Glenn Beck’s paranoid religiosity

Glenn Beck
Glenn Beck

It strikes me as overly cynical whenever I hear someone argue that Glenn Beck’s just an entertainer who doesn’t mean half the things he says. I find it hard to believe anyone could spew that much toxic rhetoric just for laughs (and money).

Now the Boston Phoenix’s Adam Reilly has advanced an alternative explanation, based on some pretty extensive research. According to Reilly, what animates Beck may be an out-there, retro strain of Mormonism he has embraced with a convert’s zeal.

Unlike mainstream Mormon public figures like Mitt Romney, Orrin Hatch and Harry Reid, Beck, Reilly argues, harks back to the virulent 1950s anti-communism of Ezra Taft Benson, a member of President Dwight Eisenhower’s cabinet who later became head of the LDS Church.

And when Beck says the Constitution is “hanging by a thread,” he’s not just indulging in a cliché — he’s invoking the very specific language of a particular type of religious paranoia.

Reilly’s piece is well worth your time.