I had not intended to write another column on Glenn Beck, but a recent episode of his TV show demands a response. The program was about an environment curriculum Beck fears will be taught in public schools with a counterpart in churches and synagogues.
Not having seen the curriculum, I cannot comment on it, but on the show Beck gave a brief discourse on Baal, whom Beck portrayed as the weather god of ancient Babylon. By valuing nature over human beings, said Beck, environmentalists are worshipping Baal.
Beck’s boisterous ignorance continues to astound me. The chief god of Babylon was Marduk, not Baal, and Baal was not even in the Babylonian pantheon. Baal, however, was the god of weather for the Canaanites, known in history books as the Phoenicians.
On the show were two of Beck’s frequent guests – Calvin Beisner of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation and David Barton, founder of WallBuilders. Though both supposedly are competent in the Bible and church history, neither of them corrected Beck.
Barton even frequently nodded in agreement. Barton, incidentally, has been a major figure in the current controversial modification of the social studies curriculum in the public schools in Texas, a curriculum that will impact textbooks all over the country.
Beisner noted that in Genesis, God, after completing the creation, declared it very good. “The world and climate system,” he said, are therefore not fragile, as many environmentalists claim, but are capable of overcoming enormous problems. Beisner might have been more credible at this point had he acknowledged that although the Bible views the creation as good, it also views it as corrupted – the ground is now alienated from humankind (Genesis 3) and the entire creation is in a state of futility (Romans 1) – and then reflected on the implications of this for environmental issues.
Beisner also insisted that according to Genesis, human beings are to rule the earth, not serve it. Genesis 1 does say that human beings were given responsibility to take dominion and rule, but the Hebrew of Genesis 2 says that the first human being was placed in the Garden of Eden to “serve” it – probably in the sense that service stations “service” cars. Beisner denied even the presence of the word.
Beck’s ongoing revision of history is influenced by W. Cleon Skousen, an early figure in the John Birch Society, who claimed that President Eisenhower was a dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy. On the basis of Beck’s recommendation, Skousen’s revisionist book, “The 5,000 Year Leap,” quickly became number one on Amazon’s best-seller list. Beck’s revisionism is, in fact, essentially what the Birch society has been propounding since the 1950s.
Not everything these men say is false. But they weave even the facts into scenarios of conspiracy that daily attract more than two million listeners and viewers, and that can influence school children for decades to come. And that is frightening indeed.
Gene Davenport is professor emeritus of religion at Lambuth University in Jackson, Tenn., and theologian in residence at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Jackson. This column is reprinted here courtesy of the Jackson Sun.