The Restoring Honor Rally

As you know, on August 28, hundreds of thousands of people gathered on the National Mall for what organizer Glenn Beck called a “Restoring Honor” rally.

The stated goal of the rally was to “to pay tribute to America’s military personnel and others ‘who embody our nation’s founding principles of integrity, truth and honor.’” Beck told the crowd that “something beyond imagination is happening . . . America today begins to turn back to God.”

While I hope and pray that is the case, I do have some concerns.

Evangelicals figured prominently in the rally, both in the crowd and on the podium. That’s not surprising: We value truth, integrity and honor and, of course, pray for America to “turn back to God.”

But as theologian Russell Moore wrote, the sight of a “Mormon television star [standing] in front of the Lincoln Memorial and [calling] American Christians to revival” was, to put it mildly, disconcerting. Even worse, Moore wrote, was the fact that “evangelicals [are] cheering that they’ve heard the gospel, right there in the nation’s capital.”

Well, I’m not sure which gospel they heard.

Please understand, I’m not raining on anyone’s parade. And I’m not here to criticize what Beck is trying to do. I love him as a television commentator and political critic. And I believe he is a man who loves his country and wants the best for it.

But because Beck is not a Christian leader, I couldn’t help but wonder what the willingness of Christians to follow him says about the state of our own leadership.

Even setting aside his Mormonism, Beck isn’t exactly solid on issues we hold dear: the sanctity of life, the traditional family, and the erosion of religious freedom.

In Beck’s words, “we have bigger fish to fry” than these issues. He told Bill O’Reilly that America is a “symphony.” So those who raise these issues, like signers of the Manhattan Declaration, are insisting on playing their “clarinets” to detriment of the country.

It grieves me that Beck has taken this position, particularly because it’s out of step with his own church. The Mormon church has been a great ally in the fight to defend marriage.

Which leaves this question: What “God” are we supposed to “turn back” to? As Moore put it, the answer Beck gives, is, “at best, a generically theistic civil religion.”

And that’s what the Restoring Honor rally was: an appeal to civil religion. And that’s OK. Civil religion has its place. But it’s never to be confused with the real thing.

Glenn Beck is stepping into a leadership vacuum, and for that I applaud him. But folks, that means it’s time for Christians to become leaders ourselves. 2 Chronicles 7:14 tells God’s people to humble themselves, pray, seek God’s face, and turn from our wicked ways. This is the biblically prescribed way for transforming societies.

The Bible doesn’t specify how exactly God will “heal our land,” but part of the answer will be in our setting a godly example for others, and in our doing the gospel in every walk of life, and in defending truth. The power of transformed lives, of people who no longer live for themselves but for God and their neighbor, has been the way Christianity has always shaped societies throughout its history.

And that’s a power that mere civil religion cannot possess.

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  • consecrata

    I watched the rally because I knew the liberal media would distort the truth about it – and I watched part of Al Sharpton’s rally and the difference was stark: Sharpton was rallying his crowd to hatefulness and resentment – then later denied it. Beck’s rally was peaceful and patriotic. Yet, there were things that made me uncomfortable. It’s true that Beck is stepping into a leadership vacuum and so the leaders of Christian Churches need to stand up and get into the battle for honor and integrity, as do leaders of other faiths. Beck has created a ‘black robe brigade’ which reminded me that the early Jesuits were called the “Black Robes” – his ‘preaching’ at times made me uneasy. And the fact that he showed videos of himself at the rally all week made me uneasy too. But, what really got to me is when, on his radio show on Sept. 3rd his staff trashed Dorothy Day as did Glenn on his tv show at an earlier time. They mocked her, calling her a Marxist among other nasty things…I was so angry I wanted to say to Glenn: “How dare you! You brag all the time about your own conversion from a life of addiction but don’t credit a wonderful, selfless woman for her own conversion!” I’ve not yet written to Beck but I will…I wish he would just stick to the history lessons he is giving and mention God where appropriate but stop preaching since he is not clear about the truths of other faiths. Beck was a Catholic and I am surprised that he joined the Mormons since a little research would have shown him that it is not a Christian religion. Recently on his show he told some bizarre story about the early Indians at the founding of our country…so bizarre that even his most avid fans asked where it came from…well, it came from the Mormon founder’s account of the early history of the USA and it’s false. I notice that Beck is mentioning Mormonism more and more lately. I honestly don’t have a problem with someone urging Americans to go back to God – and he does say that each should follow his own faith…but lately, there are some strange comments coming through from Beck…but if leaders of other Faiths don’t step up to the plate then Beck’s version of Christianity will spread because people are suffering and are looking for help and guidance wherever they can find it. Beck is for the sancity of life – but he says that gay marriage doesn’t bother him because it’s not hurting anybody. This is clearly against the teachings of Mormonism so it’s hard to understand why he is saying that…let’s just pray for Glenn. He is doing a lot of good not only in teaching the authentic history of our country but also in pointing out the deceptions of the Obama administration.

  • Beck is an ex-Catholic Mormon who trashed Servant of God Dorothy Day? Peachy. I was hoping something good would come of his efforts; maybe, by the grace of God, something still will.

  • Joe DeVet

    While acknowledging Dorothy Day’s obvious spiritual gifts, her conversion, and all the charity her life personified, I think if one reads what she wrote and looks at the stuff that comes from her Catholic Worker Movement, “Marxist” is fairly close to the truth about her attitude toward economics. In my opinion, a serious shortcoming.

    Regarding Glenn Beck, he is 90% good policy recommendations and good intentions, and 10% just plain wacko. As a result, I fear that his advocacy ends up giving a bad name to conservative ideas as well as religion, whether civil or actual.

  • consecrata

    Prairie Hawk…talking about the ‘grace of God’ – may the grace of God enable you to become half the person Dorothy Day was after a fiery youth…the Catholic Church has been considering beatifying her…as for the Catholic Worker Movement, like all movements it has gone off track…but I wonder if you, in your life, live poverty and charity in a selfless way as Dorothy Day did after she atoned for her earlier sins…as did Mary Magdalen.

  • Consecreta — you are really over the line here. Prairia Hawk was not agreeing with Beck and the grace of God is plenty evident in him. And not that it is any of your business, but he does live in poverty and charity.

    I think you meant to go after Joe and there isn’t anything wrong with what he said either. Many people have made the point that she fell under the spell of Marxism. Lots of Catholics did at that time, too. and sadly still do.

    What is really the terrible indictment here in this article is against public Catholic leadership in this country where Catholics are the religious majority. If you are asking yourself, “What public Catholic leadership?” well, that’s my point.

  • maggied

    Mary, Indictment or just blurring of the real issue? We, the people, should not be looking for a messiah as was done in 2008. The responsibility for ownership of the situation our nation is in is ours. If we are looking for perfect leadership we are looking for an easy way to avoid being the people we need to be which is more perfect Catholic Christians. As people who choose who will lead us we are the leaders here. Every voter who abides in truth will have an effect on, not only the election of our civil leaders, but our neighbors as well. Communicate with them because they too partake in choosing our next civil servants on Capital Hill and in the White House. We cannot do this by demanding perfection but by applauding and encouraging the best we have.
    I hoped to go to the rally but had to work at the airport. I saw people leaving town wearing their rally tee-shirts on their way home. I spoke to as many as I was able and discovered they aren’t worried about who is mormon or Catholic, but they were filled with a renewed spirit, a love of our country and intend to live with that in mind. Look at the blessing there.

  • consecrata

    I apologize if I was uncharitable. And Prairie Hawk I am sure you do live as Christ requires…I think I was till angry at the malicious way Glenn Beck and Glenn Beck’s staff have been going after Dorothy Day. True, she did live as a ‘Marxist’ or ‘communist’ when she was young…I think her underlying goal was to live a radical poverty, taking, as Christ asked, the poor and homeless into her life, into her home. She did have sexual relationships which caused her to become pregnant – I don’t know if she had an abortion, but she did have one child she kept and raised well. But, like St. Paul and St. Augustine, she also had a conversion experience. And from then on, she lived as a true daughter of the Church a life of holy simplicity and poverty. “Deal your bread to the hungry and take those without shelter into your house.” Like St. Francis, she took those words to heart and carried them out. She wrote once: “Every good impulse, every noble deed we perform is of God, Christ in us. At the same time there is an evil, complacent nagging going on, trying to discourage us, trying to impugn our motives, trying to spoil everything of good we do…as long as we live there will be a war within us, a conflict between nature and grace, nature again and again getting the upper hand for the moment and then being put down. But if we have faith and hope it is impossible to be discouraged.” She knew deep and intense discouragement, as I’m sure did St. Francis and Mother Teresa. But she kept on – I have no particular devotion to Dorothy Day, although I admire the way she struggled and fought to understand the teachings of Christ through His Church and to live as He taught. Jesus did say: “Do not judge.”…I did not mean to judge but I did and for that I am sorry.

  • Consecrata,

    Just to clear things up, I lived and worked at my local Dorothy Day House some years ago, receiving a monthly stipend and living with the homeless men who came asking our assistance. I consider it an honor to be an albeit-unofficial “Catholic Worker” and I hold Dorothy Day in great esteem. I hope and pray she makes sainthood, regardless of her politics, which I think are perhaps at one end of the spectrum of the Church’s social justice teaching while remaining Catholic through-and-through.

    She was also adamantly anti-war, a pacifist, which is also at one end of the Catholic spectrum, and her positions have caused me no small amount of struggle as I look at the world and see all the things worth fighting for (I’m considerably more bellicose!)


  • consecrata

    Hi Anthony, thanks for your response. I too have disagreements with some of the positions Dorothy Day took and I too, like you, am a bit more bellicose! St. Francis of Assisi is one of my favorite saints and sometimes I feel a bit uneasy while saying his prayer of peace because I believe there are times we have to fight and things we have to fight for. I am very much in the battle to create a culture of life. Pope John Paul and Mother Teresa felt so strongly that if we deny the unborn human baby the right to life then who will be the next to be deprived of the right to life. I worked with Mother Teresa in Calcutta and there found a poverty more devasting than any I’d ever seen or known before…and came home almost broken in faith and in body from the experience – but then I went back into the battle for life.. the dignity of every human person needs to be acknowledged and made known…and then I worked in Haiti for many years…I think the thing is that although I don’t agree with everything Dorothy Day stood for I admire her courage and commitment to love and to serve no matter what the cost…she was often misunderstood by people on all sides of a position and she was often desperately lonely…yet, like Mother Teresa, (and Jesuse) she kept on putting one foot in front of the other and did not turn back…so when Glenn Beck and his staff made a mockery of her and her life, I was furious…as I am when some mock Mother Teresa’s way of life…disagree but respect… and I am ‘bellicose’ when people judge all priests by the inappropriate behavior of some, or when leaders in our Church do not lead…thanks for your response Anthony – I felt badly after I’d written as I did but it was more like venting and I best not ‘vent’ on line…Florence