Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Is the Tea Party co-opting Christian values?

Wayne Slater, a reporter for the Dallas News, asks a misleading question in the paper’s political and religious news blog known as the Trail Blazer.

Is the Tea Party movement taking religion out of our political debate?

I snorted when I read the question. The build-up had lead me to think that the Tea Party’s motives were pure libertarian blue. I know better. I can’t see the libertarian blue though the blood of Christ.  The real question should be, “Why is religion such a strong part of the Tea Party’s rhetoric? “

Slater writes:

To be sure, there are plenty of religious conservatives at Tea Party rallies. But the movement's central instinct is about low taxes, small government and just leaving me alone. Whether you think they've used or misused the Bible, the Religious Right was about integrating faith-based principles in our public policy. The Tea Party's about big government and the bottom line.

I watch the Tea Party. Heck, I’m a libertarian. I hear the libertarian message buried in their rhetoric, but I also hear religious bigotry masquerading as conservative Christian values. Why is Slater trying to separate the two issues? Oh, wait, his post was a softball meant for the religious right. Hey batter… swing.

CYNTHIA RIGBY, W.C. Brown Professor of Theology, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary writes:

The Tea Party's sparser use of religious rhetoric seems to me to be mainly for strategic reasons. While the movement may sound "more Ayn Rand than the Bible," it is comprised of and driven by a significant proportion of socially conservative Christians who believe the Bible supports their political views.

Translation – Don’t worry, the Tea Party is a Christian movement.

MATTHEW WILSON, Associate Professor of Political Science, Southern Methodist University

We are emphatically not better off as a society if we uncouple faith from the making of public policy. In the absence of guiding moral principles and convictions about the nature of the good society, politics is reduced to nothing more than an atavistic struggle over resources. Does anyone really think that our political discussion is enriched by ignoring the big, enduring questions like when the inviolable right to life begins, or what the nature of marriage is, or how God should be acknowledged in the public square?

Translation – The Tea Party is carrying the standard for Christian conservatism, and… stop gay marriage.

GEORGE A. MASON, Senior Pastor Wilshire Baptist Church, Dallas

But it isn't always easy to disentangle our religion and politics. For instance, Tea Party members who are informed by their religious convictions might be perfectly willing to uncouple the two as long as the political positions reflect their religious convictions. More liberal organizations have been somewhat comfortable with the fusion of their religious ideals with more secular politics, but it might be healthier for democracy if they would state how their faith perspectives inform their politics.

Translation – The Tea Party had better remember their roots or there will be hell to pay.

The Tea Party is not a libertarian movement. It’s Christian Conservatives masquerading as a new political movement. They are play acting  as wild-eyed libertarian reformers and nothing more. They are motivated by a moral and social agenda that runs beneath the surface of every libertarian sounding party plank. I predict that a few years from now they will be an embarrassing political memory. And then my fellow libertarians can get back to the serious business of losing elections.

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