'Tea' is for terrorism

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  April 12, 2010

Those are not policy disagreements; they are claims of illegitimacy — coming not from obscure rabble-rousers, but from some of the most influential organizations in the GOP.

Top Republican officials don’t condemn those groups and speakers — they line up to appear beside them, and take pains to emulate them.

Mitt Romney, for example, released a statement calling passage of the health-care legislation “an unconscionable abuse of power,” and “an historic usurpation of the legislative process.”

And, after its passage, more than a dozen Republican state attorneys general immediately filed suit, claiming the bill is unconstitutional. If you browse extremist Web sites and forums, you’ll see that this fiery rhetoric is taken as validating the worst conspiracies of these fringe government-fearing radicals — whether they believe that our Constitution-shredding leaders are taking us toward Marxist totalitarianism, one-world government, or the dominion of the Antichrist.

TEA FOR TWO: Michelle Malkin (above) and Glenn Beck have fanned the flames of their audiences’ fears.
Religious brew
Perhaps the most troubling source of anti-government rhetoric is the religious right. As was apparently the case with the Hutaree militia — and is surely the case with Scott Roeder, just convicted of murdering abortion provider George Tiller — religion can add a dangerous certitude to a precarious world-view.

It was popular religious coalitions, for example, that focused people’s anger onto Democratic congressman Bart Stupak for voting in favor of the health-care bill, despite the removal of his own anti-abortion language. They portrayed him, sometimes literally, as a Judas who had betrayed millions of unborn children supposedly to be slaughtered under ObamaCare. The Michigan representative received a flood of hate mail and voice messages, including death threats.

The rhetoric coming from some of these religious leaders and their organizations is so apocalyptic, it is hardly surprising that some people take them seriously, to perilous extremes.

Two weeks ago, popular minister Dutch Sheets wrote that “America is in a horrendous crisis of monumental proportions, a season much like Israel in the days of Joel” — i.e., when judgment was brought down on corrupt nations.

Bryan Fischer of the Christian-conservative coalition American Family Association — which claims some two million online followers — wrote that, “It is a rare thing when a nation can point to one specific moment in time in which its tragic destiny was sealed. That moment came today at 4:07 Eastern time,” when Congress passed the health-care bill. As of that moment, according to Fischer, “the America we knew and loved is gone, gone, gone.”

Many of these religious conservative groups are actively working to co-opt the Tea Party movement. Scarborough was among a group of prominent conservative pastors who met at the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville this February, and came up with plans for a National Patriot Pastors’ TEA Party, to be held on July 7 in San Antonio — at the Alamo. (TEA in this case stands for “Truth Exalts America,” rather than “Taxed Enough Already.”)

Liberty Counsel has scheduled a two-day event at its Lynchburg, Virginia, campus called The Awakening 2010, to coincide with the Tax Day TEA Party in Washington. Another group, featuring religious leaders Sheets, Lou Engle, Rick Pino, Karen Wheaton, and Damon Thompson, will hold a “Wilderness Outcry” gathering in June, in Poplar Bluff, Missouri.

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