'On Faith' Panelist Hits Tea Partiers, Conservatives As 'Tribal', Not Christian

April 11th, 2011 2:31 PM

If Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite actually believed in Hell, she'd probably preach that Tea Partiers were headed there unless they repented and backed higher taxes and more government spending.

The liberal seminary professor and Washington Post/Newsweek "On Faith" contributor last Wednesday lashed out at the "fundamentalism" of Tea Party calls for fiscal restraint, insisting that conservative takes on the federal budget were un-Christian, "tribal" and racist in nature:

For me, as a Christian pastor and teacher, the question is whether the morality of conservatism is a Christian moral vision. Despite the signs at Tea Party rallies that say, “Jesus hates taxes,” the fundamentalist philosophy of conservatism is not, in my view, Christian.


The ideology of current conservatism, in my view, is actually not individualism either. Individualism, as the equal dignity and worth of each human being, is an Enlightenment philosophy that helped create the political system we call democracy. Rather, the current conservative view is regressive; it is a return of tribalism as a reaction to the increasing American racial, ethnic, and religious diversity. This diversity of race, ethnicity and religion, and its inclusion in “We the People” as symbolized by the government, is perceived as a threat to a myth of American identity as white, Christian and middle class. The pattern of the conservative budgeting reveals this—those who most need government services are the poor, i.e. those who are not considered members of the “tribe” that has been dominant in America for so long.


The teachings of Jesus, however, challenge such tribalism. Let me be frank. I too believe there are certain fundamentals that are non-negotiable and to me, the most basic Christian fundamental is that you love God with your whole heart and your neighbor as yourself. Love of God, love of neighbor. This, as Jesus teaches, is the greatest commandment of all. (Mark 12: 28-31).


The bottom line, religiously speaking, is ‘Who is my neighbor?’ The challenge of faith, to me, is we don’t get to pick and choose our neighbor. The neighbor is everyone, whether the hated “Samaritan,” or the one next to me in the pew in church.