Jim Wallis’s newest blog post is on the Tea Party Movement. Wallis is adamant about his understanding that the Tea Party is NOT a Christian movement, but a political one. While he is correct as far as he goes, Wallis’s analysis leaves out some information. A recent poll by the New York Times shows that Tea Partiers are significantly more involved in their churches than the U.S. population as a whole. The Patriot movement, a large section of the Tea Party, has its own peculiar brand of Christianity, which has historically been on the extreme fringe yet is becoming more mainstream, especially since President Obama was elected. Generally known by terms like Identity, Dominionist and Apocalyptic, these religious groups are focused on carrying out a Christian revolution through political, or in some cases more violent, resistance.
Wallis describes the Tea Party as a Libertarian movement, yet they are more properly a Paeloconservative movement. Flush with Patriots, including patriot militia adherents, the Tea Party openly espouses economic complaints with the current government. However, they are just as committed to social issues when questioned individually. This is easily seen by analyzing the New York Times poll. See my recent article, “Tea Party's social positions much more conservative than general public,” for more detailed information on this and a link to the actual poll.
While the Tea Party is definitely a political movement, those individuals invested in the movement have paleoconservative ideologies when it comes to social issues. As my mentor in Religious Studies, Stephen Campagna-Pinto, is fond of saying, “we can’t ask people to shed their religious skins when it comes to politics.” It is part of the human condition that we carry our religious ideologies at the most intimate part of our nature. It is simply impossible to separate religion and politics when it comes to the Tea Party. While it is not wise to panic about the rise of the Tea Party, it is wise to keep a close watch on their activities. For individuals living in Bakersfield, the Tea Party activists may not seem like much of a change, but many of the themes they embrace are quite problematic.
Expect to see more conversations on the Tea Party in this column in the future. To subscribe, please click on the link above and enter your email address. Future articles will be delivered right to your inbox.