Despite all the words spilled in evaluating Glenn Beck's tentless revival last weekend, the real meaning may have been hiding in plain sight.
Beck's "Restoring Honor" gathering on the National Mall was right out of the Alcoholics Anonymous playbook. It was a 12-step program distilled to a few key words, all lifted from a prayer delivered from the Lincoln Memorial: healing, recovery and restoration.
Saturday's Beckapalooza was yet another step in Beck's own personal journey of recovery. He may as well have greeted the crowd of his fellow disaffected with:
"Hi. My name is Glenn, and I'm messed up."
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Beck's history of alcoholism and addiction is familiar to any who follow him. He has made no secret of his past and is quick to make fun of himself.
For Beck, addiction has been a defining part of his life, and recovery is a process inseparable from the Glenn Beck show. His emotional, public breakdowns are replicated in AA meetings in towns and cities every day.
Taking others along for the ride, aka evangelism, is also part of the cure. The healed often cannot remain healed without helping others find their way. Beck, who vaulted from radio host to political televangelist, now has taken another step in his ascendancy — to national crusader for faith, hope and charity.
It's an easy sell. Meanwhile, Beck has built a movement framed by two ideas that are unassailable: God and country. Throw in some Mom and apple pie, and you've got a picnic of patriotism and worship.
Wait, did somebody say "Mom"?
Sister Sarah, come on down!
Yes, Sarah Palin, whom Beck sainted a few months ago during an interview in which he declared her one of the only people who can save America, came to the Mall not to praise politics, but to honor our troops.
Palin is the mother of a soldier, after all, and God bless her, and him, and all those who have served. Unassailable. As Palin said, whatever else you might say about her, she did raise a combat soldier. "You can't take that away from me."
Who "you"? Oh, that's right, "the media." Never mind that Beck is one of the richest members of the media. Or that Palin has banked millions primarily because the media can't get enough of her. But what's an exorcism without a demon? And who better to cast into the nether regions than the guys lugging camera lights?
Covering all his bases, Beck invoked the ghost of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who stood in the same spot 47 years ago to deliver his most famous speech. Where King had a dream, Beck has a nightmare: "It seems as darkness begins to grow again, faith is in short supply."
Really? When did that happen? Because it seems that people talk about God all the time these days. Even during the heyday of the Rev. Billy Graham, most Americans could get through 16 or so waking hours without feeling compelled to declare where they stood on the deity.
And the darkness? Creeping communism brought to us by President You-Know-Who. Conspiracy theories and paranoia are not unfamiliar to those who have wrestled the demon alcohol.
Like other successful revivalists — and giving the devil his due — Beck is right about many things. Tens of thousands joined him in Washington, D.C., and watch him each night on television for a reason. But he also is messianic and betrays the grandiosity of the addict.
Let's hope Beck gets well soon.