I've been underwhelmed by the religious'y "Restoring Honor" Glenn Beck rally held in Washington D.C. yesterday. Beck's big message was faith, hope, charity.
Wow. What a non-big, and vague, theological surprise.
Our country would supposedly do better if people had more faith in something (God, presumably), had more hope in something (not sure what), and were more charitable (beneficiary of largesse left undefined).
After reading some news reports of what was said at the rally, I'm left with significant philosophical questions and political worries.
On the philosophy front, I'm wondering what God we're supposed to turn back to, as Beck urged.
"Something beyond imagination is happening," he said. "America today begins to turn back to God."
Beck exhorted the crowd to "recognize your place to the creator. Realize that He is our king. He is the one who guides and directs our life and protects us."
Well, all sorts of religions and spiritual teachings refer to God. I've got a Yoga book called "How to know God." With all the interest in Yoga these days, maybe Glenn Beck was talking about embracing Patanjali's sutras.
I sort of doubt it, though. I also suspect that Beck wasn't urging the crowd to worship Allah, which is simply the Arabic name for "God."
Beck reportedly talked a lot about this nation's Founding Fathers, many (if not most) of whom were Deists. Wikipedia says:
Deism (pronounced /ˈdiːɪzəm/, us dict: dē′·ĭzm) is a religious and philosophical belief that a supreme being created the universe, and that this (and religious truth in general) can be determined using reason and observation of the natural world alone, without the need for either faith or organized religion.
Our Founding Fathers, such as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams, rejected faith and organized religion. Yet somehow Glenn Beck was able to urge Americans to do the opposite of what our founders practiced in the name of restoring this country to its original values.
I guess this is why PolitiFact's Truth-o-Meter has given Glenn Beck statements eight "false" and "pants-on-fire" ratings, and only two "true" or "mostly true." For a guy who talks about morals so much, it's strange that Beck is so OK with lying.
What bothered me the most about Beck's rally was the attempt to make Christianity into a state religion.
Martin Luther King's niece, Alveda King, is an anti-abortion activist. She came on stage to urge that prayer be put back in schools and the public square. That's how Saudi Arabia and Iran operate. Do we really want to turn our schools into Christian madrasahs?
When I channel surf my way onto conservative talk radio, sometimes I hear crazy talk of how Shariah (Islamic) law is coming to America. Yet Beck and his right-wing colleagues see nothing wrong with imposing some sort of ill-defined Biblical law upon United States citizens.
That said, there's obviously nothing much wrong -- and a lot right -- with faith, hope, and charity. The question is, as with the definition of "God," what exactly are we talking about?
The values of Beck's rally were "faith, hope, and charity." At first glance most people would agree with these values, including President Obama. However, disagreements arise when people start talking about what those values really mean as applied to society.
Does faith mean that only the Christian faith as the freedom to build a place of worship wherever they wish, or does it also include the right of a group to build a mosque two blocks away from Ground Zero?
Does hope mean providing every person hope through a government financed college education, or does hope mean that some individuals college dream dies because of a lack of financing?
Does charity involve the government playing a role in helping the poor, or relying on individuals to help the poor through voluntary donations (sparse as they may be)?