In recent months, Glenn Beck has spent a lot of time talking about Israel and has been busy promoting a pro-Israel rally scheduled to occur later this month in Jerusalem. But Beck -- who has insisted that "there is no one more pro-Israel or more pro-Jew than I am" -- has close ties to the activities and legacy of the late Jerry Falwell, the controversial televangelist who infamously claimed that the Antichrist was likely a living male Jew.
In 1999 Falwell told attendees at an evangelical conference in Tennesee that the Antichrist was "probably" alive and "of course he'll be Jewish." Soon after, Falwell issued a non-apology apology and said, "I apologize not for what I believe, but for my lack of tact and judgment in making a statement that served no purpose whatsoever."
Later that year Falwell told author Jeffrey Goldberg that "the Antichrist will be a counterfeit of the true Christ, which means that he will be male and Jewish, since Jesus was male and Jewish."
Falwell's assertion was of course amazingly offensive and borderline anti-Semitic. It is also out of the mainstream of Christian thought and is rejected by even many conservative, end-times Christian leaders. For example, Tim LaHaye, the author behind the end-times "Left Behind" series, told Goldberg he didn't believe that the Antichrist would be Jewish.
The Dallas Morning News reported at the time:
As Mr. Falwell's comments filtered out Tuesday through news reports and the Internet, some Jewish and Christian leaders condemned Mr. Falwell for creating what they called a potential justification for discrimination and violence.
"Such is the stuff of which holocausts are made," said Dr. Bill Leonard, a Baptist and the dean of the divinity school at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. "Once you start identifying a particular religious community as the source of the most evil person in the world, what in the world have you done?"
Theologians disagreeing with Mr. Falwell's position include Dr. Leonard and Dr. Paige Patterson, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and president of Southern Theological Seminary.
Some Christians have identified the Antichrist as Saddam Hussein, Franklin or Eleanor Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler or Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, Dr. Leonard said.
Dr. Patterson expressed "profound respect" for Mr. Falwell, but "I am one evangelical who does not see it as necessary that the Antichrist be Jewish," he said. He also rejected any suggestion that Mr. Falwell's words might encourage anti-Semitism.
Rabbi James Rudin, director of inter-religious affairs for the American Jewish Committee, told the Associated Press, "To single out any one man and particularly to identify him as Jewish plays into some latent and historical anti-Semitism from the past."
The American Jewish Congress said Falwell's statements had "an inevitably incendiary and degrading effect on Christian attitudes toward Jews."
Rev. Walter F. Sullivan, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond wrote a letter condemning Falwell's comments. He said, "Reverend Falwell's claims are an absolute offense to our Jewish sisters and brothers. They deserve our strictest rejection, rebuttal and condemnation."
But none of that stopped Beck from repeatedly hosting Falwell on his CNN Headline News television show a few years later:
- October 5, 2006: Falwell appeared on Glenn Beck to discuss the controversy over an anti-Islam opinion column.
- March 8, 2007: Falwell appeared on Glenn Beck to discuss a mall shooter, who Falwell descfibed incorrectly as a "radical Islamic terrorist."
On May 15, 2007, Beck discussed Falwell's death: "While I didn`t agree with him all the time, I never really questioned the depth of his passion or his dedication to his convictions. Love him or hate him, you can`t deny that Jerry Falwell stood for something, and isn`t that the lesson, maybe, for all of us?"
Like Falwell, however, Beck portrays himself as a staunch defender of Israel and the Jewish people. Beck has also repeatedly claimed that the Obama administration is anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic. (Beck does this while promoting the work of anti-Semites, using anti-Semitic imagery to attack philanthropist George Soros, and blaming the world's problems on a long list of Jews.).
Until his death, Falwell served on the executive board of Christians United For Israel (CUFI), and his son Jonathan now occupies that seat.
CUFI describes itself as "a national association through which every pro-Israel church, parachurch organization, ministry or individual in America can speak and act with one voice in support of Israel in matters related to Biblical issues." It's led by John Hagee, an evangelical end-times pastor who once claimed that Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for a planned New Orleans gay pride parade. In 2008, John McCain was forced to reject Hagee's endorsement after revelations that Hagee once claimed that in order to encourage the Jewish people to return to Israel, God had allowed Adolf Hitler to perpetrate the Holocaust.
In July, Beck was the keynote speaker at CUFI's 2011 summit. Beck told the crowd that he was joining CUFI and that "[i]t is time that the world declares firmly in a unified voice that Israel not only has a right to live but to live as a Jewish state." He added, "For once and for all the good people of the world must remember there is a difference between good and evil, and we must choose."
In May, Beck announced a pro-Israel rally in Jerusalem called "Restoring Courage." He told his radio audience that "the very gates of hell are gonna open up against us" and stated he believes "historians will remember what we do and what we say."
Jerry Falwell Jr., the chancellor of Liberty University (founded by his father, Jerry Falwell) released a signed letter that expressed his support for the gathering. Falwell Jr. wrote:
I am of the firm conviction that it is the responsibility of Christians around the world to support Israel during this fateful time in history. Thankfully, Glenn Beck is trumpeting this cause, building a groundswell of momentum for it, and sending a clarion call of support in the face of those who would rather Israel live in fear for its future.
DuCar International, owned by Duke Westover and his wife, Charlene Westover, is one of the two travel agencies exclusively providing travel arrangements for Restoring Courage (rally tickets are only available through a travel package that costs between $4,999 to $5,499). Westover served as Falwell's executive assistant for 30 years, a relationship he describes in promotional materials for his book as a "personal relationship with Jerry" that "allowed him to see this great servant of God up close and personal as they worked and traveled together all over the world." Westover is also described as a "personal confidant of Jerry Falwell."
DuCar also sells tours of Israel conducted by Jonathan Falwell, (Falwell's other son, who inherited the pastorship of Thomas Road Baptist Church from his father.)
"Restoring Courage" isn't the only recent instance of Beck's collaboration with Falwell-linked institutions.
In May of 2010 Glenn Beck gave the commencement speech at Liberty and received an honorary doctorate from the institution. In his speech he explained that graduates should "shoot to kill"; that "the educated of this time are growing arrogant, and arrogance leads to darkness"; and that "God's finger ... wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. This is God's country."
In March of 2010 Beck received criticism for describing the concept of social justice as "code language for Marxism," telling his listeners to "run" when they see the phrase. Liberty chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. came to his defense. Falwell Jr. said that pastors preaching social justice "are trying to twist the gospel to say the gospel supported socialism" and that Jesus "never said that we should elect a government that would take money from our neighbor's hand and give it to the poor."
Falwell Jr. appeared on the May 19, 2010 edition of Beck's Fox News show to continue his attack on "social justice":
BECK: My theory is, because somebody asked me today, why would they do this, Glenn, with social justice? Why would they do this? My theory is -- and I'd love to hear your thought on this -- is that they are already indoctrinating our children: There is no God. God is not playing a role. Churches are -- and so it's already dying, but there is still gas left in tank. There's gas left in the tank with, you know, those of us who grew up in a different era where we looked at God.
These people are using the last bit of gas in that tank and they're burning it through, because we will become the Church of England or what the churches are in Europe, which is -- they're empty.
FALWELL: I think it might be more insidious than that. When I read over the president's report last night on his faith-based initiative, it sounded more like a takeover -- like we have seen with the banking industry, like with the auto industry, with like, health care.
And the reason I say that is because the word "partnership" was in there probably every other sentence.
Falwell Jr. and Liberty were also involved in Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally in Washington, D.C. A month before the event, Falwell Jr. appeared on Beck's radio show to announce that Liberty University would be donating four-year scholarships to the event.
Falwell Jr. appeared on-stage at the event, attended a pre-rally breakfast with Beck and was a part of Beck's "black robe regiment." Beck at the time described the regiment as an attempt to "start the heart of this nation again and put it where it belongs: our heart with God."