Whilst thankfully having no say in the mid-term elections being held in the USA today, I am amused by the contortions we find in the comments in the British media concerning the rise of the Tea Party, a populist movement on what they consider the ‘right’ of American politics. The terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ are as meaningless when applied to political activity as when applied to theological activity, they have become mere terms of abuse rather than descriptions.
The latest inanity comes in the Spectator’s Faith Based blog. Theo Hobson writes on “The Religious Right’s Historical Fraud.” The usual propaganda devices are present: the attempt to characterise an entire movement by one member, Christine O’Donnell; the attempt on amazingly superficial grounds to create a parallel between one group, the Tea Party, with another, militant Islam; and when in doubt the attempt to raise the suspicion of ‘racism.’ Innuendo is always more useful to the propagandist than fact.
But the biggest propaganda trick is to claim for today that which was admirable yesterday. Thus we have the pretence that the framers of the Constitution, the men and women who fought for the abolition of slavery, and just about every social movement in American history since, were ‘liberal’ Christians.
Any student of 18th and 19th century American history will be only too well aware that the people giving impetus to and supplying the broad support for these movements mainly did so from a theological position which today we would describe as conservative evangelical, and probably a lot more conservative than most today.
They were not federal Calvinists, as the original immigrants from Great Britain largely were, but to claim that that makes them liberal Christians is a leap so astounding that Hobson should seriously consider the 2012 Olympics.
You may symapthise with them or anathematise them but the men and women of the populist Tea Party are probably a great deal more in tune with the spirit and ethos which shaped their country than the pseudo liberals who wish to remake it in their own image today.