The Tea Party as Religion


Rod Dreher, one of the smartest and most reasonable conservative writers, criticizes the Tea Party, and the right in general, for turning their political ideology into a religion, for all practical purposes. The zeal, the focus on doctrinal purity, the conviction that anyone who opposes them is “of the devil” — it’s all there.

I’m always fascinated by the question of how we know what we know, and was thinking this morning about what kind of mind sees what just happened as either a victory, or a defeat that happened not because the cause was hopeless, but because the cause was betrayed, its noble defenders stabbed in the back by faithless RINO traitors. Because that is the emerging narrative within the right-wing bubble.

Can the Tea Partiers’ beliefs be falsified? I don’t think they can be. I mean, is there any evidence that could convince them that the fault here lies with themselves, in the way they conceive politics, and in the way they behaved? It sure doesn’t look like it. In that sense, they think of politics as a kind of religion. It’s not for nothing that the hardcore House members stood together and sang “Amazing Grace” as the impossibility of their position became ever clearer. They really do bring a religious zealotry to politics.

Let me hasten to say that I’m not endorsing the “Christianist” meme, which I find far too reductive, among other things. Besides, many of the Tea Partiers and fellow travelers are not motivated by religious faith, but by a religious-like zeal for their political ideology. It was like this on the Right before the advent of the Tea Party. There has long been a sense on the Right that the movement must be vigilant against the backsliders and compromisers, who will Betray True Conservatism if you give them the chance. Again, the religious mindset: politics as a purity test. In this worldview, a politician who compromises sells out the True Faith — and faith, by definition, does not depend on empirical observation to justify itself.

Nails and heads, as I like to say. This is why they not only find it not only impossible but completely unthinkable to compromise. When you have the One True Faith, compromise can only be with the Devil himself, especially in the person of Barack Obama.

Comments

  1. Erk12 says

    And if they push the US into default, the inevitable economic collapse will be the fault of the countries who dump their US bonds, not the Tea Partiers who caused the default.

  2. matty1 says

    The weird thing is you would have to change very few words for this to be a description of the Soviet communist party. It’s funny how all extremisms seem to converge and the more they do the more convinced they are that the moderate liberal elements are the ones being extreme.

  3. daved says

    Ah, the “stab in the back” theory. Where have we heard that one before?

    (I’m just beating colnago80 to the punch. I’m sure he’ll be along shortly to mention “Frankenberger” again. That schtick is getting really old, bunkie.)

  4. raven says

    Besides, many of the Tea Partiers and fellow travelers are not motivated by religious faith,…

    Dreher is guilty of wishful thinking here.

    You would have a hard time finding a Tea Partier that wasn’t some sort of fundie xian. It’s all part of a package, pro female slavery, creationist, xian Dominionist, racist, economics illiterate, global warming denier, anti-science.

  5. Artor says

    Raven, there are a few Teabaggers who are mouth-frothing atheist libertarians, but generally, yes; I think most of the Teabaggers are evangelical Xians.

  6. dogmeat says

    And if they push the US into default, the inevitable economic collapse will be the fault of the countries who dump their US bonds, not the Tea Partiers who caused the default.

    Oh please. We all know it’ll be Barry’s fault. Much like it is Clinton’s fault that the economy collapsed in ’07, Carters fault that it collapsed in ’73, it’ll be Obama’s fault if they drive us into an economic collapse via their madness. They can then get their guy elected, strip more protections from poor people, gut more voting rights, strip more regulations, claim credit for the natural restoration of the economy, and add a dozen or so trillion to the debt just in time for the next Democrat to take the blame. Rinse, lather, repeat.

  7. says

    It’s not for nothing that the hardcore House members stood together and sang “Amazing Grace” as the impossibility of their position became ever clearer.

    Isn’t that like the NAACP singing “Dixie”?

  8. velociraptor says

    “It’s not for nothing that the hardcore House members stood together and sang “Amazing Grace” as the impossibility of their position became ever clearer.”

    Please tell me he’s joking…..

  9. exdrone says

    its noble defenders stabbed in the back by faithless RINO traitors

    Apostates will be pilloried primaried.

  10. typecaster says

    It’s never a bad time to recommend The True Believer: Thoughts On The Nature Of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer. He was talking about the Tea Party before any of them were born.

  11. laurentweppe says

    The weird thing is you would have to change very few words for this to be a description of the Soviet communist party

    The Soviet empire was ruled by a de facto nepotic aristocracy whose members used demagoguery to accuse anyone who pointed toward their corruption as Ennemies Of The People. You think the similarities between the Tea Party and the Soviet elites are Weird?

  12. abb3w says

    The claim “many of the Tea Partiers and fellow travelers are not motivated by religious faith” is semi-misleading. Yes, there are outliers; contrariwise, religiosity is significantly correlated. Nohow, there seem to be other, stronger correlates.

  13. dingojack says

    Shouldn’t they have sung Near my God to Thee, just like on the Titanic? (Or were they too busy moving the deck chairs around?)
    Just got in before Frankenburger could!
    Dingo

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