Should God be invited to the Tea Party?
Anyone who has ever been to a Tea Party rally or meeting will know that one of the fascinating things about the movement is the rich mixture of conservatives who attend, from Libertarians to Goldwater Republicans.
Groups in Washington like FreedomWorks which seek to herd these natural-born mavericks are insistent that they can all unite around a single principle, fiscal conservatism. They say Tea Partiers are united by their desire to keep the deficit down, government small and taxes low. Whatever individual members think about guns or gays, they say, stays outside the Tea Party.
Some think that is wrong, and should change. I've bumped into Greg Fettig a couple of times at rallies in Washington. He's a founder of the Hoosier Patriots and is deeply involved in the Tea Party movement. He's written to me to tell me about his movement, America Refocused. One of its founding principles is to connect what it calls the "grassroots' patriot movement" with the Church and it says "God's warriors" should aim at "promoting moral awareness - prayer, humility, worship and seeking God's direction".
Greg Fettig says the Church has been infiltrated by progressives who promote homosexuality, abortion, open borders "and other beliefs contrary to biblical teachings".
He is not a lone voice. I've just read a small book, entitled The Tea Party Manifesto, by Joseph Farah, who, according to the blurb on the back, "was a Tea Partier before there even was a Tea Party movement". He argues that the Tea Party is made up of "prayerful people" and that it is a mistake to divide economics from social and moral issues.
In a text filled with quotes from the Bible, he warns the US is becoming a fascist country, and fulminates against socialism, homosexuality, abortion and, a bit weirdly, turning Native Americans into heroes. It is a fairly familiar mixture: a heated, almost panicky, focus on evils that stalk the land without anything like solid policy prescriptions describing what "taking America back" (from the voters?) might mean.
But the point of interest is that he says that it is time for the Tea Party to connect with its Christian roots.
My suspicion is that the success of the Tea Party - and the reason Republicans find it difficult to harness - is that it focuses on one issue, while revelling in the expression of a whole host of other views. But is the Christian Right really at its heart, and on its way back?