I Believe in God, and He is the Center of my Life
As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensable duty of all government, to protect all conscientious professors thereof, and I know of no other business which government hath to do therewith. Let a man throw aside that narrowness of soul, that selfishness of principle, which the niggards of all professions are so unwilling to part with, and he will be at once delivered of his fears on that head. Suspicion is the companion of mean souls, and the bane of all good society. For myself I fully and conscientiously believe, that it is the will of the Almighty, that there should be diversity of religious opinions among us...
AS WE CONTINUE OUR REVIEW of the hidden left-wing agenda in Glenn Beck's "9 Principles and 12 Values", we come to principle 2:
I believe in God, and He is the center of my life.
This one is a bit more subtle, and for good reason.
After the statement of purpose and the announcement in the first principle that America is good, Beck needs to cover his tracks a bit.
He's quite aware that the "Why should God Bless America" crowd is going to take offense at both his bipartisan comments in the statement of purpose and his claim that America is good.
These people are both highly religious and highly partisan.
But he can't afford to alienate them completely—he'd lose his job.
So he takes his cue from Jesus.
Jesus spoke in parables, so that only his disciples could understand his true meaning. Beck does something similar here.
His conservative audience consists of two kinds of people: reasonable conservatives of the old-fashioned, William F. Buckley, type and irrational conservatives who have no interest in facts or reason, and can't be swayed by either.
So Beck carefully phrases this principle so that it means different things to each of these groups.
The irrational will take it at face value, ask no questions, and be reassured that Beck is still one of them, in spite of his bipartisanship and heretical belief that America is good.
The rational segment of his audience will ask the obvious question.
Beck encourages them to ask this question by burying a hint that his statement shouldn't be understood simplistically in the second clause: "He is the center of my life."
Both Beck and his more thoughtful readers are aware that it is the height of arrogance to claim that one's life is centered in God.
Unless you are Mother Teresa or Jesus such a claim is the height of arrogance.
The most that any thoughtful Christian would claim is that they would like their life to truly be centered on God, or that they work daily to make their life more centered on God.
While the irrational segment of his audience will take that claim literally, and use it to reassure themselves about Beck, his thoughtful readers will recognize the arrogance it entails immediately, and be tipped off to look more closely at this principle.
They will ask questions.
And, as I pointed out above, the chief question they will ask is "Which God?".
Which God is Beck referring to here?
They will see immediately that Beck cannot be referring just to his own God—the God of the Mormon Church.
That would contradict everything he said in the statement of purpose about all Americans being united.
Beck obviously does not mean that in order to be united we must all become Mormons.
Beck is making it clear, to the discerning reader, that he means the God of each American: not just the God of Mormon Americans, but also the God of Southern Baptist Americans, the God of Methodist Americans, the God of Roman Catholic Americans, the God of Quaker Americans and the God of Jewish Americans and the God of Islamic Americans, the God of Native Americans and the Gods of Hindu Americans and the God of Greek Orthodox Americans.
It's something like the God of Alcoholics Anonymous. "God as we understood him. "
It's the "Nature's God" of the Declaration of Independence, which Jefferson held could be summed up in the phrase "be just and good".
What Beck is calling for, between the lines, is an ecumenical spirit, in line with the freedom of religion this country is famous for, in line with the diversity of religion we currently have, in line with Jefferson's belief that religion is "a concern purely between our God and our consciences".
And, of course, it would be mere semantics to assume that this ecumenical spirit, this spirit of religious liberty, should stop short of those religions (or philosophies) which don't call ultimate reality by the name "God"—American Buddhists, for example, or American atheists.
The claim buried in the subtext of this simple principle is profoundly liberal, in that it recognizes the fundamental right and responsibility of each American to follow the moral promptings of his or her own beliefs about ultimate reality, while refraining from forcing them on anyone else.
No government can ever have the right to impose one citizen's religion on another.
Not, Glenn Beck is saying, even his own religion.
Next time, principle #3—I must always try to be
a more honest person than I was yesterday.