If you listen to Glenn Beck regularly, you might have heard him talk about Hurricane Irene last week and never given it a second thought:
“How many warnings do you think you’re going to get, and how many warnings do you deserve? This hurricane that is coming thorough the East Coast, for anyone who’s in the East Coast and has been listening to me say ‘Food storage!’ ‘Be prepared!’ ‘Be somebody that can help others,’ you’ve heard me say this for years. People have made fun of me. That’s fine, I don’t care. I’ve been telling you, ‘Don’t be in a panic situation.’ If you’ve waited, this hurricane is a blessing. It is a blessing. It is God reminding you — as was the earthquake last week — it’s God reminding you you’re not in control. Things can happen. Be prepared and be someone who can help others so when disaster strikes, God forbid, you’re not panicking.”
One Washington Post writer decided this was Beck "not willing to be outdone by Pat Robertson." She then implies some sort of Mormon plot at work in all of this. Let's take a look.
First listen to the actual comments:
Elizabeth Tenety edits The Washington Post's "On Faith" blog. To Tenety, Beck's advice sounds less like common sense and more like a direct advocacy of his church doctrine:
Section 78 of the Doctrine and Covenants revelation was given, Mormons believe, to Joseph Smith by God in 1832 and includes the command to “organize and establish a storehouse,” which Mormon leaders have interpreted as a requirement to, when possible, “store and save a one-year supply of food.” The church Web site even includes a Food Storage Calculator “to help you determine your longer-term food storage needs.” The food storage is one pillar of self-reliance, emphasized within Mormonism so that “the church may stand independent above all other creatures beneath the celestial world.” Beyond personal storage, the church also provides temporary welfare services to its members “to help people to help themselves.”
Tenety even includes a a video explaining Mormon doctrine on frugality and food storage.
Many other sites did similar posts about Glenn's comments. Some were snarky. Some were more straightforward (though Media Matters doesn't tend to cut clips intending to help Beck). Even CNN played up the "Mormon" angle on their post.
The question becomes -- is Beck being singled out for his faith in ways that others would not?
First there is the common sense issue.
Is it odd to tell people to be prepared? The pictures over the weekend would indicate that the advice might not be all that crazy!
Since Beck has been consistent over a decade of broadcasts in advocating preparation and food storage -- should he have taken the approaching hurricane as a time to change his message? Not emphasize food storage? Remember, by the way, that over that decade Beck consistently tells his audience to find whatever church works for them.
Beck's message has been -- be prepared to be a blessing to others in time of need.
You might not be a Mormon. You might not have any faith. You might think that Mormon family next door is a little wacky for having a big storage room in the back of the garage. But when the lights have been out for three days -- where are you going to go for batteries? And, you know what, they will give them to you with a hug probably.
What if Al Sharpton had gone on the air Friday night (he does have his on TV show now!) and said --- "Ladies and gentlemen, the most important thing to know tonight is that we must love each other as we love ourselves. You must check on your elderly neighbor. You must reach that shut in with all the love in you."
Would the media have done a dozen posts about Sharpton secretly spreading his "Christian" doctrine? Or would they have praised it as a timely message of common sense and great heart?
I also note that Glenn's specific words were for the person who was not ready:
If you’ve waited, this hurricane is a blessing. It is a blessing. It is God reminding you — as was the earthquake last week — it’s God reminding you you’re not in control. Things can happen. Be prepared and be someone who can help others so when disaster strikes, God forbid, you’re not panicking.”
This was not a case of Glenn ascribing God's vengeance and judgment to a massive storm. He was not describing the storm as recompense for the sins of man in the north east corridor.
It seemed like a simple message to say: there are things at work in our lives that are bigger than we are and that we cannot control. Preparation is prudence. Radical? And for Beck to say that if such environmental events spur us, even the atheists and Beck haters, to take a little more action -- then it might just be a blessing indeed.
Update: Here is Beck responding to the controversy on the radio Monday morning: