Saturday, July 03, 2010

Bishop Spong on the Tea Party Movement

Recently in his "Question and Answer" column on his website, Bishop John Shelby Spong responds to Katherine Barney of the United Kingdom who asks: "Can you help me to understand the movement in American politics that you call 'The Tea Party'?" Following is Bishop Spong's answer.


Dear Katherine:

. . . The Tea Party Movement is a manifestation of the great fear and anxiety that, today, accompanies Western politics everywhere. This anxiety is also present in Greece, France, Germany and Iceland, but since they did not have the Boston Tea Party in their national history they do not call it that.

It was born in the economic crisis that rocked this country in the last year of the Bush Administration, when the politics of greed finally brought Wall Street to its knees. It was fed by the healthcare debate, when lobbyists were paid to frighten the American public with distortions, half truths and absolute lies in an attempt to prevent the profits of healthcare companies, trial lawyers, drug manufacturers and private medical practitioners from being compromised. It also has in it an element of racism as the white Anglo-Saxon portion of our population began to see a multi-ethnic America coming into being and to feel that they were losing the power to impose their agenda on this emerging society in the way that they had always done in the past. It has within it a traditional fear of big and intrusive government, which is as old as our ancestors' reasons for migrating from Europe in the first place. The Tea Party Movement represents an inability on the part of many of our citizens to embrace our interdependent population that is now tempering the "rugged individualism" which was part of our past.

I believe that the movement will also prove to be little more than a momentary blip on the EKG chart of American history and will soon fade back into the woodwork, as the economy returns to normal, the ill-advised wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are brought to a close, the BP oil leak is finally plugged, the damage it has done to our environment is addressed, and when people finally accept the fact that a new America is emerging and that it represents a rising consciousness and a new vision of what it means to be human. This new version will then equip us to arrive at the time when we will celebrate our diversity rather than coddle our fears.

The Tea Party Movement will also almost inadvertently serve to drive us back to that biblical idea that we are indeed our brothers' and our sisters' keepers and that the humanity in each of us is ultimately dependent on recognizing the humanity in all of us. That is in fact what the Pentecost story in the Book of Acts is all about, the dawning of universalism that lifts us out of our tribal limitations.

Thank you for writing.

– John Shelby Spong

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