On December 11th, political pundit Glenn Beck made a comment that has caused quite a stir.
The former Fox News host said he "doesn't care" if same-sex couples tied the knot: "Just don't destroy my marriage, don't destroy my church." Bestselling author and radio host of the BlazeTV, Beck touched on the controversial topic of same-sex marriage, voicing his personal view on the matter:
"I don't want to be in your bedroom, and believe me, you don't want to be in my bedroom," he noted. "I don't care what you do."
Why would this vociferously conservative, GOP notable make such seemingly outlandish comments on the issue of gay marriage? Here are five reasons why Glenn Beck could be speaking in favor of gay marriage.
1. He identifies as a libertarian.
First and foremost, it isn’t as clear that Beck is explicitly for marriage as he is against the government being involved in marriage. He essentially expresses the desire to uphold traditional marriage in his community, so long as it isn’t interfered with by others, gays or straights. Also, libertarians are known for their pro-gay marriage stance because, well, they’re libertarians.
A libertarian always wants less government and more individual freedom, and for the government to restrict marriage to a man and a woman violates their fundamental principle of liberty for all. Taking his personal life into consideration, Beck has identified as a libertarian longer than he has a Mormon. The core of his argument is for the simple preservation of rights, rather than a push to create new laws that affect both heterosexual and homosexual married couples.
Beck prefers the Constitution to the Book of Mormon. At least, politically speaking he does:
“What we need to do, I think, as people who believe in the Constitution, is to start looking for allies that believe in the Constitution and expand our own horizons. We would have the ultimate big tent because the only ones that wouldn’t be allowed in the tent would be the people that don’t believe in the Constitution.”
Underlying much of his political punditry is not a consistent moralization of culture, but a strident preservation of liberty.
“The question is not about gay marriage – should they compromise and move farther left,” Beck continued. “The question should be: why is the federal government involved in marriage at all?”
2. He's a pundit, not a theologian.
Glenn Beck makes a career out of commenting on the political climate in America. While he is normally in alignment with GOP values — which typically are of the conservative Christian flavor — it should be no surprise that his stance on gay marriage will be more of a result of political science than church philosophy. Plus, it’s not obvious that Beck is a Mormon, anyway.
Beck is, firstly, a political libertarian. Many viewers who watch Glenn Beck — barring the die-hard Beckians — can’t even tell he’s a Mormon based on watching his show every now and then. So, it is no surprise that Glenn Beck would feel comfortable airing his libertarian morality on the issue of gay marriage, even as a Mormon. While the Mormon faith does not condone homosexuality nor perform homosexual marriage ceremonies, it certainly doesn’t hold its political members accountable in the same way that, say, the Catholic Church does.
Typically, religious communities can’t expect from their political commentators an overarching understanding of religious dogma, let alone for the politically involved to represent their voice in the public square to the same standard as their personal religious practice would reflect. Transparency between the public and the private is not a popular virtue for many people in general, let alone politicians or political commentators who have a stake or vested interest in money, power, prestige, or via the political process.
"The inner is not the outer", philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard once said. Clearly, he knew all too well the temptation of politics.
3. He's a recent convert.
Many people may not be aware, but Glenn Beck is an adult convert. He chose to become a part of the Latter-Day Saints (LDS) community later in life, a result of a spiritual journey after a difficult childhood, years of substance abuse and a spiritual crisis.
So perhaps it should be no surprise that his libertarian politics may not be presented in strict alignment with the LDS teachings. If he were indoctrinated by Mormonism from youth, perhaps Beck wouldn’t be so vocal about his libertarian marriage views.
While not as politically concerned as the Vatican, the Mormon faith is known for keeping tabs on its members in order to foster a more pious community. For better or worse, reason got the most of Beck and he is not afraid to disagree politically with the LDS community about LGBT issues. But watch your tongue, Glenn — the church may be watching you.
4. He's a Mormon, not a Catholic.
Unlike the Vatican, the Mormon community doesn’t have a comparably booming voice in American social life. Put simply, the media less often touches on issues that rile up Mormons as they do Catholics. In the race of religious institution's political might, the Catholic Church takes the lead.
Unlike the thousand-year-history of Catholic social teachings recorded for the lay community in the compendium that is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Mormons — like other religious sects other than Catholics — are, on the whole, not as strong in the social dogma department.
To give a more concrete example, just as there is a division among Orthodox bishops on the contraception issue, there are divisions in the Mormon community on the relation between LGBT members and the LDS church.
Unlike Catholic teachings, the Mormon doxology is less unyielding in certain respects. For example, the philosophy of the Catholic faith is that abortion is a moral evil, no matter the circumstance surrounding the child’s conception. According to the official LDS website, abortion is allowed in “some exceptional circumstances,” including pregnancy that is the result of incest or rape, or when the life or health of the mother or fetus are in “serious jeopardy,” including “severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth.”
While politicians from Nancy Pelosi to Joe Biden have spoken in offense to Catholic Church teachings and have even been reprimanded in some cases, the Mormon community doesn’t have comparable political clout to reign in the political views of its members. While the Catholic Church has taken a notably vocal stance over the years on many social issues in the public square — gay marriage and abortion gaining the most steam in recent months — the Mormon church is not as prominent of a political player for Beck’s comments to be supremely disarming, given his church membership.
While many may expect from political commentators like Bill O’Reilly a distinctive outlook on certain social issues by virtue of his being Roman Catholic, that expectation doesn’t necessarily translate for a political Mormon like Beck.
5. He's consistent.
Beck has already taken a stance in 2010 on The O’Reilly factor.
“Do you believe that gay marriage is a threat to country in any way?” O’Reilly asked.
“No I don't,” Beck responded. “Will the gays come and get us?”
When O'Reilly asked again whether gay marriage was a harm to the country, Beck replied:
“I believe that Thomas Jefferson said: ‘If it neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket what difference is it to me?’”
Rather than pulling an Obama and shifting his political stance on gay marriage years later, Beck sticks by his word. So in 2012, when confronting the same issue in the public square, Beck decided to reiterate the same thing:
“I don’t care if somebody gets married … just don’t destroy my marriage.”
Rather than hounding Glenn Beck for his moral libertarianism, the GOP should at least pat him on the back for ideological consistency, a rare characteristic in the political world. Beck’s stance may invite a less polarized, more philosophical view on the gay marriage issue that is much-needed for civil discourse.