Israel a la Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck is back--at least his rallying cry is--this time in Israel. The former Fox News host headed up his "Restoring Courage" rally this week, one year after his “Restoring Honor” rally in DC last year.

The rally comes with some controversy with some of Beck's previous statements and perceptions in Israel. Unfortunately, some coverage leading up to the event muddies our understanding of Beck's own faith and associations. The LA Times published a fairly confusing piece where the reporter used the terms evangelical, Christian and fundamentalist interchangeably without really explaining where Beck, as a Mormon, fits in.

Perhaps it was only a matter of time before conservative American commentator Glenn Beck, viewed by many supporters as a modern-day prophet, brought his messianic message to Jerusalem.

Where's some support for the suggestion that his supporters see him as a "modern-day prophet"? By messianic message, the reporter means what?

The visit is focusing renewed attention on the growing, and some say unlikely, alliance between right-wing Israelis and Christian fundamentalists in the U.S.

Sorry, tell me again, who are the Christian fundamentalists? Apparently the LA Times is above AP style on this one.

The support comes, in part, from a belief among some Christian fundamentalists that Jews are God's "chosen people" and that a return of the Jewish people to the Holy Land and the rebuilding of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem are signs of the second coming. Beck, who converted to the Mormon faith in 1999, frequently discussed such end-of-the-world prophecies and biblical themes on his program.

So is Beck a Christian fundamentalist? Does he suggest these ideas as the basis for his rally? The reporter continues this theme that there is some partnership going on between American Christians and Israelis, but he pulls from a seemingly random television show in Texas, and it's unclear why he's connecting it to Beck's rally.

But Ricci and others see potential fault lines in the partnership. For starters, evangelicals are often active in missionary work, something Israelis do not tolerate.

Last week, Texas-based Daystar Television Network hosted "Israel Day," in which it broadcast live from Jerusalem. In between on-air solicitations for $1,000 pledges, the program's hosts condemned efforts to make part of East Jerusalem the capital of a new Palestinian state, and they vowed unconditional support for Israel.

Yet at the same time, the station boasted of "bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the land of Israel." One host said that more Jews have been converted to Christianity in the last 20 years than in the last 2,000.

Yes, I imagine that Beck has a little bit of a following among some evangelicals, but even that relationship has occasionally been dicey. Evangelicals don't usually consider Mormons to be evangelicals the same way that Mormons don't consider evangelicals to be Mormons. This was the lead for the Associated Press:

Conservative Christian commentator Glenn Beck capped a contentious visit to Israel Wednesday by hosting a rally next to a hotly disputed holy site in Jerusalem's Old City.

I don't really understand why the reporter didn't just say that Beck is Mormon, since that seems more specific and less debated than "conservative Christian." Overall, I'm still curious how interfaith this event is, whether it's generically religious, generally Christian, or what? For many reasons, you can't really lump everyone together under the "Christian fundamentalist" label as one big happy family on an Israeli mission.

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

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