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The Tea Party, Dominionists, and Homeschoolers, Oh My!

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Not to mention a whack-a-doodle who wrote a children's book purely to glorify the second amendment.

The article contends that despite their posturing on taxes, debt, etc. the Tea Party is more about culture war and dominionism than economics - which I totally agree with. However, the author seems to conclude that the Tea Party is going to fall away into obscurity, the members abandoning political meetings in favor of returning to their churches and screaming in front of Planned Parenthoods. My concern is that we've already had so much religious extremism/fundamentalist bleedover into the GOP at large (Hi, Rick Perry!) that we're screwed anyway.

It's a long article so I've cut out a swathe to quote, but it's worth reading in its entirety.

http://www.theawl.com/2011/08/what-i-le ... -tea-party

The Tea Party is no longer about economics, not that it ever solely was. At the larger rallies and for the cameras (CNN or laptop), they hold forth about founding fathers, liberty, spending, deficits, TARP, kicking cans down roads, taxes, living within means and fiscal responsibility. But when the lights are off, it's all about Jesus, with "God" thrown in, on occasion for Israel.

Back in 2009, the movement appeared genuinely stumped with a conundrum of its key documents. Subservience to the Constitution of the United States of America was paramount, but then what to do about the Bible?

So they've engineered a backstory that essentially proves the nation's founders were just conduits for God. Essentially, the Constitution is just the word of God passed down through guys who wore wigs and snazzy cuffed jackets.

That the Tea Party is just a way to repackage the religious right has no better proof than Ralph Reed. Reed has taken the tenets of the 1990s Christian Coalition that he directed for the "Faith and Freedom Coalition," which is now a major player at Tea Party events.

In April, in the high din of the Wisconsin budget debate, I attended a full day's meeting of the northeast Wisconsin Manitowoc Tea Party (now officially called the "Manitowoc County TEA-Movement"). It began with a prayer that included the statement that "we have neglected... the only nation founded on Christian principles."

Held in a local hotel ballroom, the meeting consisted of info sessions and speakers. The "training" sessions were largely civic and cartographical—who's your rep, where to vote, that kind of thing. The day's speakers were a mix of community organizers and preachers. American Majority operatives did sessions on "The System" (smaller-government, term-limit doctrine) and "Social Media" ("How many here have a Twitter account?"). These info sessions were balanced by Jake Jacobs and Kyle Desjarlais.

Jake Jacobs (Ph.D!) is the head of FreedomProject Education, which, not to get too into it, provides “a classical education in the tradition of America’s Founders." It is, essentially, as Jacobs out it in his exhaustive address, a curriculum about America's Judeo-Christian founding. (They are an arm of the American Opinion Foundation.) Jacobs' hour-long rant mixed historical evidence of the founding father's Christian intentions for America with conspiracy theories about Barack Obama and Columbia University, Bill Ayers, Sharia, Hitler, the Kentucky and Virginia acts of 1789, Sean Penn, his former students' persecution in college "for their Christian conservatism" and "how to refute the argument that Jesus was a socialist." (Which, by the way, is to note that "thou shall not steal" is a direct rebuttal to how "socialists despise private property." Jacobs' lessons (available online) are set up especially for home-schoolers.

After Jacobs, I was unable to be shocked to encounter a teenager in pressed trousers holding forth on the Constitution before a roomful of senior citizens. Desjarlais is just one of a number of well-spoken Christian home-schooled wonder-kids I've listened to at Tea Party meetings. In Wisconsin, the most famous of these kids is Tricia Willoughby, a 15-year-old who gained fame after being shouted down by protesters when she spoke at a pro-Walker rally at the Madison Capitol in March.

Willoughby is an unstoppable home-schooled Christian-conservative leftist terminator—pure, pretty and completely immune from criticism. This is likely why Willoughby could be found three months after that incident at Americans For Prosperity's RightOnline conference, where, next to her teenage sisters, she taught a room full of middle-aged men and women at a session called "Youth Outreach." One of the sisters said to the crowd: "Barack Obama may have the unions. But we have the home-schoolers."

I was even more floored when Morton Blackwell rose from the audience to be recognized. That Blackwell, a member of the wildly powerful dominionist Council for National Policy and a Republican activist going all the way back to Barry Godwater, chose to sit in a poorly ventilated room and listen to the Willoughby teenagers says something both about the growing power of home-schoolers in the Tea Party movement, and about how the movement is desperate to cultivate younger followers.

Desjarlais' entry to the 2011 Wisconsin "Baptist for Life" essay contest was "God's Curse on America: the Result of Christian Apathy Towards Abortion." It concludes: "Tragic instances like the terrorist acts of violence on September 11, 2001 and a series of hurricanes in New Orleans are proofs of God's anger with this Christian nation because of our failure to exalt God as our country's head, our failure to stop abortion, and our failure to properly act against it." His address in Manitowoc was toned down from that but essentially the same: America is flailing because of a lack of God in government. During his son's address, Desjarlais' father beamed from a back table. He was wearing an "Obama is what's wrong with America" t-shirt. The perception that Obama is a heathen is a major driver of the movement.

The $15 for the VIP luncheon got me some wedding reception chicken and entry to a very private audience with Republican state Assemblymen Andre Jacque and Bob Ziegelbauer and state Senator Frank Lasse. First question for Jacque? "What's being done about funding for Planned Parenthood?"

The Tea Party's deep need to interpret the Constitution through the Bible hits a troublesome, though not insurmountable, roadblock in the case of the Second Amendment. One way this connection is often made is through 1 Timothy 5:8: "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."

This is cited as proof that God wants men to be able to "provide for his own." In fact, in Simac's Second Amendment book, the publisher's note reprints it as "But if anyone does not provide [safety, etc.] for his own [family], and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." The publisher goes on to argue explicitly that the Founding Fathers established the second amendment so as to be in compliance with the Bible.

The "etc." of "Safety, etc." appears open to include anything from a warm meal to the ability to bring high-caliber high-capacity firepower to bear against, say, black helicopters.

But for Tea Party candidates, just pontificating on God's role in government is not convincing enough. There may be few atheists in fox holes but there are even fewer in American elections. For this reason, Tea Party candidates often sign pledges to prove their Christian allegiance.

Simac, doing Bachmann and Santorum one better, signed the "Manhattan Declaration," which begins "Christians are heirs of a 2,000-year tradition of proclaiming God's word...." And then it just gets weird.

The Declaration connects the modern anti-abortion movement to "rescuing discarded babies from trash heaps in Roman cities" and eventually gets to stuff like "the institution of marriage, already buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is in jeopardy," and ends by declaring that the undersigned "will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar's." Simac announced the signing over Twitter.

That a viable politician for American office brags about signing away allegiance to a power other than the Constitution, just 50 years after John F. Kennedy was forced to humble himself and say his church did not speak for him or him for it, is simply mind-scrambling.

But then, Simac has said that our "God-given freedoms [were] passed down to us by our Founding Fathers," "We really need to stand up for the rights of God in our constitution" and "I believe America is God's special miracle and we need to not let Him down."

One reason the Tea Party's patriotic political statements are so taupe is that they mirror the religious rhetoric, which is high on generalizations about God and low on nuance and complexity and conflict. Go ahead, replace "constitution" and "patriotism" with "God" and "faith" in some tea party speech sometime—it's not as wacky as it should be. The flag is just a cross; those who do not outwardly display it, are obviously not Christians.

*Edited because I can never spell "dominionists" correctly the first time.

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I'm NOT calling the Tea Party racist, but I can't take them seriously when a lot of what they whine about (such as deficit spending and especially TARP) didn't bother them until a black man got elected president.

I think organization that doesn't identify themselves as liberal can be a target for right wing Christian extremists to infiltrate and take over, and that's what has happened to the Tea Party.

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