James Dobson's Focus on the Family ministry has pulled from its CitizenLink Web site an article about talk show host Glenn Beck's book "The Christmas Sweater" after some complained that Beck's LDS faith is a "cult" and "false religion" and shouldn't be promoted by a Christian ministry.
When contacted Friday, a Focus on the Family worker at the ministry in Colorado Springs, Colo. confirmed that the article had been pulled at this link and read a prepared statement for callers who had called about the Beck article:
"You are correct to note that Mr. Beck is a member of the Mormon church, and that we did not make mention of this fact in our interview with him. We do recognize the deep theological difference between evangelical theology and Mormon theology, and it would have been prudent for us at least to have pointed out these differences. Because of the confusion, we have removed the interview from CitizenLink."
All other questions about the controversy were directed to a ministry media spokesman who would not be available until Jan. 2. Calls to Beck's offices Friday went unanswered. A link to the story still remained on the Front Page of www.glennbeck.com.
Apparently, the controversy was fueled on Dec. 22, when an anti-Mormon group called Underground Apologetics issued a release through Christian News Wire which read:
"Focus on the Family has a story on Glenn Beck, a Mormon, on their CitizenLink Web site. Glenn Beck was a CNN host and will move to Fox News in January. Beck is currently promoting his book, 'The Christmas Sweater.' The CitizenLink story focuses on Beck's faith and why he wrote 'The Christmas Sweater.'
"While Glenn's social views are compatible with many Christian views, his beliefs in Mormonism are not. Clearly, Mormonism is a cult. The CitizenLink story does not mention Beck's Mormon faith, however, the story makes it look as if Beck is a Christian who believes in the essential doctrines of the faith.
"Through the years, Focus on the Family has done great things to help the family and has brought attention to the many social ills that are attacking the family.
"However, to promote a Mormon as a Christian is not helpful to the cause of Jesus Christ. For Christians to influence society, Christians should be promoting the central issues of the faith properly without opening the door to false religions."
Underground Apologetics president Steve McConkey said in an interview that he had not read Beck's book, but understood its message. He felt that the work was suspect based on what he understands about Beck's faith. McConkey said he had not asked Dobson's ministry to remove the article from its site.
The Mormon Media Observer contacted Karla Dial. identified as a freelance reporter living in Colorado Springs, and received an e-mail response that said:
"I don't think it would be appropriate for me to comment on that in any forum, but thanks for asking."
Because the offending article is no longer available at citizenlink.org, the Mormon Media Observer is reprinting it in its entirety from an archived record. Here is also a link to an Amazon.com video about the book.
Friday Five: Talk-Show Host Glenn Beckby Karla Dial, guest reporter 'If it wasn't for the gift that the Lord gave to me, I'd be dead today.' For nearly a decade, Glenn Beck has been spreading the conservative political gospel through his syndicated radio program, The Glenn Beck Show, and has done the same as the host of his call-in television program on CNN since 2006. He'll move to the Fox News Channel in January.
But these days, Beck is hoping to spread a more eternal sort of gospel through his new book, The Christmas Sweater. The book tells the story of a young boy named Eddie, who is being raised in poverty by his widowed mother. All Eddie wants for Christmas is a bicycle — but when his mother gives him a hand-knit sweater instead, his hopes are dashed. He wads the sweater up in a ball and drops it on the floor to mope — and when his mother sees it there, her heart is broken. The last words that pass between Eddie and his mother are angry ones later that day — just before a tragic car accident.
The story, though not strictly biographical, is Beck's own. The sweater was a real gift from his mother when he was 13 — the last Christmas before she committed suicide. A brother also committed suicide, and another died of a heart attack when Beck was young. Beck spent several years addicted to drugs and alcohol, coming to the verge of suicide, before turning his life over to God at the age of 35. Now he has a message for readers and viewers about facing life's storms, and finding hope and redemption on the other side.
1. Tell me briefly how you came to write The Christmas Sweater.It's partly biographical, and partly fiction. What led you to put it all down on paper? It was really not something I wanted to write. This originally laid the foundation for my alcoholism and desire to commit suicide and everything else. This was the first major mistake of my life. I used to tell an eight-minute version of the story on stage, but it became too difficult. I was overwhelmed with the feeling that the message that Eddie learns at the end in the cornfield does not belong to me and it's not just for me. So after a lot of prayer, my wife and I decided I should write a book to continue to get the message out. What's amazing is the amount of people who are connecting with it in wildly unexpected parts. I'm on a 65-city book tour right now. Last night, two people came up to me. One said he was gong to commit suicide last week but his wife gave him the book and he decided to give life another try. At the same signing, a woman gave me a piece a paper to read that said two days ago she had a knife to her wrist and she was going to end her life, but now she was going to try again.
2. What message do you hope people take away from The Christmas Sweater?I think the message that you can't really escape is (that) the Christmas sweater is the metaphor for me of the atonement for Christ. We've all been given a gift. We celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus — but the real point is the death, and why He died. When I was in my 30s, I was suicidal. I had nowhere else to run. Then I realized that the real gift — the one we really need to appreciate — is the one that took so much to give. In my mother's case, it's the sweater. But in all our cases, it's redemption and atonement. I so remember the day after Christmas when I balled the sweater up and dropped it on my floor. I still remember the look on my mother's face when she came in and asked me if that was my Christmas sweater. It took everything for her to give me that, but I didn't know it at the time, how poor we were. When I was 35 and decided to turn my life over and surrender, I made a vow that I would not stand at His feet and have him look at my redemption, undervalued, misused and lying in a ball on the floor. I need Him to know I'm using it every day.
3. After your own battles with substance abuse, what does Christmas mean to you now?A second chance. I just want the people to understand that the message is true. Sometimes redemption has been made into a word that people don't understand. They need to know it's true, it's real. It's not a word, it's a life-changing force. It's transformed my life, who I was to the very core of my being. If it wasn't for me accepting the gift that the Lord gave to me, I'd be dead today. My doctor gave me six months to live, I was ready to commit suicide — but I took Him at His Word that he'd carry the load of the mistakes I've made, and He has. He's so personal, and your life totally changes, and you can accomplish what you were sent here to do.
4. What is your hope for the future of our country, given the political landscape and the economy?I hope we survive. My hope is that we can stop believing the cartoon characters that have been created. I don't know any Democrats who want to turn us into Stalin's Russia, and I don't know any Republicans who want to take your children's food away. Unless we connect with who we truly are and Who is truly in charge, we are going to destroy ourselves. Very soon, events are going to begin to unfold that will mean you'll need the advice of the Lord. We are all here at this time for a reason, and He needs us to be in the place, ready to do the things (we) promised Him we'd do. If we're still carrying our own baggage, we can't fully hear Him to protect ourselves and our country.
5. How do you maintain a sense of humor through the rough times of life?I know the end of the story. It's been a very hard year, two years, because I've been talking about this storm — all the news that's breaking today — for the last two years in detail. Everyone said I was crazy, but now here it is and much more is coming. I really had a difficult time because I felt prompted to warn people. Nobody would listen, but now they're waking up. We're living in those days when some people won't have eyes to see or ears to hear. You can't get them all to wake up, but you need to tell as many people as you can — and the rest is to thank God for every day we've got. No matter what happens, we know who wins. It's an unbelievable time to live and be alive on the planet.