I have to take issue with Andrew Sullivan’s assertion that the Tea Party movement is “Christianist” at its core.
By “Christianist,” Sullivan means essentially the Religious Right and the idea that the Religious Right’s anti-gay, anti-choice political agenda has played a central in Tea Party activism is ludicrous.
When the movement began last year, the “TEA” in Tea Party stood for “Taxed Enough Already” and was aimed at the bailouts and stimulus measures put in place in an attempt to stabilize our economy.
At first, the Religious Right more or less watched from the sidelines as the fiscal conservative groups like Freedomworks, National Taxpayers Union, Americans For Tax Reform, and The Club for Growth started to institutionalize the Tea Party effort.
Eventually, groups like the American Family Association climbed on board, as did leaders like Ralph Reed, but that was done in order to try and capitalize on the Tea Party success and tie their “Christianist” agenda to the already established Tea Party activism.
The presence of Religious Right fringe figures like Roy Moore and Rick Scarborough at the National Tea Party Convention is more a sign of the power of the Tea Party narrative than it is of Religious Right control or influence over the movement or its agenda.
Perhaps nothing better illustrates the fundamental merging of overall right-wing movement under the banner of the Tea Party than the fact that the Tea Party front-runners at Freedomworks recently partnered with Religious Right powerhouses like the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America despite that fact that, just a few years back, Freedomworks’ founder Dick Armey was calling the socially conservative wing of the movement a bunch of stupid, lazy demagogues.
At the moment, Tea Party activism is the face of the conservative movement and so it is no surprise that Religious Right groups are climbing aboard the bandwagon in an effort to try and utilize it to press their own agenda.
The Tea Party movement does not have a Religious Right agenda at its core, but rather as a component … and that is only because Religious Right groups have set out aligning themselves with the movement in order to co-opt and exploit it.