and everything to do with God!"
But, on August 28, even God was forced to take a backseat -- to Glenn Beck
himself. Prior to the event, Beck had released a promotional video putting
himself in a pantheon of American heroes that included Abraham Lincoln,
Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks. But he even topped
that on Saturday.
Again painting his rally as an epic event, Beck noted that, throughout history,
whenever mankind seems to lose its way, "Someone appears to wake America
up." George Washington did. Abraham Lincoln did. Franklin Roosevelt did. And,
without hearing him utter the words, everybody knew what Beck was really
saying: "And today, that American Savior -- is me!"
But even that wasn't enough. It didn't start in this country, Beck added. It
started all the way back at the burning bush. When the people of God had lost
their way and were wandering in the desert, along came Moses! I'm not only
the new Washington, Lincoln, FDR, and MLK rolled into one, Beck seemed to
say. I'm also the new Moses. At which point, I fully expected him to part the
Reflecting Pool and walk across it.
In the end, the August 28th rally was all about the honor and glorification of Glenn
Beck. And it was truly disturbing to hear one of the most divisive figures on
radio and television preach unity and love. This is the man who called Jimmy
Carter a "waste of skin." Who dismissed Hillary Clinton as a "stereotypical
bitch." Who accused today's civil rights leaders of distorting the message of Dr.
King. And, of course, who called President Obama a "racist."
Appearing on Fox News Sunday the morning after the rally, Beck pulled back
from his "racist" comment, explaining he only meant to say that Obama was a
believer in "liberation theology."
Once again, Beck doesn't get it. Liberation theology -- which reflects the
teachings of Jesus by focusing on freeing the poor from unjust social, political,
and economic conditions -- was also embraced and practiced by Martin Luther
King, the very man whose mantle Beck tried to steal on the steps of the Lincoln