Know Your Role; the Tea Party, Team God, and the Shadow of the Shutdown

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” – 2 Chronicles 7:14

Well, the shutdown has ended, and just about nothing has changed. Spending is still off the charts, and will apparently continue to be. Obamacare is still in effect – and still causing premiums to rise for the working class. The sound of hand-wringing amongst Tea Party types can be heard across the country.

In times of crisis, I’ve found that God’s response to Israel was typically strategic in nature, rather than tactical. Meaning, God was typically more focused on dealing with fundamental issues of morality and the condition of the heart, before addressing the current mess. The reasons for this seem to be two-fold. First, it deals with the actual important issue, rather than the symptoms of the problem. Addressing symptoms first is a never-ending task, they will always come back. Second, until the primary issues have been dealt with, “a mess” is not necessarily a bad place to be. Better to have your focus drawn to the fact that there is a problem, than to be blissfully unaware and making things worse along the way.

Party Factions …

So, where do we go from here? Well, I suspect the Tea Party, and freedom-loving conservatives (i.e., libertarians) need to deal with strategic issues and political identity. And, I suspect, the same is true for the politically-minded Christian.

I remember hearing a story years ago about the transformation of the environmentalist movement in the early 90s. The old-school “earthy” types noticed that a younger crowd has started showing up to their meetings wearing army fatigues. The Soviet Union had collapsed, and all of the communist dreamers in America needed a new focus – since their dream of Soviet domination had disappeared. Sidebar: ever notice how environmentalist policy proposals are all rehashed socialism and surrender of freedom to the collective, and the council of our betters? That’s what happens when you become the holding tank for frustrated socialists.

I think the Tea Party has a modestly similar problem these days. What began as a protest against economic fascism represented in (the ongoing) bailouts of wealthy Wall Street bankers in the 2008 financial crisis has turned into a bit of a catch-all for conservatives who are frustrated with the Republican wing of the Democratic party. To steal a turn-of-phrase from Jon Stewart, some of these guys are just Moral Majority in tri-quarter hats.

The TV punditry is making a big deal of the “civil war” inside the Republican party, but I propose that there is a simmering split in the Tea Party, which has to be addressed first. (If the Republican party gets burned to the ground in the process, I’ll hardly shed a tear.)

Thy Kingdom Come …

When Jesus came to His cousin John the Baptist to be baptized, John initially protested, declaring “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” The Lord didn’t disagree with John’s assessment, He merely pointed out that John had a role to play in all of this, and baptizing Jesus was his part to play at this time: “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” (see Matt 3)

John was then standing there when Jesus came up out of the water and the Spirit of the Lord descended like a dove on Him. Even beforehand John knew Jesus to be Messiah, and now he saw the heavenly response. And yet later (see Matt 11) John sends messengers to ask if Jesus was indeed the Messiah: “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

What gives? John was looking for the Kingdom of God to come. He was looking for Messiah to come in, overthrow the powers that were ruling over the Israelites, and institute His kingdom that would last forever. And it wasn’t happening. John wanted a good thing, but it wasn’t time yet.

After His resurrection, the disciples asked much the same thing: “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” They too wanted a good thing, but it was not yet time (consider Acts 1:6-11):

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

And what about now? Is now the time for the Lord to set up his earthly kingdom, or are we still living in the “be my witnesses” phase?

Dominionists and Team God …

Today’s Dominionists ask the same thing. Or, rather, they presume the answer to be “yes, now is the time to establish the Lord’s earthly kingdom” and carry on from there. It’s not so much that they want a bad thing – the kingdom is a good thing – they are just tired of waiting for the Lord’s return and they want to get things going now. They are just a touch uncomfortable with what they feel is a narrowly scoped role of “the Bride of Christ” waiting for the return of the Bridegroom. (Or perhaps they’re uncomfortable with being the “woman” in the relationship – but that is a topic for another post.)

Of course there are many voting Christians in the American democracy who are hardly dominionist in their thinking. There are quite a few though who use moral arguments to justify the use of force. They fully support the use of force, which is the government, to seize one man’s property to perform benevolent acts toward another man. While the end may be desirable, the use of force to accomplish it is beyond our scope as Christians. (Note that I don’t say here the use of force is off-limits for all things; I’m not a pacifist.) These are those who are uncomfortable with the prospect of not ruling over their neighbors. They are not comfortable with allowing God to move on the hearts of men for benevolent purposes. This is “Team God” – who feel justified in using force where the Lord has not (yet) in order to exact right behaviors.

Again, it is a matter of scope. We are still in the ambassador role. We are still in the “witnesses” role. Enforcing Christian morals on our neighbors by threat of force is beyond our current scope. Winning a political battle makes little difference if it allows us to push further down the road of theocracy. Perhaps losing is better in that case – until we get our own issues sorted through.

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2 Responses to Know Your Role; the Tea Party, Team God, and the Shadow of the Shutdown

  1. smupreacher says:

    So my brother, you have some very valid points here. I will state plainly that I disagree with the Tea Party from 2 fronts. Number 1: Where was this spending outrage when Bush 2 had us engaged in 2 wars with no way to pay? How about a tax cut in the middle of 2 military engagements with no way to pay? Plus the shutdown costed the taxpayer over 20 billion dollars. The Tea Party’s spending argument on its face has validity but in my eyes is intellectually bankrupt. Number 2: How can the Tea Party be the party of the people when it doesn’t respect people outside of their sect? The Tea Party has a major socio-economic and racial problem. As browner as our country is becoming, the Tea Party is setting itself up to be the white shouting class; the “take our country back” class. From that standpoint, they are a threat.

    • nomasir says:

      I’d agree with your two points – except I don’t think they reflect the Tea Party.

      While folks will obviously debate the origins of the Tea Party, I hold that the naming is best associated with a rant by financial columnist Rick Santelli over the “moral hazard” created by the TARP bailouts. While TARP may well have been passed on the backs of Democrat support (failed to win a majority of House Republicans), it was a Hank Paulson (and by extension George Bush) scheme to transfer money from the taxpayer to the superrich. And to this the libertarian-minded conservatives protested, directing plenty of anger at George Bush, but he was long into lameduck status by then. The same libertarians were opposed to the SECOND of the “2 wars” you mention (nobody was opposed to Afghanistan, were they?) – but honestly not even for budget reasons. Libertarians oppose foreign dalliance. Alas, it generally takes a catalyst to form a movement, and it wasn’t until the big bank bailouts that the modern Tea Party movement got its legs.

      I will note though that a vast majority of Tea Party anger/energy is directed at REPUBLICANS. To date the largest impact the movement has had is to unseat Republicans who vote like big-spending liberals. I’m hard pressed to view that as a bad thing. The point you make is well known in American politics – “where are your principles when it’s ‘your party’ in power?” The Tea Party is a stark departure from this attitude. I would honestly like to see some principled left-wingers unseat unscrupulous Democrats (Terry McAuliffe, anyone?) – but the left’s “Tea Party” is nowhere to be found.

      I almost don’t know how best to respond to the second point. It is similar to a common refrain from the liberal MSM – if you disagree on POLICY with liberalism, you are a racist. Why? “Well, because most minorities support liberal policies, therefore your policy disagreement places you at odds with minorities, which must make you a racist. (and the president’s black – you racist!)” It is absurd – but it is also NOT what you said. (Sidebar, I also see quite a bit of this “they are a threat” talk in the liberal MSM too. Odd that people who hold that the law of the land – the constitution – should in fact be enforced have become “enemies” … odd, and telling.)

      Now, we did make note in the post that the Tea Party has become somewhat of a catch-all for disaffected right-wingers. No doubt some of these have a “those people” mentality towards racial minorities. But we also noted in the post that an intra-Tea Party “conversation” is needed to shake free from Moral Majority retreads. It is useful to note here though that libertarianism generally favors a more open immigration policy, but not in a vacuum. It must be coupled with a dismantling of the transfer payment system. Come here to make a better life for yourself? That’s what we want. Come here to leach off the system and the labors of others? That’s not freedom, not in the least. Crickey, we fought a war to end slavery, only to tolerate it in soft economic (seizure of property) form. Strange days.

      As a final note I will add that my wife, the native American, finds the “take our country back” and anti-immigration bent of the right to be “amusing”.

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