By David E. Campbell, and Robert D. Putnam, New York Times, August 16, 2011
So what do Tea Partiers have in common? They are overwhelmingly white, but even compared to other white Republicans, they had a low regard for immigrants and blacks long before Barack Obama was president, and they still do.
More important, they were disproportionately social conservatives in 2006 — opposing abortion, for example — and still are today. Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics. And Tea Partiers continue to hold these views: they seek “deeply religious” elected officials, approve of religious leaders’ engaging in politics and want religion brought into political debates. The Tea Party’s generals may say their overriding concern is a smaller government, but not their rank and file, who are more concerned about putting God in government.
This inclination among the Tea Party faithful to mix religion and politics explains their support for Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. Their appeal to Tea Partiers lies less in what they say about the budget or taxes, and more in their overt use of religious language and imagery, including Mrs. Bachmann’s lengthy prayers at campaign stops and Mr. Perry’s prayer rally in Houston.
Yet it is precisely this infusion of religion into politics that most Americans increasingly oppose. While over the last five years Americans have become slightly more conservative economically, they have swung even further in opposition to mingling religion and politics. It thus makes sense that the Tea Party ranks alongside the Christian Right in unpopularity.
On everything but the size of government, Tea Party supporters are increasingly out of step with most Americans, even many Republicans. Indeed, at the opposite end of the ideological spectrum, today’s Tea Party parallels the anti-Vietnam War movement which rallied behind George S. McGovern in 1972. The McGovernite activists brought energy, but also stridency, to the Democratic Party — repelling moderate voters and damaging the Democratic brand for a generation. By embracing the Tea Party, Republicans risk repeating history.
(David E. Campbell, an associate professor of political science at Notre Dame, and Robert D. Putnam, a professor of public policy at Harvard, are the authors of “American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us.” )
It is quite obvious that the brand of religion espoused by the Tea Party includes racial bigotry, a strong anit-abortion stance, and then there are few "flag" issues like smaller government and lower taxes that they know are traditional veins in American political history on which they can ride, without losing support among those 'religion dominated, self-righteous who fashion themselves as supporters.
The United States is generally regarded as one of the more "faith-based societies" in the western world. Having lived there and attempted, unsuccessfully, to wrestle with this kind of fundamental, literal, bigoted contempt for many of the country's most promising developments over the last century, I can attest to the depth of the disconnect between the christian gospel and this brand of the faith.
Reducing God and the gospels to aphorisms, racial bigotry, contempt for learning, for science and for an inquiring mind that promotes healthy research, along with the worship of money, buildings, and all things liturgical (linens, chalices, pattens, organs, altars) is nothing short of an imprisonment of the very God and scripture they proudly promote in their evangelical, recruiting campaign. And their campaign, built on a cornerstone of "we are right because the Bible says so" reminds me of the outburst I heard in my first year class in seminary when one of their ilk announced to the class, "Hitler did not go to heaven and I know because the Bible says so!" when another class member put that proposition on the table.
Fortunately, the Tea Party support is declining; however, the damage it has already done to the American political system, and hopefully to the Republican party cannot be undone for another two decades at least.
Hijacking government in the name of a narrow, bigoted, frightened and self-righteous form of any faith, but especially the Christian faith, is a public disgrace; and letting the movement hijack so many electoral races as it did in the last federal elections in the U.S. demonstrates the near sanctity of the "freedom of speech, freedom to carry arms, contempt for all things government" theme in the American political culture.
Couple these mindless, child-like musings with billions of dollars from deep-pocketed donors, and one can easily see the danger implicit in the movement.
People will do some very strange things to attempt to pave their way into an afterlife where the streets are "paved with gold" and just like the jihadists of Islam, they will also recruit on false promises of the nature of the afterlife. It is a marketing strategy substituted for a faith that deserves the trashing these authors are giving it.