Monday, August 30, 2010

Conservative Agonistes: Does Glenn Beck represent conservatism?

I have refrained from saying anything about Glenn Beck, but yesterday's rally makes my reticence more difficult. I'll just say (and I hope I am not hiding my understatement very well) that if I had to pick someone to be the titular head of the conservative movement, it wouldn't be Beck.

Although I am no fan of the apotheosis of Martin Luther King--and I don't appreciate the fact that we now celebrate Martin Luther King day in place of the birthdays of several of our presidents--if I had to choose between the relative merits of the two, I'm choosing King. For one thing, I think some conservatives have engaged in a severe overreaction to King based on the actions of his contemporary followers. I don't think it's fair to assess someone on the basis of the words and actions of their followers in the case of King any more than someone's followers should be judged on the basis of who thinks he's their leader in the case of Beck.

The mercifully few times I have tuned into Beck's show have been occasions of almost complete embarrassment. His lack of knowledge of what he is talking about (One of these occasions involved a discussion of the philosopher Martin Heidegger that was positively ludicrous) and lack of real substance should be a scandal to any thinking conservative. I realize this is supposed to be entertainment, but his goofy manner doesn't even provide that.

There are legitimate questions about King's personal life and even a few of his less savory influences, but his message of non-violent resistance to injustice on the explicit basis of Christianity was unassailable. Some conservatives seem to think it a damning indictment of King and his cause to say that he was a sinner, unaware that that standard cuts many ways. But great leaders have an ethos--a personal credibility. King had it, and many of the de facto leaders of the conservative movement (and I include Beck in that number) don't.

It is unfortunate.

I also note that several Christian social conservative groups have come out and condemned Beck's recent and more vocal advocacy of Mormonism. To this, all I can do is to employ a complex technical term which I only use in rare circumstances when special emphasis is needed:


It isn't exactly like no one knew this until now. Did they think his Mormonism was never going to raise it's head?

I'll have to take the Christian King over the Mormon Beck on August 28--or any other day.


Hannah Lashbrook said...

Thank you Mr. Cothran for your rational observations, as always. I've listened to Glenn Beck quite a bit in the past, and was never quite sure what to think of him. Sometimes you need other people to articulate your thoughts for you. :)

Martin Cothran said...

What is this? My former students? Thinking for themselves? How can this be? Who taught you this?

Martin Cothran said...

Thank you for reminding me that I do, indeed, have the One Ring in my possession. Just beware: I may use it.