Co-Existing with the New Black-Robed Regiment
by Jeff Wright
During the ‘Restoring Honor’ rally on 8-28-10, Glenn Beck announced the re-emergence of America’s “black-robed regiment.”
“Beck said that 240 years ago America had the ‘black-robed regiment,’ preachers who opposed the British and were among the first killed by the British. ‘The black-robed regiment is back again today,’ said Beck.
On cue, 240 men and women marched up and stood behind him. Obediently with arms linked on the front row were Southern Baptist Convention official Richard Land and fundamentalist pastor John Hagee. Religious-right mythmaker David Barton stood next to Sarah Palin.
‘America, it is time to start the heart of this nation again. And put it where it belongs. Our heart with God,’ proclaimed Beck.
Claiming these clergy represented the thousands of clergy in the audience who represented 180 million people, Beck said, ‘We can disagree on politics. We can disagree on so much. These men and women don’t agree on fundamentals. They don’t agree on everything that every church teaches. What they do agree on is that God is the answer.’” [link]
While the original black-robed regiment was exclusively Christian (and Protestant), this new brigade is not:
“On his radio show Monday, Beck discussed the first meeting to create the new group. He said: ‘I had a couple people that had helped put this together, and some of them had been involved in the Christian Coalition. And when I first called them and talked to them, I said, ‘Look, I know you were involved in the Christian Coalition, but this isn’t Christian, this has to be everybody, and it cannot ever be made about politics. If it’s about politics, it’s worthless.’ And all of them said the same thing: ‘Amen.’”" [link]
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and member of the new black-robed regiment, expanded on the multi-faith nature of this new effort:
“Land also told National Public Radio that the rally was neither political nor sectarian. ‘We had rabbis praying. We had Catholic priests praying. We had Muslim imams praying and participating. We had Protestant Christians,’ said Land. ‘And [Beck] kept saying over and over again: This is not a political event, and politics is not the answer. The answer is spiritual renewal and rebuilding a civil society one person; one family; one church, mosque, synagogue, temple and one community at a time.’” [link]
Bill O’Reilly pressed Beck on his call to the Judeo-Christian value of “self-regulation”:
“O’REILLY: But what does that mean? What does that mean?
BECK: It means that you don’t need — you’re not doing things because of penalty from a government. You’re doing things because the set of values that you have, the Judeo-Christian values move you and motivate you to do better.
O’REILLY: OK. So does it come down to treating your brother as you would treat yourself?
O’REILLY: Your brother and sister?
O’REILLY: OK, so it comes down to that?
O’REILLY: But there isn’t a theological component to it?
BECK: No, look, that’s why…
O’REILLY: There isn’t a right God or wrong God?
BECK: No, that’s why I had all the pastors, priests, rabbis, imams.
O’REILLY: No, you had everybody up there. You had Albert Pujols, the St. Louis Cardinal guy up there.
BECK: We had them together. [link]”
Let’s summarize what he have so far: The black-robed regiment is back again today to turn the heart of the nation back to God, God is the answer. But this effort isn’t Christian, it isn’t political, and it isn’t sectarian. It includes Catholic priests, rabbis, Muslim imams, all working toward spiritual renewal and the rebuilding of a civil society one person; one family; one church, mosque, synagogue, temple and one community at a time because there is no right God or wrong God.
The aims of the new black-robed regiment appear to work quite nicely with these objectives:
- To promote, encourage and support engagement between Jews, Christians and Muslims both individually and through their respective communities through dialogue, education and research.
- To promote and facilitate the education of the public in the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths and belief and in particular to advance the knowledge and understanding of: the teachings, traditions and practices of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths; the shared history of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths; both the common ground shared by the faiths and the theological, philosophical, cultural, political, and economic bases of and differences between the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths and communities.
- To promote for the benefit of the public, religious harmony between Jews, Christians and Muslims by encouraging among them a greater understanding and appreciation of each other’s distinctive faith, beliefs, and practices and their common ground. And to this end also to promote friendship, goodwill and mutual trust among them.
These are the objectives of The Coexist Foundation, an organization which has typically been despised by conservatives and evangelicals.
Just recently a Republican congressional candidate in Florida stated:
“[A]s I was driving up here today, I saw that bumper sticker that absolutely incenses me. It’s not the Obama bumper sticker. But it’s the bumper sticker that says, ‘Co-exist.’ And it has all the little religious symbols on it. And the reason why I get upset, and every time I see one of those bumper stickers, I look at the person inside that is driving. Because that person represents something that would give away our country. Would give away who we are, our rights and freedoms and liberties because they are afraid to stand up and confront that which is the antithesis, anathema of who we are. The liberties that we want to enjoy.” [link]
From what I have observed in my experiences, West’s sentiment is shared by many conservatives across the nation.
So what is the difference between the “co-existence” called for by the Black-Robed Regiment people of faith and the Co-Exist people of faith? Is it merely that one stands for a conservative non-sectarianism while the other a liberal/progressive non-sectarianism? But isn’t “exclusivism” a hallmark of conservative religious belief? And aren’t progressive Christians exclusive about their progressive-ism? And if religious exclusivism ought to submit to political unity, what does this say about the validity of our religious beliefs?. Yet, on the other hand, Glenn Beck says “it cannot ever be made about politics.” So what exactly is this all about?
Perhaps these issues deserve a bit more reflection. As is usually the case in life, perhaps they are a bit more complex than we admit. As the battle lines are being drawn for November’s mid-term elections, perhaps Christians ought to be a little more quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. We ought to count the cost before we modify our Christianity with “Social Justice” or sign up for black-robed regiments.