But among those in Saturday's throng, the linkage between faith and libertarian-leaning politics seemed obvious.
"We've lost our morality. The country is headed in the wrong direction by removing God from everything," said Bob Erdt, a retired Ford engineer from Michigan, explaining his participation. Then, Erdt shifted seamlessly to the fiscal side. "We're spending way too much money that we don't have," he said. "Anybody with any common sense or honor or morality knows we can't be spending like this and not bringing the country to ruin."
Asked what had inspired her to fly to the capital from Colorado, Andrea Carrasco started with God and ended with light bulbs.
She came, Carrasco said, to "ask God to restore the country. Our freedom is lost. My freedoms are lost. To be able to preach anywhere we want, to have God in our schools, to drive any kind of car we want and if I want to drive a gas guzzler, I can, if I want to eat a lot of sugar and salt, and I shouldn't be forced to buy medical care."Even with that Ruth Marcus still doesn't get it. She begins the article with this:
Carrasco paused, but only briefly. "To be able to burn the kind of light bulb I want," she added. "The list goes on."
I left the Glenn Beck rally worried that I didn't have much of a story.And ends with this:
It was all revival meeting, no political fireworks. The news reports accurately likened the atmosphere to that of a church picnic -- and no reporter wants to write about a church picnic.
But then I realized: The abundance of religiosity was the news. Beck is offering -- and whatever the precise crowd count on Saturday, a whole lot of people seemed to be buying -- a new form of fusion politics, melding the anti-government, anti-spending, anti-tax fervor of the Tea Party with the faith-based agenda of the religious right.
It's too early to know whether Beck's bridge between social and fiscal conservatism is sturdy enough to withstand the conflicting pulls. Already there is edginess among traditional leaders of the religious right about Beck's bona fides.The religiosty was news to her, but she missed the biggest message of how many would turn out because they are so dissatisfied at the direction of the country over the past 60 years. Read it all here.
Another question is whether the linkage between the two wings risks limiting the Tea Party's appeal to independent voters worried about the deficit but at risk of being turned off by overt religiosity or hard-line social conservatism.
Beck's brand of messianic politics feels creepy to me -- but it is clearly compelling to thousands. Make that hundreds of thousands. This was one church picnic worth covering.