What the Tea Party Movement Means

The idea of America is freedom.

With the Fourth of July we have just celebrated the birth of our nation and the freedom its citizens have enjoyed throughout America’s history.

The Progressive Movement believes America to be freer than ever.  It’s still waiting for a few items on its checklist: for homosexuals to be granted the right to marry everywhere, for a more dovish foreign policy, for an energy policy based on alternative fuels (with cap and trade as a restraint on hydrocarbons), and the acceptance of global warming as a first principle.

It wants to see the social disparities of our marketplace economy modulated, with far less distance between the rich and the poor.

The project of the welfare state must be completed, in all its European finery.

The Tea Party Movement, in contrast, represents a collective clutch in the gut that America has turned away from freedom as its essential idea.  It’s a collection of different and disparate groups united more than anything else by this misgiving.

These groups understand that the more government gives, the more it takes away.  Where government becomes the dispenser of goods and services like health care—or the rescuer of huge American corporations like AIG—it becomes the manager of these activities.  Its means of management can only be bureaucratic, with all of bureaucracy’s maddening inefficiencies and impersonal character, as anyone who has ever visited a department of motor vehicles can attest.

The more government manages areas of our life, the more the needs of the collective trump the freedoms of subsidiary institutions such as the family and those of the individual.   (Strangely, it even becomes the government’s obligation to keep the executives of failed corporations rich.)

Progressives are willing for the government to make such decisions, I suspect, because they believe they are in control of the government.  The three other institutions that count, in their opinion, are also under their control: the media, the universities, and the judiciary.  (Those howls of protest at the Citizens United decision, allowing unlimited spending on campaigns by corporations and unions, were those of a people betrayed by a supposed friend.)

Also, progressives worship intellectuals—at least of their own ilk—believing that experts are far better at solving society’s problems than people left to their own devices.  There is an underlying misanthropy to such worship, a willed-distancing from our common humanity.

The last driver of progressivism is promiscuity and related pleasures such as alcohol and drugs.  Progressives believe that the essence of freedom consists in being able to use the body as an instrument of pleasure.  This freedom is perfected through the person being spared any negative consequences.  Thus no-fault divorce, the pill, and abortion-on-demand.

Progressives denigrate the Tea Party Movement with such vitriol and lewdness because they cannot stand losing their utopian dreams on the cusp of their realization, with the ascension to power of President Obama and his progressive appointees.

Many within the Tea Party Movement believe in the “pursuit of happiness” as the Founding Fathers conceived it: as a quest for self-control, independence, and virtue.  The founders knew that a people unwilling to control themselves could never make democracy work.

As we have become less willing to control ourselves, we have become increasingly willing to delegate more and more responsibility to the government.  In recent campaigns we have been virtually crying out for a friendly tyranny.

The Tea Party Movement has a different idea, and it’s an idea with Christian roots.  It comes from the Christian understanding of the human person as a sovereign individual with free will, who, with the assistance of grace, can live a decent life and help his neighbor as well.

There are purely libertarian participants in the Tea Party Movement who believe only in the individual, without any place for community, but in the main the Tea Party seems to take its inspiration from our Christian heritage.

Last Sunday, on the 4th of July, I listened to one of the priests at my church, Father Flanagan, deliver a homily in which he discussed the Christian and specifically Catholic heritage of our country.  Applause rang out at the end—something I’ve never heard after a homily before.

Evidently, Catholics and other Christians in this country are sick to death of secularism and its false understanding of freedom as a merely comfortable life without obligations.

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  • joanspage

    Of course, progressives are concerned with the poor. Someone has to be. Wait! Someone else is.

    Our Lord mentioned the poor many, many times. He never called them lazy. He never said the rich were rich because they deserved to be. He said he came to fulfill the prophets. Amos was a prophet. He railed against the oppression of the poor by the rich and corrupt officials.

    Christ is not a liberal, however. But neither does he belong the Tea Party. He is Christ. He is the Christ of the poor. He is the Christ of the disabled, the abused and the forgotten.

    Morality is more than sexual purity. Being moral means more than opposing same sex marriage and abortion. Being moral means feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and lifting up the oppressed. Government alone cannot do that but it can help.

    Taxes are tools, not objects of oppression if fairly implemented. To those who say taxes always hurt, I ask: Should we end all taxes? You say never raise taxes but if we never, ever raise taxes, should have no taxes? They were imposed at some point. Was that wrong?

    Government requires a respectful dialogue among competing views. I am not at all
    convinced the Tea Party has what it takes for that. Further, I see no signs of any Christian influence in it.

  • caoimhin

    The Tea Part is working to re-elect Republicans, whose difference from secular liberalism consists of mere rhetoric. It is only when they are not in power that Republican politicians believe in limited government. Fool me twice.

  • http://www.catholicexchange.com Mary Kochan

    caoimhin: The Tea Party is trying to elect CONSERVATIVES, whether Independent or Republican. It is not their fault that there is no room for conservatives in the Democratic party. Your point that not all Republicans are real consevatives is very true — that is why there is a Tea Party movement, because consevatives have to fight to make the Republicans act in harmony with their words.

    Also, the point Harold makes that they are trying to bring this country back to godly values is very true — that is a big feature of their rallies and the speeches that are given.

    joanspage: Yes, taxes are just IF they are being used for the lawful purpose of the government. In the case of our system, that would mean Constitutional ends. When they are used for unconstitutional ends they represent a grab of power FROM the states and the people to concentrate power in the hands of the federal government. That is why, yes indeed, taxes can be a form of oppression. A perfect example would be the federal government using our taxes to kill unborn babies against the majority wishes of the American people.

  • Zachaeus

    This is right-wing propaganda at its finest. The author is clearly trying to make political gain and the cost of religious sentiment. Freedom cannot and never will be attained through secular politics. True freedom as offered by Christ can be attained in any political ideology as attested by JPII who was raised in a communist regime.

    On the political ideological spectrum extreme socialism is communism but on the other side of the spectrum extreme capitalism is anarchy. The Tea Party are anarchists as are most republicans. Look what they brought to the world: seemingly an endless war, world economic collapse, environmental catastrophes and yes, global warming. Greed under the veiled guise of freedom is still greed. Greed is the foundation and pillar of capitalism. Capitalism run amuck is anarchy.

    Happy 4th of July. Go hug your children!

  • joanspage

    Mary, I advocate on behalf of poor people who are disabled and elderly. In good times, my state cut taxes so radically that when the recession hit, they had to cut services.

    People have either lost or can’t get services. Does the Tea Party talk about this? No. The only people adressaing the plight of folks like me are liberals. I’d gladly join the Tea Party if it offered more than lower taxes.

  • peanutbutter

    Pope Benedict said in Sulmona, Italy last week:
    allow yourselves to be conquered by Christ. Start decisively down the path of sanctity, the path (which is open to everyone) of contact with and conformity to God. Thus you too will become more creative in seeking solutions to the problems you encounter and in seeking them together; for this is another distinctive sign of Christians: they are never individualists”.

    So, Christians are never individualists. Perhaps “sovereign individuals” but never individualists.

    I remember seeing Father Paul Marx, founder of Human Life International, in our small parish church in 1984 saying that we would experience a severe change in the economy because of abortion. Because of a demographic that was getting too old to work and jobs diminishing because the young were just not around anymore, America and the developed nations that gave into the idea that fewer people makes for a stronger economy would suffer a great downturn.

    Demographics is something Tea Party or few others talk about in the political arena but they sure do talk about it on Wall St. Tea Party may have it right that we need to slow down deficit spending, but immigration? We should be begging immigrants to come here. They atleast procreate.

  • liturgylover

    Unbelievable! Do you folks really think that the Republicans or the Tea Party movement are the only people using rhetoric? The liberals not only are just giving the poor lip-service, but also using it to gain control over EVERYTHING!!! They are opposed to faith-based initiatives, not only because they are faith-based, but also because they would represent a loss of control over our lives. Obama saying ‘God bless America’ and BELIEVING it are two totally different things. He only wants some god to bless America because he thinks it puts him and his administration in charge. Wise up!

  • rakeys

    wow! Now I can understand why there is so much confusion about liberal and conservative amongst Catholics. The Catolic church is both liberal and conservative at the same time. yes Jesus said that we should feed the poor. He also said that the poor will always be with us! But Jesus never said that the government is the organization that we have to support and elect to feed the poor! We as individual and as a Christian community are to feed the poor.
    If the government espouses viewpoints that do not support Christian principles ,we are not to follow them or support them. The Obama government favors abortion on demand for the full 9 months. President Obama as a member of the Illinois senate even advocated letting an aborted baby who survived the abortion to just lie on a table until it did die. Our government pushes same sex marriage, pornography, no-fault divorce,contraception, the morning after pill, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia. None of these are the teaching of Jesus Christ. We cannot follow this government!
    We must support government officials who allow us to follow Christ’s teaching. WE can provide for the poor and on our own. The government must allow people to begin businesses which will employ people, not place heavy burdesns on them. Communism does not work. Capitalism in a country with Christian principles will enable the people to provide for the poor.

  • goral

    Mr. Fickett, you are politely giving the Progressives their own American identity, as if through their applied intellect they’ve discovered a better way -progress as they call it.

    No, this is the same snake in a new skin, these are Marxists. Their president is a Marxist street thug from Chicago. He is clueless about the free market, he despises freedom in all its forms. His progressive minions are right now in the progress of reassessing their less than intelligent, total and blind support. They’re afraid for their money. It’s not working.

    It never worked anywhere, we know that and John Paul knew that.

  • noelfitz

    I read here:
    “Their (US Progressives) president is a Marxist street thug from Chicago.”

    Is this the President of the US?

    I found this article interesting. But it is about US politics, not Catholicism. The various views expressed illustrate CE’s openness and respect for different politics among Catholics.

  • Zachaeus

    Jesus said to them render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s. (Luke 20:25) Yes Jesus did make a very political statement!

  • techwreck61

    It is too bad that some have to see God’s world through partisan glasses, when the truth is that our unique nation was founded based on a belief in God given freedom that no man nor government could take from us.

    Our founders believed that freedom was not free, and that it must be defended against those who would try to seize it. They also believed that God’s gift of freedom involved a corresponding duty to regulate our own behavior, as well as that of the community, in accordance with God’s commandments.

    Many are calling for a return to our Judeo-Christian roots as a nation so that our citizens can enjoy their God given freedom while meeting their obligations to God and country. They are neither Republican nor Democrat, conservative nor liberal. They are just Americans, attempting to regain the individual freedom that made this nation great for over 200 years, but is now in danger of being smothered by ever-growing, ever-more powerful governments at the state and federal level.

    All those who agree with a return to this nation’s roots are welcome to join us. Those who cling to the corrupt partisanship that marks the quest for ever increasing government power had better get out of our way. We are marching toward a post-partisan America with liberty and justice for all. Come join us!

  • johnslampe

    Excellent article, Harold! I think you were fair to both sides and summed up the conflict rather well.

    I happen to participate in the Tea Party movement because I feel it is our best hope for protecting our religious freedoms and allow me to continue to practice my Catholic faith and pursue a career to care for my family. Nothing else is as important.

    People need to understand that the Tea Party is NOT advocating a third party, nor does it officially endorse the Republican party. It is our desire to change BOTH parties to adhere to the principles of Fiscal Responsibility, Limited Government, and Free Market. Please note that “Fiscal Responsibility” is not simply “Cut Taxes” but rather “Tax Fairly” and “Spend Wisely.” I think everyone can agree with that! Give to Ceasar what is Ceasar’s! And “Limited Government” is not “NO Government.” We do not espouse Anarchy. We understand there is a role for the Rule of Law and the Common Welfare in our lives.
    Often you will also hear about restoring or adhering to the US Constitution at Tea Party rallies. We believe that our Constitution is Unique among the foundations of the other World Governments’, and yes, inspired by God. It provides for a LIMITED Federal Government, and we have twisted and warped its intent over the years! I still marvel that we somehow get from “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” to somehow means we can’t display things like The Ten Commandments, which are not of a SPECIFIC religion but are common to many. To decide that somehow a loose interpretation of the “establishment” clause somehow supersedes the “free exercise thereof” part is an anathema to the intent!

    In these times, both Government and the Free Market MUST behave with moral clarity and Faith is the foundation upon which both must be built. Neither work for the good of the people without it!

    to joanspage – “In good times, my state cut taxes so radically that when the recession hit, they had to cut services.” Precisely why the government MUST not be the first or sole source of support and services for the poor. If you have a private group you work with, I will gladly donate to support them. Their work is vital.

    “People have either lost or can’t get services. Does the Tea Party talk about this?” Absolutely we do! Every day! We just don’t believe the Federal Government is the best or only source for those services! What we DON’T encourage is using the might of the government to impose one group’s will over another’s. I’m sure you understand that idea.

    Zachaeus COME DOWN! :)
    “The Tea Party are anarchists as are most republicans. Look what they brought to the world: seemingly an endless war, world economic collapse, environmental catastrophes and yes, global warming. Greed under the veiled guise of freedom is still greed. Greed is the foundation and pillar of capitalism. Capitalism run amuck is anarchy. ”
    Again, you are linking the Tea Party directly with Republicans, and that misses the point. As is blaming all of the above on one Party, BOTH are to blame. FREEDOM is the foundation of Capitalism. Freedom tempered by morality is the key. Removing Religion from Public life, while expanding the role of the Public Sector is also a recipe for more war, economic hardships and yes environmental damage. Government policies (across the world, not just US Gov) are as much if not more to blame for all of the above than any group of Corporations could ever achieve! But I agree with you that Greed has given too much evil to the world.

    We can do better. We MUST do better. Our children and our society depends on it.

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