Are Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity Religious Phonies?


Some people think that Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity are sincere believers in God, and they take them at their word when they call themselves Christians.

I don’t.

I think that all three of them, in their religious expression, are faking their religious beliefs. Take Glenn Beck as an example. He trucks in insincerity. His very schtick is that of the television evangelist transferred to politics: he cries on cue, sets an earnest eye on the viewer through the television camara’s lens, runs his voice up and down the emotional range, and rhetorically casts out “demons” (read Democrats) via theatrics. Like the televangelist, he appeals, not to one’s adult reason, but to one’s most infantile hopes, fears, and passions.

Also, on strictly religious terms, it is an oxymoron to suggest that one can be a follower of Jesus AND fabulously wealthy; or a follower of Jesus AND in persistent violation of the ninth commandment (“Thou shalt not bear false witness”). Beck, Limbaugh, and Hannity all make their living distorting the views and characters of their political enemies—and engaging in ad hominem. Such behavior is a form of false witness. And given their media reach, it’s hard to think of three other people on the planet who have more egregiously, pervasively, and persistently flaunted that commandment. And yet they are, curiously, beloved by people who call themselves religious believers and followers of The Book.

It is an ugly spiel  that the three of them engage in, and if Barack Obama ends up assassinated before the end of his presidency it will be, in large measure, the product of the flames of defamation and demonization fanned daily by these men to the emotionally unstable listeners in their audience.

One can oppose ideas without destroying people personally or distorting their views and character. If Beck, Limbaugh, and Hannity really believed in the values preached by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, they would trust that God’s will can get done without the assistance of their defamations. Winning an argument by defamation reveals a lack of faith that truth and reason really can prevail over irrationality and error. But if you choose to use such a method as part of your rhetorical arsenal, at least have the decency not to call yourself a follower of Jesus.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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8 Responses to Are Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity Religious Phonies?

  1. JCR says:

    Well said!

  2. santitafarella says:


    Thank YOU!


  3. Grad Student says:

    I disagree.

    Beck et al.’s behavior may be opprobrious, but I think it very possible that they are sincere in their beliefs. A much better analysis of Beck (but not Rush or Hannity) can be found in this “Killing the Buddha” article on Beck and his Mormonism:

  4. santitafarella says:

    Grad Student:

    That was an informative piece on Beck, and enlightening. I hadn’t registered the crying as a specifically Mormon cultural trait. It makes me doubt my position on Beck a little bit. In fact, one of the two Mormon missionaries that I talked to outside of my front door this weekend actually started tearing up. I read this, as I do with Beck, as a family dynamics tactic of argumentation: if I cry I can get you to bypass the fact that you’re winning an argument (in terms of reason) and get you to regress with me to a pre-rational and visceral place.

    It’s a pathetic and juvenile tactic, and it gets to the problem of sincerity.

    On the other hand, I think that Romney and Beck, our two most well-known representative of Mormonism in the United States, in the way that they sell things generally, are frankly clinical in their narcissism: I smile or cry before you, but I’m very consciously feeling and thinking something different inside. It’s the narcissistic split that I see in Romney and Beck. How seriously Beck believes he’ll be a Mormon god in the next life, who can say?

    Beck and Romney are, to the right, what John Edwards was to the Democrats.

    In short, I seriously doubt that anyone who behaves as Beck does can be trusted to say what he means and really thinks. If he does believe the things he says, my bet is that it is intermittent, when he’s on the stage, and worked up. It’s not in his private moments. He’s a Iago, in any case. And if you are right—that he is a Iago who also believes his own bullshit—then that is doubly problematic.

    I would highlight this passage in the article you directed the thread to. It suggests to me a classic narcissist—and no telling what he might really believe:

    “Beck, a careful student of positional marketing theory since his days as a morning-zoo deejay in the 1980s and ’90s, identified and exploited the open niche. He began practicing the act during his transition from Top 40 to talk radio in the late 1990s. According to his Connecticut colleagues, he was known for being both genuinely emotional and able and willing to fake cry on cue.”

    Remember Hamlet’s famous observation: “A man may smile and smile and smile, and still be a villian.”

    Or cry and cry and cry.


  5. Roger Salyer says:

    He can have that flag.

    Ad hominem? Are you trying to be ironic? You spend much of your time engaging in ad hominem attack. You don’t rebut. You retort: “Racist!”

    By the way, I certainly am not a follower of “The Book.” “The Book” is not Christianity.

    Maybe Glenn Beck is secretly an agnostic or a pagan?

  6. santitafarella says:


    That giant flag thing was weird, wasn’t it? Burning man for patriots.

    Freud would have something to say about patriots gathering to burn a giant American flag, wouldn’t he?

    A sublimated hostility and secret pleasure in destruction?


  7. Roger Salyer says:

    Now, now, Santi. No Islam-bashing.

  8. Ivan says:

    Job is named as one of the most righteous men that ever lived and he was extremely prosperous.
    Can one be a righteous Christian and be wealthy, yes. You seem to be confusing Marxist socialism with Biblical Christianity. The lefts entire political propaganda is one giant lie. The dem. party is the party of slavery, the party of Jim Crow, of separate but equal, the ones one voted against Johnsons great society bill and 98% remained in the party after their racist vote.

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