Christian Right’s tea party?

By David Waters Christine O’Donnell, winner of Delaware’s Republican Senate nomination and the tea party movement’s newest star, is scheduled … Continued

By David Waters

Christine O’Donnell, winner of Delaware’s Republican Senate nomination and the tea party movement’s newest star, is scheduled to address this weekend’s 2010 Values Voter Summit and Christian Right Revival, which began Thursday night in Washington.

This might come as a surprise to those of us who thought the tea party movement was a grass-roots uprising among fiscal conservatives, not social conservatives. Is it? Is O’Donnell’s election evidence that the tea party is the Christian Right disguised as an angry taxpayer?

As Sarah Posner wrote for Religion Dispatches, O’Donnell, a born-again Catholic, is no stranger to the Christian Right. In the 1990s, she was press secretary for Beverly LaHaye’s Concerned Women for America, whose mission is “to protect and promote Biblical values among all citizens.” Later, she founded SALT (the Savior’s Alliance for Lifting the Truth”) to promote chastity. Now that she’s won a big national election, she’s moving from the choir to the pulpit.

The tea party’s congregation seems to be growing.

— As Suzy Khimm of Mother Jones notes, O’Donnell’s campaign hired religious right activists, including Response Unlimited, which bills itself as “the nation’s best and most comprehensive source of mailing lists for conservative and Christian mailers and telemarketers.” Major social conservative outfits–from the Christian Coalition of America to Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University–have used the Virginia-based firm in the past to raise funds from conservative Christians.

— Last weekend in Washington, that baby-faced old Christian warrior Ralph Reed (yes, he’s back) led a strategy session for his latest incarnation of the Christian Coalition, which he’s calling the Faith and Freedom Coalition. His mission? “Restoring America to the principles on which she was founded: limited constitutional government and faith in God.” How? By “electing certain people and passing certain legislation.”

— Also last weekend in Washington, a tea party group called Unite in Action brought together a number of Christian Right celebrities such as former presidential candidate Alan Keyes and born-again actor Stephen Baldwin. The conference included discussions on subjects ranging from “Stopping government land grabs” to “Combating Sharia Law in your community.”

— Fomer megachurch pastor turned activist Rick Scarborough sent an email to supporters explaining that his appearance at the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville in February was part of his effort to merge the tea party and the Christian Right. In fact, he said he wants to change the TEA Party’s “Taxed Enough Already” acronym to “Truth Exalts America.” He also plans to launch a “Patriot Pastors’ Tea Party” with the support of religious right apologist David Barton.

After the National Tea Party Convention last February, I wrote During the Reagan and Bush eras, Christian Right movement leaders such as the late megachurch pastor D. James Kennedy held rallies with names such as “Reclaiming America for Christ.” So far, it seems the Tea Partiers are mostly interested in reclaiming America for the Chamber of Commerce.

Was I wrong? Or has the religious right seen the light and decided to hitch its old wagon to the Tea Party Express? Is the tea party movement really just a recession-era version of the religious right? Or are social conservatives trying to convert the tea party to their cause?

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  • Jason_Dube

    Whats wrong with being a Christian? Your country’s founders were Christian.

  • HostileKnowledge

    Listening to the tortured howls of “progressives” over the magnificent successes of the great Tea Party is like ambrosia for the ears.

  • captainkona

    That Teabagger tramp is no more a “Christian” than Anton LaVey.Teabaggers are NOT “Christians”. You read the word of Jesus and you will quickly see that they do exactly the opposite of what He taught.

  • WmarkW

    Teabaggers are the kind of Christians who shop at “family” bookstores.BTW, by using Google on the phrase “Jesus in a Christian bookstore” I got exactly ONE hit, of someone planning a silly escapade. I thought I might find numerous references like “I found a terrific book about Jesus in a Christian bookstore,” but apparently no one ever does.

  • B2O2

    Nothing exemplifies the rock-bottom IQ and gullibility of the average conservative evangelical than the notion of “Christian right”. If you actually *read* the New Testament (as opposed to treating it like a Software License Agreement and scrolling to the bottom to simply click “I agree”), you’ll find that NEARLY EVERYTHING HE PREACHED was 180 degrees antithetical to what conservatives believe politically:- he believed in helping the poor, and that it was darn hard for a rich man to get into heaven- he believed in healing the sick, not leaving 30 million people to the vagaries of chance without health care- he said to love your enemies. Today’s rightwingnut pseudochristians can’t even leave innocent Muslims who are NOT their enemy alone to build a building in New York- he said to love your neighbor. Not “love your straight white neighbors”- he said to make peace and not war. Today’s conservatives consider that kind of attitude treasonousIf Jesus showed up today, conservatives everywhere would start hurling angry epithets at him: “enemy lover!”, “appeaser!”, “socialist!”, “class warrior!” and “homo lover!”. If liberals were not able to protect this decent wise man, the rightwingnuts would crucify him again if they had half the chance.So yeah, a lot of right wingers are “Christians”, except for despising everything the man actually stood for.

  • Jason_Dube

    Some keep saying “Let’s take America back.” Back from what? No one is required to belong to any religion to hold an elected or appointed federal office position according to the Constitution of the United States of America. It is stated in the body of the document “There shall be no test of religion…”Any oath of office presupposes a belief in God, according to Supreme Court Justice James Iredell:”According to the modern definition[1788] of an oath, it is considered a “solemn appeal to the Supreme Being for the truth of what is being said by a person who believes in the existence of a Supreme Being and in a future state of rewards and punishments according to that form which would bind his conscience most.”Also stated in numerous places by various founders. In fact the “religious test” mentioned in the Constitution was not an ontological test, but rather a test concerning the nature of the religion. This is also evidenced throughout the various state Constitutions during that time period which made the distinction very clear.As we know, the Article VI prohibition of a religious test only has a federal jurisdiction anyway, the states should be able to do whatever they please.

  • Carstonio

    So what if they don’t think homosexuality is normal or have even worse opinions about it. The end result is the same.No, because beliefs like that lead people to discriminate against gays.These people you describe, with too many copies of Atlas Shrugged around the house … that’s only some of the liberterians, but here you go just like the conservatives blaming the entirety of Islam for the bad things said and done in their name by the few.Of course it’s only some of the libertarians. My post shouldn’t have been read as a condemnation of all of libertarianism. I made it very clear that I was describing only a subset. I’ve encountered other libertarians who are more like you describe. I don’t smoke pot and I disagree with the government drug-war laws as well. But I don’t consider myself a libertarian of either sort, partly because I do see a government interest in protecting the rights of minorities from majorities that may not want the minorities to have those rights.

  • eezmamata

    There’s being a Libertarian, like being a Democrat or a Republican. Then there’s being libertarian, small-l.I think religious people are dangerous. I think they’re infected with a serious mental disease which cannot be cured. But I do not want any laws passed which prevents them from practicing their beliefs, at the same time I don’t want any laws passed by them which requires others to respect the beliefs themselves.I’m very libertarian about religion. Keep your stinking religion out of my business, just what the Big-L Libertarians say about government.And yes, I’m a minority for my opinion about religion. And yes I and others like me require protection from the tyranny of the christian majority. But this does not mean passing laws making it illegal for them to oppress me. It means preventing them from passing laws that allow them do do so.Omission v Commission.I could not care less what the gays do, think, feel nor how they live. They have as much right be what they are as I have to be straight. But I will not vote for politicians who pass laws telling me that I *have to* feel that way, that I *have to* approve of them.I don’t care. Some care, and don’t approve, some care and do approve. Why can’t people who worry about this stuff just s t f u and leave the rest of us alone?

  • Carstonio

    But I do not want any laws passed which prevents them from practicing their beliefs, at the same time I don’t want any laws passed by them which requires others to respect the beliefs themselves.I agree in principle. Do you have examples of laws that did the former? One obvious example of the latter, although it was more of a custom than a law, was mandatory prayer in public schools before Engel v. Vitale.But this does not mean passing laws making it illegal for them to oppress me. It means preventing them from passing laws that allow them to do so.Would you clarify the distinction, with examples of actual laws? Hypothetically, why shouldn’t it be illegal for an employer to refuse to hire libertarians?But I will not vote for politicians who pass laws telling me that I *have to* feel that way, that I *have to* approve of them.I know of no such laws. Do you have examples?

  • phjesuswarrior7

    I am a conservative christian practicing abstaining until marriage. I am for political candidates that promote the values I believe in MARRIAGE= One man+one woman in an union with God before everyone else. ILLEGAL ALIENS; should not be eligible for any federal benefits nor any constitutional liberties. CONSTITUTIONAL should still give every American freedom of association and represntation. SOCIAL JUSTICE practiced by democrats and republicans in Washington DC or anywhere else in this country is illegal and should be treated as domestic terrorism wherever coerced by a political party, community organization, religious entity or any entity enjoying the privilege to have any tax exempt status. We can enjoy of freedom of religion, we can practice living ethical lives, we can use DNA test and all the modern technologies but the thing we must never forget every choice have consequences. Those that practice death by the choice of abortion must understand they created the poulation shortage that enabled employers to outsource jobs. Those that demand illegal aliens receive a free education accepted the higher cost of sending their childern to college. Both took it upon themselves to condemn the poor in America because the jobs that were going to the communities stopped in the name of speaking spanish. Make your vote count this country is falling apart because some Americans stopped paarticipating in the elction process. The 2010 election is about constitutional rights of all Americans and the term American itself.

  • B2O2

    Jason_Dube (et al), Jesus never said word one about homosexuality. This shameful obsession with them was first codified in the Old Testament “books” (the same wise “divinely-inspired” place that urges us all to stone our children to death if they act up), and then perpetuated by Paul, long after Jesus’ death. Paul hated just about everyone (women especially), and obviously had severe emotional issues.Trying to bring Christ in to lend cachet to your bigotry is pretty offensive. The Taliban and Iranian government may be with you on this one, but American patriots dedicated to freedom will not ultimately endorse your twisted religion of hate.

  • Carstonio

    How are you going to stop an employer who won’t hire libertarians…Anti-discrimination laws empower governments to bring lawsuits against employers charged with discrimination. I’m not sure what you mean by “social engineering.”

  • gswank54

    It is easy to tell who leans far to the left. The New Testament teaches to Love your neighbor, but it also says if a member of your Church is a sinner and is bringing down the congregation that you are to confront him, if he does not change his ways to throw him out of the church and to not associate with any sinner. This country was formed based on Biblical Princeples and the only way to save this country is to bring the people back to God. We have a usurper in the office of the President who is a LIAR, A CROOK, Either an ATHIEST OR A MUSLIM who is doing everything he can do to destroy this country. The Bible states that LIARS AND FORNICATORS will have no place in Heaven.

  • Jason_Dube

    B202Its not that Christian fundamentalists refuse to tolerate gays as individuals, we do not tolerate a re-definition of manhood, sexuality, or the wanton gratification of the flesh.We certainly don’t want homosexuals to be stoned or imprisoned, and we even respect their rights to engage in whatever lifestyle they desire.It is just that we cannot be asked to redefine our views of marriage, and we cannot be expected to change our convictions that homosexuality is a sin.I am sure that we cannot judge people to go to hell or heaven, that is not the function of a Christian or any other person, only God Himself judges. And I know that there are a lot of homosexuals with good hearts and strong work ethics.

  • m_richert

    And where have you been living?

  • areyousaying

    Chanting tired old Rovian wedge issues of xenophobia, homophobia, and religious intolerance, teabaggers wouldn’t know Christ if he knocked on their doors. They would stereotype him as a long haired liberal hippie.Real Christians should pray there are not more than 25% of Americans who are in this mesmerized Fox News and cherry-picked scriptures from Leviticus trance.

  • APaganplace

    This is supposed to be some kind of *surprise?* Just because they *claim* ‘It’s just about taxes,’ doesn’t mean we all went deaf and blind. 🙂

  • Jason_Dube

    Obviously there is a faulty understanding of Christianity behind this article as well as driving most of these comments.Essentially a misunderstanding of Jesus’ teachings, or a deliberate twist of doctrine to suit socialist ideas?The victims of poverty, sickness, and social alienation were indeed the object of Christ’s affection. It is the methods which are misunderstood. The idea that Christ wanted people to remain poor as some sort of requirement to enter heaven is repugnant. He rejected materialism only if the love of money interfered with seeking the Kingdom of Heaven, as is evidenced in this scripture as well as multitudes of others:”Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” If He taught that people should remain poor then why would He talk about the provision being “..added unto them”?As for the suggestion that Jesus would love homosexuals of course He would. But there is a big misconception in this country which equates “acceptance” with love. We must not accept or tolerate homosexuality, any more than we should accept any other aberrant sexual behavior. I think that the writer of this article, as well as America at large are very much ignorant of the teachings of Jesus Christ. And I think that their ignorance really is because they are in a state of denial as to what the scripture really says.

  • trimble_keith

    Gosh,surprise, most comments negative. Makes me wonder just who is mongering fear across the plains of discussion. Ever asked yourself why those who sport negative on Christians reveals such fear in the denouncer? No, not the usual tripe! Try to be honest with yourself. Just try it. Am I more qualified to have values if I were a practicing atheist? Intelligent ones, these days your non-examined spew (distortions spin,et al.) will not be found a deterrent force. Those who say and think as you do have the right and no need for apologies! You won’t be getting one from me either. By the way anyone experiencing Utopia yet? Keith Trimble

  • Nymous

    You’re just now figuring this out… That’s pretty sad.

  • COWENS99

    The tea bag class is missing a great opportunity. There are several politicians and big time crooks leaving prison that would enforce their financial programs. Character and integrity have nothing to do with being a U. S. Senator. According to the tea bag movement, and they have the phony right wing religious zealots jumping on the money wagon.Get a Hitler type, he has a little Jewish twist problem, but he will promise to cut spending except for gas and a few things.The tea bag movement is a white class movement that will accelerate the demise of the greatest country in the world.Character, experience and integrity are the real values. The tea bag class and the GOP are sliding down the hill. They say we are a christian country, so okay to lie, cheat and steal.O’Donnell is 41 years old, and is a know nothing religious wacko who stole and misused campaign funds. Sh told and sponsored hideous lies about Castle and his family. The GOP has great opposition to Obama, what is their solution. They haven’t had one . The woman is an idiot. Angle is a wing nut, and Rand Paul is an idiot.

  • COWENS99

    PHJESUSWARRIOR7I don’t believe you, and you have too much time on your hands. Turn off FOX for a couple of weeks. Read and learn on your own.Keep your religion to yourself. Quite frankly marriage is between you and your partner, not some Jesus third party. Like when married you share your partner with Jesus.Free country, believe what you want, but please don’t spend so much time on the internet and the bathroom. Enjoy yourself.

  • COWENS99

    I am missing something. So, the country was founded on Christian Biblical Principles from the bible?So that’s why the founding fathers were all white plantation owners, with girl friends and continued slavery? Wow, the mark of Cain, what good Christian men.

  • eezmamata

    I just don’t see the libertarian section of the tea party getting along well with the social conservatives. The live-and-let-live attitude of the libertarians, the “it’s none of your damn business” attitude of the libertarians just won’t mesh with the social conservative’s desire to control everything other Americans think, feel, say, do, read, watch, hear … believe or even more – unbelieve.As much as they hate the nanny state liberals for their desire to to have the government decide what your life is like … can you imagine them being comfortable with the social conservatives and their demand that the government enforce their chistianity on everyone?

  • COWENS99

    TO GSWANK54Wow, the way you think, you are really going to be mad when you are judged by the gay,female God who happens to be a Muslim.Our law allows a Muslim to be President, and President Obama is not a liar. You and Larry Craig having problems sweetheart? See you in stall 4, you know, the regular.

  • joe_allen_doty

    Many politically conservative people calling themselves “Christian” are really ignorant about the real history of the United States of America.Some keep saying “Let’s take America back.” Back from what? No one is required to belong to any religion to hold an elected or appointed federal office position according to the Constitution of the United States of America. It is stated in the body of the document “There shall be no test of religion…”

  • wireknob

    “Whats wrong with being a Christian? Your country’s founders were Christian.”Go to a library and read some books about our nation’s founders. There you will discover that the most influential of our founding fathers were effectively Deists, and not particularly preoccupied with organized religion of any denomination. You would be more correct in saying that many of the early colonists were Christians of various denominations.

  • beth25

    Christine O’Donnell is making landmark victories for the Tea Party but, will her religious fanaticism be separate from her senatorial bid in Washington?Give us your two cents at

  • Circuit_Rider

    —>snip>— that the tea party is the Christian Right disguised as an angry taxpayer? Not all ANGRY TAXPAYERS are Christian nor RIGHT WING! Yes, the true part is, We are ALL Angry!

  • labman57

    The tea party phenomenon — a “grass roots” movement … heavily fertilized with bullsh*t provided by corporate lobbyists and mainstream conservative strategists.Their recipe: a particularly bitter brew composed of one part David Duke-inspired racist, two parts Jerry Falwell-inspired self-righteous religious fanatic, two parts greedy corporate upper management, one part survivalist-revolutionary wannabe, and three parts ignorant Joe 6-pack lemming.

  • ransmyth

    It is interesting that the “Religious Right” is talked about as if it were a fringe group. At it’s founding the USA was 98% religious right and today more than seventy percent of Americans claim to be Christians. A lot of the previous comments show a lack of knowledge of the basics of mainstream Christianity. The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus is a great book for those who oppose Christianity to at least become acquainted with the basics.

  • Athena4

    Although 70% of America considers themselves to be Christian, there are only about 25% that consider themselves to be the Religious Right. Most of the others are mainline Christians and Catholics.Besides, even if 70% of the country IS Christian, the other 30% (of which I fall into) deserves equal protection under the laws of the U.S. because of our Constitution. This is NOT a Christian theocracy, although if people like Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell get in, we’re one step closer to it.

  • Athena4

    ‎”The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty Sounds good, right? Can’t figure out which Founding Father said it?None of them did. Adolf Hitler said it in February 1933.

  • WmarkW

    How did it happen that only conservative positions are considered an indictment of mental health? Isn’t there something inherently nutting in believing:Illegal immigration does not exacerbate unemploymentThe Iraqi people were better off living under Saddam HusseinUnfunded stimulus and health care plans won’t ultimately lead to deficits and hence recession or inflationA generous welfare net does not empower the creation of unmarried families headed by women with few economic prospectsOnly people like Jim DeMint are nuts because their proposed solutions aren’t the left’s?

  • thehamptons1

    I get so much enjoyment watching the radical progressive left trying to figure out the Tea Party. One day they are racists, the next they are 90 year old foggies and today they are Christians.Truth is, the Tea Party is all of the above, plus more. They represent people who don’t want our country “fundamentally transformed”. They are people who believe in rewarding success and not punishing the successful. They are people who don’t like rewarding sloth.The Tea Party is people tired of Washington spending, fraud and arrogance. And most of all they don’t want to saddle future generations with debt incurred because of our greed and irresponsibility.By the time you figure out what the Tea Party is they will have already done their work for this year. Next target, 2012.

  • areyousaying

    “…limited constitutional government and faith in God.”Sounds like a bunch of Glenn Beck Christians to me.


    IN REPLY TO (IRT)IRT:ANS:IRT:ANS:We can’t have that kind of buffoonery taking over. Why, they would contradict over sixty years of the work by the newly founded Founding Fathers, Secularists and the ACLU, who are working assiduously to establish the belief that there is no God, at least when it comes to government.The Tea Party is a conspiracy that assaults the very foundation of our Constitution and the Supreme Court that has concluded that inalienable rights don’t exist, viz. that you don’t have a right to life and that the murder of the unborn is a basic right. Consequently, if the Tea Party succeeds, we just might have to ban Abortion, Gay Marriage, and the Constitutional right to engage in Gay Sex inscribed in the 14th Amendment, and the 9th Amendment; God forbid. It would set us back over sixty years of progress, and maturity. Fortunately, in Lawrence v. Texas, the Court ruled that Traditional Morality served no legitimate purpose to the State and could not be a basis for Civil Law because it is too subjective. Thank God, the Court correctly concluded that there is a Constitutional right to Gay Sex because the right to gay-sex is no different from the right to conjugal love in marriage. Consequently, some States have seen the light to the inevitable right for Gay Marriage.

  • csintala79

    If the latest revelation about O’Donnell’s past is ignored or excused by the Teas, then, to the contrary, it would be that they are disgruntled taxpayers and racists falsely parading as social conservatives. Her already exposed handling of personal finances and business expenses, i.e., several times as a deadbeat borrower and failing to meet employee payrolls while using funds to pay her expenses, should be enough for her to be disavowed by fiscal conservatives. Along with her admission of promiscuity in her youth and now that she flirted with witchcraft should cause serious doubt about her sincerity among the Christian Right. If she has been given a pass, then more digging should be done into the real motivation for the movement.

  • Carstonio

    If the Tea Partiers want to convince others that the fundamental issue isn’t white resentment, then a good start would be backing away from euphemisms like “rewarding sloth” and the country being “fundamentally transformed.”

  • Carstonio

    I doubt that many on the religious right would be worried about O’Donnell’s past dabbling in witchcraft. Especially if she spins it as a false step on her path to the true faith, or something like that. I’ve encountered a few fundamentalist Christians who actually believe that witchcraft exists. It might be different if O’Donnell’s kids are seen reading Harry Potter novels, because many in that demographic believe that the books lead kids to witchcraft.

  • Chops2

    People like Palin and Dick Armey are using the Tea Party just as the Repubs have used the Christian right. They are the same people falling for the same shtick. Gullible morons who believe virgins can have babies. derrrrrr

  • BreckJack

    @Jason_DubeYou make some fair points. Jesus obviously had no problem with enjoying material goods. When the wine ran out at a weeding feast, he made more.Yet I don’t know of anything in the New Testament that supports free-market individualism. There’s a lot that sits uneasily with it (“Take no thought for the morrow” etc.)You can find lots of support for left-wing ideas. For example, do you remember Acts 4:34-35?”34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,These early Christians sound pretty socialist to me. Or even communist. (Yes, I know they didn’t involve the government.)