Musings On the Holy Trini-tea
September 30, 2010 9:15 AM   Subscribe

Following a question posed by the Washington Post last week about religion and the Tea Party, Religion Nerd takes issue with one columnist's opinion.
posted by Rykey (31 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Instead, the Tea Party is beginning to resemble a "religion" because its diverse members are coming to embrace a vision of the Constitution and the United States as supernatural, inviolable entities.

Ya don't say.

Tea Party fetishism for the Constitution would be pretty great if they actually understood its original context and what it means. Kinda like hardcore evangelicals and the Bible. "I like your Constitution. I don't like your Constitutionalists. They are so unlike your Constitution."
posted by Rhaomi at 9:25 AM on September 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


That was not a very well-written blog post, and it basically seems to boil down to: "I disagree." But, Religion Nerd doesn't really address any of the arguments in the original oped. He or she mostly seems to just want to accept Tea Part rhetoric without any analysis at all.
posted by OmieWise at 9:28 AM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Through all of this type of rhetoric, so prototypical of all the progressive polemics against the Tea Party, an important goal is dismissed: any attempt to take the grievances and positions of the Tea Party movement seriously.

Do Tea Party members have coherent positions that aren't dictated to them by their corporate masters in FOX News, Breitbart, etc., which are intrinsically consistent? How does one take a movement seriously that complains about welfare, whilst gladly taking financial support from state and federal services?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:32 AM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


Neither Religion Nerd nor Mathew Schmalz's columns were all that enlightening. I would agree that making lazy characterizations of the Tea Partiers as a "cult" or a "sect" (as Schmalz does) displays at best a shallow understanding of the role of religion in American politics and history and is a profound oversimplification, or, more likely, an attention-seeking stunt.
posted by blucevalo at 9:33 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Through all of this type of rhetoric, so prototypical of all the progressive polemics against the Tea Party, an important goal is dismissed: any attempt to take the grievances and positions of the Tea Party movement seriously.

This goal becomes a lot more difficult if you actually try to have a conversation with someone from the Tea Party movement about their grievances and positions. When somebody says something like "Obama is creating secret prisons inside the US for when he starts rounding up people and taking away our guns. You can tell because the razor wire is facing the INSIDE!"* it's extremely difficult to have a logical discussion about why that is completely insane, just like it's extremely difficult to have a conversation about why you're not worried about The Rapture when talking to an Evangelical Christian.

* Note: I am not making this up, this is an actual argument that was used by a conservative I know. He recently suggested that I become a fan of the Remington Arms Company on Facebook.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:37 AM on September 30, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm always unhappy with descriptions of things other than religions as being religions, because it seems to me to be facile and insulting both to religion and to the thing being so described.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:41 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Through all of this type of rhetoric, so prototypical of all the progressive polemics against the Tea Party...

Sorry to derail a bit, but... he's using "prototypical" instead of "typical" here just for the alliteration, right?
posted by brundlefly at 9:50 AM on September 30, 2010


Grar I take issue with that article's use of the Utah Teapot. That is an icon of the computer graphics community, not some politicult.
posted by rlk at 9:56 AM on September 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


The constitutional fetishism isn't even really there. They'd rip out whatever part of the damn thing they could if it'd help them win The Battle Against Melanin.

They're just scared, little people who insist on othering & disenfranchising whoever they see as a threat to their blinkered, ignorant worldview.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:02 AM on September 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


"Obama is creating secret prisons inside the US for when he starts rounding up people and taking away our guns. You can tell because the razor wire is facing the INSIDE!"

Errr I believe that goes back at least to WWII.

REXX 84 and Ronald Reagan - if you cared and wanted to attempt to educate the person I'm betting some of the locations mentioned 'now' and blamed on the present leadership will have locations that were cited with the REXX 84 stuff.

If the leadership class thinks tossing citizens under the bus will keep them and the bus rolling - by God we're under the bus. Would it be any other way?

Frankly I'd like to see at least one of the tea party identified win. Just to see if they would actually draft bills and vote per what they claimed they would. Feet of clay and all that. The tea party dislikers should make sure they are ready to track that.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:33 AM on September 30, 2010


I'm always unhappy with descriptions of things other than religions as being religions, because it seems to me to be facile and insulting both to religion and to the thing being so described.

But what are religion and politics but descendants of drama -- the storytelling of the earliest humans to help them interpret and survive in their world? Sadly, it seems that churches currently have better scripts than theatres (and by "better" I mean "crowd-pleasing").
posted by binturong at 10:38 AM on September 30, 2010


if you cared and wanted to attempt to educate the person... you would be wasting your time. The tea party is an a-rational movement. Not irrational, which is, you know, "not in accordance with reason." It's a-rational -- reason, facts, information, knowledge are irrelevant to it.

Put it this way: you can't rationally argue someone out of being in love. Reason has nothing to do with it. Same thing.
posted by rusty at 10:45 AM on September 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ya don't say.

posted by Rhaomi at 9:25 AM on September 30


The best part is that Jesus seems to be wearing a Tree of Gondor tabard in the painting. Who knew that he was an Ally of the King and a defender of the White Tree?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 10:48 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Grar I take issue with that article's use of the Utah Teapot. That is an icon of the computer graphics community, not some politicult.

Yeah, the whole article is annoyingly peppered on both margins with random stock images that have nothing to do with anything. It'd be really aggravating to attempt to read even if it were good, which it isn't.
posted by anazgnos at 10:50 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


The tea party is an a-rational movement.

The particular claimed 'fact' isn't just the new guy. Its been a claim for years. And, to be fair, such behavior has been used by governments for years. Last used in mass on Japanese Americans during WWII.

It just happens to now be parroted by a different group with a different label is all. Come a 'conservative' change in the top slot the claim will continue, just not by many of the same people who express concern in the now is all. And odds are the claim will be "even worse" as our data mining techniques improve.

As it is, a political movement has to 'deliver' to the population. Whatever you want to claim is the tea party - a core of 'cutting spending' won't deliver loot to the population and therefore won't have the same traction as the 2 parties that do deliver the money checks.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:55 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


The most infuriating thing about the article is it's bland acceptance of the Overton Window. "Here are two intractable positions. They must both be wrong, and the truth exactly between! How wise I am in observing this. Hey guys, come and listen to my world-saving wisdom!"

Pah. Sometimes one side is just wrong. Pointing to the liberals and saying "They're just as adamant as you are!" may be true but doesn't help. You're going to have to engage with their point of view eventually. You can't always tell what's right or wrong from the form of an arguement; eventually you have to engage with its content, and anyone who actually knows anything about the Constitution or the Bible can tell the Tea Party arguments aren't even arguments. They're shouty, foot-stamping demands that the world immediately align itself with their petty whim with only a thin veneer of rationality covering it.

And in stirring up this swarm of angry bees, we entirely have Fox News to blame.
posted by JHarris at 11:43 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Through all of this type of rhetoric, so prototypical of all the progressive polemics against the Tea Party, an important goal is dismissed: any attempt to take the grievances and positions of the Tea Party movement seriously.

Like burnmp3 and Blazecock Pileon, I immediately zeroed in on this sentence. No sir, the grievances and positions can't be taken seriously simply because they don't make any sense. Because they are utter and complete bollocks. Because the whole Tea Party movement is made entirely of an unholy mixture of third-rate Poujadism and first-rate funding. Yes, that's true, the Tea Party is not even genuinely American: amusingly enough, it's a well-funded rehash of a failed French movement. You know, like True Lies, Jungle 2 Jungle or Three Men and a Baby. It would almost be funny, too, if Poujadism hadn't brought this particular major-league a-hole into politics. That is why its artificial grievances and nonsensical positions can not and should not be taken seriously. Not because of any theology.
posted by Skeptic at 11:54 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


From outbursts by Congressmen during Presidential Addresses to the daily mockery of ignorant and misled “teabaggers,” the political dialogue in the United States resembles less a reasonable debate among concerned members of the community than a bar room brawl.

After exhausting all other efforts to converse in god faith, the "daily mockery of the ignorant and misled" is the only response left available to people who willfully refuse to engage in any kind of discussion based on facts. When people are actually coming to the table with the belief that the President is in reality a Kenyan secret Muslim and steadfastly refusing to look at any evidence to the contrary, it's difficult to believe that any real meaningful dialog is ever going to follow. And as a result; when these people further claim that they aren't motivated by racism or xenophobia, it's hard to take them seriously.
posted by quin at 12:15 PM on September 30, 2010 [6 favorites]


...coming to embrace a vision of the Constitution and the United States as supernatural, inviolable entities.

I lol'd.

This TNR article (The Revisionaries [which unfortunately only has part of it viewable currently online]) discusses just a few of the ways that 'teapartypolitics' is actually strongly 'anti-constitution', and all for willy-nilly editing the parts it doesn't like. The article examines the issue of the 17th amendment specifically.
posted by infinite intimation at 12:20 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


Religion Nerd is more of a Religion Rhetorical Quibbler, it seems.
posted by Artw at 12:20 PM on September 30, 2010


Through all of this type of rhetoric, so prototypical of all the progressive polemics against the Tea Party, an important goal is dismissed: any attempt to take the grievances and positions of the Tea Party movement seriously.

Spoken like a true centrist: let's split the difference.

OK, the president is half-crypto muslim, half of him was born in Hawaii and the other half was born in Kenya. Guess which half is white...

The problem with this position is that no matter how thin you slice it, it's still baloney.
posted by warbaby at 12:49 PM on September 30, 2010


This TNR article (The Revisionaries [which unfortunately only has part of it viewable currently online]) discusses just a few of the ways that 'teapartypolitics' is actually strongly 'anti-constitution', and all for willy-nilly editing the parts it doesn't like.

Exactly. There was a letter in the Austin-American Statesman paper version yesterday that advocated that we go back to only property owners being able to vote, because the founding fathers knew that property owners were responsible, upstanding citizens, and that by doing so, it would be a boon to the little guy, and a strike against the elites. They were missing all the boxcars in their train of logic from point A to point B. It was a pretty babbling, incoherent piece of writing, but I note it because a large part of the writer's point was "hey, let's change the inviolable document."

I guess anything added after the original Constitutional Convention is up for deletion, since the original "founding fathers" didn't write all those amendments from their holy anointed feather quills. Of course, except the one about guns. Or something. It's incoherent, and rage-based. We've got to ride it out, but we can't just put our heads down and hope they go away, either. We've got to try to keep rational thought alive - participate, teach the children, and vote.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:06 PM on September 30, 2010 [3 favorites]


the word everyone is looking for is dogmatic, not religious
posted by pyramid termite at 1:46 PM on September 30, 2010


I dunno, when something becomes a magic box into which logic and analysis cannot intrude which can do anything and which all arguments against are automatically dismissed then you've pretty much got a religious situation.

Course, I'd say the same about Apple nerds.
posted by Artw at 1:50 PM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm always unhappy with descriptions of things other than religions as being religions, because it seems to me to be facile and insulting both to religion and to the thing being so described.

Actually, that's a fair summation of what "Religion Nerd" was trying to say.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:30 PM on September 30, 2010


Pff. Religion gets far more respect than it deserves, it's just an intersection of brain chemistry and social convention, other things can absolutely reproduce the same effect.
posted by Artw at 3:36 PM on September 30, 2010 [4 favorites]


The Tea Party cares about the US Constitution the same way this area man does.
posted by sotonohito at 4:06 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Schmaltz or schmalz is rendered pork, chicken or goose fat used for frying or as a spread on bread, especially in German and Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine."
Sorry. I know that's not helping, but it's really all I could focus on when reading the damn thing.
posted by atomicstone at 8:00 PM on September 30, 2010


It seems to me that there's been a change in the purpose of political debate.

It used to be primarily about moving opinions within the spectrum of mainstream opinion, the so-called Overton Window.

But now it's largely about the more ambitious goal of shifting that window itself. So some previously acceptable opinions can now be seen as extreme. Some previously unacceptable opinions can become mainstream.

To do that you sometimes need to use intensely emotional arguments. If you can consistently react with rage, shock, derision and hysteria to a previously mainstream opinion, you convince the public that it's an unacceptably extreme opinion.

Of course, to move the other way you need to calmly and reasonably keep repeating a previously unacceptable opinion, preferably using new terminology.

So I think when people like religionnerd argue that the Tea Party hysteria should be calmly and unemotionally rebutted, they're somewhat missing the point. When you calmly, rationally and without derision debate the question of whether that the President is secretly a foreign-born Muslim Communist out to destroy the United States, you're actually helping them in the broader goal of bringing that position into the mainstream of political discourse. They don't necessarily want to convince most people to actually believe it: they just want to bring it into the mainstream, make it acceptable for a minority to believe it, and make sure that the limited airtime and column-inches of politics is devoted to that issue rather than an issue that could hurt them.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 3:42 AM on October 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I dunno, when something becomes a magic box into which logic and analysis cannot intrude which can do anything and which all arguments against are automatically dismissed then you've pretty much got a religious situation.

Oh god THIS. There are a lot of those boxes floating around. We all have causes and things we're a little irrational about, but if proof were to come out tomorrow that those things were destroying the world we'd see reason and abandon them. However, I don't get the sense that's true with a lot of fundamentalist types, and I don't get the sense that's true of the Tea Party people.
posted by JHarris at 12:57 PM on October 1, 2010


TheophileEscargot I have no problem with efforts to move the Overton Window in and of themselves. I do have a problem with the fact that the only movements attempting it that are supported by any mainstream political groups are those movements trying to shift it further to the right.

When people make an effort to shift the Overton Window to the left, the mainstream "leftist" organizations seem terrified and when they aren't doing their utmost to sabotage such movements and discredit their leaders they are doing their best to distance themselves from those movements.

The joke is that the Republicans are afraid of their base and the Democrats hate their base, and it isn't far wrong.

You will note that when the talking heads discuss various situations and say that "all options are on the table", this is not in fact true. In the discussion, for example, of the budget the option of cutting military spending and scaling back US global military presence is most emphatically not on the table, it is outside the Overton Window and is not permissible for discussion, much less a position that has any serious backing or consideration.

Similarly the option of just getting the heck out of Iraq and Afghanistan is not on the table. At the very most, and quite grudgingly and with much complaint and dire warnings, a very limited withdrawal that still involves US soldiers and/or mercenaries conducting combat operations and the continued expenditure of billions in those nations is permitted. That's as far left as the current Overton Window permits discussion of such affairs.

I'd be 100% behind any effort to shift the Overton Window in the direction I'd like to see it moved.
posted by sotonohito at 2:45 PM on October 2, 2010


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