“Does God speak through Glenn Beck?” While secularists at MSNBC smirk and some on the “permanent left” deride this question, believers understand that God chooses special messengers. Catholic theology says you don’t have to be a saint for God to speak through you. So does God speak through the Fox News man?
Knowing that Beckian revelation could happen raises the question if it did happen. In the light of Beck’s August 2010 rally at the Lincoln Memorial, when Beck attributed his words to God’s power, a Catholic theological test helps decide if his was truly a “God moment.”
Let us exclude here the notion that everything is a result of God’s providence. According to this shallow theology, God willed the Holocaust, Hurricane Katrina was sent by God to punish New Orleans for tolerating homosexuals, etc. In contrast, Catholic theology avoids this mechanical understanding of Divine causality using this test: Does the new “revelation” contradict Christ’s teaching in the Gospel?
Most Catholic private revelations are of a pious nature, like those to Bernadette at Lourdes and to St. Margaret Mary about the Sacred Heart. There have been political revelations, especially from St. Joan of Arc telling the French soldiers God was on their side, or the three secrets of Fatima against Communist Russia. But the content of these politicized messages had already been voiced by other people. These are “private revelations” meant to encourage and edify believers, but they never substitute for the Gospel.
While Catholics may filter Mr. Beck’s words through such tests, Mr. Beck does not. He is, after all, a former Catholic. (I hesitate to call him an “apostate,” since his rejection of Catholicism seems more like therapy after his substance abuse.) He has embraced the Church of Latter Day Saints, which teaches there is new revelation beyond the New and Old Testaments. This makes the Book of Mormon somewhat like the Muslim Qur’an.
I think Mr. Beck is preaching the Mormon doctrine of “restoration.” The first Mormon, Joseph Smith, was both head of the LDS Church and a likely candidate for President of the United States. His idea was to restore America to Christianity by rewriting the laws of the nation according to what God told him. In sum, “restoration theology” is “theocracy.”
Catholicism has had its own love affair with theocracy, but at least since the pontificate of Leo XIII, theocracy has not been Catholic doctrine. We are to evangelize culture – change its premises – but we know how to live in a nation that permits divorce without seeking divorces ourselves. Theocracy, on the other hand, makes everything declared as sinful to be illegal as well. Was not Prohibition the imposition of a Protestant teetotaler norm as supreme law of the land?
Mr. Beck may doubt the authenticity of Mr. Obama’s Christianity, but he does so from a peculiar theological perch of his own. Beck said God chose the United States to be a Christian Nation and “inspired” the US Constitution. Restoration will sweep away all perversions in God’s chosen nation by returning to constitutional principles. While it is unclear if Beck’s restoration will repeal the 14th and 17th Amendments, Social Security, Medicare, environmental protection, etc., it will take the country to a different place. He has a right to his beliefs, of course, but Catholics have the right to dissent from the idea that U.S. law should be governed by private revelations.
Even if every Beckian enthusiast is not a Mormon, most belong to churches that teach individual interpretation of the scriptures. For Catholics, this is heresy: but many Evangelicals believe that God’s word is known without mediation of the Church or scholarly understanding of scripture. Thus, Beck’s expectation that he is somehow a chosen vessel of God is amplified by individuals able to interpret revelation on their own and conclude that Glenn Beck is the One, anointed by God as Messiah to America. Catholic teaching is that such titles do not belong to Glenn Beck or anyone else. Amen.