Is the Tea Party unbiblical?

By Alfredo Garcia
Religion News Service
Thursday, July 22, 2010; 6:22 PM

When conservative broadcaster Glenn Beck warned churchgoers to "run as fast as you can" if their pastors preach about "social justice," was he also encouraging them to run from the Bible?

That's what some progressive Christian leaders are arguing as battle lines are drawn for the 2010 mid-term elections. They say Beck and his Tea Party followers are, in a word, unbiblical.

Not so fast, say Tea Party activists, who claim biblical grounds for a libertarian-minded Jesus. He didn't like tax-based welfare programs, they say, and encouraged his followers to donate from the heart.

The insurgent Tea Party movement threatens to usurp the political prominence of religious conservatives, whose focus on hot-button social issues has been overshadowed by the Tea Party's fight against big government.

"I think that the general ideology of the Tea party is not a Christian one," said David Gushee, professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University and co-founder of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, a faith-based nonprofit.

"This kind of small government libertarianism, small taxes, leave-me-alone-to-live-my-life ideology has more in common with Ayn Rand than it does with the Bible." Gushee described the Tea Party as "an uneasy marriage between the libertarian conservative strand and the Christian right strand" of American politics. In this "uneasy alliance," however, he said the Christian side has taken a backseat to the movement's libertarian impulses.

According to a recent Bloomberg poll, 44 percent of Tea Party activists are self-identified "born-again" Christians, a group that generally takes close to heart Jesus' instructions to feed the hungry and clothe the naked.

Tea Party activists say the question is not whether to follow Jesus' words, but how.

Lloyd Marcus of Deltona, Fla., a spokesman for the Tea Party Express, is a born-again, nondenominational Christian who says flatly that "Jesus was not for socialism."

''Yes, the Bible advocates giving, but out of the goodness of our own hearts, not out of government confiscation of wealth or re-distribution of wealth," he said.

Joseph Farah, founder and CEO of the Web site WorldNetDaily and author of the new "Tea Party Manifesto," agreed.

"When Jesus talks about clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, he's talking to us as individuals," Farah said. The Bible does not "suggest that government is the institution that he designed to help the poor." Government social welfare programs are akin to "coercively taking money from people and redistributing to other people, which, at the end of the day, is legalized stealing," he said.

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